In a past issue of the Magazine we read an interesting letter by the Rev. John Tallach, Ingwenya Free Presbyterian Mission, to the Rev. Neil MacIntyre, Convener of the Foreign Mission Committee. In the letter, written in 1938, Mr Tallach said that the Mission had recently held a special day of prayer, as they had been doing annually, to seek the working of the Holy Spirit among them. He then described the service. The remainder of his letter, now slightly edited, is given below.
THE service is held at Ingwenya, and the people and office-bearers gather from the outstations. After a suitable chapter is read, the elders address the people, and prayer is offered between the addresses. The addresses are based on some aspect of the doctrine and the work of the Holy Spirit, with emphasis laid on sin against Him, the uselessness of all Christian work without Him, and the need of praying for His presence and working.
Two of the addresses seem to linger in my mind. . . Patrick Mzamo was the first to speak. Patrick is the oldest elder, and a most forcible speaker. He delivers his sermon very much as one who is conveying a serious message; that done his sermon ends. If Patrick speaks for thirty minutes, he counts it long; generally, he says all he wants to say in twenty minutes.
To begin with, he drew a solemn picture of the state of the unconverted, caught in the rushing stream of time, and by it carried away to eternity. The force of the river, the helplessness of those being carried away, with hell waiting a little way down the river to receive them, were descriptions made real by the downright earnestness of the speaker.
Over against this sad and tremendous truth he placed the church of Christ and its living members. These living ones are to be used by the Holy Spirit for the saving of the lost, and they are the only hope for those lost, helpless ones being rescued. Soldiers, he called them; and they are placed in a line along the river bank with the great duty of living dangerously to save the lost. As he spoke of this army, the church, and what the Holy Spirit could do through it, one felt that the case of the people in the river was not so hopeless after all.
There was a pause, then slowly and deliberately he proceeded: “Soldiers, yes, but what would be the use of them if they were lying down like dead persons. You can call them soldiers only when you see them at the river’s bank amidst stress and danger, seeking the salvation of the lost in the river. I grant that they are believers and that they will themselves never be lost. I grant that they wear the uniform of the King, and that they look well fed and strong, but we cannot call them soldiers until we see them doing the work of soldiers.
“We have the cries of these lost ones in our ears, yet we live as if there were no river, no lost ones being swept away, no hell, and as if it was not written in the Bible that we have this great duty to perform. And why will we not do our duty? Why can we not do our duty? Just because we are lacking in the power of the Holy Spirit. We need more of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
“Our duty is down there in the low ground where the swift river flows, but we can never do our duty until we visit the high ground first. Let us go to the hill, to Calvary! Come with me as individuals, come with me as a church, let us go to Calvary, there to plead on the ground of Christ’s death and resurrection for the giving of the promised Holy Spirit. One great reason why Christ keeps His church in the world is that it may be the means of saving the lost. But we, as part of His church, cannot be the means without the Holy Spirit. Without Him we are but dead carcases, although wearing the uniform of the Prince of Life.”
The other of the addresses that impressed me most was given by Amos and was more doctrinal in its form. “We are here today,” he said, “to seek the Holy Spirit but we must remember that those who are born again have the Spirit given to them by Christ, and that the Holy Spirit will never leave them. They can never be lost. So, if He has come to us once in this way, we never need to seek for Him again to give us the new birth.
“But the Holy Spirit has a great work to do in the world and He has shown that He is to do this work through living souls. He also reveals that we can and do grieve Him by sin. If He is not making use of us as we might expect, then it is because He is grieved, and grieved by our sins against Himself. We will never be right until He shows us our sins and gives us repentance for them.
“So my message is simply this: feeling deeply that we have grieved Him, let us with our faces to the ground ask Him how, when and where we have grieved Him? And when He shows us that, let us without excuse confess with grief our sin to Him. He hates to be grieved away from us; He loves us to have those things which grieved Him done away with.”
After addresses such as these, and the intervening prayers, one was not surprised to find, after the service, a knot of four men planning together the holding of weekday services in the kraals round about Morven.