"Multitudes came together." One of the greatest problems of the day which confronts Protestantism is, "How shall we reach the masses?" Great convocations are held and from large platforms the question is discussed again and again. Ways and means are devised, but nothing adequate is found. A New York millionaire says, "The masses shall be reached and I will give a million and a half dollars to accomplish it." But money fails. Some one suggests that we get the most brilliant, eloquent, "drawing" ministers. But, alas, the preacher finds it hard work to draw sinners into the church over the obstructing corpses of dead church members. One suggests a new pipe organ, but as soon as the novelty of the great instrument wears off, the masses fail to come. A zealous aestheticist insists on more frescoing, a little more stucco work, a new carpet, and another canary in the choir. A gourmandizer suggests the possibility of drawing men by way of their stomachs. So the H. O. G. Society fits up a kitchen in the church and proceeds to sell thin oyster-soup at three hundred per cent profit. But with all this nonsense of the church puttering around in a kitchen, the unsaved masses are unreached and unattracted. The Committee on "Ways and Means" finally says, "We must have a new church." So one hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of stone and brick and mortar is piled up and surmounted by a weather-vane, emblematic of the wind-influenced congregation worshiping beneath. This mass of matter is dubbed "a church. "But, alas, while its superb auditorium will seat twelve hundred easily, the Reverend Mr. Jones, D.D., LL.D., Ph.D., reads his infantile sermonette on Sunday morning to an audience of three hundred and fifty!
We meet in minister's meetings to discuss and deplore the situation. We listen to long essays on the subject in which everything is suggested as remedial except the one, and only one thing that will prove efficacious. Who dares to say that the ministers themselves should tear down their lightning-rods, go down on their faces in an "upper room," and tarry until the heavenly flame leaps the chasm from celestial altar to human heart, consuming ministerial and church pride, delivering the ministry from false dignity, hell-concocted starch, and bringing it on a level with the people it was designed to help? Then we would depend on God, instead of on a few brains. We would rely on the Holy Ghost rather than on "big sermons," spread-eagle rhetoric, and highfalutin bombast. The blessed Spirit would then accomplish what our efforts, our movements and our methods can never accomplish. This spiritual electricity from high heaven will burn up our rubbish, attract the attention of the world, and bring back to the church the "lost art" of soul-saving.
When Moses was traveling along the highway at Horeb he saw a bush on fire, and yet it was not consumed. "And Moses said I will now turn aside and see this great sight why the bush is not burnt." Everyone admits that this is a hurrying, busy time. It is a fast age. "Life is too short," men cannot wait. Swifter than the turning of this eastward wheeling earth is man's means for the transference of thought, so that Boston news is read in San Francisco two hours before its dated occurrence. But with all the competition and push and bustle of this rapid life of ours, if a church should get on fire with holy flame the people en masse would turn aside to see "this great sight."
Note the agility and celerity with which people turn out to a fire. The writer was stopping in an eastern city when at midnight the fire-bell began to ring. He threw up the window and saw people from every direction pouring forward towards the building from whose roof the flames were rising. All classes and conditions were mingled in the excited, interested throng. He saw among others an old white-haired man on crutches hobbling along toward the scene of the conflagration. The lame and the lazy, the rich and the poor, the high and the low, the white and the black, all are fascinated by a fire. A fire in the pulpit and a fire in the pew will draw the multitudes together. God's description, his pen-picture, of a minister is "a flame of fire." This pulpit-flame six feet long and white-hot will attract all classes within its sweeping range.
The Pentecostal Church spent no money in advertising. She had in her attractions of the most magnetic character. Sensationalism will fail, as it always has. The artful skill of man will not succeed. The writer is acquainted with a church in a New England city where for thirty months this holy fire attracted the crowds, summer and winter, week in and week out. During the hot months of July and August, when the greater part of other churches were gone to the sea-shore to keep cool (as if a refrigerator needed cooling), this Pentecostal Church was packed to the door while people were turned away for want of standing-room. A fire-crowned church will never want for crowds.