Absalom Backus Earle was “endued with power from on high” on November 2, in the year 1863.
Born in Charlton, New York, in 1812, converted at the age of 16, Absalom Earle began preaching two years later. And seemingly he never stopped. For the next 58 years “he preached more frequently than any other man living at the same time” (Deeper Experiences, by J.G. Lawson, page 214). It has been estimated that he held 39,330 services and led 160,000 souls to Christ. He influenced 400 men to enter the ministry.
“I have reason to believe,” he is quoted as saying, “that a single sermon I have preached on ‘The sin that hath never forgiveness’ has been the means of more than 20,000 conversions” (Hall of Fame, by E. Towns, page 111).
It was “on the second day of November, 1863”, he tells us, that a new dimension was added to his spiritual life. “For the first time in my life I had the rest which is more than peace … Jesus has been my all since then. There has not been one hour of conscious doubt or darkness since that time. A heaven of peace and rest fills my soul… My success in leading souls to Jesus has been much greater than before…”
Theologians have called this experience by various names – but the history of the Christian church has shown that many saints have experienced this “second blessing” or whatever name they called it.
A.B. Earle also authored many hymns, the most well known being that which expresses the passion of his heart:
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.
Earle’s evangelistic success is not due to special human skills. That power from on high made all the difference.
A British religious paper said of Mr. Earle: “His preaching was not eloquent. His delivery was not beyond the average. His voice had no special power. His large angular frame and passionless mouth were decidedly against him. His sermons seemed sometimes as though composed thirty years ago, before we so often heard, as now, the more clear and ringing utterances of free grace, and the name of Jesus in almost every sentence. He expressed his own emotions very simply, and did not often refer to them. His rhetoric was often at fault, and sometimes his grammar. Truly the enticing words of man’s wisdom were wanting in his case.”
Earle died at his home in Newton, Massachusetts, March 30, 1895, at the age of eighty-three.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.