“Apply yourself totally to the text; apply the text totally to yourself.”
From John Wycliffe to John Wesley these words from a 1734 Greek New Testament aptly describe the highway en route to the city where wholesome and healthy living intersect. It was a long journey from John Wyliffe and his fourteenth-century Lollard friends of the early English Reformation to the Wesleyan revivals of later England and elsewhere. Wycliffe’s application of himself to the scriptures produced reformation in early England, just as Wesley’s application of himself to that same word produced the Wesleyan holiness revivals that dramatically reshaped a decaying English culture.
When an Ohio frontier pastor-evangelist repudiated further evasion of himself more fully to that word following a decade of pastoral pioneering, he discovered “the wonderful change that God had brought in me at that time to my disobedience in not yielding to the call to preach the blessed gospel of Jesus.” Elder D. S. Warner admitted his disgust with the fanaticism he saw mixed among “the professors of the second work.” When finally agreeing that he was steeped with prejudice, yet desired to be an honest seeker, he renewed his study of that text, including such passages as I Peter 5:10 and Ephesians 3:14-20.
That paved the road whereby Warner experienced sanctification as a crisis experience through a second work of grace, and he began a new phase of living his life wholly and more wholesomely. Warner quickly became active in the work of the National Holiness Association. He withdrew just as quickly when he concluded that its insistence upon denominational membership was inconsistent with his belief in the unifying presence of the Holy Spirit. Whereas Bible Holiness and unity became his rallying cry, living wholesomely resulted in people experiencing whole lives.
Later his followers would sing,
Back to the Blessed old Bible,
Back to the city of God,
Back to the oneness of heaven,
Back where the faithful have trod.
Back from the land of confusion,
Free from the bondage of creeds,
Back to the light of the morning,
Jesus our Captain leads.
(Teasley/Back to the Blessed Old Bible/198/354).
Warner understood that Scripture taught a united church for the divided world, faith in Christ was relational and united people in common causes rather than dividing them into fiercely competing causes. As a young evangelist, he re-positioned himself to fellowship with all believers. He believed the Holy Spirit brought unity among believers. Like Wesley and others applying themselves vigorously to scriptural truth, he concluded that the Bible should control one’s belief and behavior and that it would producewholesome and whole living (Bible holiness), both corporately and individually.
Warner consequently covenanted with God and wrote out in detail some of the specifics of that covenant, which he concluded as follows:
In signing my name to this solemn covenant, I am aware that I bind myself to live, act,
Speak, move, sit, stand up, lie down, eat, drink, hear, see, feel and whatsoever I do all
the days and nights of my life to do all continually and exclusively to the glory of God.
I must henceforth have nothing in my possession or under my control but
Such things as I can consistently write upon “holiness unto the Lord”
(Journal of D. S. Warner/Ed. by Shively &Tedder/1972)
Later, Warner wrote lyrics that confessed, By your blessed Word obeying / Lord, we prove our love sincere; / For we hear you gently saying, / “Love will do as well as hear” … / In Your footsteps meekly follow / Your commands we love to do (Worship the Lord/348).
More than a century later I re-visit scenes from my early childhood when I joined that little congregation that so lovingly nurtured me, and I remember how we sang reverently and with deep emotion…
Back to the blessed old Bible,
Back to the light of its word,
Be on our banners forever,
Holiness unto the Lord.
I have discovered that wherever you experience a vital Christianity rich with personal character and integrity, you find open Bibles, with people “applying the text” to themselves. Reading the Bible and obeying its precepts brings believers together in ways that wonderfully impact our culture through the moral leadership of true Bible holiness experienced in terms both wholesome and whole.
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