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Please read over again Hebrews 12:25-29. “This word, yet once more signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken.” We have not yet presented a tithe of the Scriptures that treat on the above subject, and show its relation to the purification of the church. Let us now begin with 1 Peter 4:17-18.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
Here is a trying ordeal, a judgmental shaking of the church, parallel with that described by Paul. It is the execution of Christ’s verdict of death to sin in the flesh. “The time is come.” Scripture thus introduced almost invariably refers to some previous prediction. In the prophecies of Isaiah we find what is doubtless the antecedent of Peter’s words.
And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin . . . afterward thou shalt be called, the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. (Isaiah 1:25-27)
The judgment of Zion , the house of God, is her full redemption. It is the hand of the Almighty “purely purging away the dross and all the tin” from His church, that it might be called the “city of righteousness.” This experience is not for the sinner, nor is it confined to the aged and dying, but the “converts” in Zion , saith the Lord, shall be redeemed from sin by the Spirit of judgment and the Spirit of burning.” This purging is parallel with the removing of these things that are “shaken.”
In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious (i.e., “sanctified and cleansed, a glorious church.” Ephesians 5:26-27) and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel (have “escaped the corruption that is in the world”—inbred sin). And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. (Isaiah 4:2-5)
This explains the words of Peter very clearly: the judgment of the house of God is a divine washing and purging. The church, having passed through the Spirit of judgment and of burning, all that are left therein “shall be called holy.” Therefore, we understand the words of Peter as having reference to the sin-consuming flames of the Sanctifier, the baptism of the Holy Ghost which corresponds with the shaking of the church, of which Paul speaks in Hebrews, for he concludes by saying, “Our God is a consuming fire.”
If ever there was a time when Peter’s words were pertinent, it is now. The hand of the Almighty is upon his church and He will smite and humble it with His judgments; shake it with His voice from heaven, and consume it with the flames of His Spirit until every foul spirit is driven out and all the “works of the devil” destroyed; that nothing may remain but the pure, unalloyed elements of the divine “kingdom which cannot be shaken.”
Next let us turn to the prophet Joel. Here the heavenly fire burns and glows in every chapter. Beginning at chapter 1, verse 8, we read, “Lament like a virgin with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.” If this alludes at all to the Jewish nation, it still has an indirect or typical reference to the church; but it looks much as though it applied to the bride of Jesus, lamenting for the return and in-dwelling of her Husband through the fullness of the Spirit, as in her youth—the glorious morn of her union with the Fairest One.
The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD’S ministers, mourn. The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley . . . because joy is withered away from the sons of men. Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God. (Joel 1:9-13)
What a striking picture of the church, now desolate and unfruitful for the want of a real indwelling Christ through the Comforter. But there are some left that are not oblivious to the destitution of Zion, and what she should be in the Lord; and to them comes the word of the Lord, saying, “Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord” (Joel 1:14).
This to my mind is a clear prediction of holiness conventions and meetings, to pray for the return of the old Pentecostal power. These supplications are accepted of God, and soon the heavens and the earth begin to be shaken; “Alas, for the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction form the Almighty shall it come” (Joel 1:15).
The churches being mostly a collection of “wood, hay and stubble,” “the day that cometh shall burn them up,” and the builders “suffer loss,” which much enrage them against those who “reveal by fire” the spuriousness of their work. (1 Corinthians 3)
“The seed is rotten under their clods, the garments are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered” (Joel 1:17). We believe the Holy Spirit drew in our mind a pictorial delineation of the meaning of this verse, which we will try to convey to the reader. Imagine three seeds deposited beneath the earth’s surface. The first has sprouted, but in its upward growth it encounters hard clods and rocks, which cause the tender shoot to turn back into the earth, die and rot. The second germ springing up, also comes in contact with these impervious clods, but being strongly attracted by the light and heat of the sun, it forces a passage round one after another, and finally reaches the surface; but its vital energies being greatly exhausted, it grows up a dwarfed and sickly plant, and produces a small and blasted ear of corn. The third having these obstructions all removed, and instead thereof the soil much enriched, comes up fresh and vigorous, grows rapidly, and brings forth an abundant crop. The first of these represent the poor backslider: the seed of regeneration rots beneath the hard clods of corrupt human nature. The second, the saint who perseveres in the way of well doing, and brings forth some fruit despite the hard and noxious clods of unsanctified nature. The third represents the newborn life, freed from all encumbrances, and yielding the rich and plenteous fruit of the Spirit through the blessing of entire sanctification.
All attempts to make a church abound in fruits of holiness, without teaching it the distinct grace of purification, is like watering and cultivating a stock of corn and at the same time leaving it crushed beneath a heavy clod. Such is our unsanctified nature. Says Dr. Steele, “In my previous Christian experience of twenty-eight years, there always seemed to be a vacancy unfilled, a spot which the plow had not been thoroughly subsoiled and thrown up to the light and warmth of the Sun of Righteousness . . . But the heavenly Tenant of share of the Gospel had not touched. My nature my soul has changed all this. He has unlocked every apartment of my being, and filled and flooded them all with the light of His radiant presence. The vacuum has become a plenum. The spot before untouched has been reached, and all its flintiness has melted in the presence of that universal solvent,
Love divine all loves excelling.
“What that void within was—what that untouched core of my being, whether it was selfishness, unbelief, original or inbred sin—I leave to the theologians to discuss. I aver that it was something very uncomfortable. Praise the Lord Jesus, it is gone never to return. The Man of Calvary, the Son of God, now treads all the avenues of my soul, filling its emptiness, melting its hardness, and cleansing its impurity.”
For the want of this thorough sub-soiling of the soul, “the corn is withered, how do the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate” (Joel 1:118).
Next follows a scene that the Holy Ghost gave me in a vision of the night, on the 13th of March 1878, when, as yet, I knew not that it was in the Bible.
O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness. (Joel 1:19-20)
This terrible conflagration I saw in the City of Tiffin, Ohio. Glory to God, I was of the number that escaped, but not without the loss of our library. The flames reached to the top of the trees and every leaf and spear of grass in all the wilder was burned down. Here is the interpretation conveyed to my mind at the time, and confirmed by the prophet. The seed, or grace of regeneration having nearly perished ‘neath the flinty clods of indwelling sin, the mass of the church “refuse Him that speaketh from heaven, “ and the refiner’s fires thus rejected, consumes all the pasture and waters of the wilderness—they forfeit all the blessings of justification. But God is glorified in the removal of every thing that cannot abide the shaking. The march of truth goes on. Calls for holiness meetings are repeated.
Blow ye the trumpet in Zion , and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains. (Joel 2:1-2)
The Lord mustereth His host to the battle: “A great people, and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.” There seems to be a reference here to the primitive power of the church, and its restoration again after the elapse of the “years of many generations” or darkness. The expression “like the morning spread upon the mountains” seems to point directly to the present time, when the morning fogs of error’s night are being driven away by the sound of the trumpet on God’s holy mountain.
Following the army thus called into the field of action, the Prophet says:
A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth. (Joel 2:3)
This is the same army spoken of by Ezekiel, that go forth to “set on fire and burn up the weapons” of sectarian strife. They pass through the land to bury Gog and cleanse the land; they do not go single-handed, as in the wilderness, but the whole army go out to storm the works of the Devil, even as it is this day. Hallelujah, to the Lamb! Holy fire consumes sin all along the line of their march, and “behind them a flame burneth.” Yea, “and nothing shall escape them,”—they do not deal slightly with sin, but search it to the bottom of every heart.
Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. (Joel 2:5)
No wonder the churches so often fear and dread the coming of God’s holy bands; yea “a fire burns before them,” which, quite frequently closes all meeting houses, and every other place where the sects can defeat their access; it is because they know that they are but a collection of ecclesiastical stubble, that cannot abide the fire that accompanies the Lord’s army of definite witnesses. Here we also see that the charge that, insisting upon the definite experience of entire sanctification, destroys the churches is only true so far as they are composed of “wood, hay, and stubble”—fire never destroys “gold and silver.”
They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war (where God sends them they go, regardless of every wall of obstruction); and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks. (Joel 2:7)
Here is the beautiful harmony of the Spirit’s leading. “Neither shall one thrust another.” Glory to God! There is no thrusting, biting and devouring of each other among the holy ones, as in the wilderness. I have several times heard the charge that these holiness bands are a “conglomeration of all sects,” etc. Well here is a striking evidence of the divinity of the whole movement. What but the power of God could join into such loving bonds of union and harmonious labor for souls, elements from the various disintegrated and selfish parties of Israel . That these have been more or less deformed by various divergent creeds and conflicting interests has been the work of error and human tradition; but that they could be thus fraternized in the work of the Lord exhibits the divine power, the all-resolvent and utilizing virtues of holiness through the blood of Christ.
And when they fall on the sword they shall not be wounded. (Joel 2:8)
Having a resurrected life, they shall live forever. “Their life is hid with Christ in God.” Hallelujah to the Lamb! There are no risks to run in this holy war, for the King’s soldiers all have “the powers of an endless life.”
The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble. (Joel 2:10)
Here again, the “once more shaking” of the world and church is identified with the mighty power that accompanies the sanctified army that are rallied by the trumpet of God on “His holy mountain.”
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word (he who, regardless of men and Devils, proclaims the whole truth): for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? (Joel 2:11)
This is the voice that “speaketh from heaven” that Paul exhorts his Hebrew brethren not to refuse. Let no one refer this Scripture to the judgment day. Read Malachi 3:1-3.
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
Here is a shaking time that precedes the day of Judgment: the trying crisis when Christ comes to refine and sanctify His church: this comes whenever the anointed ones lift up the true light in any community. There Christ demands that every one that believes on Him “shall be salted with fire.” But many “refuse Him that speaketh” and abide not “the day of His coming.” Having compromised with indwelling Canaanites, or, in other words, being in sympathy with sin, “the day of the Lord” is to them, great and terrible, and they are thereby driven into the army of Gog and fight against the holy land.
Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people. Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil (the precious products of Canaan), and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen: But I will remove far off from you the northern army (spoken of in Ezekiel), and will drive him into a land barren and desolate (a burned over wilderness, chapter 1), with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things. (Joel 2:18-20)
Here, again, is the fate of the Gog forces that oppose the holy cause.
The LORD also shall roar out of Zion , and utter his voice from Jerusalem ; and the heavens and the earth shall shake. (Joel 3:16)
A church that has no voice to shake sinners and professors, no voice the “turns the world upside down,” that makes not the wicked flee, the Devil howl and persecution rage, that church, I say, may have “gods many” but has not the “true God” dwelling in her; for, following the above, the Prophet says:
So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion , my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. (Joel 3:17)
The Lord wants His church so holy that no stranger to God will pass through her, much less dwell and carry on business in her.
And it shall come to pass in that day (when the church is thus filled with God and holiness), that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim. (Joel 3:18)
Here are about the same words used by Amos in describing the glory of the church after brought into her own land, “the inheritance of the sanctified by faith” (Amos 9:11-15).
But let us follow Joel to the end. “But Judah”—Judah was a portion of Israel that was separated unto God from the idolatry and corruption of the general body; and is here used as typical of the sanctified portion of God’s Spiritual Israel. The Lords says, by the Prophet Amos, the He will “plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up;” and Joel says:
But Judah shall dwell for ever, (in her land of holiness) and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed (in their generation): for the LORD dwelleth in Zion . (Joel 3:20-21)
Glory be to the God of infinite grace! For this perfect and radical cure for sin. I once heard a discourse in which the preacher labored to prove that it is impossible to have all sin removed from our moral system, for, said he, “sin is in our blood and we cannot get rid of it as long as we live.” How often, too, we hear brethren, and even preachers apologize for offenses by saying that their bad blood was stirred up, or that their Irish, German, or English blood was foiled; thus making their sin an occasion for boasting of their nationality instead of shame and repentance. Blessed be the name of the Lord, our Great Physician can cleanse and heal all such morbid blood; can thoroughly purge the leprosy of sin out of the very life of the soul. Is it not astonishing that so many think they must suffer all their life, this noxious, irritating and deadly infection, when the blessed Bible, the high mountain trumpet, and hundreds of papers proclaim the joyful tidings of a perfect and speedy cure through the blood of the Redeemer? No physician was ever sustained by such innumerable testimonials. Why, the whole earth is filled with His praises, and yet thousands are dying from impure blood.
Our blessed Lord and Savior can so renovate our blood, that we will be neither Irish or German, “Jew or Greek,” male or female; but all one in Christ Jesus—yea, more, He can and actually does extract from our blood all relation to the first Adam so that Christ becomes all and in all. And on His holy mountain, we are always kept above the malaria of this corrupt world. Glory be to the uttermost Savior, that gives us perfect soundness of soul and body, “perfect holiness”—wholeness “of flesh and spirit.”
But, beloved, sin is so diffused through our entire system, so identified with our very life and being, that God must “once more shake” us by the power of His Spirit. Yea, He must destroy our very life before He can “make an end of sin” in us. Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of;’ and with The baptism that I am baptized, withal shall ye be baptized” (Mark 10:39). Glory be to God! “It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.”
Let us now trace the heaven and earth shaking hosts of the Almighty in the Prophet Isaiah. “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion : for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee” (Isaiah 12:6). Here is the power that does the shaking. A church that has the Great and Holy One in her midst always produces a commotion in the world.
Immediately following this we have “The burden of Babylon , which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.” (Isaiah 13:1) Now what does the Lord propose to do for his captivated church? Hear His orders: “Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountains.” There is danger, you see, of exalting holiness too highly: we cannot exaggerate its worth and importance, nor too strongly insist upon its real experience in all Christians. The Prophet continues, “Exalt the voice unto them”—testify boldly and constantly, “shake the hand that they may go into the gates of the nobles” (Isaiah 13:2). I have seen God’s little ones walk the aisles of the house with their hands raised up, describing and emphasizing in graceful notions to the people the appeals, warnings and invitation of the hymn that was being sung. This they did in the Spirit, not even knowing at the time that the Bible enjoined the same.
But who are required to do these things? Thus saith the Lord, “I have commanded my sanctified ones for mind anger, even them that rejoice in my highness” (Isaiah 13:3). The sanctified soul rejoices only in the exaltation and glory of God: there is no principle left in the heart that seeks self-aggrandizement. They even glory in being abased, if God is thereby honored. Glory to His name!
Now observe the effect of lifting high the banner of holiness:
The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the LORD of hosts mustereth the host of the battle. (Isaiah 13:4)
A commotion soon follows the definite testimony, and “lifting up of holy hands in the sanctuary” of the Lord: an army springs into existence; God, Himself, mustereth the host. Hallelujah!
Behold the harmony of the Prophets! Joel describes a mighty army springing up at the sound of the trumpet on God’s holy mountain. Isaiah has the same army rallied by hoisting the banner on the high mountain. Both the trumpet and banner evidently mean the preaching and exaltation of holiness.
They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the LORD, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. (Isaiah 13:5)
It is wonderful, indeed, how the Lord sends His witnesses from one nation to another, even unto the ends of the earth, to lift up the ensign of full salvation. Yea, it is the Lord Himself in motion, and, “His going forth is from the end of heaven, and His circuit unto the ends of it,” and the anointed are but the weapons of His indignation. Here, as in all the Prophets, and as it is said by all the “tremble at His coming,” the army of the “sanctified are a destroying fire, a devastating tornado.
Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt . . . Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. (Isaiah 13:6-9)
The stubble, saith Joel, it consumes, but Isaiah lays aside all figures and plainly tells us that this conflagration from the Almighty sweeps, with a besom of destruction, all sinners from the land—out of the church. If, therefore, the holiness movement lays waste some churches in its course, it is simply because they are composed, in general, or sinners. This fact also proves that it is the very crisis we are here tracing in the Bible. It does not destroy true Christians nor spiritual churches; but, saith the Lord, “I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible” (Isaiah 13:11).
I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place. (Isaiah 13:12-13)
Hallelujah to the Lamb! When the triune God so fills a man that sinners are made to tremble and dry bones shake, and all cry out, “away with him; it is not fit that he should live.” God estimates him as more precious than gold.
Following the army of God’s “sanctified” and “mighty ones,” who rejoice in His highness, and march under the exalted banner of His holiness, we are again brought to the shaking of the heavens and the earth. Thus we see that the “once more” shaking is uniformly associated with the great holiness reform.
And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land. Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. (Isaiah 13:14-15)
Glory to God! The sword of the Almighty and Holy Ghost fire drives the Devil and all his children out of the church, they give up their hypocritical profession and go to their own class; and every one that joins affinity with them shall fall by the two-edged sword. Sinners will no longer be able to buy a membership in the church, and a spurious ticket to heaven with their worldly honor and coveted money.
The pure testimony put forth in the Spirit
Cuts like a two edged sword;
And hypocrites now are most sorely tormented,
Because they’re condemned by the Word.
The pure testimony discovers the dross,
While wicked professors make light of the cross,
And Babylon trembles for fear of her loss.