Is There Not a Shorter Way?
“Be always ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is within you, with meekness and fear.” — Peter
“I have thought,” said one of the children of Zion to the other, as in love they journeyed onward in the way cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in; “I have thought,” said he, “whether there is not a shorter way of getting into this way of holiness than some of our brethren apprehend?”
“Yes,” said the sister addressed, who was a member of the denomination alluded to; “Yes, brother, THERE IS A SHORTER WAY!! O! I am sure this long waiting and struggling with the powers of darkness is not necessary. There is a shorter way.” And then, with a solemn feeling of responsibility, and with a realizing conviction of the truth uttered, she added, “But, brother, there is but one way.”
Days and even weeks elapsed, and yet the question, with solemn bearing, rested upon the mind of that sister. She thought of the affirmative given in answer to the inquiry of the brother — examined yet more closely the Scriptural foundation upon which the truth of the affirmation rested — and the result of the investigation lended to add still greater confirmation to the belief, that many sincere disciples of Jesus, by various needless perplexities, consume much time in endeavoring to get into this way, which might, more advantageously to themselves and others, be employed in making progress in it, and testifying, from experimental knowledge, of its blessedness.
How many, whom Infinite Love would long since have brought into this state, instead of seeking to be brought into the possession of the blessing at once, are seeking a preparation for the reception of it! They feel that their Convictions are not deep enough to warrant an approach to the throne of grace, with the confident expectation of receiving the blessing now. Just at this point some may have been lingering months and years. Thus did the sister, who so confidently affirmed “there is a shorter way.” And here, dear child of Jesus, permit the writer to tell you just how that sister found the “shorter way.”
On looking at the requirements of the word of God, she beheld the command, “Be ye holy.” She then began to say in her heart, “Whatever my former deficiencies may have been, God requires that I should now be holy. Whether convicted, or otherwise, duty is plain. God requires present holiness.” On coming to this point, she at once apprehended a simple truth before unthought of, i.e., Knowledge is conviction. She well knew that, for along time, she had been assured that God required holiness. But she had never deemed this knowledge a sufficient plea to take to God — and because of present need, to ask a present bestowment of the gift.
Convinced that in this respect she had mistaken the path, she now, with renewed energy, began to make use of the knowledge already received, and to discern a “shorter way.”
Another difficulty by which her course had been delayed she found to be here. She had been accustomed to look at the blessing of holiness as such a high attainment, that her general habit of soul inclined her to think it almost beyond her reach. This erroneous impression rather influenced her to rest the matter thus: — ‘I will let every high state of grace, in name, alone, and seek only to be fully conformed to the will of God, as recorded in his written word. My chief endeavors shall be centered in the aim to be an humble Bible Christian. By the grace of God, all my energies shall be directed to this one point. With this single aim, I will journey onward, even though my faith may be tried to the uttermost by those manifestations being withheld, which have previously been regarded as essential for the establishment of faith.”
On arriving at this point, she was enabled to gain yet clearer insight into the simplicity of the way. And it was by this process. After having taken the Bible as the rule of life, instead of the opinions and experience of professors, she found, on taking the blessed word more closely to the companionship of her heart, that no one declaration spoke more appealingly to her understanding than this: “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and spirit which are his.”
By this she perceived the duty of entire consecration in a stronger light, and as more sacredly binding, than ever before. Here she saw God as her Redeemer claiming by virtue of the great price once paid for the redemption of body, soul and spirit the present and entire service of all these redeemed powers.
By this she saw that if she lived constantly in the entire surrender of all that had been thus dearly purchased unto God, she was but an unprofitable servant; and that, if less than all was rendered, she was worse than unprofitable, inasmuch as she would be guilty of keeping back part of that price which had been purchased unto God : “Not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Jesus.” And after so clearly discerning the will of God concerning her, she felt that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira would be less culpable in the sight of Heaven than her own, should she not at once resolve on living in the entire consecration of all her redeemed powers God.
Deeply conscious of past unfaithfulness, she now determined that the time past should suffice; and with a humility of spirit, induced by a consciousness of not having lived in the performance of such a “reasonable service,” she was enabled, through grace, to resolve, with firmness of purpose, that entire devotion of heart and life to God should be the absorbing subject of the succeeding pilgrimage of life.
“We by his Spirit prove,
And know the things of God,
The things which freely of his love
He hath on us bestowed.”
AFTER having thus resolved on devoting the entire service of her heart and life to God, the following questions occasioned much serious solicitude: — How shall I know when I have consecrated all to God? And how ascertain whether God accepts the sacrifice — and how know the manner of his acceptance? Here again the blessed Bible, which she had now taken as her counselor, said to her heart, “We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things freely given to us of God.”
It was thus she became assured that it was her privilege to know when she had consecrated all to God, and also to know that the sacrifice was accepted, and the resolve was solemnly made that the subject should not cease to be absorbing until this knowledge was obtained.
Feeling it a matter of no small importance to stand thus solemnly pledged to God, conscious that sacred responsibilities were included in these engagements, a realization of the fact, that neither body, soul, nor spirit, time, talent, nor influence, were, even for one moment, at her own disposal, began to assume the tangibility of living truth to her mind, in a manner not before apprehended.
From a sense of responsibility thus imposed, she began to be more abundant in labors, “instant in season and out of season.”
While thus engaged in active service, another difficulty presented itself. How much of self in these performances? said the accuser. For a moment, almost bewildered at being thus withstood, her heart began to sink. She felt most keenly that she had no certain standard to rise up against this accusation.
It was here again that the blessed word sweetly communed with her heart, presenting the marks of the way, by a reference to the admonition of Paul: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
These blessed communings continued thus:
If the primitive Christians had the assurance that their labors were in the Lord; and thus enjoyed the heart-inspiring confidence that their labors were not in vain, because performed in the might of the Spirit, then it is also your privilege to know that your labor is in the Lord. It was at this point in her experience that she first perceived the necessity, and also the attainableness of the witness of purity of intention — which, in her petition to God as most expressive of her peculiar need, she denominated, “The witness that the spring of every motive is pure.”
It was by the word of the Lord she became fully convinced that she needed this heart-encouraging confidence in order to insure success in her labors of love. The next step taken was to resolve, as in the presence of the Lord, not to cease importuning the throne of grace until the witness was given “that the spring of every motive was pure.”
On coming to this decision, the blessed Word, most encouragingly, yea, and also assuringly said to her heart, “Stand still, and see the salvation of God.”
“Here, in thine own appointed way,
I wait to learn thy will;
Silent I stand before thy face,
And hear thee say, ‘Be still!
Be still! and know that I am God:’
‘Tis all I wish to know,
To feel the virtue of thy blood,
And spread its praise below.”
THUS admonished, she began to anticipate, with longings unutterable, the fulfillment of the WORD upon which she had been enabled to rest her hope.
These exercises, though so deep as to assure the heart, most powerfully and permanently, that “the word of the Lord is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing assunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” were not of that distressing character which, according to her preconceived opinions, were necessary, preparatory to entering into a state of holiness.
So far from having those overwhelming perceptions of guilt, on which she afterward saw she had been too much disposed to place reliance, as somewhat meritorious, she was constantly and consciously growing in grace daily — yea, even hourly her heavenward progress seemed marked as by the finger of God.
No gloomy fears that she was not a child of God dimmed her spiritual horizon, presenting fearful anticipations of impending wrath. There had been a period in her experience, some time previous to that under present consideration, from which she had not one lingering doubt of her acceptance with God, as a member of the household of faith. But, conscious that she had not the witness of entire consecration to God, neither the assurance that the great deep of her heart, the fountain from whence action emanates, was pure, which at this time stood before the vision of her mind as two distinct objects, (yet which, as she afterward perceived, most clearly merged in one,) and impelled onward also by such an intense desire to be fruitful in every good work, the emotions of her spirit could not perhaps be more clearly expressed than in the nervous language of the poet —
“My heart strings groan with deep complaint
My flesh lies panting, Lord, for thee;
And every limb, and every joint
Stretches for perfect purity.”
And yet, to continue poetic language, it was a “sweet distress,” for the word of the Lord continually said to her heart, “The Spirit helpeth our infirmities;” and conscious that she had submitted herself to the dictations of the Spirit a sacred conviction took possession of her mind that she was being led to all truth.
“Stand still, and see the salvation of God,” was now the listening attitude in which her soul eagerly waited before the Lord, and it was but a few hours after the above encouraging admonition had been spoken to her heart that she set apart a season to wait before the Lord, especially for the bestowment of the object, or rather the two distinct objects previously stated.
On first kneeling, she thought of resolving that she would continue to wait before the Lord until the desire of her heart was granted. But the adversary, who had stood ready to withstand every progressive step, suggested, “Be careful, God may disappoint your expectations; and suppose you should be left to wrestle all night; ay, and all the morrow too?”
She had ever felt it a matter of momentous import to say, either with the language of the heart or lip, “I have lifted my hand to God;” and for a moment she hesitated whether she should really determine to continue in a waiting attitude until the desire of her heart was fulfilled; but afterward concluded to rest the matter thus: One duty can never, in the order of God, interfere with another; and, unless necessarily called away by surrounding circumstances, I will, in the strength of grace, wait till my heart is assured, though it may be all night, and all the morrow too.
And here most emphatically could she say, she was led by a “way she knew not;” so simple, so clearly described, and urged by the word of the Lord, and yet so often overlooked, for want of that child-like simplicity which, without reasoning, takes God at his word. It was just while engaged in the act of preparing the way, as she deemed, to some great and undefinable exercise, that the Lord, through the medium of faith in his written word, led her astonished soul directly into the “way of holiness,” where, with unutterable delight, she found the comprehensive desires of her soul blended and satisfied in the fulfillment of the command, “Be ye holy.”
It was thus, waiting child of Jesus, that this traveler in the King’s highway was directed onward, through the teachings of the word of God and induced so confidently to affirm, in reply to the brother, “There is a shorter way.”
Thou message from the skies!
Bay for the rayless heart!
Thou fount of wisdom for the wise
A balm for all thou art.
Man of my counsel, thou
Blessings untold rejoice
The heart of those who meekly bow,
To listen to thy voice.
IT was on this wise that the word of the Lord, the “Book of books,” as a “mighty counselor,” urged her onward, and by unerring precept directed every step of the way. And as each progressive step by which she was ushered into the enjoyment of this blessed state of experience was as distinctly marked, by its holy teachings, as those already given, may it not be presumed, that some heretofore wavering one may be induced to rest more confidently in the assurance that “the word of the Lord is tried,” and is the same in its immutable nature as the Faithful and True, by stating, as nearly as will comport with the brevity required, the steps as successively taken by which this disciple of Jesus entered?
Over and again, previous to the time mentioned, had she endeavored to give herself away in covenant to God. But she had never, till this hour, deliberately resolved on counting the cost, with the solemn intention to “reckon her self dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord;” to account herself permanently the Lord’s, and in verity no more at her own disposal, but irrevocably the Lord’s property, for time and eternity. Now, in the name of the Lord Jehovah, after having deliberately “counted the cost,” she resolved to enter into the bounds of an everlasting covenant, with the fixed purpose to count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus, that she might know him and the power of his resurrection, by being made conformable to his death, and raised to an entire newness of life.
Apart from any excitement of feeling, other than the sacred awe inspired by the solemnity of the act, she now, in experimental verity, did lay hold upon the terms of the covenant, by which God has condescended to bind himself to his people, being willing, yea, even desirous, to bring down the responsibility of a perpetual engagement upon herself, even in the sight of heaven. So intensely was she desirous that earth should usurp a claim no more, she asked that the solemn act might be recorded before the eternal throne, that the “host of the Lord that encamp round about them that fear him” might bear witness, and also the innumerable company of the redeemed, blood-washed spirits, should behold yet another added to their choir in spirit, and also in song; and though still a resident of earth, they should witness the ceaseless return of all her redeemed powers, through Christ, ascending as an acceptable sacrifice. The obligation to take the service of God as the absorbing business of life, and to regard heaven as her native home, and the accumulation of treasure in heaven the chief object of ambition, was at this solemn moment entered upon.
On doing this, a hallowed sense of consecration took possession of her soul; a divine conviction that the convenant was recognized in heaven, accompanied with the assurance that the seal, proclaiming her wholly the Lord’s, was set: while a consciousness, deep and abiding, that she had been but a co-worker with God in this matter, added still greater confirmation to her conceptions of the extent and permanency of those heaven-inspired exercises, by which a mighty work had been wrought in and for her soul, which she felt assured would tell on her eternal destiny, even after myriads of ages had been spent in the eternal world.
But she did not at the moment regard this state into which she had been brought as the “way of holiness,” neither had the word holiness been the most prominent topic during this solemn transaction. Conformity to the will of God in all things was the absorbing desire of her heart. Yet after having passed through these exercises she began to give expression to her full soul thus: “I am wholly thine! — Thou dost reign unrivaled in my heart! There is not a tie that binds me to earth; every tie has been severed, and now I am wholly, wholly thine!” While lingering on the last words, the Holy Spirit appealingly repeated the confident expressions to her heart, thus: What! wholly the Lord’s? Is not this the holiness that God requires? What have you more to render? Does God require more than all? Hath he issued the command, “Be ye holy,” and not given the ability, with the command, for the performance of it? Is he a hard master, unreasonable in his requirements? She now saw, in a convincing light, her error in regarding holiness as an attainment beyond her reach, and stood reproved, though consciously shielded by the atonement from condemnation, and enjoying the blessedness of that soul “to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
And now the eyes of her understanding were more fully opened, and founded on eternal faithfulness did she find the words of the Saviour, “If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine.”
Source: The Way of Holiness: With Notes by the Way; Being a Narrative of Religious Experience Resulting from a Determination to be a Bible Christian, by Phoebe Palmer, (New York: Palmer & Hughes), 1854, pp. 17-39.