Albin Peyron A Salvation Army Great
New YearÂ’s Day, 1907, was a fitting day for the entrance of Brigadier Albin Peyron of the Salvation Army, into the life beyond, for few have more singularly experienced newness of life here in time. For many years he had been a Christian of the conventional sort. Then Christ brought him to a bitter experience which, accepted, passed into a blessing.
He was a rich businessman of Montpellier in the south of France. Back in the eighties, the Salvation Army came to his city, and an invitation to an all-night meeting was handed him on the streets. He went with his wife and fourteen-year-old son. The speaking was on the lines new to his Christian experience Â– of death to sin, deliverance from sin by way of the cross. At two oÂ’clock in the morning he got up to go, stirred to the depths of his being, but his little son begged him to remain. Before morning dawned, the lad had given his heart to God.
The next day, M. Peyron went to the Army headquarters to proffer help in the expense of a meeting at the Montpellier Casino. When the hall filled, he noticed numbers of his business and church associates. The speaker sent down a lieutenant into the audience to ask him to come to the platform.
Then came the test. For a moment he was strangely agitated. He realized that this public adhesion meant a breach with the religious world, and the irreligious. But he did not flinch. He picked his way through the crowd to the platform.
The next morning very early, he was awakened by a strange sensation. It seemed as if billows of divine love were passing and re-passing over him. Â“I cannot doubt, after ten years, that I received that morning the baptism of the Holy Spirit and that the Lord in this way wished to show His approbation of my obedience in entering the path He had opened for me.Â”
Then followed active participation in the ArmyÂ’s work. Incessant public speaking in noisy gatherings, however, left him with an acute bronchitis. In November of 1884, he was asked to go to Lyons to hold revival meetings. Accompanied by a friend, Dr. C_____of Geneva, he spent a taxing week. The meetings were marked by numerous conversions. They continued till midnight; on Sundays the whole day was devoted to preaching. Result, a serious aggravation of the sickness. The doctor at Nimes, after careful auscultation, ordered absolute silence for months. He was to go to Cannes for rest and to use a slate to give the simplest orders.
But on the same day an invitation came to a little place in the Cevennes. The messenger who took it hardly dared present it, so great was M. PeyronÂ’s exhaustion. Yet he agreed to go the next day.
In the morning, before daybreak, he was again awakened with a marvelous flooding of the Spirit. His whole being was refreshed and invigorated. Rising from bed, he knelt down, sobbing and crying, when he heard a voice saying with the distinctness of a human voice, Â“As they went they were healed.Â” Then followed an arduous week; stormy meetings but many conversions. When he got back to Nimes he realized Â“with joy but not with surpriseÂ” that he was healed. The doctor, after a minute examination, expressed his utter astonishment. The bronchitis had disappeared and with it a tendency to asthma against which he had struggled for ten years with the daily use of arsenic. From that time on there was never a recurrence of these maladies.
Later came deliverance from sin as from sickness. Here is his testimony: Â“I can fix precisely the day when, kneeling beside a Salvationist who for years had traveled the way of holiness, I had the distinct impression that the Lord had taken from my soul the roots of sin, that He had purified me from all stains, all my idolatries. I besought Him for this blessing of entire deliverance, as I had prayed long for the grace of forgiveness. The sister who knelt beside me interrupted with, Â‘Bless the Lord because He has granted your prayer.Â’
Â“ Â‘But ought I not to wait until I realize it before thanking Him for it?Â’
Â“ Â‘No,Â’ came the answer; Â‘believe that He has given it. This mercy is obtained by faith.Â’
Â“ Â‘Well, then,Â’ I cried, Â‘I bless Thee, my Savior, because Thou hast taken sin out of my heart and hast given me a new heart and a pure heart.Â’
Â“And He did it. He freed me from evil. He made me literally free. That was nine years ago and I can say here to the glory of God that the sin which He took out of my heart has never returned. I do not mean to say that since that time I have never been tempted. On the contrary, I have been the mark of the adversary and attacked far more than before and at times these attacks have been terrible. But if Satan has come, and he has, he has had nothing in me. The Savior has removed all that inner correspondence with him which formerly existed, that traitor hidden within who opened the gate to the enemy. Satan still prowls around. I must watch. But, thanks to God, he prowls around and not within. Jesus guards the gates.Â”
Then the Lord made clear to him that he, man of wealth and station, should wear the insignia of the Army. The suggestion was never proffered by his Army friends. It was borne in on him by the Spirit. A week of cruel anxiety passed. Â“If I do this thing, I dig a trench between myself and my old friends in the church,Â” he would insist. Â“To what purpose the breaking of these bonds of friendship and influence?Â” But as he argued and protested he felt a shadow invading his heart. The joy of the Lord withdrew from him, and the power. He found himself unable to speak with any effect. But when he could say to himself, Â“Lord, if Thou givest me the cup to drink, I will obey,Â” light shone again. During the whole week he could neither eat nor sleep. Â“I do not exaggerate when I say that if it had lasted much longer I should have died.Â”
His wife thought him suffering from an obsession. Finally he gave in. Long after, he recalled the pang he felt when, in a mirror at the store, he saw the Salvation Army kepi on his white head. Â“My dear wife, who accompanied me, turned away in tears in order not to see it.
Â“A little later the Lord, Who wished to bring me to death, ordered me to go to the Stock Exchange in full uniform to sell En Avant (The War Cry) at five centimes a copy. He told me to visit the cafes Saturday evening to sell our humble Salvationist papers. It was a time of suffering but blessed to my soul.Â”
That which he had foreseen followed. His name was struck off from membership in the church. He was literally cast out of the synagogue. He was dismissed from the Committee of the Evangelical Alliance and obliged to give up a service he had led for the sick in the Protestant Hospital. His old friends ceased to call on him. When he appeared at the Bourse some turned away in disgust. Others smiled and put finger to forehead in significant gesture. Even his employees avoided him on the street. His sonÂ’s marriage engagement was broken.
Â“It was the road to Calvary, and if my Savior had not aided me I know not what would have happened.Â”
Nevertheless the Lord granted some alleviation. His children stood loyally by him. He tells us that in his earlier days he had been of an impatient and irritable disposition. He had to watch over himself lest he should break out. With care he was enabled to overcome outward manifestations. Â“But when I receive by faith inner purification I knew these feelings no longer. If irritating things occurred my serenity was not touched for a moment. I was free. Â‘If therefore the Son shall make you free ye shall be free indeed.Â’Â”
The pearl of great price, he held to be the benediction of a pure heart. Christ brought it to us, but to obtain it we must Â“go and sell allÂ” Â– pride, wealth, ease. Â“If thou wilt be perfectÂ”
This condition M. Peyron applied to himself. Henceforth his every spare moment was devoted to the LordÂ’s work. His wealth was dedicated; he himself, henceforth, a mere trustee of it. Personal expenses, he reduced to a minimum. Money badly spent he felt to be a theft from God. He who formerly always traveled first-class on the railway, as financiers should, now took the third. The ArmyÂ’s work in France, he backed financially. His large estate became a refuge for vagabonds whom the Army sent to him to mend and teach Â– and they could find plenty of the prince of this worldÂ’s finished product about Paris and other French cities.
With unwearied patience, Peyron undertook their restoration, fed them, clothed them, gave them work, prayed with them. At times there would be more than a hundred of these outcasts under his roof. He treated them as brethren, mingled freely with them in their work and in their leisure time. Many were converted and restored to useful life. There was also an orphanage of forty boys and girls which his eldest daughter managed.
One who knew him intimately describes the old-time courtesy with which he treated his poor. He would stand, charming and affable, his silver head uncovered, chatting with rough hoboes as if they were princes. Ever extremely busy, he never gave the impression of being so and was always ready to listen and consider. From five to seven in the morning daily he spent in prayer. Â“I cannot abridge these hours,Â” he said; Â“I need them for the solution of my problems.Â”
M. PeyronÂ’s Christian meditations are gathered in a volume which the Neuchatel professor, M. Rollier, thinks the best treatise on holiness of our time. Its value lies largely in its unquestioned reality. The writer had experienced what he teaches. He is no mere theoretician. It is a searching book and a comforting one.
The path of the Salvationist is hard for the flesh. M. Peyron felt that the Lord had called the Army into being as an agency for crucifying the Â“IÂ” as quickly as possible, for making the will supple and plastic to ChristÂ’s purposes. He describes how, in the quiet of his chamber in Paris, at a time when he was teaching the ArmyÂ’s cadets, it was revealed to him through the Eighty-fourth Psalm that the Christian receives spiritual blessings that they may overflow to others. The soul that lives this life for others experiences an inner joy, an impression of glory, known only to those who have tasted it. It is a delicious weight of divine grace, the ineffable echo in the hidden depths of the inner man of the FatherÂ’s declaration. Â“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.Â”
Â“Why are there so few who enter this path which leads from the cross to glory? Oh, if they only knew.Â”
M. Peyron remarks on the clever tactics of the Â“father of lies,Â” who impoverishes the present to enrich the past and the future. Renunciation, loss of goods, reproach, persecution, separation from the world Â– these things marked early Christianity and were suited to the time. Thank God, we live in better days, when the blood of the martyrs is no longer needed to water the kingdomÂ’s seed. And as to purification from all sin, the life of liberty, holiness, divine love, spiritual power Â– these are the glorious prerogatives of the redeemed, the realization of which waits on the next life. That is SatanÂ’s reasoning.
Not so did this soldier of Christ read his New Testament. Both the cross and the transcendent joy which follows are to be actual experiences of our earthly life. Those who have these experiences, he shrewdly observes in passing, are liberated from the doubts and doctrinal insanities that mark the Christianity of our time. The Salvation Army is not troubled with the heresies and vagaries that have so paralyzing an effect elsewhere.
These experiences constitute evidence that cannot be questioned. All the details of belief sink into the background as secondary things and give no further trouble to the mind.
Â“As I learned better Christ and the power of His resurrection, I found that what I had been promised was not half what I received from the divine contact. I beg those who read these lines to understand that this testimony does not come from a young enthusiast whose imagination has been fired by the reading of some book or by the story of anotherÂ’s experience. It comes from one of ripe age who has been at grips with realities during a long life, one possessing some knowledge of men and the ideas of his timeÂ…Ah, well, I can say that the person of Christ has grown daily before my gaze, that His tenderness, His patience, have made themselves felt to me ever more and more; that the reality of GodÂ’s love and the communion of the Spirit have come to me with evidence which is simply irrefragable.Â”