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Discover The Secret Of Immotality

Discover The Secret Of Immortality

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The weighty English Congregationalist R. W Dale, for instance, adopted the idea of conditional immortality, the notion that only the saved receive the gift of eternal life, so that the unsaved are extinguished rather than punished.23 For Dale the shift was a matter of intellectual conviction, but for many it was part of a broader tendency to present Christian teaching in a form more palatable to suburban dwellers. The softer form of doctrine went with refined manners, superior taste and, in a word, respectability. It was accompanied by a reluctance to bring sins out into public view and consequently the abandonment of church discipline. No longer was drunkenness or bankruptcy brought before the gathered saints for the church to adjudicate; instead the matter was quietly remitted to the minister for pastoral guidance. Even death became unmentionable. Whereas in the mid-century the denominational magazines were full of the last words of dying Christians, by the 1880s the practice had been dropped because it grated on the feelings. Attendance at the theatre, once shunned, now became acceptable to many. Free Church people, especially those who had prospered, were ceasing to be so distinctive in their ideas or in their behaviour.

There was, nevertheless, a tendency in the contrary direction among a minority of Free Church members. During the last thirty years of the nineteenth century there was a spread of holiness ideals derived from Methodism beyond its ranks. John Wesley's teaching that a state of entire sanctification is available to the believer on earth had declined among ordinary Methodists, but a fresh enthusiasm for this distinctive teaching seized many in the wake of the American Civil War. Holiness camp meetings spread across America, large numbers professed sanctification in an instant and new denominations proclaimed the possibility of a second blessing after conversion. The effect of the holiness teaching was to foster scruples about the avoidance of worldly pastimes as well as to rekindle zeal for dedicated evangelism. Another influence encouraging the same trend was the Welsh Revival of 1904-5, a classic movement of mass conversions in hundreds of chapels. As the enigmatic Evan Roberts, still only a candidate for the ministry, moved from place to place, fervent hymn singing would mingle with spontaneous cries of personal repentance. Together the holiness movement and the Welsh Revival created the context for the beginnings of Pentecostalism. There were expectations of new spiritual power that seemed to be fulfilled when, in a mission that soon moved to Asuza Street in Los Angeles in 1906, speaking in tongues was heard.

23 A. W W Dale, Thelife ofR. W. Dale of Birmingham (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1898), pp. 310-16.

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