HENRY BELDEN

February 6, 2017 // Story

 

HENRY BELDEN

When I was converted, I had a very bright and satisfactory experience. So powerful were

my exercises, and so great and thorough the change, both outward and inward, that I never could
indulge in doubt as to the reality of the gracious work. I knew that I had passed from death unto
life, by the various evidences which usually mark that change. But my course was unsteady, with
frequent alternations of light and darkness, of faith and unbelief, of joy and depression.

After joining the church, and enjoying its privileges for, perhaps, three months, I went away

from home to a distant town, to commence my preparatory studies for the ministry. Here, removed
from home, Church, and pastoral influences, and surrounded by those who had much of the form,
but little of the power of godliness, I began to lose my first love to Christ. Gradually I fell into a
state of heart-backsliding.

In this state I remained shorn of my spiritual strength, under a sense of condemnation, and

in darkness, for about seven or eight years. I retained my membership in the Church, continued my
studies with the ministry in view, and in some measure kept up outward observances. I was often
distressed about my condition, and deeply sensible of my backslidings; and occasionally I made
spasmodic efforts to break away from my bondage and darkness, and get back to Christ. But I did
not succeed, and I was quickly discouraged. It seems to me that my experience was precisely that
delineated in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans; I longed for deliverance, but knew
not how to get it. I have since learned how any backslider may quickly escape and regain his first
love, but then I knew not the steps to take.

In the Providence of God I became deeply afflicted, and was carried through man humbling

process of trial for several months. Having a deep sympathy for the enslaved and oppressed free
colored people in our land, I devoted myself, for a time, in making efforts to arouse the public
mind in relation to their wrongs. In this I met an opposition, which every where covered me with
obloquy and contempt. This and other trials made me feel the need of the Saviour’s presence and
help. I began to think of Christ as a sympathizing Saviour, as the High Priest who can be touched
with the feelings of our infirmities. The declaration that He “was in all points tempted like as we

 

are,” was soothing and precious to my troubled Spirit. About this time I became earnestly engaged
in a revival of religion. My soul became burdened with unutterable desires for the salvation of
sinners. I began, also, to study the Scriptures, which before I had greatly neglected. was now
restored from my wanderings, and was living a life of earnest prayer. Sometimes I would rise in
the night to pray for souls.

One day, after a special season of fasting and searching my own heart and life, and

renouncing all that I saw to be contrary to the will of God, I was striving to prevail in prayer,
when the Saviour was revealed to me in such a wonderful manner that I was enraptured, and filled
with a heavenly ecstasy, which continued for about a week, and though the brightness of it was then
obscured by a severe temptation, yet the effects and the savor of it, has remained through all the
following years. That vision of Jesus had given my soul a heavenly relish, which impelled me to
seek after God.

The summer and fall which followed, bore witness to frequent days of fasting, and prayer,

with much searching the Scriptures. On a day specially set apart to seek the Lord, I was led to
search my whole life from my earliest recollections, humbling myself with penitential confession
to God, and promising him that I would make confessions and restitutions to others as far as
possible, where I had injured them. I then covenanted to be wholly the Lord’s, and to be faithful in
all things. This solemn season of confession and consecration occurred about four hours, during
which I lay most of the time on my face on the floor. This consecration had an immediate and
powerful effect upon my life. I was filled with zeal, and labored earnestly for the welfare of souls.
But I was not entirely at rest. I did not know the way of faith.

My consecration was entire to the full extent of all the light I had. My recollection is

perfectly clear upon this matter. I had given myself fully, and without reserve to the Lord. I was
wonderfully helped by the Holy Spirit, who gave me a clear discernment, and enabled me to make
very thorough work of it. I not only made a general and comprehensive consecration of all to God,
but I particularized all that I could think of. I prayed for light to see if there were any thing more,
until I felt clearly conscious that every thing was laid on the altar.

This was nearly four years before I received the blessing of entire sanctification. I did not

then believe there as any such state. My soul panted after God, and I sought Him at times with
much earnestness, but I had no spiritual state before my mind as a definite object of pursuit. I
labored much, and was permitted to see several revivals of religion. During this time, however, I
was brought gradually to understand that it was the privilege of Christians to be sanctified wholly,
and that their whole spirit and soul and body might be preserved blameless unto the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ.

I now had a definite object before me. I was assured that this blessed state was to be

obtained by faith. I tried to have faith for it. As an illustration of my effort, I shall describe one of
my attempts. I was on the haymow in my barn alone, and I was thinking of sanctification. I thought I
would kneel down and pray for it. I did so; and cried very earnestly unto God for the blessing. I
knew the difficulty must be that I did not believe. I was conscious that my feelings were much
drawn out, and it seemed to me, while I as praying, that if I could only feel somewhat more, then
perhaps my feelings would become faith. What a vain idea, and yet how common, that faith

 

consists in feelings. I knew no better then, and I tried to feel as much as I could. At length, thinking
possibly I might have succeeded, I paused and looked into myself; but all was vague and uncertain.
I needed further instruction. After a time God gave it to me.

In company with some others, I went to Newark, to attend a convention on the subject of

sanctification. On the way there, sister, giving me an account of her experience, said that, when she
sought and obtained the blessing of sanctification, she consecrated herself to God, and believed
that He received her, but that she did not receive the inward witness of the spirit until seven days
afterwards; yet during all that time she held on to her confidence of God’s faithfulness to His
promise, and then, after about seven days, the Spirit came upon her and filled her with a joyful
sense of His love. This was very helpful to me, for I had supposed the baptism of the Holy Ghost
was always given instantaneously if the offering was accepted of God. The meeting continued
through the day. At the noon intermission I was conversing with a young lady who professed to
have enjoyed the blessing but a short time. I put this inquiry to her, “Suppose I should believe for
the blessing, how should I know that I believed?” Very properly, she answered, “Faith is its own
evidence.” I saw then, as I have ever since seen more clearly, that faith is a matter of
consciousness, and not of reasoning, just as memory or perception is.

Among the experiences related that day, one by Rev. William Hill was especially

interesting and instructive to me. Brother Hill was an intimate friend, and we had long studied and
prayed over the subject together. He had received the blessing that morning in Dr. Palmer’s house
in New York. He related to me fully all the exercises through which he had passed the preceding
twenty-four hours. He told of his child-like simplicity in seeking — of the clear and faithful
instructions given him, the full consecration, the long struggle to believe, which continued through
the night, and the peaceful rest of soul which came in the morning. He scarcely needed to tell me
the result. I read it in his subdued manner, his holy fervor, and in everything about him. I felt that he
had outstripped me in the race, and I was glad of it, though I had started long before him.

After the meeting Brother Hill and I retired to a private house, where we resumed the

conversation. He instructed and encouraged me to come to God at once. Among other things, he
said, “If you cannot give yourself up to God with as much feeling as you desire, do not be
discouraged on this account, but do it with what feeling you can, and God will accept the offering.
He also insisted much upon the duty of believing God’s word of promise, irrespective of our own
feelings. He seemed to have the most profound convictions concerning the sin of hesitating to
believe God’s word, and quoted with great force the passage, “He that believeth not God hath
made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the
record, that God hath given to us, eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” He said he had been so
deeply convicted on this point during the past night that he had written down a solemn promise to
God that henceforth he would, without hesitation and without having any regard to the state of his
own feelings, believe any promise of God’s word which applied to him.

These admonitions were very useful to me. They gave me light where I needed it. I had

been accustomed to look with more confidence to the state of my own feelings than to the
declarations of God’s word. Now I was convinced that I must “let God be true, and every man a
liar.” God’s word must be believed without questioning, and without comparing it with my own
feelings, or bringing it to any other test. I saw that when, by grace, I fulfilled the required

 

conditions of a promise, it would be great sin in me to hesitate a moment in believing that the
promise was fulfilled.

I was pointed to the promise, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate,

saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto
you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters saith the Lord Almighty.” It was now very clear to me
that if I should, by a renewed consecration, come out and be separate unto God, and renounce the
unclean thing, which is sin, that then it would be my duty immediately to believe that God received
me. This would be no more than simply believing that God was as good as his word. I saw this to
be the way of faith, and it appeared eminently reasonable and just. I now saw the simple path and I
longed to enter immediately into the blessed state which I had so long sought. I said, “I am ready to
give myself up and believe.”

“Stop a moment,” said Brother Hill, “there is one thing more. When you give yourself up to

God, an begin to believe that He receives you, you must hold on believing, and if you are tempted
to doubt whether God receives you, you must not for a moment entertain the doubt, but drive it
away; and this you can do by repeating over the promises of the Scripture and clinging to them.”

Such were substantially the teachings he gave me, though I may not have retained the

precise form of expression. At any former period I should have regarded such instructions as
leading directly to presumption and self-deception. But they were then, as they have been to me
ever since, the light of true wisdom. In following them I was enabled to enter the way of holiness.

We bowed in prayer. With the simplicity of a child, I gave myself to the Lord, with all that

pertained to me for time and eternity, to be wholly His. All was laid on the altar, — time, talents,
reputation, prospects, influence, wife, children, possessions, everything. I renounced sin, and gave
myself wholly to God. Then I told the Lord that I believed He received me, and that I would
continue to believe in view of His promise, even if He should not give me an inward witness for a
week or month. I would believe His word alone, without regard to my feelings. I knew I was
sincere, and I knew God’s promise could not fail. On rising from my knees, I said to the two
brethren with me, “I have done it; the Lord is mine, and I am His.”

Immediately Satan suggested a most plausible temptation. It was so subtle it seemed to be

the spontaneous reasoning of my own mind. I thought, “If I have done this with my whole heart,
then, no doubt, God has received me. But am I sure that I have done it with my whole heart?” Had I
entertained this question, I should have gone back into the wilderness. Thank God, I had been
forewarned. Without giving the suggestion a moment’s thought, I turned my mind toward the
Scripture, and tried to drive it away. I walked back and forth in the room, and repeated these
promises, “There is therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk
not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” and “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin,
but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The effort was successful. God gave me the
victory. The temptation to doubt and question was gone; and I rested in the beginning of a life of
faith wherein Christ was apprehended as a present and full Saviour.

My sensibilities were not greatly moved at first. But after two or three days the Holy

Comforter filled my heart with joy, and made me to realize a very sweet sense of inward purity

 

and uprightness. I set about my work in my parish with a peculiar delight, and with a conscious
strength of faith unknown before. With the utmost simplicity, I told everywhere what the Lord had
done for me, beginning with my own family and my own people, and going abroad wherever the
way was opened. Fruits were abundant. Many received the blessing of sanctification, and among
the first was my wife, then many of my church, and within a few months, in my parish, not far from
a hundred were converted from the world.

It would take volumes to relate my experiences since that time. For some time I walked in

clear blessed light and perfect love. My sense of inward purity was very clear and sweet. My joy
was often full, at times ecstatic; my faith was firm, strong and increasing. My labors were
abundant, and my success marked. After about two years, having changed my place of residence,
and being unsettled for a time, and among those who were not much interested in sanctification, I
became languid, and suffered my attention to be diverted, and spoke less on the subject; and thus
the fine gold became dim, and the Spirit that had “wrought in me mightily” was in a measure
quenched and grieved. On one occasion, I felt that I had lost the blessing, and in prayer I
acknowledged it to God. Then the tempter was permitted to assail and overwhelm my soul. My
faith had ceased to hold Jesus, and what was there to save me from the adversary? I was brought
into great spiritual tribulation. For about twenty hours my soul was filled during much of the time
with that seemed to be the horrors of despair. I went to two of God’s dear children, who prayed for
me, and while they were praying, I was delivered.

From that time the fear of God was upon me as never before. For a year I had so deep and

awful fear of God, that all worldly concerns seemed of little moment, and yet all along through it, I
had the peace and joy of the Lord. After about a year, this solemn awe in a measure subsided, and
had less influence on my sensibilities, yet I most devoutly thank the Lord that in a good degree it
has remained as an abiding principle, and so to speak, a permanent safe guard.

I have had many precious manifestations of grace to my soul, which have greatly quickened

and strengthened me in the knowledge of God. At one time the Lord revealed himself to me by his
dear name Emmanuel, “God with us.” For a long season after this I had constantly a deep and
precious faith in Jesus as being with me, and manifesting himself to me, and this realization
increased and continued, greatly to my comfort and strength.

My experience at that time was expressed in the following language:

“It seems to me that I realize a special growth in grace every day. Oh, how near and how

dear is Jesus to me! How he opens to me the beauties and graces and glories of his own character!
He quickens and energizes my soul. He is quick, often instant to deliver me from sharp temptation,
and brings me out with joy and triumph. He is my refuge. Oh, what a meaning in that word, refuge,
as applied to him! Yes, I have learned how the name of the Lord is a strong tower; ‘the righteous
runneth into it and is safe.’ As I go in and out, as I walk in the street, as I rise up and lie down, I
speak to him as a familiar Friend. My words, either spoken or in the silence of my heart, are
simple, direct, confident. His answers are loving, quick, and meeting the full demands of my faith,
often exceeding abundantly above all that I ask or think.”

 

Several times the Holy Spirit has baptized me into the deeper and more intimate knowledge

of himself, each time refining me, and purifying away more of the dross. Just at the close of the last
year, while humbling myself before him in a spirit of contrition, he began to pour upon me a deeper
baptism of the Holy Ghost than I had ever received before. It has continued with increase much of
the time from day to day, and from week to week. I never realized so sweetly the “fellowship of
the Spirit.” I have a great sense of my own nothingness, and with it a most precious confidence that
I can commit all to the blessed Holy Ghost, and rely upon Him for all needed grace. Self-denial
was never so easy to me as it is now. Indeed, it is a pleasure. The Holy Spirit seems to make
everything easy. I am saved from the past, and I am kept from prying into the future, and the present
is full of peace, and often of joy. I do everything, seeking to please him, and everything I do is
pleasure. I am conscious of purity of heart and of his indwelling. To God be all the glory!

Source: “Pioneer Experiences” by Phoebe Palmer

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THE END

 

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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

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