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Let the World See the Glory

The secret of good living, as S.L. Brengle was keenly aware, is to know that eternity is here and we can become fit to live in it.

Brengle's extensive writings, updated for today's audience by Bob Hostetler, are available in a six-volume set.  
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The book, Resurrection Life and Power by S. L. Brengle was in a box of books given to my husband after his grandfather passed away several years ago. We rediscovered Brengle’s book while setting up the library after the latest move. I remembered Brengle being a favorite of my father during his early days as a holiness camp meeting evangelist and street preacher. Even though I did not expect to find much that was truly relevant to my life today, I am a fan of dusty books, so I decided to spend some time with Brengle. I have learned a few things.

Samuel Logan Brengle lived from 1860 to 1936 and rose within the ranks of The Salvation Army to become a Commissioner as well as an author, teacher and preacher of Holiness doctrine. This book seemed to be more of a collection of his sermons and thoughts on various topics than a theological treatise. Here and there I would wipe the dust from a beautiful thought and each time the absolute certainty of Brengle’s faith and his complete confidence in God would come shining through:

“Faith links us on to God. As we trust Him, He can work in us and do for us; but when we doubt, we frustrate His good will toward us and prevent His love from accomplishing all his kindly purposes for us.”

“Eternity is not coming. Eternity is here. We are enwrapped by it. It arches over us as do the heavens above us... We are now becoming what we ever shall be—lovers of God and the things of God—we are now learning the sweet and heavenly art of loving, trusting and obeying God, fitting ourselves to live in eternity."

Speaking on Paul’s words in Colossians 3:15 (“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts ... And be thankful”), Brengle writes, “He does not seem to think it is a difficult matter for peace to always pervade us. All we have to do is let it. It is at hand; we do not have to ascend into heaven to get sunshine. The sunshine pours itself in boundless floods all about us. All we need to do is open wide our doors and windows and let it in."

Yet it was the chapter titled “The Detachment of the Resurrection Life” that I found most intriguing. It was there I read, “This is the great task of The Salvation Army and all the people of God—so to live and love and labor as to unveil the face of Jesus Christ, and let the world see the glory of God, the glory of His sacrificial love, His atoning Blood, His sympathy and care, His mercy, His justice and His truth.”

Brengle felt this was only possible as we keep ourselves disentangled from the world. This challenge to mingle with sinners, eat with them, walk, talk, accept their hospitality, to love them, yearn over them and long for their friendship and fellowship as Christ did—yet to remain holy, harmless and undefiled—is one that The Salvation Army, perhaps more than any other Christian religious entity, has maintained.

“The Salvation Army... must enter into no association that would narrow the breadth of our sympathy or chill the ardour of our love for all mankind.”

Many churches have attempted to become more seeker-friendly, culturally relevant, incarnational—taking the tack of living faith without speaking about it, lest it offend someone. This has led to a brand of Christianity that is completely indistinguishable from the world around it. But Brengle reminds us that Christ, “seemed to be unconscious of—or to ignore—all the generally accepted moral and social distinctions and moved freely among all the classes of the people regardless of their reputed character.” Largely, Brengle concludes, Christ was able to do this by keeping Himself detached. He “belonged to no party. He committed Himself to no man. Since He belonged to no restricted, oath –bound brotherhood, He could be everybody’s Brother.”

Yes, the Salvation Army has remained committed to ministering to any and all, even the most broken. It has somehow managed to do this while maintaining its core identity. Brengle lists several reasons for maintaining this separateness that all followers of Christ would do well to remember.

  1. For the sake of freedom of action. Our loyalty and full service belong to Jesus Christ. His example: “Rich men will give money on condition that they can have a vote on our freedom in the use of it. Political parties and fraternal organizations will be our friends but will insist on having a voice in our inner councils and in the shaping of our policies or the discipline and control of our members.”
  2. That our judgement may be unclouded and impartial. (In this day of refugees and immigration crisis, I found this statement especially pertinent.) “The Salvation Army opens wide its arms as does its Master: and you and I must…enter into no association, and allow ourselves to be possessed of no party spirit that would cloud our judgement of men, and narrow the breadth of our sympathy or chill the ardour of our love for all mankind.”

There is so much pressure to conform to our culture. May God help the Salvation Army to continue to be a noticeably different kind of religious organization. As Brengle puts it, “He raised us up to be the Army, and made us a great, happy, dare-devil, distinct people, through whom He can work His soul-saving purposes” May it ever be so!

Esther Rigsby lives in West Point, GA. 

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