Incidental Illustrations (Part 1), by Phoebe Palmer

“Incidental Illustrations,” by Phoebe Palmer is a a collection of over one-hundred fifty short stories used to help describe a greater truth. They are inspiring, encouraging, often challenging, and most useful for your edification. We’re calling it “Part 1,” and reserving the right to create a “Part 2” and beyond whenever we see fit. To maintain a “regular” blog post length, we’ll share several of them now.

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Effect of Christian Courtesy and a Happy Face (Story #6)

My friend J. was educated for a Roman Catholic priest. He actually believed in the infallibility of “the Church;” for he had ever been taught that it was a sin to question, and it was on this principle alone that he reconciled all its strange inconsistencies. He had finished his studies, but, before entering fully upon the duties of his vocation as a priest, he spent a few weeks in traveling, he paused at the house of a pious Protestant family, where he was taken ill, and detained a number of days. Sad and lonely, he took up a Protestant Bible, which lay on a table in his sick room. As he read of the new birth, in the third chapter of John, his mind was partially arrested with the thought that there might be something more in spiritual religion than he had anticipated.

Pleasant and sympathizing friends of the Protestant community began to gather around him, and proffer their services. As he grew better, and was able to venture out, he was courteously invited to attend Protestant service, and such had been the manifestations of Christian kindness on the part of his newly acquired friends, that he did not feel quite free to refuse. He went. The occasion was one of special mercy. The power of the Lord was present to awaken and convert. Among the seekers of salvation, was a gentleman whose heart was deeply smitten with sorrow for sin: and, from the depths, he cried unto the Lord. Suddenly, upon an act of reliance on Christ, his burden of guilt was removed, and Jesus said, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins, which were many, are all forgiven thee; go in peace, and sin no more.”

“What a change his word can make,
Turning darkness into day “

My friend had been closely watching the countenance of this gentleman. He had with amazement witnessed his deep anguish, and now, to his still greater astonishment, he saw his face suddenly lighting up with heavenly illumination, as though a beam from the throne of the Ineffable had penetrated the depths of his being. The Dove of Peace had come to that heart. The angel of the covenant was now telling this repentant sinner that his name was written in heaven. The veriest skeptic could not have doubted but some mysterious change was being wrought. “Surely, there is some secret transforming power in grace to which I am a stranger,” thought our friend. From that moment, he resolved that he would, for himself, know the verities of salvation. He became an earnest, humble seeker. It was but a short time before he was enabled to testify, from his own experimental realizations, the power of grace to change the heart, and raise to newness of life.

Christ, as the only Mediator between God and man, now revealed himself as his ever-interceding Savior in such sweetness, light and power, that the Virgin Mary, and all other interceding saints, were forever put in the shade. The great superstructure of error which had, from infancy, been rearing in his mind, founded on the infallibility of “the church,” now tottered and fell, and utter was the destruction thereof. Out of the abundance of his heart he began to declare what great things the Lord had done for him. As it was a manifestation of Christian courtesy, and the outbeamings of love, as depicted in the countenance of a sinner newly saved, that had won his heart over to Christ, he was not now required to use other weapons than those furnished out of the armory of love. He did not feel called to attack his friends of the Roman Catholic faith. But he did feel called to present the truth, and to proclaim his own heart-experiences of the power of saving grace. These things soon became noised abroad in the Catholic community, and he was publicly denounced from their pulpits. It was deemed important that he should defend himself and the truth. Protestant pulpits were offered for this purpose. His weapons were love, and the Lord gave him good success; and, to this day, he continues to be a faithful minister of the cross, a trophy won to Christ, by a manifestation of Christian courtesy, and the happy face of a Christian.

One of Satan’s Devices (Story #20)

Such is the exceeding subtlety of Satan, that the most devoted and earnest disciple may be ensnared by his devices, without the most careful reliance on God for wisdom, and a minute obedience to the directions of the written word. The danger of being beguiled by teachers whose theories may not be in entire conformity with the written word, is obviously set forth in the following conversation, between one who would be a spiritual guide, and a mother in Israel.

Said the former, “Would you not be willing to sin, if God required it?”

“No, indeed,” quickly responded that mother in Israel?

“Then you are not entirely dead, or you would be willing to do any thing that God wants you to do,” said the subtle reasoner.

“God never wanted any body to sin! He hates sin,” responded the mother.

“Why! not be willing to sin, if it would be for the glory of God?” exclaimed the reasoner in an expostulating tone.

“No! no! no! It could not be for the glory of God! God never wanted any one to sin.” So exclaimed this mother in Israel, while a feeling of abhorrence possessed her soul in view of being thus assaulted by Satan. She plainly saw that this subtle reasoner would fain, as an angel of light, have infused into her soul the doctrine of devils, and her righteous spirit was vexed, in view of the boldness of the attack.

Not willing to yield at the first repulse, the reasoner continued his questionings.

“Do you ever have any wicked thoughts?”

She replied that wicked thoughts were sometimes suggested to her mind, but she resisted them by prayer.

He rejoined, “This is evidence that you are not yet dead, for if you were dead, and had wicked thoughts, they would not be from the devil, for the devil never has any thing to do with the soul that is entirely dead.” He then went on to descant on his own experience, and stoutly maintained, that Satan had not had any thing to do with him, during the past fifteen years.

This mother in Israel, perceiving that he who would be her instructor, had already been led far into error by his ignorance of Satan’s devices, was deeply grieved in spirit. She knew he imagined that he had been led into a higher state, of which he said she could not know, until she had also reached the same point, and well knowing how vain her efforts in teaching him would be, she, with an air bespeaking dubiousness and sorrow, shook her head significantly, and said, “I don’t know about that!

With a look of complacency, sad indeed to witness, this would-be teacher in religion remarked:

“Once you were my teacher, but now I am your spiritual teacher.”

And thus, in his self-sufficiency and assumption of superior spiritual knowledge, he turned away from one who had indeed exercised, in former years, a motherly supervision over him in spiritual things.

How little do we know, after having once become ensnared by the subtleties of the deceiver, how far and how rapidly we may proceed in error! How passing strange, that one should go so far as to imagine he could sin to the glory of God, when God, by his word, declares that he cannot look upon sin with allowance! Yet so it was. This errorist had been so far deluded as to imagine that, though he had not sinned for fifteen years, and indeed could not sin, yet God, for his own glory, might do things in him and by him which, by those not in this higher state, might be regarded as sinful.

Surely, this is in no ordinary degree a doctrine of devils. What more could Satan desire than that professed Christians assume the ground that they may sin for God’s glory! But in what awful terms does the God of the Bible denounce those that assume this ground! “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “But,” says the errorist, ‘He that is born of God cannot sin;’ though the act may appear sinful to those in a lower state, yet, in the sight of God, they are all his own acts, for ‘He doeth the work.’ And what a strange perversion of Scripture is here! God, who has said, “Thou shalt not kill,” has, with equal authority, said, “Avoid the appearance of evil.” “God is not tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” What a scandal on the pure doctrines of Christianity did Paul regard the slanderous reports of those who proclaimed it as one of the sayings of the early Christians, “Let us do evil that good may come; ” so exceedingly injurious to the pure cause of Christ did he regard it, that he pronounced the damnation of such, just.

And how should such doctrines be regarded, by those who adhere to the blessed doctrine of Christian Perfection? Shall we, who believe that the express object for which our Savior endured the cross was to save his people from their sins, have our forces weakened by a semblance of fellowship with such doctrines? God grant that we may all stand as faithful monitors, to give timely warning of “Satan’s devices.” May we ever serve as faithful and efficient instructors to those who would find the one and only way leading from earth to heaven. It is the way of holiness which has been cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in. The Bible speaks of no “higher” way, but it teaches the necessity of constant progress in the way of holiness. Neither do the Scriptures give us any authority for the belief that the Holy Spirit will lead us into any other state, than may be plainly inferred from the Bible. For any one to imagine, that the Holy Spirit will lead him into a state, beyond where the teachings of the Word may be specially needful, or lead him into a state or a belief for which an explicit “thus saith the Lord,” may not be given, is erroneous. And wherever such a device has obtained, whether among ministry or laity, we fearlessly, in the name of the Lord, pronounce it a device of Satan.

A Sudden and Unquestionable Conversion (Story #68)

But I had another friend who, though even more suddenly converted, did not fall in with the same sort of doctors of divinity, and endured manfully. My friend, Mr._______, was a man of fine natural address, and a lover of pleasure. He often attended divine worship, and often, on the Sabbath, made resolves to devote himself to the service of Christ. But he had thoughtless companions, and he was fond of the race, and his social and sportive qualities were ever bringing him into the snare of Satan. Each week witnessed him under yet greater condemnation from broken resolves. One Saturday night, returning late from his business, he reflected on his many broken vows. His conscience told him he ought to do better; but his heart was so sadly reminded of his many failures, that he scarcely dared to vow again. But a new thought struck him. He had reached his home. It was now about the solemn midnight hour. The lights in his dwelling were all extinguished. But be knew where the good old family Bible was He remembered that the God of the Bible was a covenant-keeping God, and opening it between the Old and New Covenant, he, as in the solemn presence of God, with one hand placed on the Old Testament, and the other on the New, renewed his resolves, and said,

“O Lord, if thou wilt help me, I will serve thee forever.”

Strength from heaven was immediately let down into his soul. He felt that God, as his Almighty Helper, began to “work in him mightily to will and to do of His good pleasure.” He laid his head on his pillow that night, conscious of the inworkings of the Holy Spirit. He greeted the light of the blessed Sabbath, a new creature in Christ Jesus. To his own perceptions, and to the observation of his friends, “Old things had passed away.” By his beaming countenance, and with his lips, he testified that the joy of the Lord was his strength. Though his sudden change was singularly unlooked for, yet we never heard the genuineness of his conversion questioned. His consistent, happy, useful life bore ample testimony that he had passed from death unto life –

“Will he not his help afford?
Help while yet I ask is given;
God comes down, the God and Lord,
Who made both earth and heaven.”

My Rich Poor Friend (Story #110)

I have some rich poor friends, and some poor rich friends. If it will not annoy you, I will introduce you to one of each class, and then ask you to tell me whose acquaintance you prize the highest. Time, you know, is only the dressing-room for eternity, and we form friendships here, in view of perpetuating them in heaven. I will introduce you to my friends, and then tell me which you will take most closely to the fellowship of your heart.

Here is my friend Mr.____. He has accumulated a fine property, so that he is now quite able to move away from his snug house, and the friends that would remind him of his former ordinary estate. His name is on the register of a Christian church, but so engrossingly have his attentions been occupied with bank stocks and ledger, that he has not, for a long time, been able to settle his account with Heaven. He does not remember, perhaps does not know, that, in view of benevolent enterprise, he, whose steward he professes to be, has said, “Let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him.” And so it has not entered into his conceptions to give as the Lord hath prospered him, but rather to live and expend in mere worldly display, as the Lord hath prospered him. Though he lives in this splendid mansion, and has his servants at pleasure, yet it is really wonderful to see what a pittance he gives toward sustaining the poor and friendless, and the various institutions of Christianity.

He does not seem to know the fact that it is as truly a religious duty to give according to his ability, as it is to pray. He does not know this, because he seldom, if ever, finds time in his closet, with his Bible and with his God, to search into these matters. He lives on the surface of all religious duty. Five hundred dollars is but a light expenditure, if spent in household equipage family wardrobe, or in the sumptuous entertainment of friends. But fifty dollars for the widow and the father. less, or for any benevolent enterprise, which will not enroll the name of the donor on the annals of fame, is too large an expenditure to even contemplate, and such I have never known him to give, except on some public occasion. His children are not pious. Much effort has been made to fit them to shine in the world, but, alas! how little to prepare them to shine in heaven, or in the image of the heavenly! If what little he has given has been given in view of the observation of men, he has for this no reward from his Father in heaven.

Do you think this man rich toward God? How much treasure do you think he has laid up in heaven? This is one of my rich poor friends. How do you like him? Do you think you will covet the influence of his friendship in the other world?

If not, then I would advise you not to cater to his opinion, or covet his friendship, in this world. Do not sanction his costly entertainments by your presence. It is unbecoming the simplicity of the gospel of Christ, and beneath your dignity in view of your high and holy calling. If you do it, you may make yourself a partaker of other men’s sins.

Young Converts May Be Wholly Sanctified (Story #146)

Young converts ought to be urged onward to the speedy attainment of the grace of entire holiness. Unless their bent to backsliding is taken away, and the soul wholly renewed, roots of bitterness will spring up and trouble them. I fear it is because young converts are not more earnestly admonished to go on to perfection, that so many lose their first love, – backslide in heart, and, by their half-heartedness, and worldly-minded professions, become clogs to the chariot wheels of the church. I wonder that Mr. Wesley’s sentiments on this subject are not oftener brought out before the people. He seems to delight in bringing up instances of entire sanctification, which occurred but a short time after the conversion of the recipients. Among many others, he speaks of S. H., who resided at Macclesfield. He observes of her, “I have seldom known so devoted a soul.

She was sanctified within nine days after she was convinced of sin. She was then twelve years old, and, I believe, was never afterwards heard to speak an improper word, or known to do an improper thing. Her look struck awe into all that saw her. She is now in Abraham’s bosom.” – Wesley’s Works, vol. vii. p. 14. “Four of those children who seemed to be saved from sin, were of one family; and all of them walked holy and unblamably. And many instances have I found in every part of the country.” – Vol. vii. p. 377 “Many children were indisputably justified; some of them were likewise sanctified, and were patterns of all holiness. – “Vol. iv p. 614. He gives, also, the experience of Grace Paddy, as he received it from her lips. It reads thus: “In a short time, all my troubles were gone, and I did believe all my sins were blotted out; but, in the evening, I was thoroughly convinced of the want of a deeper work of grace. I felt the remains of sin in my heart, which I longed to have taken away. I longed to be saved from all sin, and cleansed from all unrighteousness, and, at the time Mr. Rankin was preaching, this desire increased exceedingly.

Afterwards, he met the society. During his last prayer, I was quite overwhelmed with the power of God. I felt an inexpressible change in the depths of my heart, and, from that hour, I have felt no anger, no pride, no wrong temper of any kind; nothing contrary to the pure love of God which I feel continually. I desire nothing but Christ, and I have Christ always reigning in my heart. I want nothing; he is my sufficient portion in time and in eternity.” – Vol. iv. p. 128-9. Mr. Wesley adds:

“Such an instance, I never knew before; of such an instance, I never read; a person convinced of sin converted to God, and renewed in love within twelve hours! Yet it is by no means incredible, seeing with God one day is as a thousand years.”

In another portion of his journal, Mr. W. says, ‘I spoke to these, forty in number, one by one. Some of them said they received the blessing ten days, some seven, some four, some three days, after they had found peace with God, and two of them the next day.” “What marvel,” Mr.

Wesley again exclaims “since one day is with God as a thousand years” – Vol. iv. p. 135. He also speaks of one who was reclaimed from a backslidden state, and cleansed from sin on the following day. – Vol. iv. p. 170

In passages too numerous to mention, Mr. Wesley continues to enforce by precept, and illustrate by example, the duty and privilege of young converts to be holy. “It plainly follows,” he says, “that the quantity of time is nothing with him. Centuries, years, months, days, hours, and moments, are exactly the same. Consequently, he can as well sanctify in a day after we are justified, as a hundred years. There is no difference at all, unless we suppose him to be such as ourselves. Accordingly, we see in fact that some of the most unquestionable witnesses of sanctifying grace, were sanctified within a few days after they were converted.” – Vol. vii. p. 14.

How encouraging to young converts are these examples, as given by the eminently pious and judicious founder of Methodism, corroborative, as they are, of scriptural testimony, and the observation and experience of Bible Christians of later days! And where is the young convert who reads these lines, that would not at once sacrifice all for the attainment of this grace? And, if it be the privilege of the young convert to be holy, where is the teacher, or the leader in Israel, to whose watch-care the flock of Christ has been intrusted, who would stop short of this grace? “A way shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness, and the redeemed of the Lord shall walk there.” All the way leading from earth to heaven, is a way cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in, and those who do not go forward, inevitably backslide.

Aristocracy in Religious Associations (Story #155)

Nothing seems so small to me as those ideas of caste entertained by some well-meaning persons. Let us take this,

“Bright candle of the Lord!
Star of eternity! the only star
By which the bark of man can navigate
The sea of life, and gain the coast of bliss
Securely! only star which shines on time,”

and look at this subject as regarded by God. See how both the Old and New Testament Scriptures, by historical narrations and positive mandate, reprove such ideas, and assure us that we must not mind high things. How palpably are we met, on almost every page of the Bible, with assurances that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God! Think of the father of the faithful, called to leave his home and kindred, to journey as a stranger, not knowing whither he went. Think of Jacob, driven from his home by the fury of his brother, resting in the wilderness at night with only a stone for his pillow; of Joseph, taken from a prison into the presence of Pharaoh; of Moses, not called from Pharaoh’s court, but from the care of the sheep in the wilderness, to lead the Israelites to the promised land; David, the least among his brethren, called to the throne of Israel; Daniel, a captive, to be a revealer of mysteries from the Court of heaven to an earthly king, and designated as the “man greatly beloved;” last, yet above all, think of Christ born in a manger, and called a Nazarene.

Why did not the Savior take to the companionship of his bosom, and of his toilsome travels from city to city, the recipients of his closest teachings, persons of the more refined classes?

Kingly palaces, halls of science, schools for theology, were open to his inspection, and, from the choicest inmates of each, he might have chosen followers, whose refined literary and theological tastes might, in earthly estimation, be better fitted for companionship with the Prince of glory. Then why did he choose those, by whom was to be transmitted the mysteries of the kingdom to all succeeding generations, from among the common people? How does the example of the Savior reprove every high thought – every thing that would favor the prevalence of aristocratic notions in the choice of religious associations!

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