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Holiness ablaze! Shaw Clifton

Holiness ablaze! Shaw Clifton





We believe it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Doctrine Ten of The Salvation Army).


Readings: 1 John 4:7-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24






PENTECOST (Acts 2) changed everything. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those first Christians gathered in Jerusalem galvanised the newly born Church. Everything changed. Their fears turned to joy. Their inner turmoil changed to peace. They received new life (see John 20:22). They became victorious over sin, embarking upon a lifestyle that was clean in thought, word and deed. What a collection of Heaven-sent blessings: change, peace, life, victory!




From time to time God provides his people with a prophet, someone with specially endowed conviction and with divinely appointed capacity to focus his people on deep, eternal truths which busyness and bustle may have relegated to the periphery. One such man was The Salvation Army’s Samuel Logan Brengle.




Samuel Logan Brengle


Samuel was born in the USA on 1 June 1860 and studied at Indiana Asbury (DePauw) University. He aspired to a career in law, but thoughts of being a preacher began filling his mind. In 1884 he moved east to study at the Boston Theological Seminary. A deep, inner longing had sprung up in him when he heard preachers expound the holy life. He read widely, including the books of Catherine Booth.






He began to plead with God for a baptism of the Holy Spirit to fall upon him. However, he later recorded: ‘I was seeking the Holy Spirit that I might use him, rather than he might use me.’ He continued to long for inner cleansing and a lasting indwelling of his being by the Holy Spirit.




His prayers were answered on 9 January 1885 when he experienced a deep, inner peace, something he would later describe as a baptism of Christlike love. His rooms were close to the parkland known as Boston Common. Unable to stay indoors, he walked out onto the Common. His writings describe how he loved everyone he saw, and every animal too, and the trees and the flowers. Through each ensuing year he would make certain to testify in public to his 9 January 1885 experience.




It was through meeting Lily Swift that Samuel came into The Salvation Army. Eventually, after several proposals of marriage, she accepted him and soon after their wedding he travelled to London to join The Salvation Army. The rest of his story can be found in a first-class volume published in 2003 by Crest Books, USA: Sanctified Sanity by R. David Rightmire. I commend it wholeheartedly. Samuel Brengle went on to have an international preaching and teaching ministry as a Salvation Army officer and was the first American officer to be promoted to the rank of commissioner.




Centenary celebration


It was fitting that the Army should mark in a special way the 125th anniversary of Samuel’s 9 January 1885 experience. So my wife, Helen, and I – with Major Richard Gaudion – travelled to Boston, USA, to attend a ‘Holiness Ablaze!’ weekend of meetings and holiness seminars. On 9 January 2010 all the delegates gathered on Boston Common. The day was icy cold with snow on the ground. Nevertheless, we met on the Common in our Army uniforms. Brengle’s small prayer pulpit was brought from the Army’s heritage centre and it was my privilege to kneel upon it and offer a prayer of thanks for his life and ministry. Together we sang ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me’ (SASB 312), and asked the Lord to render our hearts as pure as the snow beneath our knees.




Personal holiness


It fell to me to offer a keynote address in Boston on the day before the gathering on Boston Common. I will try to summarise what I said.



  1. We hear much today about institutional holiness, but I cannot help but think that sometimes this misses the point. There can be no institutional holiness without your personal holiness and mine. Only then can holiness flow through an organisation or a church or an Army.
  2. Our roots can be traced back to the great John Wesley and the Evangelical Revival in England. Our holiness heritage can be traced then through names such as John and Charles Wesley, George Whitfield, Phoebe Palmer, Catherine Booth, William Booth, Samuel Logan Brengle, and others in our ranks like Commissioner Edward Read and Colonel Milton Agnew who emerged during the 20th century to keep our focus clear and sharp upon the sanctified life.
  3. However, it needs to be recognised that not every Salvationist, not every Army corps, not every Army officer has placed the holy life at the centre. It is now possible to meet groups of Salvationists in some countries to whom the holiness teaching seems entirely new. It is the same with some of our officer cadets. Not every Army soldier has been taught about the holy life. I rejoice that it was here in Massachusetts a few years ago that one young officer told me of his sacred ambition to lead the members of his corps into the experience of the blessing of a clean heart. All is by no means lost and today we sense a reawakening of interest and awareness, of writing and of speaking about the life of holiness, and I thank God for this.
  4. I want to salute those who have caught a vision for this special commemorative weekend. God will bless it. My prayer is that each one of us (and it is my prayer also for me) will enter fully into what has been arranged and be willing to listen, learn and be changed, to go deeper into Christ, to plumb new depths of the holy life. Let us leave here with a renewed confidence in the readiness and ability of Almighty God to cleanse us through and through, and to keep us pure hour by hour, a day at a time.






It is fitting to close this Talk, and indeed this short book about Pentecost, with a prayer-poem from the pen of the English clergyman, Edwin Hatch (1835-1889):




Breathe on me, breath of God, Fill me with life anew,


That I may love what thou dost love And do what thou wouldst do.




Breathe on me, breath of God, Until my heart is pure,


Until with thee I will one will To do and to endure.




Breathe on me, breath of God, Till I am wholly thine,


Until this earthly part of me Glows with thy fire divine. (SASB 294 vv 1, 2, 3)








For group discussion:

  1. Do you think that modern Christians speak very much about the life of holiness? If they do not, why is that?
  2. Invite the group members to share their experiences of seeking a special baptism of Christlike love from God.

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