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A. T. Person
“Conditions of Spiritual Power
in Church Life.”


Under the above heading, Arthur T. Pierson, editor of the Missionary Review of the World, makes some interesting observations upon what he saw last summer in Wales. He speaks of the deep religious movement there as more than a revival or reformation, as being a revolution. “Certain impressions,” he says, “have been produced upon the writer’s mind, so deep and so ineradicable, that he is persuaded God in this awakening is speaking to the whole Church of Christ as in thunder tones, and that it is at our peril His majestic voice is disregarded.”

Querying why it is, notwithstanding there are some signs of a religious awakening in scattered parts of Europe and in America, that there is nothing to indicate a general spiritual movement, or one of the deep development which he believes marks that which continues to be seen in Wales, he continues: “The writer has personally never had a profounder conviction than now, that the Holy Spirit of God has not full liberty in the churches, and that neither Britain nor America will ever be ready for any such ‘national revival’ so long as the churches continue to be content with such artificial and superficial methods of worship. A true preparation is first of all needed within the church. We need to abandon eloquent sermons in the pulpit, and artistic choirs in worship, and to cease filling church offices with men without regard to spirituality, simply because they have achieved business success, or professional prominence, or are in high social positions.”

A. T. Pierson has a decided testimony against artistic choir singing. “If we always fettered prayer with liturgical forms, even in prayer meetings, all spontaneity would of course disappear. Why should we fetter our praise by what is essentially liturgy?” He believes in singing by the congregation as witnessed in Wales, where so much use is made of familiar hymns. “When a congregation has all it can do to keep track of new words and music, the absorption of the mind in praise as an act of worship becomes correspondingly impossible, and singing, which ought to be worship, degenerates into a kind of musical practice, and the church becomes a ‘singing school.’” With all that has been said upon this subject of making outward melody, it is evident that it has been found, even in Wales, difficult to keep it within bounds, as it is reported that Evan Roberts, witnessing how the people inclined to give great place to song, has had at times to request them to desist. The Welsh have long been a markedly poetic people, very much given to the chanting of their ballads and hymns, so that it is perceivable that difficulties may be encountered here, even where there exists an earnest desire to “Quench not the spirit.”

Referring to the prayer meetings he had attended, “where there was no confusion or disorder, nor any unseemly word spoken,” A. T. Pierson contrasts these with many in America, “where the bulk of the time was occupied by the minister, and where no one took part except as called upon by him.”

“What liberty,” it is asked, “has the spirit in such a meeting? There is a deeper necessity than all these for the recognition of the Holy Spirit himself as the presiding and controlling presence in the meeting of saints, where, so to speak, a chair is left for Him to occupy, and where everything is done unto the Lord.”

As to the expense attending the movement -”No evangelists from abroad, no costly singing, no expensive tabernacles-everything has gone on in the most economical way. No appeals for money, because no money was needed, and what little was needed [for lights in the evening, principally], was gathered from voluntary supplies.”

Such are some of the impressions made upon the mind of a Presbyterian minister, who, when attached to the “Bethany” of Philadelphia, years ago, had his collection of manuscript sermons destroyed by a fire, and thereafter, upon conviction as to the matter, decided to wait upon the Lord for his future supply. He likewise held a testimony against the system of paid pews, and furthermore, declined a liberal fixed stipend to stay, when he felt that the Lord called him elsewhere to labor. Josiah W. Leeds.

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