E. N. (Edward Norton) Cantwell.

Personal salvation; a treatment of the doctrines of conversion and Christian experience online

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Personal Salvation



A Treatment cf the Doctrines of

Conversion and Christian

Experience

By

Edward N. Cantwell, B.D.




New York: EATON & MAINS
Cincinnati: JENNINGS & PYE



v



284209



eaton d JHaing

1903



This Book is Dedicated

TO A

Methodist Ancestry

THAT for

Five Generations has Enjoyed the Power

AND

Upheld the Doctrines

of

Personal Salvation



CONTENTS



Page

Preface 7

I
The Christian 15

II
Preparation for Conversion 29

III
Human Side of the Preparation 32

IV
Spiritual Enlightenment 43

V
Spiritual Awakening 52

VI
Conviction of Sin 62

VII
The Invitation 78

VIII
The Hour of Decision 83

IX
Repentance 92



6 Contents

X Page

Faith 102

XI
Christian Faith 116

XII
The Righteous Quality of Faith 125

XIII
Faith and the Divine Side of Conver-
sion 1 30

XIV
Justification 140

XV
Regeneration 1 50

XVI
Adoption 169

XVII
Christian Fellowship 176

XVIII
Christian Assurance 183

XIX
Christian Holiness 195

XX
Rescued for Service 211



PREFACE



A COMPREHENSIVE grasp of truth and a
strong and adequate style of expression
are essential features of a helpful book,
but the one great content that gives it life
and inspiration is the personality of the
writer, the Some one, who lives on every
page, whose soul beats against the limita-
tions of language as an eagle beats against
the bars of his cage in vain search of a free
pathway to the open hill country and the
shining sun. For this reason every really
great book except the Bible "seems to be a
vain attempt to do the impossible." The
writer of this book, therefore, will be
greatly pleased if some of his readers find
that he has suggested and attempted more



8 Preface

than he has been able to complete. Books
treating of Christian experience are quite
plentiful, but none of them satisfy any
large portion of the Christian Church.
There are two reasons for this : ( i ) With-
out the direct inspiration of God a man
cannot write a book greater than himself,
nor can he give clear and living expression
to any spiritual truth until it has become a
vital part of his own life. No one, as yet,
has been able to realize in his personal re-
ligious life all of the facts of Christian
experience expressed or implied in the
Scriptures, nor can any one man know all
the phases of experience which obtain
among the various members of the great
Christian Brotherhood. All that one
Christian can do is to put his own experi-
ence in order and send it forth as a per-
sonal message to his brethren. (2) But
since salvation is a personal, living process



Preface 9

it cannot, for that very reason, be put into
words. The scientist can describe every
Httle detail of the growth of a plant, but he
can tell nothing of the living power which
makes the growth. The effects are seen,
the cause remains a great mystery. Hence
the weakness of all treatment of Christian
experience.

Conscious of these limitations, the writer
still hopes that this book does give some-
what adequate expression to a common
type of Christian experience. He also
hopes that by means of it some may be
helped to a better understanding of the
truth and of themselves, and that in-
creased knowledge may lead to stronger
and deeper spiritual life. To obtain a
well-balanced view of Methodist teaching
on this important subject there may be
read in connection with this book four
Methodist classics, written by men of ma-



10 Preface

ture thought and experience, namely,
Love Enthroned, by Dr. Daniel Steele;
Aspects of Christian Experience, by Bish-
op S. M. Merrill ; Philosophy of Christian
Experience, by Bishop Randolph S. Fos-
ter; The New and Living Way, by Pro-
fessor Milton S. Terry.

Theological definitions are at present in
some disfavor. The present writer be-
lieves, however, that knowledge and belief
precede experience and character; that
definite thinking and exact knowledge are
necessary to definite experience; that a
vague, loose, indefinite style of thought
and speech is degrading and immoral.
The names of the events of Christian ex-
perience are in common use, and yet very
few have any clear idea of their meaning.
Nor is this ignorance entirely confined to
the laity. Very many writers and speakers
use statements and make explanations that



Preface 11

indicate very great confusion or very great
error. Figures of speech have been so
abused that their use has added to the con-
fusion and concealed the truth instead of
reveaHng it. Some have gone so far as
to build a whole system of doctrines on a
metaphor. Things are not clearly seen
across a landscape covered with fog;
progress under such conditions is slow,
uncertain, and dangerous. Believing that
definitions will help to clear up the situa-
tion, they have been freely used. A path-
way through the forest may restrict free-
dom and limit the view, yet it is an aid to
most travelers who desire to arrive some-
where. These definitions have proven so
helpful to the writer in his own experience
and have added so much to the value of
his preaching that he feels it both a duty
and a pleasure to give them as large an
audience as possible. The definitions are,



12 Preface

however, to be looked upon not as final
statements of the whole truth, but as defi-
nite measures of the light we now have,
and, like the clear outline of the new
moon, a prophecy of fuller light to come.
This partial but clearly defined outline is
more encouraging to the ordinary traveler
than the greater but fragmentary light of
the great nebula ; it is nearer by and more
concentrated, and therefore gives greater
promise of immediate helpfulness, even
though it may not have such great possi-
bilities. We will do the best we can with
the light at hand while waiting for the
nebula to organize. Indeed, it is to be
hoped that some mighty spirit may soon
move upon the great nebulous mass of
much that passes for Christian thinking
and reduce to order that formless void.
The writer hastens to say that these defini-
tions are not his own, but that wherever



Preface 13

they appear placed in quotation marks and
not otherwise credited they are by Pro-
fessor Olin A. Curtis, to whom is acknowl-
edged a very great indebtedness for the
outline of conversion. But beyond this
outline and the definitions this work does
not pretend to give any of Dr. Curtis's
views.

The claim is not made that every con-
version must exactly fit the plan here
given, or even that many conversions will
be as clear and definite in every detail.
The writer was converted when eleven
years of age, and he is very sure that the
repentance and faith exercised were far
below the demands of this treatise. But
as he grew older and obtained a clearer
idea of his personal accountability, and a
better conception of God, the repentance
and faith took on a new and deeper mean-
ing, and with every increase of knowledge
2



14 Preface

and new apprehension of God there has
come a new and better adjustment of his
whole rehgious experience. Within the
past year a study of the minor prophets
has given a great and new content to his
conception of God, and as a result repent-
ance and faith and the whole range of
experience have taken on a deeper mean-
ing. The writer speaks of personal salva-
tion as he now knows it. This personal
element may account for the persistent
and perhaps over urging of some of the
points. Some readers may not need to
trim the statements to their experience,
while others may need to bring their ex-
perience into line with the statements
herein, even though in some cases they be
overurged.

Holland's Island, Md.,
January, 1903.



3^ersonaI g)albattott



CHAPTER I

The Christian

The words ''Christian" and ^'Chris-
tianity" are used in so many senses, and
so generally in a vague and indefinite
way, that great confusion as to their real
meaning has resulted. A consultation of
encyclopedias and dictionaries only helps
to increase the confusion. Some years
ago a Christian weekly sent to a number
of representative men and women the fol-
lowing question : ''What is it to be a
Christian?" Some thirty replies were re-
ceived. Bishop Randolph S. Foster says
that while this is a demand for a defini-
tion, yet not one of the thirty responses is
a definition, although some approximate



16 Personal Salvation

it, and not one is satisfactory. The con-
fusion on this subject has been greatly in-
creased by such books as The Christian,
by Hall Caine, and Robert Elsmere, by
Mrs. Ward, and by the rise of several
societies of good people who are con-
scientiously trying to practice the teach-
ings of Christ but who. have missed the
vital center of the Christian religion. The
words under discussion ought to have a
precise and definite meaning, and it is
our present task to find out what that
meaning may be. If the fog on our
horizon can be driven away we may be
able to run a straight course with clear
sailing.

A man is not born a Christian, but he
becomes one by making real in his own
life the Christian religion. Hence it is
evident that we must define Christianity
before we can define the Christian.

We have not touched the central fact of
Christianity when we think of it as a new
and better way of living, nor even when



The Christian 17



we regard it as the fullest and completest
revelation of God. It is both of these, but
only incidentally. These do not exhaust
or e\^en truly represent those parts of the
New Testament upon which the most em-
phasis is placed. We must go deeper for
the real meaning of Christianity. The
real truth and the vital message of the
New Testament lie here : "Mankind is a
racial brotherhood of moral persons.
Christianity is a deed — it is God in action
to save this brotherhood of man; sl deed
of infinite sorrow and self-sacrifice on the
part of God; a deed made absolutely nec-
essary by the entrance of sin, which has
entered the personal life of man and
broken up his relation with the Father,
and which has also entered man's social
life and broken up God's original plan of
brotherhood. The religion of Christianity
is' an actual rescue from sin of a personal
moral brotherhood, at infinite cost in self-
sacrifice on the part of Godf With this
adequate and comprehensive definition



18 Personal Salvation

of Christianity clearly before us we can
suggest a definition for the term "Chris-
tian" that will be sufficiently inclusive and
exclusive.

A Christian is a man whose religious
life is marked by three definite character-
istics : ( I ) A definite belief in the atone-
ment as an act of rescue performed by
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with a belief
in the doctrines growing out of the atone-
ment; (2) a definite act of faith by
which the atonement in Christ is appro-
priated as a personal rescue, and a definite
experience of acceptance with God, in-
cluding freedom from sin and birth into
the family of God, with conscious knowl-
edge of the same; (3) a definite course
of conduct, entirely controlled and ruled
by motives growing out of the definite
belief and the definite experience.

THE DEFINITE BELIEF

The entrance into the inner temple of
Christianity is through the door of belief.



The Christian 19

and without this belief there can be no
farther progress. There cannot be an act
of faith and a definite experience without
the necessary mental grasp of the truth.
The rescue from sin is possible tO' none
but believers. There are cerain things
that a Christian believes that distinguish
him from all other men. To a large part
of his belief others may give assent, but
he holds some central convictions which
are the essential marks of Christianity.
The Christian creed may be briefly
summed up as follows : A definite belief
in the Trinity, one God in three Persons,
Creator, Preserver, and Ruler of all
things. To this God man owes perfect
love and obedience. God has revealed
himself to man in nature, in conscience,
in history, and in the Holy Scriptures.
The most complete revelation of God is in
the work and person of Jesus Christ, the
Son of God and the Son of man, who was
conceived by the Holy Ghost, was born of
the Virgin Mary, lived a normal human



20 Personal Salvation

life, was crucified, dead, and buried; the
third day he arose from the dead and as-
cended into heaven. Of his life and teach-
ing the four gospels give an adequate and
accurate account. He is the Saviour of
the human race, his Incarnation, Cruci-
fixion, Resurrection, and Ascension being
the great deeds by which he made atone-
ment for sin, and rescued the human
brotherhood. He will come again at the
end of the world. The dead will all be
raised and all men will be judged accord-
ing to the deeds done in the body, and the
good and the bad will be separated both
as to place and condition. God has set
his seal upon the Holy Scriptures as an
accurate record o-f the preparation for
and the accomplishment of the great deed
of redemption. All of these things a man
must believe in order to call his creed
Christian. But the center of the whole is
the belief in the deity of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who by his infinite self-sacrifice
made a real atonement for sin and accom-



The Christian 21

plished the deed of redemption. With this
fundamental doctrine firmly held, the
others fall in order about it. Nothing
short of this can be accepted as true
Christian belief. On the way to Damas-
cus Paul was convinced of the fact that
Jesus was the Son of God, and that, hav-
ing been crucified, dead, and buried, he
was risen from the dead and ascended
into heaven. At that moment his be-
lief, which had been Jewish, became
Christian.

It is one mission of the Holy Spirit to
testify to the truth of these doctrines con-
cerning the Christ. When a man is truly
and earnestly hungering for God and is
sincerely seeking a rescue from sin —
when such a man hears the doctrines of
the Gospel presented the Holy Spirit in
some way convinces that man of the
truth of the redemption in Jesus Christ
and the way to God through him. The
evangelist is sent into the world to an-
nounce the doctrines concerning the



22 Personal Salvation

Christ in order that the Holy Spirit may
interpret them to such as seek to know
God and the power of his redemption.

A DEFINITE EXPERIENCE

With his belief as a starting point, the
man who becomes a Christian must act-
ually pass through the process of rescue,
must experience the power of the divinely
provided redemption. The process of
rescue is often called conversion, although
the word * 'conversion" may only properly
include a part of the mental process. ''Ex-
perience" is a word in common use in our
own Church to designate the "internal
states and feelings through which one has
passed or is now passing" in the process
of rescue from sin. An experience is an
actual affair through which a man has
passed. He knows it for himself; he
does not need anyone to tell him about it.
Now, the Christian has had a certain
definite experience, certain states and
feelings through which he has actually



The Christian 23

passed which have become real facts in
his hfe. They make his reHgious Hfe very
different from the rehgious Hfe of one
who has not had this experience. The
experience which makes a man a normal
Christian includes : ( i ) A definite con-
viction of sin as rebellion against the holy
God, with a knowledge of the divine dis-
pleasure and a fear of punishment from
which he has no power to rescue himself;
(2) a definite repentance, in which he
loathes his sin and with a contrite heart
turns away from it because it is displeas-
ing to God; (3) a definite consciousness
that in Jesus Christ God offers him a
complete rescue, including pardon and
restoration; (4) a definite act of faith by
which he accepts Christ as a personal
Saviour and gives his whole self to Christ,
thus trusting himself to the divine rescue
and resting upon it; (5) a definite wit-
ness within that he is accepted of God
and is now a member of God's family;
(6) a definite consciousness of power



24 Personal Salvation

over sin, whether presented by outward
temptation or inward suggestion.

The man who has had this experience
has passed through the process of rescue
and is a Christian. Paul had all of these
"internal states and feelings" and bore
testimony to them. He could not have
had them unless his belief had passed
from Jewish to Christian. This experi-
ence never loses its freshness and power.
It is always present, always new. Nor is
it necessarily all secured at once. A par-
tial belief may give a partial experience,
and as belief deepens the experience will
become more definite. And the experi-
ence always reacts upon the belief, making
it clearer and stronger, until it practically
becomes knowledge rather than mere be-
lief. This will be discussed more at length
in the chapter on ''Christian Assurance."

A DEFINITE COURSE OF LIFE

To continue to be a Christian a man
must bring his conduct into subjection to



The Christian 25

the belief and the experience. Not every
well-meant life is a Christian life. The
doctrines of Christianity and the experi-
ence of the personal rescue bring into the
man's life certain great motives, and it is
only as these motives rule in his life that
he is a Christian. These motives gather
up all lesser interests and compel the
thought and affections to subject them-
selves to the one great motive of love and
loyalty to Jesus Christ. By reason of the
rescue from sin the man has been restored
to the right relation with the Father, and
has also become a vital center in the new
holy brotherhood which the Father is or-
ganizing about Jesus Christ, the Elder
Brother. Hence this definite life has a
peculiar relation to God and to our fel-
low-men. In relation to the Father it is a
life of blessed communion, of the indwell-
ing of the Holy Spirit, of loving service
and obedience; a life of freedom, since
he is no longer ''under bondage," but is
become a child of God. In relation to our



26 Personal Salvation

fellow-men it is a life of fellowship and
love and service, its one great characteris-
tic being a spirit of self-sacrifice in behalf
of the brotherhood of man. '^Hereby
know we love because he laid down his
life for us; and we ought to lay down our
lives for the brethren." The Master has
summed it all up in one sentence: *'As
Thou didst send me into the world, even
so send I them into the world." A con-
vert at Jerry McAuley's prayer meeting
had the true spirit of Christianity when
he said, "J^sus Christ died to give you a
show. If you want to follow him get
onto his cross and suffer, your own self,
for some poor chap that is worse than you
are."

Thus a man becomes a Christian. God
furnishes the facts for the belief, he pro-
vides the opportunity and the power for
the experience, he supplies the power for
the life; by faith the Christian appropri-
ates them and makes them his own.

The Christian religion is a necessity In



The Christian 27

the development of manhood. The Chris-
tian is not an artificial, morbid, un-
healthy, cranky "saint." He is a sane,
healthy, normal, developed man. The
passage of the individual through the en-
tire process of rescue is sometimes rapid
and sometimes slow. The time required
depends upon the man and the conditions
surrounding him. But in every case the
real process is wholesome, rational, vital,
and free from artificial, factitious, mechan-
ical elements. In so far as such elements
are present the real process of rescue is
hindered. The Christian religion is
adapted to man and fits into his life with-
out doing any violence to conscience or
any other part of the moral nature. "It
will meet a man at any stage of the moral
process and start him on toward the
goal.''

The following chapters will deal with"
the events of the Christian's experience,
describing the states and feelings and
naming the stages through which he



28 Personal Salvation

passes. They will tell what happens to a
man as he passes through the process of
an actual rescue from sin and its results.
It is not claimed that every case of con-
version must exactly fit this outline, but
the type is a real one, and the stages here
described are actually present in every
case even though the convert may not be
conscious of them.

There are no better names to be found
for the stages of the spiritual life than
those in common use, hence there has
been no hesitation in using them. But it
is hoped that this explanation will help to
a clearer understanding of their meaning
and free them from some objectionable
ideas which have gathered about them.
Every effort will be made to make the
reader feel that we are talking about him
rather than talking theology.



Preparation for Conversion 29



CHAPTER II

Preparation for Conversion

Conversion is the process of personal
salvation; it is that ''spiritual and moral
change attending a change of attitude
toward God; a change of heart; a
change from the service of the world to
the service of God; a change of the ruling
disposition of the soul, involving a trans-
formation of the outward life." There is a
vast difference between a real conversion
and a desire or determination to lead a
new life. Conversion means the whole
of the process of the rescue from sin. Its
starting point is repentance; its goal is
a mind, heart, and will entirely loyal to
the Lord Jesus Christ, thus making the
convert a member of the family of God,
of the new brotherhood which God is or-
ganizing about Christ, the Saviour. In
addition to the above there is also in con-



30 Personal Salvation

version a new birth, an impartation of a
divine life, which will in its completion
make of the loyal person a holy person,
thus bringing him to the second goal of
the Christian life.

The preparation for conversion is that
combination of influences which, acting
upon the person, brings him squarely up
to the house of rescue, into which he may
enter through the door of repentance. In
this preparation, as in all of God's deal-
ings with man, there are both human and
divine elements. God uses human agen-
cies and he also works directly within the
soul. The human agencies are the in-
fluence of individuals, the influence of the
Church, and the bearing of the man him-
self. As a direct work of God there is the
enlightenment of the spiritual under-
standing, the awakening of a personal in-
terest in salvation, the conviction of sin,
and the gracious invitation to accept
Christ and secure forgiveness and peace
with God. All of these precede repentance



Preparation for Conversion 31

and are a preparation for it. They are not
imaginary or theological pictures. They
are real experiences in the life of every
one who is under the influence of the
Chrstian Church and the Gospel message.
God does everything he can do to secure
the rescue of every human being.



32 Personal Salvation



CHAPTER III
Human Side of the Preparation

I. THE influence OF INDIVIDUALS

"No action, whether foul or fair,

Is ever done but it leaves somewhere

A record

In the greater weakness or the greater strength

Of all the acts which follow it."

Every man has more or less influence
in helping other men to meet God at the
place of rescue or in keeping men away
from God. A man's neighbors help in
many ways to determine the time, the
form, and the place of the test by which
his final destiny is decided. Every indif-
ferent person, everyone who has rejected
the divine rescue, has a harmful influence
upon those about him. Every person who
has accepted God helps to bring others to
the place of acceptance. By the righteous-
ness of his life, by his fidelity in thought,
word, and deed to the Christian spirit, by



Human Side of the Preparation 33

the moral power inherent in Christian
character, by the word of testimony, by
the feeHng and expression of a profound
personal interest in his neighbor, the
Christian constantly influences others and
helps God to secure their salvation. The
Christian exerts this influence when he is
entirely unconscious of it as well as w^hen
he is actively engaged in urging others to
accept Christ. God can use our lives as
w^ell as our words to help others. Some-
times the unconscious influence is most ef-
fective. ]\Iany a person has been helped
over a hard place on the road to God by a


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