With the spirit of immediacy characteristic of the Salvation Army in those days, Lieutenant Ironside pressed on in his evangelistic ministry. Not by any means was every conversion to Christ as dramatic as the one recounted in the preceding chapter, but almost every conversion was a genuine one. Ironside moved north and south in California in places like Los Gatos, Red Bluff, Stockton, and Sacramento, as well as in some of the larger cities, calling upon men and women to turn to Jesus Christ and give Him the lordship of their lives. Demands for his ministry widened. He rose rapidly to the rank of captain and, in addition to his responsibilities as head of the corps, began an indefatigable schedule of speaking about 400 times a year, a program that lasted for about a half century. A highlight of his second year as an officer was his assignment as orderly to General William Booth, when the founder of the Salvation Army visited San Francisco for several days. As fervent and tireless as Harry had been as a soul winner up to that time, General Booth impressed upon him, as never before, the imperative of reaching the lost with the gospel of Christ. Because of his varied and ceaseless activities, Captain Ironside found little time to reflect upon spiritual matters unrelated to his primary charge—evangelism. He put off giving further consideration to the holiness doctrine that was being taught by many of his associates and was expected of him. He enjoyed thoroughly the work he was engaged in and endured gladly for Christ’s sake whatever privations and hardships were his lot. He felt satisfied that he was trying to demonstrate in his own life the doctrine of “perfect love” both Godward and manward, and consequently he was reasonably certain that he was making his own salvation secure by his sacrifices and works of righteousness. It was easy to delude himself and to postpone thinking deeply about the problem. It seemed better at the time to go along with his brethren, he thought; furthermore to maintain the status quo would be less disruptive to the peace of the corps than to air his doubts and his consciousness of being far less “holy” than his fellow soldiers supposed him to be.
However, during his third year as an officer, dormant misgivings began to awaken and disturb Harry in such a way that he knew he must face up to the issue, come what may. He did not dare to talk freely to those closest to him in the work, officers of lesser rank than he as well as regular Salvation Army soldiers, lest in disclosing his own uncertainties he should do irreparable harm to them. They would look upon him as a backslider, and his influence, which had in the past been helpful, might cease.
For several months Captain Ironside continued his work in this unhappy condition. To add to his misery, another, a young woman officer with whom he was
Captain Harry Ironside of Salvation Armyage twenty, 1896
“keeping company” at that time and with whom at length he shared his doubts, was unable to stand the strain and eventually fell into the maze of spiritualism, apparently becoming utterly shipwrecked as to her faith. To see this dear one, whom he thought of as one of the loveliest Christians he had ever known, pass out of Christian activity into oblivion, as it were, her mind beclouded with utterly false doctrines, was distressing beyond description to Captain Ironside.
Awakened, at last, the troubled young Christian (for he was now only in his nineteenth year) began to observe that this holiness teaching was leaving a tremendous train of spiritual derelicts. Not only his dear friend, nor just a few others, but scores of those who had come under the influence of this doctrine turned to what appeared to be downright infidelity. Their excuses were really one excuse, namely: “I tried it all, and it failed. The teaching of the Bible is a delusion and touches nothing but the emotions.” Some of these lapsed into insanity later on. There was something wrong. The Scriptures declare, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” It was not the study of the Bible that had driven these people crazy, as scoffers said, but it was lack of knowledge of the Bible that accounted for this wretched condition—of this Harry Ironside was sure.
Perplexed and distraught, Captain Ironside could not bear to go on any longer. After deliberating prayerfully over a period of many weeks, he sent in his resignation from the Salvation Army. It was not easy, for its evangelistic fervor had appealed to him from the beginning and generally he had been quite happy in this witness for Christ. Surely he had seen God working through his ministry of the Word. Harry’s immediate superior begged him to reconsider his decision and to remain longer with the Army. The colonel even offered to send the captain on special missions where he would not need to come in contact with or hear holiness teaching. So Harry tried this for more than a month. But he felt himself falling a victim to despondency and began to wonder whether he, like some he had seen who claimed full sanctification but whose lives were nothing less than concealed hypocrisy, might be an out-and-out hypocrite whose heart God could see, even if others could not. He requested he be relieved of active service and sent to the Army’s rest home in Oakland.
Completely worn out after five years of intensive work, during which he had taken only two brief furloughs, Captain Ironside entered the Beulah Rest Home, near Oakland, troubled in spirit and physically spent. Had he not gone there when he did, he might, within a few weeks, have experienced a total breakdown. For the first time in his life Harry welcomed the thought of rest. At the same time he looked forward to finding at Beulah what he had sought so long—”perfect sanctification.” Surely in so sacred an atmosphere, he thought, the secret would no longer elude him!
Including Ironside there were fifteen officers there when he arrived, most of them broken in health, all of them seeking renewed strength that they might return to duty. The captain observed the ways and speech of these people, for it was his intention to seek out those who gave clearest evidence of complete holiness and to confide in them concerning his own lack of it. He found that the majority were really choice saints, although a few were unmitigated hyprocrites. Of holiness in the strictest and complete sense, he saw none. Yes, there were godly men and women there; but there is a difference between godliness and what was termed sinless perfection. There certainly was none of the latter. The most exemplary officers of all were three women. Two of them admitted that they themselves were not entirely sure about their own state of sanctification, while the third declined to commit herself.
There was a great deal of quarrelsomeness, jealousy, and positive boorishness at the home, and it was difficult for the unhappy captain to reconcile these things with profession of freedom from inbred sin. They seldom read the Bible and there was a significant lack of desire or even willingness to converse about the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Harry noticed that those who were the loudest talkers about “holiness” in meetings, were the least spiritual outside of the services, and his own disordered spirit, which he had hoped would be helped by the hallowed atmosphere of Beulah, was on the contrary hindered.
At the end of his first month at the home, Captain Ironside became practically an agnostic; for to every question based on divine revelation he was obliged to answer, “I do not know.” His reasoning followed this vein: the Bible promises the elimination of indwelling sin from all who are completely surrendered to the will of God. Insofar as he himself could ascertain, he had surrendered wholly to God’s will. But he had not been delivered from inbred sin. He was, he knew, carnal to the core. It appeared to him that he had met the condition required for sanctification but was not sanctified. He had done his part; God had not done His part—or so it seemed. But that could not possibly be so! Harry had to confess he did not know the answer. After a while he refused even to think about it. He became cynical and cold to spiritual things. He stopped reading the Bible and sent for his secular books, which he had laid aside in “complete surrender” several years before. Upon their arrival, he sought solace in them rather than in the Word of God.
One day a lady who was said to be dying of tuberculosis arrived at the Beulah Home. She was a lieutenant in the Salvation Army. Her name was Alma Jungbeck and she was about thirty years of age. Harry’s heart went out to her almost immediately, for she was a lovely character, and he looked upon her as a modern martyr who had indeed given her life for a needy world. From the time of her arrival he was much in her company and, as he watched her closely, he came to the conclusion that here at last was one who was unfeignedly and fully sanctified. What was his astonishment one evening when Lieutenant Jungbeck and another officer came to him and asked him to read to them! Miss Jungbeck said, “I hear that you are always occupied with the things of the Lord, and I need your help.”
Imagine Ironside’s bewilderment! Knowing the distress and doubts of his own heart, and having been assured of the holiness of hers, he was nonplused. He to help her? Why, it was she who should help him! As a matter of fact, at the moment that the two ladies had come to his door he had been reading Byron’s Childe Harold—he who was supposed to be devoted to the things of the Lord! Utterly confused and embarrassed, he thrust aside his book, wondering all the while what he should read to his callers.
It was on impulse, an impulse assuredly directed by the Spirit of God, that Captain Ironside reached into a pile of papers for a tract his mother had given him several years before, one which he had never yet read. He had been so much a part of the Salvation Army that he had refrained from reading anything that did not bear its imprimatur or have the sanction of some holiness group, for he had feared that he might become confused by such writings. But now he felt impelled, and said to his callers, “I’ll read this. It’s not wholly in accord with our teaching, but it may be interesting at any rate.”
Page after page he read, hoping more than anything else that the word would comfort the dying woman before him. The tract dealt with the lost condition of all men by nature and explained redemption through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It told of the believer’s two natures, and stressed what to its reader seemed absurd, that the believer in Christ was safe and secure eternally the moment he placed his trust in Him.
When he had finished reading, Harry was startled to hear Miss Jungbeck ask, “Captain, do you think that that can possibly be true? If I could only believe that, I could die in peace.”
Amazed beyond measure, he exclaimed, “What! Do you mean to say that you could not die in peace as you are? You are justified and also sanctified. You have an experience that I’ve sought for years! Can you be troubled about dying?”
“I am miserable,” Lieutenant Jungbeck replied. “You must not say that I am sanctified. I can’t get it. For years I’ve struggled but I’ve not reached it yet. That’s why I came with my friend to speak to you tonight, for I’ve been so sure that you have it, and that you could help me.”
For a moment they were both silent; then, affected at the same instant with the absurdity of the situation and despite its pathos, together they burst into almost delirious laughter and tears.
“Whatever is the matter with us all?” Harry asked. “No one on earth denies himself for Christ more than we in the Army do. We suffer, we almost starve, we wear ourselves out endeavoring to do the will of God. Yet with all this we have no lasting peace. We’re happy at times. We enjoy our meetings. But we’re never certain what the end will be.”
“Do you think,” was the prompt rejoinder, “that it is because we depend too much on our own efforts? Can it be that we trust Christ to save us but think that we must remain saved by our own faithfulness?”
“To think anything else,” Ironside interrupted, “would open the door to all kinds of sin.”
Far into the night they talked thus. Finally the two ladies, much wearied, excused themselves. It was mutually agreed to meet again that they might read and discuss further the things which had so stirred them.
That evening’s exchange of confidences set Harry Ironside aflame to know the truth. Laying all his secular books aside, he began to search the Scriptures with vigor and in almost ceaseless prayer, determined to let nothing hinder his quest for light. In this search Lieutenant Jungbeck was hardly less zealous than he. Little by little the truth began to open to them. They found that they had been looking to the wrong person and wrong place for holiness—they had looked within themselves instead of outside of themselves. They began to comprehend that the same grace that saved them, and that alone, was the grace that could keep them.
With the light, however, came perplexity. Many things were difficult for Harry to understand, indoctrinated as he was with the teaching of holiness. It seemed to him now that so much that he had believed up to this time was absolutely contrary to God’s Word. How could this be? So he got into communication with a businessman, who was also a Bible teacher and in fellowship with the writer of the pamphlet he had read on that momentous evening. This man, Charles Montgomery, opened up to him much truth, but the captain still felt confused, for he could not comprehend it all. Yet his feet were resting on solid ground, for he began to perceive that holiness, sanctification, perfect love, or whatever the term might be, belongs to the believer in Christ from the moment he believes, and that by God’s grace and in Him it is his forever. A tract that is still well known and widely used, George Cutting’s Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment, was of tremendous help to both Captain Ironside and Lieutenant Jungbeck, as were other pamphlets. They read these with their Bibles in their hands and in prayer that God would open their eyes to His truth as written in His Word.
Alma Jungbeck saw the truth first, as she understood that she was eternally united with Christ as Head and had life eternal in Him, and that she was linked to Him as the branch is linked to the Vine—thus His life was hers also. Four days later the light likewise burst in upon Captain Ironside. He had been studying sanctification as it is taught in the Scriptures, to see that it means to be set apart. He saw that inanimate things could be sanctified, such as the altar (Exodus 40:10-11); people can sanctify themselves or others (Exodus 19:22; 13:2); the Father sanctified the Son, and the Son sanctified Himself (John 10:36; 17:19); carnal Christians can be sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 3:1,3); and so also can unbelievers (1 Corinthians 7:14). He found moreover that those who are addressed as sanctified are later called upon to be holy (1 Peter 1:1-2,15-16), and that those who are called sanctified are said to be perfected forever (Hebrews 10:14). It came to him clearly that the holiness teaching that he had followed for so long was all wrong. There was no hint in these Scriptures of a change of the old nature in the believer in Christ, of the elimination of inbred sin, but rather that all Christians have received a new nature, are sanctified, separated to God in Christ, and that it is their responsibility to live for Him. Even in this responsibility He is their strength (Ephesians 6:10). Nothing is of self, except sin. All righteousness and perfection are in Christ.
When the blazing light of the truth pierced his soul, all doubts and fears were swept away. Liberty and joy reigned in his heart as he had never known them. He was free! He had found what he had been seeking— Christ was his “all, and in all.”