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Primitive Monitor—November 1912
 
THE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE
by Elder James H. Oliphant
 
I think the Christian experience is one of many changes. Paul at one time said, “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved; we have a building of God,” etc. Here is the lan­guage of assurance. John said, “We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” This, too, is assurance. But there were times when Paul and John felt different. “O wretched man that I am!” sounds as though Paul was not blessed with assurance, and this is experience.

We are sometimes full of hope and confidence, and then we are harassed with—what shall I say? I think at times we doubt our personal interest in Christ, or perhaps, we doubt even the reality of the religion of Christ. I thought that I would know that I was a Christian; I thought I would be obedient, and upright, and faithful. But in all this I have failed, and daily experience teaches that grace alone will save me.

I first saw the Lord, as my Friend, in August 1869. I rejoiced, and my hope was as bright as I wished it to be. I thought I would never sin again, and I supposed this happy frame would continue. But soon, in a day or two, I found sin yet had a place in me; my mind was wandering, and at times en­gaged in foolish thoughts. It seemed plain to me that I was not a Christian; surely, if I were one I would not have such thoughts. I had thought to be a Christian was to be sinless, and I knew that I was not sinless, and so I really doubted my having any interest in the matter. I was troubled greatly and sent after an elder to talk to me, When he came he talked just as I felt; he had a hard heart, a deceit­ful mind; he had doubts and fears that he had no in­terest in the matter. I believed him to be a Chris­tian, and I could witness to all that he had said, and now if I had confidence in him, I ought not to throw by my hope. Under his talk I became better re­signed, but had a different idea about Christian ex­perience. I went to the church and was baptized, and was free from doubts for weeks. But by and by I was again assailed, and for days my hope was little, but again I was relieved.

Now, as I review my life, I am persuaded that what we call doubt, is often not exactly doubt, but it is a being in the dark—under a cloud, or a sense of being forsaken, and when I am thus cast down I am expecting the cloud to be removed; and when I am in my happiest frame, I am sure I will not re­main so. We cannot retain our happy moments, nor cast aside our sad ones. A minister illustrated this by the wheel of a wagon: that part that is now at the top soon declines and goes down into the mud, and when at its lowest, it soon begins to ascend and goes up to the top. So he said, “When I am down at the lowest, I am not expecting to remain so; and when I am at the top, I do not expect to remain so. I am expecting changes—expecting to be in the dark, under the cloud; expect to feel forsaken, and also expect the Lord to help and bless me from time to time as long as I live. I do not expect perpetual ease or unending bliss while I stay here.

One may have a change of heart, yet see evil in himself so as to drown his hope and make him feel surely he is no Christian; if he were, surely he would not he so sinful and unworthy, and so fail to claim his hope. If others tell his feelings perfectly, he is ready to love them as the Lord’s people; but himself he casts aside. Let us be fair with ourselves, and if we judge those favorably who best tell our feelings, let us take it as evidence that we, too, are the Lord’s children. Their hope and fear, their sorrows and doubts are like ours; so let us claim the same hope we think is theirs.

I thought once I would some day get beyond fears and clouds, but I am still deeply sensible that I am a poor sinner, and rejoice in that Christ came to save sinners. I do not now expect to be free from sin this side of the grave. I love the dear ones who can see their own imperfections. I know they are not blind or dead when they cry out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” They are blind and in the dark when they see no burden of sin in self.

Dear reader, if sin has become exceeding sinful to you and a burden, you have some light, I am sure. Let this truth have a place in your heart. You will need a sinner’s Friend as long as you live. Go to the church, and, as Elder Hon used to say, “If you can’t tell us how good you are, tell us how bad you are,” and find a home with those who witness with you.

J.H.O.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.