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Russell H. Conwell
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Pages (PDF): 31
Publication Date: 1921
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Russell H. Conwell was an influential Baptist thinker and theologian in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In this short collection of essays, Conwell offers his own unique and uplifting take on a number of aspects of Christianity.
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WHAT might be the consensus of opinion found in a digest of all the testimonies of mankind cannot be surmised, but it did not appear that God was "a respecter of persons" through those years of prayer at the Baptist Temple. The prevailing belief, however, was that God was more willing to answer the sincere disciple than he was to heed the requests of a great sinner. But the fact was also evident that God does answer the just and the unjust. The assertion of the blind man before the Pharisees that "God heareth not sinners" was evidently a quotation from the Pharisees' creed and not a gospel precept. As all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, no one would be heard if God would not hear sinners. Jesus was more inclined to heed the requests of John and Peter than he was to listen to the requests of the sacrilegious Sadducee. But a repentant Sadducee would not be neglected, and the fact is apparent that there is a clear distinction between the influence with God of a righteous man and the influence of a wicked or a frightened sinner.
Here are a few of the testimonies which have a bearing on this important subject. One hardened sinner was so convicted of his completely lost condition that he spent the night in agony, calling on God for forgiveness. He was determined to fight the battle alone, but his strength failed and he was certain that he was condemned irrevocably to eternal punishment. His prayer availed him nothing. When, at last, he opened his heart to a faithful Christian friend, that friend's prayer was heard instantaneously, and the seeker knew by an instinct axiomatic that he was received by the Lord.
There is a general belief that God does hear the pure Christian more readily than he does the vile reprobate. That belief is founded in the moral laws universally recognized in human relations. There may also be a semiscientific reason. The soul which is in tune with the Infinite can more effectively detect and understand the "sound waves" from the spirit world than the soul which is out of tune with God. In the mass of the correspondence about which this book is written there are strong testimonies to the necessity and attainableness of a practical harmony with the Spirit of God. One man who has been long a teacher of psychology wrote that he had made a deliberate test of the matter, and a condensed report of his experience is here given. He sought "to place his soul in communion with God." He desired that state of spiritual harmony with the divine character which would make him sensitive to every spiritually divine impression. Hence, he prepared himself in this way: he locked himself in his room and gave himself up to the serious business of getting into communication with God. He began to count his sins of commission and earnestly asking forgiveness; he promised the Lord that he would guard himself against them evermore. He then tried to comprehend the awful list of sins of omission which for a while made him hopeless of God's favor. But in deep and prayerful meditation, thinking long on the great mercy of God and of the propitiation Christ had given, he felt his soul slowly emerge from the slough of despond. Suddenly a strange confidence took possession of his soul and a feeling of glad triumph overcame all doubt of his forgiveness. The assurance that he was getting into harmony with the Spirit of God became complete. He threw himself across his bed and "let go of himself," making an absolute surrender to the spiritual impressions.
Into such a state the apostles and prophets must have entered to feel the spiritual impulses and see the visions which they recorded. It as an exaltation of the whole being—a temporarily superhuman experience which may be the state of the soul when released from the body. The joy of that hour of oneness with God cannot be described to one who has not known it. It is higher, purer, more real than other feelings. It is so unlike any other experience on earth. "The soul is lost in God." The worshiper is outside and above himself. Life gleams as a cloud glows in some heavenly morning. Disease, pain, human limitations, care, or anxiety is nonexistent. A pure peace which passeth all understanding permeates the whole being. Underneath are the everlasting arms; over him is the spirit face of Christ. But why should he try to convey an idea of that growing answer to his prayer? He knows he is with his Lord. But the less he tries to tell his experience the more confidence his unbelieving friends will have in his sanity. That such harmony with the divine is subject to certain laws is seen in the fact that such elevation of soul is gained only by a full compliance with certain conditions. Some of these conditions are found by experience to be those which are laid down in the Scriptures. The seeker must force out of his heart all malice, jealousy, hate, selfishness, covetousness, unbelief, and give himself up to the opposite feelings. We must go over wholly to pure intentions, holy aspirations, truth-living, kindness, forgiveness, love for all, inflexible adherence to the right, and all in all harmonizing with the divine disposition. Pure holiness must be sought, without which no man can please God. All those who give themselves over to such a state of surrender to God have the full assurance of faith which is promised to those who love God with all their hearts and with all their minds.
Such servants of God can offer prayer which avail much more than the frightened call of the worldly minded, egotistic, and selfish enemy of good people and good principles. God loves all men with an everlasting affection. But the kind of intensity of his affection for the saint and the transgressor is quite different. Christ loved the priest and the Levite in a true sense, but he loved the Good Samaritan more. He can love and care for his own without encouraging evil. He could not be just and show no partiality for those who obey him fully. He never fails to hear the cry of any contrite heart, but even among the disciples John was especially beloved.
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