Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Higher Spiritual Life of the Church

The Bicentennial of the Church of the Brethren in Des Moines, Iowa ended on Thursday evening, June 11, 1908. Over a period of nine days the Brethren had endured 23 addresses on some 15 topics, in addition to another 15 devotional exercises opening each of the sessions. There were also the annual business sessions which were held on the final three days.

The concluding address came from Albert Cassel Wieand on "The Higher Spiritual Life of the Church. A.C. Wieand had been a co-founder of Bethany Bible School in Chicago in 1905 where the first buildings were built in this same year of 1908. Bethany was formally recognized by the church the following year in 1909.

A.C. Wieand must have known the size of the topic on which he had been asked to speak for he suggests in his introductory remarks: It will be necessary of those who are vitally interested in this matter to read again and again what is said here in outline, and to study the subject with the utmost care, - most especially the scriptures relating to the subject.

Wieand address follows four major outline points:

I. The Essential Nature of the Higher Spiritual Life

II. The Manifestations of the Higher Spiritual Life

III. The Culture and Maintenance of the Higher Spiritual Life

IV. The Church of the Brethren Considered in the Light of This Ideal

The following excerpt comes from the final part of the outline.

When the church was started, I thank God, the Church of the Brethren was born in a prayer meeting and a Bible School. Men and women gathered to pray God to lead them into his truth and light, willing to follow that word as far as it would take them and wherever it would lead them. We have that spiritual life of the higher grade and type right there, and all the way down the history. I have not time to refer to it. But in the Revolutionary War, in the Civil War, all down through the ages, how our Brethren have taken their stand on what they saw of the truth and the light of God, and stood there, no matter what they must suffer, believing that God would deliver them.

This very day in the Conference assembly we took our stand on the question of Secret Orders and Labor Unions in the teeth of a very difficult situation, suffering and sacrifice and persecution. Why? Rather than to violate a principle of God's word. When God hath spoken, "There is not to reason why, There is not to make reply, There is but to do and die," if need be, because God hath spoken. That is what I call the higher spiritual life.

There are so many misconceptions of the higher spiritual life. The Brethren have always been misunderstood on this subject because we do not make much noise about it, we do not get excited, we do not make much fuss about it; but I tell you, the test of the higher spiritual life is, how much sacrifice are you willing to make, and how firmly are you willing to stand by the right when it costs something to stand by the right? The practical demonstration of love and character is what tells whether or not a man is spiritual minded. ... Brethren, I believe that our church is the most spiritual church in the world today. ... But brethren, it ought to be very much better, far higher than it is.