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Description: Charles Trumbull's life shows us that Christ can strengthen you to do all he asks of you.
Charles Trumbull Testimony
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I think it’s really good to hear from some other lips besides our own the truths that God has been
showing us. And I found this last week in a little bimonthly booklet that Douglas Crossman [British
preacher known for his emphasis on holiness] puts out from, I think, his position in Connecticut
now. And he sends us a copy in Raleigh. And he tries to deal with [the essentials of the
Christian] life really. That’s the heart of the message. And he combines some of present day
writings with old writings. And so it is really good, and he’s a dear man. He’s being faithful to
the heavenly vision.
So I’ve always heard of a man called Trumbull, Charles G. Trumbull [Editor of the Sunday School
Times from 1903 to 1941], and maybe you have. He’s an old writer, but anyway this is an article,
obviously that he wrote some time ago. And I just thought it brings home to us very clearly the
things that God has been showing us.
“There is only one life that wins, and that is the life of Jesus Christ. Every man may have that
life; every man may live that life. I do not mean that every man may be Christ-like. I mean
something very much better than that. I do not mean that a man may always have Christ’s help; I
mean something very much better than that. I do not mean that a man may have power from Christ; I
mean something very much better than power. And I do not mean that a man shall be merely saved from
his sins and kept from sinning; I mean something better even than victory.
To explain what I do mean, I must simply tell you a very personal and recent experience of my own.
I think I’m correct when I say that I have known more than most men know about failure, about
betrayals, and about dishonoring of Christ, about disobedience to heavenly visions, about conscious
failings, about constant falling short of that which I saw other men attaining, and which I knew
that Christ was expecting of me.
Not a great while ago I should have had to stop just there, and only say that I hope that some day I
would be led out of all that into something better. If you had asked me how, I would have had to
say, I did not know. But thanks be to this long suffering patience of God and his infinite love and
mercy, I do not have to stop there, but I can go on to speak of something more than a miserable
story of personal failure and disappointment.
The conscious needs of my life before there came the new experience of Christ of which I will tell
you, were definite enough. Three stand out. The switchback: there were fluctuations in my
spiritual life, in my conscious closeness of fellowship of God. Sometimes I would be on the height
spiritually; sometimes I would be in the depths. A strong arousing convention, a stirring searching
address from some consecrated victorious Christian leader of men, a searching spirit-filled book, or
the obligation to do a difficult piece of Christian service myself, with the preparation and prayer
that it involved, would lift me up, and I would stay up, for a while. And God would seem very close
and my spiritual life deep, but it wouldn’t last.
Sometimes by some sudden failing, sometimes by a gradual downhill process, my best experiences would
be lost, and I would find myself back on the lower levels. And a lower level is a perilous place
for a Christian to be on, as the devil showed me over, and over again. It seemed to me that it
ought to be possible for me to live habitually on a high plane of close fellowship with God, as I
saw other men doing, and as I was not doing. Those men were exceptional to be sure. They were in
the minority among Christians whom I knew, but I wanted to be in that minority. Why shouldn’t we
all be, and turn it into a majority?
Secondly, defeated by sin. Another conscious lack in my life was in the matter of failure before
besetting sins. I was not fighting a winning fight in certain lines. Yet if Christ was not equal
to a winning fight, what were my Christian beliefs and profession good for? I did not look for
perfection, but I did believe that I could be enabled to win in certain directions habitually. Yes,
always, instead of uncertainly and interruptedly — the victories interspersed and crushing, and
with crushing and humiliating defeats. Yet I prayed so earnestly for deliverance, and the habitual
deliverance had not come.
Thirdly, barrenness in service: A third conscious lack was in the matter of dynamic convincing
spiritual power that would work miracle changes in other men’s lives. I was doing a lot of
Christian work, had been at it ever since I was a boy of 15. I was going through the motions. Oh
yes, so can anybody. I was even doing personal work, the hardest kind of all, talking with people
one-by-one about giving themselves to my Savior. But I wasn’t seeing results.
Once in a great while I would see a little in the way of a result of course, but not much. I didn’t
see lives made over to Christ, revolutionalized, turned into firebrands for Christ themselves,
because of my work. And it seemed to me, I ought to. Other men did, why not I? I comforted myself
with the old assurances so much used by the devil, that it wasn’t for me to see results, that I
could safely leave that to the Lord if I did my part. But this didn’t satisfy me and I was
sometimes heart sick over the spiritual barrenness of my Christian service: the barrenness of
About a year before I had begun in various ways to get intimations that certain men to whom I
looked up as conspicuously blessed in their Christian service, seemed to have a conception or
consciousness of Christ that I did not have, that was beyond bigger, deeper, than any thought of
Christ I had ever had. I rebelled at the suggestion when it first came to me, how could anyone have
a better idea of Christ than I?
I’m just laying bare to you the blind self satisfied workings of my sin-stunted mind and heart. Did
I not believe in Christ and worship him as the Son of God and one with God? Had I not accepted him
as my personal Savior more than 20 years before? Did I not believe that in him alone was eternal
life? And was I not trying to live in his service, giving my whole life to him? Did I not ask his
help and guidance constantly, and believe that in him was my only hope? Was I not championing the
very cause of the highest possible conceptions of Christ by conducting, in the columns of the Sunday
school times, a symposium on the deity of Christ, in which the leading bible scholars of the world
were testifying to the personal belief in Christ as God? All this I was doing. How could a higher
or better conception of Christ than mine be possible? I knew that I needed to serve him better than
I had ever done, but that I need a new conception of him I would not admit.
The dawn breaks. Some months later I was in Edinburgh attending the World Missionary Conference.
And I saw that one, whose writings had helped me greatly, was to speak to men on Sunday afternoon on
the resources of the Christian life. I went eagerly to him. I expected him to give us a series of
definite things that we could do to strengthen our Christian life, and I knew I needed them. But
his only words showed me my mistake, while they made my heart leap with a new joy. What he said was
something like this, “The resources of the Christian life my friends are just Jesus Christ.” That
was all, but that was enough. I hadn’t grasped it yet, but it was what all these men had been
trying to tell me.
Later as I talked with the speaker about my personal needs and difficulties he said earnestly and
simply, “Oh, Mr. Trumbull, if we would only step out upon Christ in a more daring faith, he could do
so much more for us.” Before leaving Great Britain I was confronted once more with a thought that
was beyond me, a Christ whom I did not yet know, in a sermon that a friend of mine preached in his
London church on a Sunday evening in June. His text was Philippians 1:21, “To me to live is
Christ.” It was the same thing, the unfolding of the life that is Christ. Christ as the whole life
and the only life. I did not understand all that he said, and I knew vaguely that I did not have as
my own what he was telling us about. But I wanted to read the sermon again, and I brought the
manuscript with me when I left him.
The process to crisis. It was about the middle of August that a crisis came upon me. I was
attending a young people’s missionary conference, and was faced by a week of daily work there for
which I knew I was miserably, hopelessly unfit, and incompetent. For the few weeks previous I had
one of my periods of spiritual let down — not uplift, with all the loss, and failure, and defeat
that such a time is sure to record.
The first evening that I was there, a missionary bishop spoke to us on the “Water of Life.” He told
us that it was Christ’s wish and purpose that every follower of his should be a wellspring of
living, gushing water of life, all the time to others, not intermittently, not interruptedly, but
with continuous and irresistible flow. We have Christ’s own word for it, he said, as he quoted, “He
that believeth on me from within him shall flow rivers of living water.”
He told how some have a little of the water of life, bringing it up in small bucketfuls, and at
intervals, like the irrigating water wheel of India, with a good deal of creaking and grinding.
While from the lives of others, it flows all the time in a life-bringing, abundant stream that
nothing can stop. And he described a little old native woman in the east, whose marvelous ministry
and witnessing for Christ, put to shame those of us who listened. Yet she had known Christ for only
The next morning, Sunday, alone in my room, I prayed it out with God, as I asked him to show me the
way out. If there was a conception of Christ that I did not have, and that I needed, because it was
the secret of some of these other lives I had seen or heard of, a conception better than any I had
yet had and beyond me, I asked God to give it to me. I had with me the sermon I had heard, “To Me
to Live is Christ,” and I rose from my knees and studied it. Then, I prayed again. And God in his
long suffering patience, forgiveness, and love, gave me what I asked for. He gave me a new Christ,
wholly new in the conception and consciousness of Christ that now became mine.
The change wrought. Wherein was the change? It is hard to put it into words, and yet it is oh so
new, and real, and wonderful, and miracle working in both my own life and the lives of others. To
begin with, I realized for the first time that the many references throughout the New Testament to
‘Christ in you’, and ‘you in Christ’, ‘Christ our life’, and ‘abiding in Christ’, are literal,
actual, blessed fact, and not figures of speech.
How the 15th Chapter of John thrilled with new life, as I read it now, and the Ephesians 3:14-21,
and Galatians 2:20, and Philippians 1:21! What I mean is this, I had always known that Christ was
my Savior, but I had looked upon him as an external Savior, one who did a saving work for me, from
outside, as it were, one who was ready to come close alongside and stay by me, helping me in all
that I needed, giving me power and strength in salvation. But now I knew something better than
that. At last I realized that Jesus Christ was actually and literally within me, and even more than
that, that he had constituted himself my very life, taking me into union with himself: my body,
mind, spirit, while I still had my own identity, and free will, and full moral responsibility.
Was this not better than having him as a helper, or even than having him as an external Savior, to
have him, Jesus Christ, God the Son, as my own very life? It meant that I needed never again to ask
him to help me, as though he were one and I another, but rather simply to do his work, his will in
me, and with me, and through me. My body was his, my mind his, my will his, my spirit his, and not
merely his, but literally a part of him. What he asked me to recognize was, “I have been crucified
with Christ, and it was no longer I that lived, but Christ liveth in me.” Jesus Christ had
constituted himself, my life — not as a figure of speech remember, but as a literal, actual fact,
as literal as the fact that a certain tree has been made into this desk on which my hand rests.
“For your bodies are members of Christ.” And, “Ye are the body of Christ.”
And that is how I know there is a life that wins, that it is the life of Jesus Christ, and that it
may be our life for the asking, if we let him, in absolute unconditional surrender of ourselves to
him, our wills to his will, making him the Master of our lives, as well as our Savior; enter in,
occupy us, overwhelm us with himself, yes, fill us with himself, unto all the fullness of God.”
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