W. L. Surbrook was a member of the Pilgrim Holiness Church. He served as an evangelist, teacher, writer, and as president of the Pilgrim Bible College, Kernersville, North Carolina, and also as president of the Owosso Bible Seminary, Owosso, Michigan.
With a background of nearly three generations that were saturated and deeply dyed with the Adventist teaching and stamped by sin, together with gross ignorance of the Scriptures and the way of salvation, there was little or no clear gospel light in my soul.
Having been born on a farm in Michigan, where I remained quite closely until after having passed the eighth grade, I entered the city high school. This kept me away from home much of my time. During my high school days the Holy Spirit sent a very humble farmer preacher into the community to preach the gospel. The revival was held in the country schoolhouse where I had attended grade school.
With plenty of prejudice, conceit, ignorance, and wariness I attended the meeting on my week ends at home. The minister of the Word was very tender, full of tact, sweetness, and grace; and soon the schoolhouse was filled with hungry, inquisitive listeners. His humble, gracious presentation of truth soon won to him the confidence of the people.
On Sunday night, March 17, 1912, the first real break came in the meeting, and I was the first soul that night at the altar. It took the Holy Spirit but a few minutes to tender my soul and lead me to genuine godly sorrow and repentance for sin. About nine-twenty that night God for Christ's sake pardoned all of my sins, and at a flash I was born again and at once became a new creature in Christ Jesus.
With a background of teaching that the Holy Spirit was merely a divine emanation or influence from the Father and Son, light on His gracious work of cleansing dawned upon me slowly. As the minister preached on the "second rest," "second work of grace," the "carnal nature," and the "old man," I sat with an open heart, wondering whose father he was talking about. Frankly I did not know who the "old man" was.
There was no disposition however in my heart to resent the truth. The new-found joy, peace, and victory gave me a hungering thirst for more of what I already possessed. God had given me victory over the world and my soul was filled with a new warmth, fire, and victory I had neither known nor heard of before. "As the hart panteth after the water brooks," so my soul panted after God and righteousness. Except at times of bubbling blessings and spiritual ecstasy my soul thirsted, hungered, yearned, and cried for a "something" I did not possess; yet, I was unable to name scripturally or define clearly my need.
There was a constant eagerness in my heart to please God and to walk in all the light He shed upon my path. The Holy Spirit had sent me back over my path to make restitutions and rectify my wrongs. My whole life was changed, for now I was faithfully attending the Sunday school, prayer meetings, and church. The new-found life of joy and peace was now leading me into praying, testifying, and praising God. I had experienced a complete change of heart and life and was now walking with Him, but was not yet sanctified.
As I walked with Him the best I knew how, He gradually deepened the hunger of my soul To lead me into entire sanctification, He did not bless me more, but rather "unblessed" me or in a measure withheld the blessing, and to that very degree the hunger deepened. Gradually my soul was filled with an insatiable thirst. With the ebb and flow of His blessings, the thirst deepened and the hunger increased.
In response to this hungering and thirsting I was again found at the altar; but this time I was not seeking pardon, but purity. My soul was not in the dark, and neither was there any condemnation upon it. I knew I was saved and walking in all the light while fellowshipping Him and His people, and yet I knew I needed something more. There was no guilt upon my soul, or stain upon my record, but there was inbred sin within my life that needed to be eradicated.
In seeking the fullness of the Spirit in heart cleansing, I knew that the time element did not enter into it. It was not a question of how long I sought but of making a full consecration to God and believing Him to purify my heart. It is very doubtful if I sought at that altar over twenty minutes until every condition was met; and, as faith took hold, the sweet, cleansing Holy Spirit purified my heart. As the quiet, assuring evidence came, a sweet restfulness came over my soul, and at once I knew He had sanctified me.
There was no outward demonstration, but a sweet inward assurance. Since then I have seen many shout and demonstrate quite hilariously when sanctified, and I have shouted "Amen" with them; but it did not work that way with me. Very few people ever experience this groundwork of grace in exactly the same manner, and nobody should try to get it the same way or try to imitate others. God has a sweet, clear, definite second work of grace for every unsanctified soul and when it comes it will fully satisfy.
Some have asked and wondered if it is possible for one to have as clear and as definite an experience in entire sanctification as he received when he was converted. Let me assure you, my friend, that it is possible. You may not act the same, nor act like others, but He can and will give you as clear and as definite an experience when sanctified as you received when you were born again.
To support this fact let us quote from John Wesley when writing on this very subject. He declared that "no one ought to think that the work is done until there is added the witness of the Spirit, testifying to his entire sanctification as clearly as his regeneration."
It is now nearly thirty-seven years since God sanctified me, and may I assure you I would not consider living one hour without His sweet abiding presence in my life, for all these years my soul has been safely anchored.