Samuel Logan Brengle records that ‘something’ happened to him on January 9, 1885. Maybe some will quibble over the terminology, whether you call it the ‘Baptism with the Holy Spirit’ or ‘Entire Sanctification’ or ‘Second Blessing’, but he was transformed into one of the most zealous evangelists the Salvation Army has ever known.
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Brengle was born in Fredericksburg, Indiana, USA, June 1, 1860. His father joined the Union army when the boy was two, and was wounded during the American Civil War. The former schoolteacher died from his wounds after returning home, leaving his young bride to raise their only child on her own.
She was a godly woman who always took her son to church, despite her subsequent remarriage and many moves in the ensuing years.
During revival meetings in the small town of Olney, Illinois, young Samuel went to the altar five nights in a row, seeking elusive peace with God. He did not receive any inner witness of conversion in his soul until he later referred to himself as a “Christian” while talking with his mother. The sudden and glorious witness in his heart was music to his soul.
When he reacted to a schoolyard taunt by punching the offender he realised the evil in his own heart and could not find peace until he repented before God.
These lessons of the heart led him to serve the Lord and his keenness led those around him to commend him to lessons with an excellent professor in a nearby town. When his mother died he threw himself into his studies, going to DePauw University at age 17, where he was noted as a brilliant scholar.
The Lord led him to abandon his political aspirations for the pulpit, so he studied theology and cultivated ambitions to become a preacher of note. Under the godly instruction of Dr Daniel Steele Brengle says, “I saw the humility of Jesus and my pride; the meekness of Jesus and my temper; the lowliness of Jesus and my ambition; the purity of Jesus and my unclean heart; the faithfulness of Jesus and the deceitfulness of my heart; the unselfishness of Jesus and my selfishness; the trust and faith of Jesus and my doubts and unbelief; the holiness of Jesus and my unholiness. I got my eyes off everybody but Jesus and myself, and I came to loathe myself.”
Brengle maintained an ongoing tussle between personal ambition to have his oratory win him fame, and his desire to have all of God’s power at work within him. The two ambitions were mutually exclusive.
Already famous as an eloquent Methodist circuit-ridin’ preacher, it was on January 9, 1885 that Brengle laid his all on the altar. “Lord,” he prayed, “I want to be an eloquent preacher, but if by stammering and stuttering I can bring greater glory to Thee than by eloquence … then let me stammer and stutter.” (S.L. Brengle, by C. Hall, page 49). And he meant it! “So hungrily does he yearn for complete cleansing and holiness,” his biographer continues, “that the very vehicle of his destiny is thrown upon the altar.”
A few days later Brengle experienced a further touch from God. “It was a Heaven of love that came into my heart. My soul melted like wax before fire. I sobbed and sobbed. I loathed myself that I had ever sinned against Him or doubted Him or lived for myself and not for His glory. Every ambition for self was now gone.”
Then he met General William Booth … and joined the Salvation Army. On page 74 of this inspiring biography we find him blacking the boots of his fellow cadets. This was one of Booth’s requirements, to test the heart of those in training. Brengle struggled with the menial task, but then surrendered to the Lord and found joy in serving others. On page 191 we see him promoted to the rank of Commissioner!
Brengle continued as an eloquent and effective preacher, but not without opposition and challenge. The task of street preaching exposed him to violence from the public. However, the Lord had plans even with that. Some of the valuable books which Brengle wrote were penned during convalescence following being badly injured by a brick thrown at his head while street preaching.
There came from his pen some powerful volumes, calling the reader to Holiness and Soul-winning.
As a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ, Samuel Logan Brengle “was Promoted to Glory” (as the Salvationists delight to describe it), on 20 May, 1936. In his final message written for the Salvation Army War Cry magazine he had stated, “Go forward where He leads in glad obedience and in willing self-denial, and you will find with me that ‘at evening time it shall be light’. Hallelujah!” (S.L. Brengle, by W. Clark, page 147).
He was described by one observer as a “kindly, literate and articulate man who left good memories with nearly everyone he met”.
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com