We are convinced that the majority of Christian people are living on a plane far below what our Master planned for them. Only the few really seem to "possess their possessions." Nothing can clothe with victorious might but the baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire: and no one can possess such a baptism without knowing it. So many Church members seem only to have an acquaintance with water baptism, and this notwithstanding what the great Forerunner said: "I baptize you with water unto repentance, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I.... He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." Alas! We fear that many leaders know nothing more for themselves and their flocks than "John's Baptism." In spite of all our ecclesiastical pride and self-confidence, just how much of our building would stand the test of fire?
We cannot emphasize too strongly our conviction that all hindrance in the Church is due to sin. It will be seen from the following chapters how the Holy Spirit brings all manner of sin to light. Indeed, the appalling fact is that every sin which is found outside the Church is also found, although perhaps to a lesser degree, within the Church. For fear that some may judge too harshly, we would point out that many of the Chinese churches, of which mention is made, are not even one generation removed from heathenism. At the same time, let us not delude ourselves by thinking that all is well with our old established churches at home. It is sin in individual Church members, whether at home or on the foreign field, which grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit.' I imagine that we would lose much of our self-righteousness if we were to find that pride, jealousy, bad temper, back-biting, greed and all their kindred are just as heinous in God's sight as the so-called grosser sins. All sin in the believer, of whatever kind, mars the redemptive work of Christ. The most piercing cries that I have ever heard have come from Chinese Christians, when the Holy Spirit made plain to them that their sin had crucified the Son of God afresh. "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither is His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear" (Isa. lix. 1, 2). The filth and blood-guiltiness, of the churches can only be swept away by the Spirit of Judgment and of Burning.
In view of the prominence that is given to confession of sin in this book, perhaps it would be as well to make plain my personal views on the subject. Some years ago, I was about to open. a series of meetings at an important center in China, when a visiting lady missionary came to me with what she called "a sure plan to move the people." Her idea was that I should first confess my sins, then she would confess hers and afterwards I was to persuade all the missionaries to confess theirs. The Chinese leaders would naturally follow, and she was certain that by that time every one would have broken down. I replied that the Lord had not led me to see things in that light. "If I have hindering sins," I said, "they hinder in Honan, where I am known; and the same applies to yourself. So the sooner we return to our respective fields and get them out of the way the better. To confess our sins before this audience, where we are not known, would only waste valuable time. Besides, who am I that I should urge these missionaries to confess their sins in public, when, for all I know, they may be living nearer to God than I am? The Spirit of God does not need me to act as His detective. If the missionaries here have hindering sins, then we may rest assured that the Spirit will move them to get rid of them. But that is His business, not ours." Never have I witnessed anything more moving than that last meeting when those missionaries, one after another, broke down before the people and confessed to the things that hindered in their lives.
We have a strong feeling that sins committed before conversion are under the blood of God's Holy Son and never should be confessed. To do so is to bring dishonor upon His Calvary sacrifice. We have heard Church members confess to sins which they had committed previous to their having joined the Church. But such had never really been born again, and the conviction from the Holy Spirit that inspired and accompanied their confessions was usually of an awe-inspiring nature and never failed to move the audience deeply. Moreover, as far as our observation has led us, we have concluded that there must first be deep conviction among the true followers of Christ before any expectation can be entertained of moving the others. From our own experience we are able to state that in every instance where this necessary first stage has been reached, the unconverted in the audience have broken down completely. There could have been no Pentecost unless the one hundred and twenty believers had first reached this stage. The Chinese Christians speak of this work of the Spirit as judgment, but as the "hsiao shen pan" (small judgment), the way still being open to avail oneself of the cleansing efficacy of the precious blood.
We believe, too, that as regards secret sin, i. e. sin which is known only to the individual soul and God, to confess it at the private altar is, as a rule, sufficient to ensure pardon and cleansing. We say, as a rule, because we have known of many, usually such as have been responsible for the salvation of others, e. g. ministers and Church leaders of one sort or another, for whom secret acknowledgment of sin has not been sufficient. Their agonized public confessions have shown plainly that, for them at least, there was only one way of relief.
As to sin against an individual the Scriptures are quite plain. "Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matt. v. 23, 24). It is vain for us to pray while conscious that we have injured another. Let us first make amends to the injured one before we dare approach God at either the private or the public altar. I am confident that revival would break out in most churches if this were done. Then again, as regards public sins, experience has shown us that these can only be swept away by public confession. True, this amounts to crucifixion; but by our willful disobedience we have put the Lord of Glory to an open shame, and it is the price that we must pay.
Some years ago, while addressing a large body of ministers and elders in the homeland, we urged that the Divine call was for a greater emphasis upon sin. A few hours later, at a certain ministerial gathering, the subject was brought up, and I understand that in the argument that ensued a large majority decided that the Church had laid too much emphasis upon sin. Man's thoughts, however, are not God's thoughts. Calvary is His emphasis upon sin. Surely, since the sinless Son of God had to be made sin for us an over-emphasis upon sin is in the nature of things impossible. Wasn't it John Wesley, who, as he was passing into the presence of the King, was heard whispering:
"I the chief of sinners am,
But Jesus died for me!"—
Taken from a chapter of Jonthan Goforth's By My Spirit