Testimony for the 21st Century
Samuel logan brengle lived in a very different era, yet, as bob hostetler discusses with Editor-in-chief Lt. Colonel Allen satterlee, his prescriptions for holy life are even more necessary today.
War Cry: What led you to publish an updated version of Brengle’s writings?
Bob Hostetler: Samuel Logan Brengle has had a huge influence in my life. When I was a teenager I started reading his books, and they led me into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Having been raised as a Salvationist and, for a time, serving in the officer ranks, I’ve always thought that Brengle deserved a wider audience. His writings had such an impact on my life and still do. He hasn’t had the exposure that I would like to see his writings have. A few years ago, I partnered with the USA Eastern Territory to produce the one-year Brengle devotional called Take Time to Be Holy. That project transitioned into updating and revising his books.
It’s long been an interest of mine. It seemed natural to try to find a way for more people to come into touch with his writings. Even Salvationists who encounter his books as they appeared for almost 100 years now face obstacles of language, outdated references, and so on.
WC: How did working on these books personally affect you?
BH: I have always included one or two Brengle books in my annual reading plan. I read about 100 books a year, with half a dozen that I reread. Brengle’s The Way of Holiness and Heart Talks on Holiness are two of the books I reread. But it was such a huge blessing day after day to be saturated in his inspired words and his godly perspectives. It was a real revival and renewal of personal heart holiness in me as I went through editing the nine books. It had a huge impact on me. I’ve heard from various editors that it had a similar effect on them. As you go through words written, many over 100 years ago, they still have a powerful ability to disturb the human heart, to revive a person’s relationship and to draw them closer to God, even into an experience of holiness. That’s what it did for me. I’ve been adapting, updating and revising Brengle’s words, treating them with the utmost respect and appreciation, and as I did it fanned the flames of revival in my heart.
WC: Is there any particular thing that Brengle said that stands out?
BH: There were several surprises. As someone brought up in The Salvation Army, I know the doctrine of holiness. I know the Scriptural warrant from First Thessalonians and other passages, and yet it was a surprise the things that Brengle returned to over and again. His most referenced verse of the Bible was Joshua 1:8, “Be of good courage. Be strong and courageous.” One subject he returned to often was the power of testimony. It’s not enough to submit entirely to God, to make a full consecration and then be made holy through the work of the Holy Spirit. He emphasized that when that happens, you have to testify. Something that has been lost in the 21st-century church is the power of testimony to confirm, solidify and advance our spiritual experience.
WC: What does a 19th-century man have to say to 21st-century Christians?
BH: He lived in a different day and age. He was a busy man, always on a train, always conducting meetings, always preaching and teaching and writing. He was such a hard-working man; so driven, so busy, that he actually had a few physical breakdowns [from which] he had to recuperate because his work had become so heavy for him. The kind of busyness we have in our lives is of a different order than what Brengle wrote to. His prescriptions for the holy life included prayer and Bible study, time alone with God as well as worshipping with other people. All those are even more necessary today. In his day, the fastest way to get from one city to another was on a train, leaving him time to read, study or witness. The contrast between the lifestyles of the early 20th century and the early 21st century are so stark…that’s one of the reasons why we see and hear so little witness to the experience of holiness. It is perhaps a greater challenge today than it was 100 years ago. What he taught and prescribed is much more critical today than it would have been during his lifetime.
WC: What do you wish people knew about Brengle?
BH: Salvationists see him as a historical figure, this
towering figure of holiness, and yet when you read his books you encounter
vulnerability and an awareness of his own failings and shortcomings, and
sometimes an overwhelming sense of his own need of grace. I’d love to see
Salvationists understand that the things that he wrote and taught are not for
some elite class of people, but for everybody.
For those who haven’t discovered Brengle’s writings, I want more people to see the depth and the beauty. He had a different style of writing, and yet the beauty of his phrasing, the language he used, the pictures he drew is so powerful. I want people outside the ranks of The Salvation Army to discover Samuel Logan Brengle as someone worthy of their attention, and if they read him they will be blessed.
WC: Is there anything else you would like to add?
BH: I am excited about this partnership to play a role in the re-release of Brengle to the public. I’m excited about the partnership between The Salvation Army and Wesleyan Publishing House to produce these books in a format and as a collection in a way that will be commercially viable and accessible to a wide audience and yet totally keeping with the Army’s ministry, priorities and personality. The time has come for Brengle to be discovered, or rediscovered, by a lot of people. That’s my prayer.