The Ideal Pentecostal Church is composed of regenerated souls. There is not an unconverted person in all its membership. Moreover, God's definition of regeneration differs from that of man. It means more by fearful odds than is popularly supposed for a man to be Scripturally regenerated. The New Testament type of spiritual birth does not come about by the mere raising of the hand, the signing of a card, the donning of a badge, the submitting to ordinances, or the joining of a society called a "church."
Bible regeneration is preceded by deep and pungent conviction for sin, and a repentance that unhesitatingly renounces the "world, the flesh, and the devil." It regulates all the irregularities of outward life. If we had more old-fashioned conviction, followed by old-fashioned conversion, resulting in old-time shouting, we would have far more candidates for the baptism with the Holy Ghost.
But this is an age of compromise, and the baneful results are seen in the nature of the converts produced. An ease-loving, pleasure-seeking, time-serving, compromising church does not, and can not, turn out healthy converts. A good start is valuable in anything; and it is eminently true in Christianity. The one hundred and twenty had been converted, either under the ministry of that inflexible preacher of righteousness, John the Baptist, or else under the teaching of Christ himself. Jesus said that they were branches of the true Vine. He admonished them to rejoice that their "names were written in heaven," and in his great sacerdotal prayer, he tells the Father that they are not of the world, even as he is not of the world. These men had forsaken their nets and followed Christ, and when "the day of Pentecost was fully come" it found them pursuing a manner of life in which" they were continually in the temple blessing and praising God. "They hugged reproach and loosened their hold on earthly things.
Regeneration is a conscious experience. They who are regenerated KNOW IT. If we are not assured of our regeneration, no one knows it to be a fact, not even God himself. If we are not fully aware that we are born from above, it is not a fact, and a preacher's saying so will not make it true. The witness of the Holy Spirit will let us know it, when we are really regenerated; and so satisfactory is this "witness" to him who receives it that he would not thank a committee from the upper skies to appear and confirm it.
Regeneration is replete with joy, with warm religious feeling, and with real fervency of spirit. Indeed, it usually produces more of these heavenly graces than many possess who claim entire sanctification. There is a great lack of warmth, glow, and holy emotion in the religious world today. The emotional element in salvation is by no means a small one. "The kingdom of God is righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Ghost." Joy and peace are both feeling. Thousands say that they have taken Christ by faith, but that they have never had a clear witness of the Spirit to their pardon. What a farce! Much of our teaching about "taking it by faith" and "holding on by faith," et cetera, is responsible for this deplorable state of affairs. Beloved, faith has a bit of evidence in it, and real genuine faith gets an answer. Faith is the means by which we get all our blessings and, when genuine, is always honored by the witness of the Spirit.
Regeneration brings us resurrection life. We no longer plod toward the grave, but have turned our backs on the sepulchre and are speeding toward Galilee with a glad message for the disciples. Many, burdened with spices to embalm their Lord, with sad, sorrow-stricken faces, crawl dismally toward the tomb, forgetting that Christ has risen from the dead. One throb of his pulse was sufficient to burst asunder the bands of death, break the waxen seal, throw open the sepulchre door, and stun and paralyze the sturdy Roman guard. And with Him, we also, in the power of His resurrection life, step out from the dark tomb and climb upon the casket of our old life in glorious, glad-some triumph. Many are busily attempting to embalm Christianity. The churches, in so far as they are merely sects or societies, may be embalmed and, alas, many of them are, reminding us of Egyptian mummies, sleeping peacefully in their several sarcophagi, opened to view only on state occasions. Expert undertakers tell us that the chemicals positively refuse to act so long as there remains the slightest particle of life. Thank God, a living Christian cannot be embalmed. The antiseptics of the world do not affect a living church in the slightest. This poor world is dying for the want of men and women who will go and publish the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead and is alive for evermore. The cross and the sepulchre, when viewed from certain standpoints, are bleak and dark and cold. Most of the professors of religion stand on the north side of the cross, full in its dark, gloomy shadow, chilled to the marrow, and almost dead. But, blessed be God, there is a south side, genial, warm, sunny and bright. It is the place of spring-time. Flowers leap up from the ground; the birds sing overhead; and fountains of sparkling, living, inexhaustible water play in abundance." I've reached the land of Beulah, The summer-land of love, Land of the heavenly Bridegroom, Land of the Holy Dove; My winter has departed, My summer-time has come, The air is full of singing, The earth is bright with bloom."