Groaning over Christian's Sinfulness

by Frank Jones


“Rather, while fully pardoned, [Archibald Brown] did not cease to be a sinner, and his sense of unworthiness only grew with his experience. ‘Our own unworthiness will appear great in proportion as we have communion with Christ.’ Thirty years after he first knew the Savior, he said, ‘If God says to me, “What is thy name?” I have to say from the very depth of my heart, “My sinful name is Archibald Brown.”’ So Paul, many years an apostle, says that of sinners ‘I am chief’. Not, ‘I was’. It is such self-knowledge that finds rest in the sovereign and eternal love of God.

It was this realistic conviction about sin remaining in all believers that kept Brown from supporting the ‘Higher Life’ movement that gained much popularity in the 1870’s. Seven thousand, including his friend Arthur Blackwood,  attended a Convention at Brighton in 1875, where Hannah Pearsall Smith ‘was a herald of the evangel’. At the heart of her message and that of her husband was a consecration that would take the Christian ‘out of Romans 7’. This became a key-note at the Keswick Convention which followed Brighton, and the idea spread far in Mrs Pearsall Smith’s book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. Christians, it was said, by a simple step of faith could leave the ‘defeat’ of Romans 7 for all ‘the joy and victory of Romans 8’. On the contrary, Brown believed that at regeneration the Christian already knew the greatest change and thereafter there is no one experience necessary to take the believer to new heights. He warned his people: ‘I am afraid lest some of you should be drifting into this heighty-flightly balloonist that is getting so wonderfully popular at the present day—the frothy spiritual life that has not any deep sense of personal sin about it.’ ‘Living in a state of ecstasy is not all the good that we imagine it to be. I think that at the present time there are many indications abroad of the subtle evil of mistaking an experience for Christ himself. It is said perhaps, “Oh, if you could only go to a certain little town in the north of England, you will get such a blessing.” Ay, but if I am going to allow “Keswick” to enter into partnership with Jesus Christ himself, or if I am going to allow any delightful feeling that I may have here and there to take the place of the ordinary Jesus Christ who walks with me day by day, I am, I believe on the brink of a very terrible precipice … May. God give you many a season of ecstasy; but ecstasy is not good everyday diet. Jesus Christ himself, the everyday Savior, is the simple diet of life.’

‘The more holy a saint becomes, the more he will loathe and mourn over the remains of indwelling sin.’ The words are Spurgeon’s and they were AGB’s experience. Humility is the consequence of right belief about God and self.” (Murray, Iain. Archibald Brown, Banner of Truth, 339-341)

For further study on the Higher Life movement, I would refer you to Dr. Andrew Naselli's two works (Let Go and Let God, Logos Software format and his latest book,  No Quick Fix).