Phoebe Palmer



CHAPTER X.

Church without a pastor.


"Let her honor the Lord's body, his church, by preparing the spices of grace for its embalmment when it seems cold and dead, and watch with weeping prayers for its revival by the power of God. When female piety is awake, watchful and zealous, the morning of gracious joy is not far distant, nay, has already dawned. It was not the sex, but the Christian virtues of these women of the cross, that triumphed in this awful extremity If they were more faithful, it was because they loved more. Love is the fulfilling of the law; so also it is the perfection of Christianity."

REV. DR. BETHUNE.

REJECTED MESSAGE.

Imagine, after our Lord had commissioned Mary to proclaim the gospel of a risen Christ to her brethren, that these brethren had turned away contemptuously, refusing to accept the message, because it fell from the lips of a woman.

We know of a church with whom the signs of spiritual life were well nigh extinct. Judging from the nature of the difficulties under which this church was laboring, we may with certainty infer that the brethren composing the official board had not deemed it needful to tarry at Jerusalem until endued with power from on high. Imagine what an official board those disciples would have formed, who, a few weeks previous to the day of Pentecost, were contending which should be the greatest. Where the old leaven is not purged out by the purifying fires of love, what danger of fermentings, leading to those grievous dissensions which produce spiritual death, by quenching the Spirit of the living God! And in this dangerous state, we fear, was the church to which we now allude. It had been for some time without a pastor, and its altar fires were well nigh extinguished.

About the time that this church was thus rapidly approximating towards spiritual death, God raised up an instrumentality by which he would have saved it. A female member of that church, the wife of one of the leading members, a lady of excellent reputation and intelligent piety, had fallen in with a book in which she saw the Bible view of Christian holiness illustrated with simplicity and force. She saw that this was the gift of power which that church must have in order to make it efficient in the evangelization of the world, — the baptism of fire, — by which alone the old leaven might be purged out, and its dissensions healed.

Church communities are made up of individuals, and as an individual, she resolved she would do her part towards bringing that ingredient of power into the church, by which alone it could be preserved from utter spiritual death. Perhaps with not greater earnestness and absorption did those women disciples wait with their brethren to be endued with power from on high, than did this disciple wait for the promised baptism.

But she saw that it was a baptism of fire, and before the vision of her mind deep and most penetrating tests were presented. She saw, if she would attain the image of the Saviour, that she must consent to searching trials, similar to those endured by her incarnate Lord, by which process might be brought out before the world whether she had really attained the image of the heavenly. O, it were indeed easier for the disciple to follow the Saviour up to the Mount of Transfiguration, and build tabernacles there, than to follow the Man of Sorrows in his homeless journeyings, amid the contradictions and scoffs of sinners, and amid the yet more painful trial of being rejected by his own, and reviled and crucified by his professed people, who before the world proclaimed themselves to be doing God service in thus dealing out ignominy, pain, and death.

We have thought that few things could have been more painful to the incarnate Deity, who in verity took upon himself our nature, than the fact which stands briefly recorded thus: "For neither did his brethren believe on him." O, when the members of the same household of faith, with whom, by ties of consanguinity, our very being seems blended, who know the sincerity of our motives, and on whom our very hearts have been accustomed to lean for sympathy amid the storms of this unloving, cold world — when this refuge fails us, and when these hearts on whom we have leaned pierce us through — O, indeed it is then that the disciple proves what it is to know the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. Yet not till he counts the cost, and consents that he will thus endure, does he come to the point where he can be made conformable unto Christ's death.

Few are willing to have the grace at so great a cost; but unless made conformable to Christ's death, we can never know the power of his resurrection, and prove the excellency of a living, indwelling Christ within the heart. "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" This is the question which the Head of the church proposes to all who would be raised to entire newness of life, and bear the image of the heavenly.

And it was to this crucifying process that our friend saw that she must submit if she would have her petition answered for the full baptism of the Holy Ghost. But the cost was fairly counted, and the decision made. This done, and she found there was no need of waiting for the day of Pentecost to come. It had already come. "Not with observation." No rushing, mighty wind was heard. But self being dethroned, and every sin renounced, she was now ready to be filled with the Holy Ghost. Not that these acts were sufficient to constitute her a meet residence for the Holy Trinity. The blood of Christ alone can do this. But in these acts the Holy Spirit had aided her. Every holy resolve that had been formed, every weight that had been laid aside, and every right-hand or right-eye sin, which, at such a painful sacrifice had been surrendered, — all had been accomplished through the agency of the Holy Spirit, with whom, as a
worker-together, she had wrought in fitting herself for the abode of an indwelling Trinity.

And now the temple of her heart being prepared, she presented it in faith, through the blood of the everlasting covenant. First emptied, then cleansed and filled, — this is the divine order. But how rapid are the processes of the Spirit when grace finds a willing subject! It is not the order of Him who fills infinite space that the soul should remain a vacuum. The design of infinite Love, in the redemption of the body, is, that it should become a habitation of God, through the Spirit. But every idol, whether it be reputation, estate, family, friends, or life itself, all must be dethroned before the full baptism of the Holy Ghost can be received; for "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" And the moment the last idol is surrendered, and the whole being given up through Christ, that moment God claims, and, through the blood of the covenant, purifies the temple, and the Holy Ghost inwardly says to the inmost soul, "Ye are the temple of the living God," as God hath said, "I will dwell in them and walk in them."

And now that our friend had presented herself as a whole burnt sacrifice, and she began to feel the consuming fires of the Spirit absorbing her whole being, such were her sympathies with Christ in behalf of the dying church of which she was a member, that she could not refrain her lips. As a daughter of the Lord Almighty, she had obediently complied with the conditions upon which the promise of the Father is founded; and now the Spirit was being poured out upon her, and the tongue of fire was given, she felt an irresistible impulse to speak, as the Spirit gave utterance, But the testimony of Jesus is not only the Spirit of prophecy, but Christ is of God made unto us wisdom. And by this we may discern between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. The Spirit of truth will never lead us into any unscriptural or unintelligible modes of usefulness. It will not lead us to unseemly or untimely utterances, or to any course which will not betoken soundness of mind. But it may lead us to a course which may occasionally be extraordinary.

This is an important point, and it should be duly considered. Says an eminent divine, "If Satan cannot succeed in getting us to go too slow, he will turn charioteer, and endeavor to get us to go too fast." But the full baptism of the Holy Ghost also implies entire sanctification; that is, the sanctification of the intellect, with every other redeemed power, to God. And surely we may expect from those who possess this grace such a manifestation of wisdom as will commend itself to all who are spiritually wise. Yes, surely such will be wise, understanding what the will of the Lord is. Yet we do not doubt that those who are filled with the Spirit will often be led to the adoption of a course which the worldly wise may not approve. But though called to be singular for Christ's sake amid the chidings of the prudent of this world, wisdom is known of her children; and thus it was in the case of our friend.

So deeply was her heart burdened for the church of her choice, and such perceptions did her indwelling Saviour give her of its responsibilities, in view of the blood of souls, which were being found upon its skirts, that, as before said, she could not refrain her lips. She
could not, because she knew that her Saviour would have her speak. And when she sought unto God for wisdom in regard to the manner in which she might do this, so as to be heard by the church, the plan was so singularly novel, that she would never have consented to it, had she not first been crucified to the world, and the world to her. As it was, such were the shrinkings of her nature, that she saw she was in danger of losing the grace by not complying with the conditions on which she had received it, and on which alone she could retain it.

She had received it by presenting herself as a whole burnt sacrifice on the altar of God, and now she saw that it was only to be retained by
keeping all upon the altar. And to be answerable to the conditions of the covenant, she saw but one path; and that one path was by the way of a duty clearly discoverable on the heavenly chart. Her experimental apprehension of the indwelling of a risen Saviour in her heart was an endowment of power which every member of that church community needed, and she now saw that He who is no respecter of persons would have her, as his witness, confess the gift she had received to all, in order that all might be constrained to seek the same baptism of fire.

At this time there was no ministering servant of Christ to serve at the altar of this church, and, as before observed, its altar fires were fast waning. But He who purchased the church with his blood would not that its spiritual life should become extinct. He would fain have had the things that remained, and were ready to die, strengthened. He therefore moved this beloved, newly-baptized female disciple to use means by which this church community were largely called together. A notice was read, one Sabbath morning, from the pulpit of a neighboring church, that in the Congregational church in that place a testimony would be given in for God. The thing was enacted in wisdom. No one in that community, save the one timid, shrinking disciple, who had prepared the notice, knew from whence it emanated. Much interest was excited, and inquiries quickly passed from one to another, who the witnessing stranger could be. Many crowded to the place, and in solemn silence sat down awaiting the presence of the anticipated stranger. Though the questionings had passed from one to another, and amazement had been expressed in regard to the wherefore of this gathering, yet now that the company were convened, and the doors were shut, a holy quiet prevailed, as though God were about to speak.

It was in reliance on infinite wisdom, and through the Holy Spirit's dictation, that that waiting company had been gathered; and now the Master of assemblies took the matter into his own hand, and seemed to set the tranquilizing seal of his presence on the assembly, so that the solemn quiet of the place appeared to say, God is here; and verily the God of the temple was there. He was there in the power of his Spirit; his grieved, insulted Spirit was there to plead that the expiring fires of that altar might be resuscitated. He had spoken in judgment. His holy name had been dishonored by that people; they had not been able to go out before their enemies and win them over to Israel's God, but, contrariwise, had been, by their dissensions, scattered and smitten before their enemies; and now the dishonored God of that temple had convened them once more, to plead for the honor of his own cause, that those altar fires might again be rekindled, and his Israel endued with power from on high to win souls to Christ.

Not more truly did the Saviour deliver a message, through the lips of a devoted female, to those erring disciples who forsook the Saviour, in the hour of his greatest extremity, and fled, than he would now have delivered a message to the brethren of this church community, through the lips of this devoted, intelligent female disciple. Such had been her evident manifestations of devotedness and supreme love of Christ, that we presume no one doubted she was a beloved disciple, as was the devoted Mary of Magdalene. And in view of the fact that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, none would have doubted but the constancy and nearness of her communion with Christ might have resulted in her receiving a message from Jesus. And such was the well-known character of her social and domestic surroundings as might have insured an affectionate, thankful reception, if the theme had been on some matter of worldly interest.

But now that this beloved, newly-baptized disciple spake as the Spirit gave utterance, did her brethren receive this testimony for Jesus as it fell from her lips? No! not because the message did not come clothed with heart-thrilling pathos and divine power. No! many felt this. Perhaps there were few hearts so hardy but were deeply moved, and felt that she spake as the Spirit gave utterance. And why did they reject this message, if coming thus from a known disciple of Christ, who had the confidence of the religious public, and whose wondrous message came clothed with divine authority, and the reception of which might, doubtless, have been the salvation of that church community? They rejected it because the church had imposed the cruel seal of silence on the lips of woman. The message was manifestly important; and who was not ready to acknowledge this? All knew that the fires of the Spirit were fast dying out in that church — that her spiritual power was well nigh, if not wholly, gone.

And now one of their own number had, in obedience to the command of the Saviour, tarried at Jerusalem until, endued with power and filled with the Holy Ghost, she would fain have all seek the same needful grace, and, with the same power impelling her that impelled those women on the day of Pentecost to speak as the Spirit gave utterance, she utters before the multitude the great things God has done for her, and her testimony is contemptuously rejected because it falls from the lips of a woman. We say contemptuously — yes; for though the Spirit that empowered her was evidently more than human, and many wondered and wept, yet the Spirit resisted; and man, left to pursue the wrong, treads with yet more rapid pace the path of error, and the last state is far worse than the first.

It is sad to remember how this beloved disciple was reviled and rejected; how those who stood in high places in the church ridiculed, as a religious farce, these holy solemnities, and endeavored to incite even her nearest kindred to restraining and repulsive acts, till every earthly refuge failed her, and she was left, indeed, to drink of the cup of which her Saviour drank — to know a fellowship with his sufferings. We love and venerate the ministry, and, through grace, are ever disposed to keep in affectionate remembrance the prohibition, "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." But the voice of duty admonishes us to say, that the deepest wounds inflicted on the heart of this lovely female disciple were inflicted by the instigation of a minister of the same denomination, of a neighboring town. Not that he did not regard the utterances of the Spirit through her, as most, needful and timely, but because she, being a woman, had dared to open her mouth in the presence of her brethren.

Had this minister obeyed the command of the Head of the church, and tarried at Jerusalem until endued with power from on high, he would himself have learned the wisdom that the Holy Ghost teacheth, and not have restrained its utterances. Had the cloven tongue of fire descended upon his own head, he would not have been such a stranger to its inspirations, as they fell from the lips of this Christian sister, and he might have been saved from blood-guiltiness, in view of the spiritual death which ensued from the fact that this message, which might have resulted in the spiritual life of that church through his means, was not received.

We need not ask the question whether God will not take this rejection as done unto himself: "He that rejecteth you rejecteth me." What an account will such ministers, who have thus kept female talent out of use, be called to render when God comes to require his own with
usury, and the account of unused female talent is adjusted! Who can doubt but a specialty of the last days has been neglected?

But where that lonely few
Who were with Christ below?
Those who the Man of Sorrows knew,
And sometimes shared his woe?
Ah! are they quite forsaken, quite forgot,
And by the ascended Lord remembered not

O, no! that angel band
That rolled away the stone,
With them he left the high command
That they should make him known
As their now risen Lord — their Brother, Friend;
Those loved on earth are loved, world without end.