I AM not a pessimist nor a friend of pessimism; I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet; yet something like the burden of a prophet is laid upon me, constraining me to cry aloud to the Church of my father and mother—the Church in which I had my first and my second birth—the Church which nurtured me in her schools, and commissioned me to preach in her pulpits and to teach in her universities—a Church to which I owe a debt too large for me to pay. It is exceedingly painful to note in this Church the first and the second indication of spiritual decay. The first has long grieved me; it is the neglect of those vital truths which nourish a stalwart spiritual life. The silence of the pulpit these many years respecting the full heritage of the believer, which is nothing less than is expressed in the words of Dr. McClintock, “The holiness of the human soul, heart, mind, and will,” has been broken at last by the voice of a son of the Church in the open and loud repudiation of that doctrine which is “the inmost essence” and “elemental thought” of Methodism. This is the second token of spiritual decay, the second milestone on the downward road to spiritual death. The fact that this voice sounds out through the very trumpet which was made for the heralding of the glorious evangel of Christian perfection greatly aggravates my sorrow. Yet I am not surprised. The Church that incorporates in itself so large a segment of worldliness will sooner or later reject every doctrine hostile to a love of the world. “Whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Says Professor Herron:
Except by its manifest subserviency to wealth, nothing more clearly indicates the immoral influence of religion than the contemptuous meaning which has come to be attached to the word holiness. By the holy man is meant, in popular thought, simply no man at all; while the word primitively meant a whole human man, normally fulfilling all the natural functions of his life in their wholeness.
Socrates, in his defense before his judges, says that men just about to die are sometimes inspired to prophesy. I am rather inspired with a foreboding of future ill to the Church of my choice. I see a century hence a Church of twenty millions of united Methodists in America. It is strong to resist “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion,” but it is weak in converting power and few seek entire sanctification at her altars. The alarming truth of eternal punishment for the finally impenitent has long been practically discarded as unworthy a God of goodness. The doctrine of immediate and entire sanctification in this life was first unfashionable, then the wise men of the Church found it to be unphilosophical, and a patient study of the Bible found it to be unscriptural, having not a single text to rest upon. How opportune this discovery! It came conveniently at the moment when the progressives in the Church wished to rid themselves of a doctrine displeasing to worldliness, and which barricades the way to the theater, the card table, and the ball room. The Discipline long since expunged the crude and impertinent rule against these harmless recreations. Methodist orthodoxy has now for many years been measured by the Articles of Religion, alone under which Universalism can be preached and Christian perfection be scouted, with no ecclesiastical courts to molest. Methodist unity of doctrine is gone. Instead, there is a high Church magnifying the Ritual, a broad Church magnifying Reason and prating of progress in liberal thought, and a low Church with whom the converting and sanctifying power still abides.
Wesley is now a name to glory in, not an authority in doctrine, not an example to be followed in holy living and self-sacrificing evangelism. Self-styled progressives in the Methodist ministry are warning their conservative brethren against the baneful influence of his name in retarding free thought. A few days ago, at a farewell supper to a baptized and ordained infidel this arch heretic warned his clerical brethren not to let the name of Channing obstruct the progress of liberal thought. No man can read the preliminary chapter of this book as carefully as I have read it, again and again, without the feeling that if it attains a general circulation its publication will mark the epoch of doctrinal disintegration and accelerated spiritual decay. The spirit of this book from beginning to end may be expressed in the warning to the Unitarians, by substituting the name of Wesley for Channing—beware lest the name of Wesley obstruct the advance of liberal thought.