Power From On High
7. Renew Our Days
"Whether one is sympathetic toward the idea of revivals or not,
if he wants to study the question thoroughly,
he cannot afford to overlook the history and teachings of the Moravians."
"Standing in the foreground of all Paul's mental processes was Jesus the Messiah. From the moment of his conviction that Jesus was the Messiah he transferred everything in Judaism to the head of Christ, and at once we had the doctrine and science of Christology in its highest development. Paul did not bother much about the direct words attributed to Jesus. Few of these are mentioned in his epistles. They were jewels, it is true; but he had a still greater jewel; and this was the Death of Jesus on the Cross. This was for Paul the center of all things, the event which made forgiveness of sin possible, and which was demanded by the justice of God. It was by Jesus' death that Paul himself had conquered death and had obtained forgiveness and life."- Professor Adolph Harnack of Berlin in "The Christian World."
"Scotland, happily, is still very rich in great preachers, scholars and theologians, but I think they will be the foremost to admit that none of them is quite on the same level as the master we mourn-Principal James Denney…. His wife, who gave him the truest and most perfect companionship, led him into a more pronounced evangelical creed. It was she who induced him to read Spurgeon, whom he had been inclined to despise. He became an ardent admirer of the preacher and a very careful and sympathetic student of his sermons. It was Spurgeon perhaps as much as any one who led him to the great decision of his life, the decision to preach the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was all in all to him. He spent and was spent in making it everything to the Church."-Sir W. Robertson Nicholl's appreciation of Principal James Denney, author of "The Death of Christ."
Renew Our Days
TURN Thou us unto Thee, 0 Lord, and we shall "T be turned; renew our days as of old." Lamen. 5:21. This was the closing prayer of Israel's great prophet Jeremiah. This also was the dying petition of the great Bishop of the ancient Moravian Church, John Amos Comenius. And as young Count Zinzendorf read these words he exclaimed:
"I could not peruse the lamentations of old Comenius addressed to the Anglican Church-lamentations, called forth by the idea that the Church of the Brethren was coming to an end, and that he was locking its door, I could not read his mournful prayer, 'Turn Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old,' without resolving there and then: 'I will, as far as I can, help to bring about this renewal. And though I have to sacrifice my earthly possessions, my honours and my life, as long as I live, and as far as I shall be able to provide even after my death, I will do my utmost that this little company of the Lord's disciples shall be preserved for Him, until He comes.'"
We do well to register a similar vow and holy resolve, This great celebration of our Spiritual Renewal as a Church two hundred years ago will stir every true Moravian to pray, "Renew our days as of old."
In the beautiful and inspiring "Memorial" so graciously presented to us by the chief officials of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, we find these earnest closing words:
"Praying for your Historic Church a renewal of those spiritual experiences which gave you so much power two hundred years ago, let us express to you in the name of the Churches the great sense of obligation we feel for your spiritual leadership."
This last chapter may well be devoted to a consideration of this concluding prayer, viz.: "Praying for your Historic Church a renewal of those spiritual experiences which gave you so much power two hundred years ago."
Two questions at once suggest themselves:
1. WHAT WERE THOSE EXPERIENCES?
2. HOW MAY THEY BE RENEWED?
Their first great experience which gave our fathers such spiritual power was
I. A Personal Experience of Salvation
They had found to their sorrow that there was no salvation from sin in good works or in Church and creeds, still less in their own faulty conduct, culture or character. They fled for refuge to Jesus the Crucified and, gazing upon the bleeding, dying, Lamb of God, they experienced a blessed sense of pardon and peace. Here it was that the Holy Spirit bore witness with their spirits that they had become by faith the children of God, having passed from death unto life.
This personal experience of salvation, this assurance of their pardon and adoption into the family of God, gave our fathers such boldness and power in testimony not only in heathen lands, but also in the chief cities of the world, in the universities and royal courts of Europe.
Personal experience of salvation was described by Count Zinzendorf in one of their first Synods in the following sentences:
"1. Justification is the forgiveness of sins.
"2. The moment a man flies to Christ he is justified.
"3. And has peace with God, but not always joy.
"4. Nor, perhaps, may he know he is justified till long after.
"5. For the assurance of it is distinct from justification itself.
"6. But others may know he is justified by his power over sin, by his seriousness, his love of the brethren, and his hunger and thirst after righteousness, which alone prove the spiritual life to be begun.
"7. To be justified is the same thing as to be born of God.
"8. When a man is awakened, he is begotten of God, and his fear and sorrow, and sense of the wrath of God, are the pangs of the new birth."
On a certain occasion when ordaining a missionary, Count Zinzendorf asked him, "Brother John, dost thou know His wounds? Hast thou sought and found pardon through their merit?"
In order that every member of the Church might have this personal experience of salvation each congregation was divided into the following five classes:
"1. Those who are spiritually dead.
"2. Those who are awakened and seek to be saved.
"3. Babes in Christ, i. e., new converts.
"4. Young men in Christ.
"5. Fathers in Christ. I. John 2:12-13."
Another great leader in those wonderful days and years of revival was Peter Boehler. He defines this personal experience of salvation in the following six sentences:
"1. When a man has living faith in Christ, then he is justified.
"2. This is always given in a moment.
"3. And in that moment he has peace with God.
"4. Which he cannot have without ultimately knowing that he has it.
"5. And, being born of God, he sinneth not.
"6. Which deliverance from sin he cannot have without knowing that he has it."
Of Boehler's two distinguished converts, John and Charles Wesley, the latter through his matchless hymns, has wielded the greater influence. He has truly been called "The Prince of Christian Poets." But while he had the fire of poetic genius from birth, not a single Gospel hymn did he write until he had experienced the new birth.
The story of his conversion is most striking and instructive. Boehler's interview with him is thus described by Charles Wesley himself in his journal:
"At eleven I awakened in extreme pain, which I thought would quickly separate soul and body. Soon after Peter Boehler came to my bedside. I asked him to pray for me. He seemed unwilling at first, but beginning very faintly, he raised his voice by degrees, and prayed for my recovery with strange confidence. Then he took me by the hand and calmly said: 'You will not die now.' I thought within myself : 'I cannot hold out in this pain till morning. If it abates before, I believe I may recover.' He asked me: 'Do you hope to be saved?' 'Yes.' 'For what reason do you hope it?' 'Because I have used my best endeavors to serve God.' He shook his head and said no more. I thought him very uncharitable, saying in my heart: 'What? Are not my endeavors a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavors? I have nothing else to trust to.'"
A few weeks later Wesley thus refers to another of the many visits of Peter Boehler.
"No sooner was 1 got to James Hutton's, having removed my things thither from his father's, than the pain in my side returned, and with that the fever. Having disappointed God in His last visitation, He has now again brought me to the bed of sickness. Towards midnight I received some relief by bleeding. In the morning Dr. Cockburn came to see me; and a better physician, Peter Boehler, whom God had detained in England for my good. He stood by my bedside, and prayed over me, that now at least I might see the divine intention in this and my late illness. I immediately thought it might be I should again consider Boehler's doctrine of faith; examine myself whether I was in the faith; and if I was not, never cease seeking and longing after it till I attained it."
To ask an apparently dying minister and a missionary at that, if he is saved, might almost seem an act of presumption and impertinence. But Christendom today may well thank God for this faithful Moravian who dared to probe the soul of Charles Wesley. For, as Dr. Charles Nutter, a well-known Methodist hymnologist, recently wrote in The Methodist Review:
"More than six thousand of Charles Wesley's hymns have been published. Wesley wrote verses from the time of his conversion in 1738 until the time of his last sickness in 1788, fifty years; but six thousand hymns would be one hundred and twenty a year, ten a month, or one hymn every three days for fifty years."
The majority of his hymns testify to his great experience of salvation. Peter Boehler had told him: "If I had a thousand tongues I would praise Jesus with every one of them." This prompted Wesley shortly after his conversion to write the immortal lines:
"O for a thousand tongues to sing My dear Redeemer's praise; The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace.
"He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me."
The question has been asked whether this amazing experience made by Charles Wesley may truly be called his conversion. He himself so regarded it. The change it worked in him was indeed radical. Old things passed away; all things became new. This experience of salvation caused him, who according to his own testimony was building his hopes of Heaven on his own endeavors and had nothing else to trust to, to cry out in anguish of soul,
"Depth of mercy, can there be
Mercy still reserved for me,
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners spare?
"I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls."
Having found pardon and peace at the Cross, Wesley soon discovered that he can enjoy this experience of salvation only as he continues to abide in the Crucified One. Hence he utters the touching prayer:
"For ever here my rest shall be,
Close to Thy pierced side;
This all my hope and all my plea,
For me the Saviour died.
"My dying Saviour and my God,
Fountain for guilt and sin,
Sprinkle me ever with Thy blood,
And cleanse and keep me clean."
A number of years after his conversion Wesley wrote another great hymn on the atonement, "Arise, My Soul, Arise!" Its theology, as well as its language, still bear witness to the power of that great experience of salvation into which under God Boehler had led him. The third and fourth stanzas are distinctly Moravian in their teaching and phraseology:
"Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Received on Calvary; They pour effectual prayers,
They strongly plead for me:
'Forgive him, oh forgive, they cry,
Nor let that ransomed sinner die.'
The Father hears Him pray,
His dear anointed one.
He cannot turn away,
The presence of His Son;
The Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God."
The second great experience which gave our fathers such spiritual power and leadership was
II. The Baptism with the Holy Ghost.
On this point we wish to quote the words of one of our own beloved pastors, Dr. J. Kenneth Pfohl. In a recent article in The Moravian he wrote: "The great Moravian Pentecost was not a shower of blessing out of a cloudless sky. It did come suddenly, as suddenly as the blessing of its greater predecessor in Jerusalem, when the Christian Church was born. Yet, for long, there had been signs of abundance of rain, though many recognized them not. In short, the blessing of the thirteenth of August, 1727, was diligently and earnestly prepared for. We know of no annals of Church history which evidence greater desire for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and more patient and persistent effort in that direction than those of our own church between the years 1725 and 1727. Two distinct lines of preparation and spiritual effort for the blessing are evident. One was prayer; the other was 'individual work with individuals.' We are told that 'men and women met for prayer and praise at one another's homes and the Church of Bertheisdorf was crowded out.' Then the Spirit came in great power. Then the entire company experienced the blessing at one and the same time."
This baptism with the Holy Spirit endued our fathers with power from. on high. They experienced exactly what has been so eloquently described by that prince of preachers, Dr. Alexander MacLaren, in his sermons on Ephesians:
"That power is given to us through the gift of the Divine Spirit. The very name of that Spirit is 'the Spirit of Might.' Christ spoke to us about being 'endued with power from on high.' The last of His promises that dropped from His lips upon earth was the promise that His followers should receive the power of the Spirit coming upon them. Wheresoever in the early histories we read of a man who was full of the Holy Ghost, we read that he was 'full of power.' It is power for service. 'Tarry ye in Jerusalem till ye be endued with power from on high.' There is no such force for the spreading of Christ's Kingdom and the witness-bearing work of His Church, as the possession of this Divine Spirit. Plunged into that fiery baptism, the selfishness and the sloth which stand in the way of so many of us, are all consumed and annihilated, and we are set free for service because the bonds that bound us are burnt up in the merciful furnace of His fiery power. 'Ye shall be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man'-a power that will fill and flood all your nature, if you will let it, and make you strong to suffer, strong to combat, strong to serve, and to witness for your Lord."
Our Moravian vian Brethren knew this power two hundred years ago. They had experienced to a remark able degree Pentecost. It is therefore not to be wondered at that our friends of the Federal Council are praying for our Church a "renewal of those spiritual experiences which gave us so much power two hundred years ago.
The writer of these lines was at one time pastor of the historic Moravian congregation at Nazareth, Pa. One of the first ministers of this charge, Francis C. Lembke, whose pastorate here extended from 1754 to 1784, during which time he also founded the celebrated school now known as Nazareth Hall, is a remarkable illustration of the power of Calvary and of Pentecost as experienced in the Great Revival.
In 1733 this young man was a student at the University of Jena, working for a doctor's degree in philosophy. Some converted professors and students invited him to their prayer-meetings and the historian tells us the result:
"Through their efforts Lembke began to seek Christ with many prayers and tears. One evening, while praying, he realized, through the Holy Spirit, that the blood of Jesus Christ had cleansed him from all sin, and rose from his knees accepted in the Beloved."
In course of time he is appointed to a professorship in Strasbourg and assistant Preacher in the Church of St. Peter. Of his great experience there we read:
"The more he prepared his sermons, the less warmth and life they had. Of this he was himself keenly conscious. His congregations decreased every Sunday until at last he preached almost to empty benches. He felt that he was not fitted for the pulpit, and on one occasion became so utterly discouraged while preparing, that he secured a substitute for the next day, late on Saturday night. He now made his preaching the subject of special prayer, beseeching the Lord, either to relieve him of this duty, or to loose his tongue and give him grace to proclaim the Gospel. The wonderful answer to these prayers we will set forth in Lembke's own words: 'One day, when I entered the pulpit in great fear, crying for aid, the Lord suddenly spoke to me His omnipotent word "Ephphatha." Pentecostal power was given to me, and to the astonishment of my hearers as well as to my own, I proclaimed the free grace of God in Christ with an overflowing heart and with utmost freedom of speech.'
"From that day he preached sermons that caused a sensation throughout the city. The Church of St. Peter was crowded, whenever he appeared in the pulpit. In a little while the aisles, and even the pulpit steps were filled with hearers, until the building could not contain the multitude which flocked together."
Let it be carefully noted that this mighty baptism with the Holy Ghost was received in answer to earnest and importunate prayer. It is strictest truth what our brethren of the Federal Council in their Memorial declare: "Your great historic revival began in prayer. Therefore the Holy Spirit was mightily poured out among you." It is perfectly Scriptural and in fullest harmony with the history of every great revival that believers meet together to pray for the Holy Spirit. God still pours water on those who are thirsty and His Spirit upon them that ask Him. Taking time to pray and to wait upon the Lord, as our fathers did, will insure us a "renewal of those spiritual experiences which gave them so much power two hundred years ago."
The nearest approach to that great revival two hundred years ago is the recent outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Korea. How did that wonderful movement begin, which some one has called "an appendix to the Book of Acts." The historian of the revival tells us:
"A few missionaries decided to meet together to pray daily at noon. At the end of the month one brother proposed that 'as nothing had happened, the prayer meeting should be discontinued. Let us each pray at home as we find it convenient,' said he. The others, however, protested that they ought rather to spend even more time in prayer each day. So they continued the daily prayer-meeting for four months.
Then suddenly the blessing began to be poured out. Church services here and there were broken up by weeping and confessing of sins. At length a mighty revival broke out. And when the Church was purified, many sinners found salvation. Multitudes flocked to the churches. Some came to mock, but fear laid hold of them, and they stayed to pray.
"One of the missionaries declared: 'It paid well to have spent several months in prayer; for when God gave the Holy Spirit, He accomplished more in half a day than all the missionaries together could have accomplished in half a year. In less than two months more than 2,000 heathen were converted. The burning zeal of those converts has become a byword. Some of them gave all they had to build a church, and wept because they could not give more. Needless to say, they realized the power of prayer. These converts were themselves baptized with the "Spirit of supplication." In one church it was announced that a daily prayer-meeting would be held at 4:30 every morning. The first day 400 people arrived long before the stated hour-eager to pray. The number rapidly increased to 600 as days went on. At Seoul 1100 is the average attendance at the weekly prayer-meeting.'”
"Verily the day of revivals is not past. The Holy Spirit is still waiting to fill believers with power from on high. The Lord is waiting to be gracious, and "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." (Is. 40:31.) Our brethren of the Federal Council utter the fervent prayer "that the glorious event which so mightily moved through you the religious life of the eighteenth century may have its duplication in the twentieth." God knows it is as sorely needed now as it was then. The two times are very much alike. Dead orthodoxy had degenerated into rationalism, worldliness, vice, crime and atheism. Then the great revival came and, as the historian Green tells us, saved England from plunging over the precipice into the unspeakable horrors of the French revolution. If civilization today is to be saved and become Christian, another revival is absolutely necessary. In a recent article in The Moravian, the President of our Provincial Elders Conference, Dr. E. S. Hagen, wrote as follows:
"The great revival in 1727 in Herrnhut was the normal and logical result of prayer and the preaching of the Word of the Cross. "Christ and Him Crucified" was our Brethren's Confession of Faith, and the inward witness of remission of sins through faith in His blood," their blessed and quickening experience. Lecky in his "History of Morals," says of John Wesley's conversion May 24, 1738, in the prayer meeting of Moravian Brethren in Aldersgate street: "What happened in that little room was of more importance to England than all the victories of Pitt by land or sea." Our honored President, Calvin Coolidge, never said a truer thing than when he gave as his deliberate conviction that "What this country needs is a revival of religion." A renewal of our days as of old involves a return to fervent prayer and to the earnest and effectual preaching of the remission of sins through the vicarious sacrifice and the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Revival time is coming. We cherish a high expectancy of it. Sooner than we dream of, to God's people, who give themselves to earnest, persevering prayer, and the Scriptural testimony concerning the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the windows of Heaven will be opened."
God grant the speedy fulfillment of our dear brother's wish and prayer! Let us ponder the remarkable testimony delivered several years ago at Northfield, Mass., by that beloved man of God, whose praise is in all the churches, Dr. F. B. Meyer:
"Those of you who visit London might very well walk down from Holborn to Fleet Street by a little street which is known as Fetter Lane. When you are halfway down Fetter Lane, on your left hand you will see a very simple doorway, and over it the words, "Moravian Chapel." Whenever I go down that street I stop there for a moment and lift my hat. I feel as I felt by Moody's grave this morning.
"What happened there? Well, Wesley, as you know, came to America, to Savannah, but he did not accomplish anything very great, for he had not yet reached the dynamic of which I am talking. He was an ordinary man. He came back to London, and in London he met a very remarkable man, Peter Boehler. Peter Boehler was connected with Count Zinzendorf. The Moravians are the disciples of John Huss, as you know, and they lived in the power of the Holy Spirit of which I am now talking. Wesley learned all he knew from those godly people.
"When he came back again to Aldersgate Street he met forty or fifty people and asked them to meet him again at five o'clock that afternoon in the Fetter Lane chapel; and they did. Wesley, his brother, Whitefield, and a number more whose names are written in the book of life were there. They remained for some time quiet, searching their hearts. Then they waited on God, and in the fellowship of that hour they became conscious of the movement of the Spirit of God. They fell on their faces, Wesley says in his journal, and lay there, overcome with gratitude, and then they rose and sang the 'Te Deum.'
"The next day Whitefield took the coach down to Bristol, and began preaching there in the power of the Holy Ghost. After about a month Wesley followed, and for forty years they went up and down our country in the face of every sort of resistance. If you read Wesley's sermons you will find them interesting, but neither the sermons of Whitefield nor Wesley have any traits of supreme genius. But they had the dynamic, they had the power of the Holy Spirit."
Our calling as a Moravian Church has been truly set forth by our great leader, Count Zinzendorf, in the following weighty sentence:
"I am destined by the Lord to proclaim the message of the death and blood of Jesus, not with human wisdom, but with divine power, unmindful of personal consequences to myself."
What is this declaration but the "Blood and Fire" slogan of the Salvation Army? It was the favorite phrase of Evan Roberts, the youthful leader of the Welsh Revival: "Remember the Blood! Catch the Flame."
We take our leave of these memorable events and persons with a parting look at that noble youth, fresh from the highest schools of learning, abounding in life, genius, and wealth, standing before the picture of the bleeding, dying Saviour, pondering the searching question, "This have I done for thee! What doest thou for me?" We hear him exclaim as his life's rule and motto:
"I have one passion, it is Jesus, Jesus only."
We will heed his exhortation as he sings:
"Rise, go forth to meet the Lamb,
Slumber not midst worldly care;
Let your lamps be all on flame,
For His Coming now prepare.
Then whene'er you hear the cry,
'Lo the Bridegroom draweth nigh,'
You will not confounded be,
But can meet Him joyfully.
"Let us walk the narrow way,
Watchful, cheerful, free from toil;
Trim our lamps from day to day,
Adding still recruits of oil;
Doubly doth the Spirit rest
On his happy peaceful breast,
Who himself to praying gives,
Who a life of watching lives."
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