But are the extravagances essential to the solidity of the work? Certainly not. Of course, while flesh and spirit antagonize, while the world aims one way and the Church another, while the “cross,” “warfare,” “strait gate,” and “narrow way” are God’s path heavenward, the beginnings, the decisions, the experiences, and the associations of the religious life will never seem (however dignified and discreet they may be) just the perfection of good sense and good taste to the worldly-minded man. The extravagances and disorders of the “old-fashioned mourner’s bench revival” will offend him. But his lordly lip will curl with equal scorn at Mr. Moody’s meetings, where responses are discouraged and shouting saints are warned to keep silence. The solemn “inquiry meeting” of the staid Presbyterian shares the ban of his disapproval with the noisy altar work of the impulsive Methodist. The fact is, you cannot please him.
He does not want to be pleased and is determined not to be. He does not believe the doctrines at the basis of revival work. He does not call it “hate,” but his aesthetic nature revolts against all supernatural religion; and to the Spirit of grace and to the angels of God who know the things of the invisible kingdom, this revolt of taste is a rebellion of heart and will against God’s way with sinners.
But the extravagances are not essential. Once in a while they come, as the rush and glory of Pentecost came, and no human power can restrain them. There are in God’s universe avalanches, thunderstorms, and earthquakes, and the power and glory of the mighty forces in nature laugh at the protests of poor, impotent men. Pentecosts in some measures of spiritual energy even now occasionally come to the Church, and woe to him who would bid “the rushing mighty wind” be silent or try to extinguish the “tongue of fire” by the commands and restrictions of propriety.
By J. H. VINCENT
Updated 2023 Nathan Zipfel