February 6, 2017 // Story

 

SHERIDAN BAKER

The author believes that he cannot better introduce to the reader his discussion of the

subject of holiness, than by giving a summary statement of his experience in the great salvation
which he attempts to illustrate and urge upon others in the chapters which compose this book. This,
then, he asks the liberty to do in the use of the first person singular.

I had no early religious education. I was born and reared in a rural district by parents who,

though honorable citizens and living happily together, never said anything to their children, during
my stay at home, for or against Christianity. Hence, when I left the farm in my eighteenth year to
enter an academy, I had no theory about Christianity nor bias toward any church. I had a
consciousness of spiritual want, and believed that want could, in some way, but I did not know
how, be met by joining a church and living right. Shortly after I commenced study I met a young
man, a classmate, who had been converted and lived right, and who spoke to me concerning the
interests of my soul. I immediately became so deeply convicted that it seriously interfered with my
study and sleep. I sought a grove some distance from the village, and after looking all around to be
sure no one saw me, I kneeled for the first time in my life to pray, but the exercise was so
distasteful and unnatural to me that I soon ended it; nor have I any recollection of making a second
attempt at that time. My awakening, of course, soon faded, and I lapsed back into a state of
indifference on the subject until my twenty-third year when a senior at college.

At this juncture a great revival of religion, embracing in its fruits over thirteen hundred

converts, swept over the seat of the college and surrounding country. Again my attention was
called to the necessity of spiritual life, and without the broken sleep and terrible night visions of
my former awakening, I carefully counted the cost of becoming a Christian, and determined to
make the venture. I had more generally, during my term at college, attended on Sunday the United
Presbyterian Church of that place, but I now concluded to attend the Methodist Episcopal Church
where the revival had been in progress for near a week, and where I had heard, at one of the
services I attended, some testimonies which then seemed to me quite marvelous. I heard both
sermons on Sunday, and at night, with no little difficulty, I presented myself at the altar of the
church as a subject for prayers. I left the church that night, at the close of the services, with a heavy

 

heart; and from something that was said about joining the church, which seemed to me at that time
such a trifling matter compared with my regeneration, I was led, through a subtle temptation of the
enemy, to fear that the brethren were seeking my membership in their church, rather than my
salvation. This caused me to stay away from the meetings, and continue my search for pardon in
private, until Tuesday night, when, by invitation of two young converts, I returned to the services.

On my way to the church I determined to resume my public efforts for the desire of my

heart, and did return to the altar of prayer. I had noticed that most of those who “got through,” as it
was then called, stood erect upon their knees, turned their faces upward, spread out both hands,
and cried aloud for mercy. I determined at this time to do the same, and with a great struggle,
immediately upon kneeling, I put myself in this attitude, and cried out, “God be merciful to me a
sinner.” By this time, though I had been careful of my moral character and was regarded as a
Christian by many, I felt the terrible pressure of condemnation and made the cry of a genuine
penitent sinner. Immediately my burden was gone, and I felt a pleasure in being where a little time
before it seemed to be the most unpleasant place in which I had ever been. I did not, however, take
this to be religion, or the pardon I was seeking, but such a subjugation of myself as would now
make it easy to seek what I was after. With great earnestness and delight I proceeded to pray, when
the parable of the prodigal son came to my mind, and I saw myself a great way off and the Father
running to meet me. Instantly I was on my feet, without any muscular effort of which I was
conscious, laughing at the top of my voice, and with a spiritual discernment which enabled me to
see a number of persons, in whose piety I had no confidence because of their joviality, with
shining faces enveloped in a halo of light, and others, whom I judged pious, in a dark cloud with
sad and dejected countenances. This vision, which radically changed my notions of religious
living, has ever been clear to my memory but has never been fully repeated in my experience.

As soon as the spirit of laughter subsided, I felt an impulse to labor for the salvation of

others, and commenced at once among my fellow students. Early next morning I wrote a letter to
my parents, which was nearly a continuous shout, and which awakened them to a sense of their
great need. They sent for me to come home on a visit, which I made in a week or two after my
conversion, and prayed for them and the other children, till the entire family, except the younger
and irresponsible children, were happily converted to God. These labors for the salvation of
others I have continued to this day with more or less zeal and success, often the zeal nearly gone,
and the success scarcely discernible.

In passing through the large congregation, on the night of my conversion, to seek and

persuade my fellow students to accept Christ, I noticed that I passed by others with a seeming
indifference, seeking only my favorites. This indicated to me a partiality which I thought ought not
to exist in one who was truly converted, but so happy was I then that this rather unpleasant
discovery scarcely made a ripple upon the surface of my raptures. The next afternoon, however,
this matter of partiality and some others of a kindred character, so disturbed me that I sought an
interview with the preacher for the purpose of learning more about my true state.

I was satisfied that either I had not obtained a true conversion, or I had misapprehended its

nature. I had been made much happier than I supposed it possible for a soul in the body, but the
change of nature was not so complete and radical as I supposed a true regeneration produced. And
I now believe that if I had received the instruction I should have I would then have received a

 

clean heart in less than twenty four hours after my conversion. I was ripe for it, and only needed
the knowledge of my true want, and the way to get the supply. But whatever the preacher intended
to teach me, I got the idea that I now had commenced the Christian warfare, and my efforts must be
directed primarily to the repression of the evil tendencies of my depraved nature, and secondarily
to guarding from without the encroachments of the world and sin. I had tasted the wonderful sweets
of pardon and adopting love, and was ready for anything in the way of toil and sacrifice to retain
my new-found joys, so I girded myself for the conflict, and manfully did I fight through my
probationary term in the church. I was then taken into full connection, licensed as an exhorter, and
soon thereafter constituted a local preacher.

As I had frequently lectured to the public on different moral subjects before my conversion,

I was hurried by my brethren into the ministry, and admitted on trial at the next session of the
annual conference. I soon found in reading those works which the Discipline places before the
young preacher, that a much higher Christian experience than I enjoyed, and just such as I had
hoped to attain, was taught as the heritage of faith. At once I became deeply concerned for the
blessing of entire sanctification, and commenced fasting, praying, and consecrating myself anew,
with a view of seeking this great salvation. But as I found no one professing it, and preachers older
and wiser than myself speaking hesitatingly upon the subject, I lapsed into a state of indifference
concerning it.

After sixteen consecutive years in the itinerancy, and the educational department of our

Church work, I was forced by feeble health to retire from the active ranks of the ministry. During
my efficiency I had accumulated a small sum of money, which was increased by several hundred
dollars from my father-in-law’s estate. To use these means so as to support my young and growing
family, I entered into the mercantile business. In this, my industry, frugality and care were
rewarded to such a degree that I not only kept my family, but accumulated with astonishing
rapidity, as compared with my capital and size of my trade. This prosperity so increased my
attachment to business, and intensified my love for gain that, within the short period of four or five
years, I found my spiritual interests greatly imperiled by the love of money. This led me to call
earnestly upon God for protection against this danger, and to more liberal giving to benevolent
purposes. And, though my liberality seemed to myself considerably greater than my brethren’s who
had equal and much larger ability, yet the danger remained and the love of gain was fast becoming
the dominant passion.

At this stage of my experience I was thrown among a number of persons who enjoyed

freedom from the power of this world, and were made perfect in love. From one of these I bought
a copy of “Perfect Love,” by J. A. Wood. The testimony of these humble Christians and the reading
of this book were used by the Spirit to start me in pursuit of the same gracious state as a desirable
religious experience, and as the only remedy for my fears and danger.

Very soon after I commenced to press my suit for entire sanctification, a few minor tests

were presented and disposed of satisfactorily to my conscience, and a temporary relief was
obtained. Among these early tests was the tobacco habit. This now began to appear inconsistent
with a state of holiness. I therefore abandoned the indulgence with the purpose of never resuming
it, unless by a Divine permit, which never has been granted. I fought the appetite for two or three
weeks when, either in sleep or not noticing the fact, it was removed, and has not to this day

 

returned. This loss of the desire for tobacco took place nearly two months before I had the
assurance of inward purity, and gave me great satisfaction in the new-found freedom. But I was
soon convinced that the object of my pursuit, and the gracious work needed, had not been reached.
I was, however, quite encouraged, and with the conviction that the way to the attainment of this
grace was nearly cleared, I continued my suit with greater ardor. I was now ready for severer
tests, and questions concerning the appropriation of funds began to arise in my mind and to stir me
profoundly. I had in my safe some $2,000 in Government bonds, and held also a mortgage claim on
a neighboring farm for $1,200, besides some smaller savings which I did not need in my business.
These had been carefully laid away as a source of revenue to increase my yearly returns, and a
source of supply when infirmity or age might retire me from my work. It was therefore a severe
strain upon my strength of purpose, and my feeble longings for holiness, when these serious
financial questions commenced to lay heavily upon my conscience.

The first test on this line which the Spirit gently pressed was whether I was willing, for so

great a favor as I was asking, to part with my bonds, to sell them and devote the proceeds to
benevolent uses. After a day or two of worry and anxiety over the matter, and seeing there could
be no advancement in my pursuit without facing the issue and making the sacrifice, I resolved to do
it if the Lord should ask it and open the way for it. This victory over self and the ruling passion
was attended with more than usual religious joy, and for a day or so I seemed near the prize. Soon,
however, it was suggested that the principle which required the bonds as an offering to God
demanded also the mortgage claim, for neither of them was necessary to the successful prosecution
of my business. The thought was almost unbearable, but the Lord graciously aided me to bear the
deep probing and virtually make the offering. I now supposed that nothing more could be asked,
and I rejoiced for some time in a good degree of religious freedom, and, as my business was
flourishing, I could foresee all these losses replaced in less than twelve months. Then it was
suggested that if these savings were required as a precedent condition to a state of holiness, the
funds to replace them would be required as a condition to retain the grace, and thus I was forced to
face the obligation of giving all I could make hereafter, and of being contented with my present
stock in trade, my business house, and family residence.

This was indeed plucking out the right eye and cutting off the right hand, but the Lord

mercifully helped me, and I was enabled to make up my mind to this condition of my worldly
affairs.

My religious experience at this stage in the process, though deeper than anything I had

known heretofore, was far from being joyful and satisfactory. I continued to read the Scriptures,
and to pray and trust for the witness of the Spirit to the work of inward purity. One day I opened
the Scriptures at Matt. 19:21: “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell that thou hast, and give to the poor,
and thou shalt have treasure in heaven and come, follow me.” The Spirit applied the word, and the
truth, like keen steel, entered my heart, and after some days of doubting I was enabled finally to
yield, but not without a great deal of debating the matter, and with pains and heartaches which my
pen cannot describe. The struggle was now ended. I felt that I was no longer possessor of these
things, but simply a steward, and the stewardship to last no longer than necessary to make a wise
distribution of the funds.

 

After this complete devotement of property to God, two considerations prevented a speedy

appropriation to benevolent uses. One was, the conviction that a careless and indiscriminate giving
would be acting the part of a cross child that dashes to the ground and destroys what it is not
allowed to keep, and, of course, would be as displeasing to God as no giving. The other was the
conviction that a hasty movement would awaken the suspicion of my friends, and they would have
me arrested on a charge of derangement. Such had been my earnestness in seeking holiness, that my
family had noticed a change in my conduct, and some of my patrons in the store had observed
something unusual. Hence the most cautious and quiet procedure was necessary to keep down all
suspicion of mental disturbance, and meet my covenant engagements with God.

For some months very few calls for money were made upon me, and these for

comparatively small sums, much less than the profits of the business for the same time. So reticent
had I to be, and so slowly did ways open to carry out my purposes, that the property became such a
burden, as a trust, that I longed to be clear of it. In this dilemma I kept looking to the Lord for
guidance, when it was suggested that, as ways did not open to distribute this property, possibly the
Lord intended me, as I had accumulated most of it, to hold and use it for Him. Somebody must do
this, and would He not more likely appoint the person who made it than any other? After a careful
examination of this impression, I was satisfied that its origin was identical with the suggestions
which I had followed, and that this must be heeded as well as they. I was now enabled, after due
consideration, to settle on a financial policy which would meet my engagements with the Lord, and
enable me to feel at rest on a matter of finance. I would use what I had accumulated as wisely as I
could, and give away all the proceeds after meeting my family expenses, and hold the principal
ready for distribution when Divinely called to make it. This policy has been followed with
scrupulous care ever since, and it has been a pleasure to give my labors gratis to the Church for the
last seventeen years, and to distribute yearly all the income from the funds invested, except my
necessary expenses in humble living.

This experience in the consecration of money will not be complete without the statement

that I have not always been able to please my brethren in the disbursement of these funds. There
are popular enterprises, and worthy ones too, which I do not liberally support, because I would
have but little left to give to some more obscure and less popular charities. I find it just as
necessary to discriminate, and follow my honest convictions in the causes supported, as to support
any. I dare not consult the wishes of my brethren only so far as may be necessary to find the Divine
will in the matter of giving.

These statements are a mere summary of the salient points of this part of my experience.

The various frames of mind, the states of the affections and emotions, and the many questions that
have come up for settlement in the details have, as far as possible, been passed over. There is,
however, a matter connected with the secret of my rapid accumulation, which does not belong to
the experience in the consecration of money, that I will name. I did not enter this business for the
purpose of accumulating riches, but simply to make a living for myself and family; and when I
managed it alone, I would lock up every evening of the weekly prayermeeting, and attend church.
And while the protracted meetings would be in progress, I would close the store during the hours
of religious service, and take my place with the worshippers. I was often tempted to desist from
this, as some of my best customers would complain of the disappointment which it caused them.
Especially would I be tried when I learned that some of these, with exhausted patience, had left my

 

house and gone to other stores with their trade. But almost all of these would, after a few weeks or
months, return and bring some of their neighbors with them. Thus my trade continually increased
till I had to secure help; and had these helpers consented to accompany me to church, the store
would ever have been closed at the time of religious service. And to this rigid subordination of
business to religion, more than to any business talent which I possess, do I attribute my worldly
prosperity.

I must now ask the reader to return with me to the point where, in the irreversible

consecration of money and self to God, the old man was nailed to the cross, the self life crucified,
and the struggle ended.

Here my troubles might have ended in perfect peace, had I been at this time with some one

to instruct me correctly in the simple way of faith. But instead of a deep, sweet rest in Christ, I
now felt that all my worldly comfort was gone, and my spiritual resources completely exhausted,
and I far from being a happy man.

My hungering and thirsting after righteousness now became so intense that I could do

nothing but pray for a clean heart. And in answer to my prayers, I would be consciously blessed,
sometimes two and three times a day for nearly two anxious months, yet I could not venture to
profess or believe myself every whit whole. At this juncture I met at a campmeeting several
persons professing and enjoying perfect love, and immediately sought instruction from them. I was
told that if I was really consecrated to God, with a view of seeking holiness, I might at once,
without any further effort or good works upon my part, believe that the Holy Spirit does now fully
save me. I now saw that I had been waiting for a sensible evidence that the work was done, before
I could trust God, or believe Him faithful in the fulfillment of His promises.

With this new light I determined I would distrust no longer, but by the help of grace, would

believe and “reckon” myself, as ordered, “dead indeed unto sin.” Here it was suggested that there
was danger of practicing a willful self-delusion; but the Spirit helped my infirmities, and I was
enabled to see that it was perfectly safe to obey God, and that He, not I, would be responsible for
any disastrous results that might follow such obedience. I now felt very thankful for increasing
light upon duty and privilege, and ventured to state to two or three persons in sympathy with my
struggles for holiness, and who were solicitous for my success, that I believed myself very near the
place where Divine mercy was pledged to give me the victory.

At this juncture I was extremely cautious lest I might profess a measure of grace which I

did not possess; yet I noticed that the less ambiguous my statements, and the more positive my
confessions, the clearer my light, and the more satisfactory my experience. This enabled me to
declare that if I were not dead to sin, I was certainly dying, and, of course, would soon be dead.
Perhaps it was not over thirty minutes after this till I made the “reckoning” clearly, and stated it
positively to others. Very soon I found myself in a state of adoring wonder at the greatness of
salvation, and the simplicity of the way to its possession. I now could see that Christ was all and
in all, and that to truly accept Him was to possess all things, and to confess to too much was an
absurdity. This state of wonder and rapture lasted for several days, and my heart called upon all
the angels, all the redeemed, and all beings that had breath, to aid me in praising the Lord for my
being and its wonderful possibilities through the provisions of the atonement. It appeared the most

 

marvelous fact that ever reached my mind, that I should be washed in the blood of the Lamb and
made whiter than snow. I felt such a sense of inward cleanness that I wished all on earth could
only see what the Spirit could do for one so worldly, so selfish, and so unclean. An almost
irrepressible desire seized me to tell all I met, saint and sinner, at home and abroad, in the families
and on the highway, what the Lord had done for me. This desire, and the accompanying effusions
of the Spirit which occurred every few minutes through the day, continued for some years with
more or less force.

By and by, I began to turn my attention away from what had been done for me to what I

began to see before me, and I perceived that a state of purity and general fullness of the Spirit were
small matters in contrast with “all the fulness of God,” and living in the realm of the “exceeding
abundantly above all we ask or think.” Since then I have been a continuous seeker, not for pardon,
or purity, or the grace already obtained, but for more and more of the Christ nature. “Forgetting
those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward
the mark for the prize.”

About two weeks after the event of my entire sanctification the presiding elder of the

district took sick and sent for me to come and see him. I immediately responded to the call, and
found that he wished me to attend his quarterly meeting on the following Saturday and Sunday. I
promised to do so, and asked for the plan of appointments, proposing to do his work, as best I
could, and send him each Monday what money the stewards gave me, until he should be well able
to resume work. This he gladly accepted, and in a few days passed to his reward. The leading
brethren of the district consulted concerning his successor, and, with my consent, agreed that I
should proceed with the work, and pass the salary to the widow who was left without resources
for support. During the nine months that remained of the year, I spent two or three days of each
week at quarterly meetings. This gave me a fine opportunity every week, before different
audiences, to declare what the Lord had done for me, and to press the subject of holiness upon the
churches. In this I met with comparatively little open opposition, and soon the work of revival
commenced on different charges, and a goodly number of conversions, and a still greater number
of sanctifications, took place in the district.

Before my labors ended in this field, I had sold my stock, leased my store property and

dwelling, and prepared to return to the ranks of effective preachers, and take work at the
approaching annual conference. This I did, and was sent to raise up a second Methodist Episcopal
Church in Canton, Ohio. With a missionary appropriation of $100, I commenced labor in a ward
school-house in the southern part of the city. The first Sunday I preached to a small congregation,
announced my mission, read Wesley’s definition of a Methodist from his Plain Account, read some
of the General Rules, stated my purpose to organize a society upon the basis of the Discipline and
Methodist standards of doctrine, and asked for the names of persons who were willing to join the
new society on these conditions. Six persons, who were at the time members of the First Methodist
Episcopal Church, and who were professors of holiness, gave their names. Next Sunday the
number swelled to near thirty, and soon thereafter we formally organized. The board of stewards
then added to the missionary appropriation $1000, making a salary of $1,100. This was promptly
paid every week without any fair, festival, bazaar, or dunning of the membership. The secret of this
was that I became intensely interested in the salvation of my people; and, being few in number, I
visited them frequently, inquired into their spiritual state, rejoiced with them that rejoiced, wept

 

with them that wept; helped in a small measure, those who needed financial aid; and wedded, by
my love and attention to them, their affections to me, without intending anything but their salvation.
And, though with two or three exceptions they were all poor, being day laborers and
washerwomen, yet such was their love for the pastor that every dollar of their hard earnings was
divided with him. I could have said of them, had the occasion arisen, as Paul said of some of his
helpers, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid down
their own necks.”

At the close of the first year we numbered one hundred and twenty Spirit-baptized souls,

and bound together with a love that lasts to this day, and flames up when we meet on the highways
or anywhere else. At the end of the second year the number had increased to one hundred and
seventy; we had a new church nearly completed, and were prospering in our souls, though from
various causes we were not multiplying so rapidly as we should have done. This, and other
reasons, led me at the close of the second year to ask for a removal, believing that it would be best
for all concerned. My request was granted and I was appointed to another charge, but I was taken
down by rheumatism and kept disabled so long that I was compelled to resign it. Soon after this
resignation I recovered and commenced helping pastors in opening revival work upon their
charges, and this line of labor I have continued, so far as able, to this day. For these services I
have accepted no remuneration of any kind except traveling expenses and board while at work. My
reasons for this have been, first, I had an income sufficient to meet my wants and which enabled
me to give to benevolent uses from $500 to $1,000 each year; and second, I wished to remove all
suspicion concerning the motives that prompted me to the course taken.

In this work I have, upon invitation of the preachers who desired my help, traveled over the

greater part of Ohio, and portions of the neighboring States and Canada, spending about ten days at
each place, and directing my efforts chiefly to the sanctification of the membership. In this work I
have seen many of the preachers, and many hundreds of the more spiritual of their flocks,
sanctified wholly. A few of the preachers, who had no sympathy with my special work but desired
their charges to reap the benefits of my labors in a revival, and who came under conviction for
holiness themselves but refused to follow the light, soon lost the grace which they had. Some of
these have left the pulpit for other callings; some have been arrested and expelled from the church
for scandalous sins, and others have surrendered their credentials without trial, and retired from
the ministry and the Church of their early choice in disgrace. I have learned in these and similar
facts that it is a fearful thing for either laymen or ministers to receive the light and refuse to follow
it. But it would require a considerable volume to detail all the interesting incidents that have come
to my notice, and valuable facts learned in this work of seventeen years continued summer and
winter, and cannot be even hinted at in this outline of experience.

In closing, I ought to state that naturally I was very unwilling to labor without

compensation, and especially on some lines of work, but the “life more abundant” gave me such a
passion for the holiness work that, without remuneration, it had nearly proved a snare, and led me
into a subtle idolatry, weaning the affections from the adorable Bridegroom Himself to the less
delightful matter of religious work. And now, nearing the close of probationary life, I still find my
supreme delight in union with Jesus Christ, and in preaching, writing, and giving of my means to
spread the doctrine and experience of Christian holiness. But as I look back over the work I see so
much error, infirmities, and other matters to lament, that I look away from it to the pitying Father

 

for needed solace, and, as my only hope, throw my helpless soul upon the naked mercy of the
compassionate One.

Source: “The Hidden Manna,”
by Sheridan Baker,
Boston: McDonald, Gill & Co. 1888

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

THE END

 

All Rights Reserved By HDM For This Digital Publication
Copyright 1994 Holiness Data Ministry

Duplication of this CD by any means is forbidden, and
copies of individual files must be made in accordance with
the restrictions stated in the B4Ucopy.txt file on this CD.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

HOW THEY ENTERED CANAAN
(A Collection of Holiness Experience Accounts)
Compiled by Duane V. Maxey

Vol. I — Named Accounts

Interchurch Holiness Convention

18931 Route 522

Beaver Springs, PA 17812

Phone: 570-658-1030