THE DANGERS OF THE THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE
GERALD B. WINROD
To-day Bennett Hoffman is a well-known preacher. At the time of this reminiscence we were riding on a railroad train making a long trip to fill some speaking engagements. Mr. Hoffman opened up his heart and told me one of the most tragic and yet fascinating stories I had ever heard. Propriety will not permit me to use the real name of this man, so we will call him by the name selected for the narrative, Bennett Hoffman.
His father was a Methodist preacher of the old school, a firm believer in the things for which Wesley stood. While in his teens he became a successful boy preacher, and his fame soon spread throughout that western country. The Methodist preachers watched his development with genuine satisfaction, and everyone was confident that he would have a great future in the ministry. He was enrolled in a large denominational school. He took a firm belief in God and the Bible with him to College. He was an evangelist at heart, possessing a real passion for souls. He was possessed of a rich prayer life and the firm assurance of his call to the ministry. Within a year he was an infidel.
The professor later invited Bennett to come to his home for an evening meal. After the meal they retired to the library, and Bennett was thrilled to the depth of his soul by the sight of so many books. He just browsed around from one bookshelf to another all the evening. Finally his host said:- "Bennett, I like you fine, but you are just ‘green.’ You don't know anything yet. Your mind is closed. You have brought too many prejudices with you. I am going to loan you three books. Take them with you; read them carefully; they will help you."
Bennett accepted the challenge, took the books to his room, and plunged into them. They were books on philosophy. One was written by Nietzsche, another by Schopenhauer, and the last was by Spinoza. He might as well have been handed a viper. When he closed the last page of the last book, all the faith he had brought to College with him was gone, and he was an infidel. As the train rumbled along I noticed that my friend shuddered as he said:- "Words fail to explain the awful feeling that came over me when I was made to understand that everything I had believed as a boy preacher out on the western plains was untrue. There is no way to describe the torture and mental anguish resulting from those terrible doubts. And the Voice which I had always heard and felt in my consciousness left me."
Bennett became a sinner and drifted aimlessly; never a sinner down and out, but an educated, cultured, refined sinner! For fourteen years he lived a wild life without God, without the Bible, without hope. He said:- "Brother Winrod, when I read those books it was just like the boys overseas who went ‘over the top’ and first ran into poison gas. They did not know what it was. They had no gasmasks, and when the poison was inhaled it began to burn them up and they died horrible deaths. I was like that. I sucked in the poison gas of rationalism and higher criticism. I had no gas-mask."
In concluding Hoffman’s life-story, it needs to be said that after fourteen years of wandering in sin and soul-agony, during which time he amassed a fortune, he was walking down the streets of New York City one day when suddenly the Voice came back. It was like the return of a lost lover. He dashed down the street, up into a hotel room, locked the door, and on his knees fought it out in prayer like Jacob at the Brook Jabbok. Faith restored, he left that little hotel room to become one of our most successful preachers.*
[* From Three Giant Evils. The Defender Publishers, Wichita, Kanas, U.S.A.]
"It is not enough to avoid self-exaltation: there should be a positive fear. The future passive(Rom. 11: 22) abruptly closes the sentence, like the stroke of an axe cutting down a proud branch. It is but too clear to anyone who has eyes to see that our Gentile Christendom has now reached the point here foreseen by St. Paul. In its pride it tramples under foot the very notion of that grace which has made it what it is. It moves on to a judgment like that of Israel, but without the promise to soften it as in Israel’s fall," - GODET.
2. THREATENED LOSS OF THE REWARD OF THE INHERITANCE IN THE AGE TO COME.
"The harvest is composed of those for whom Christ has overcome, the firstfruits are those in whom and through whom He has overcome, as well as having overcome for them.
The Apostle Paul had no doubt about his place in the main body, for his testimony is clear, "I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Tim. 1: 12). When, however, he was writing to the Phillippians (3.) he told them that there was one thing he was seeking above all else, "the prize of the upward calling in Christ Jesus," that he might by any means attain to the out-resurrection from among the dead. He was sure of having a place in the general harvest, but not sure, as yet, of being one of the firstfruits as an overcomer.
If Peter, James, John, and Andrew needed the warnings given them by our Lord to "Take heed" to "watch and pray" (Mark 13: 3, 5, 9, 23, 33). And "be ye also ready" (Matt. 24: 44), it is clear that something more is wanted of us than faith in Christ for salvation if we would be ripe enough for the firstfruits. The teaching that everyone who believes is ready for the Coming of the Lord is a deadly narcotic. No wonder the Church is asleep!
If, on the other hand, we see that, being saved, there is yet a prize to be won which is worth the counting of all else as refuse, then we find in it a powerful stimulant to a holy and victorious life in union with our coming Lord," - A. CHAMPION.