Apostle of Holiness - Samuel Brengle

Samuel Logan Brengle’s Home Life

Colonel Brengle was a well-known and beloved officer in the Salvation Army. This was the Christian army that fought with the devil for the souls of men. He was born in the year 1860 and passed on to his reward in 1936. Outside of the Salvation Army, he is best known for his famous book, Helps to Holiness. It is a classic, read and appreciated by Christians from every major denomination. In this book, he emphasizes the inner work of grace in sanctification as well as the outward aspects of a holy life.

Inside of the Army structure, he was their revivalist / evangelist. He was widely used all over the world to fan the flames of revival among Salvationists. He led thousands to Christ in his meetings, however, he was better known for his preaching on a holy heart and the holy life that follows it. Tens of thousands were inspired to seek God for a deeper work of grace and an enduement of power from the Holy Ghost.

His Heritage

Samuel Brengle’s family lines reach back into the early days of Colonial America. His ancestors were led by God to sail to America in search of religious freedom and adventure. They were a people whose hearts welled up with love for God, and with love for His Word.

Four generations of God-fearing Christians preceded young Samuel’s arrival in the pioneering West, which was Kentucky and Indiana in those days. These generations of godliness were on his father’s side of the family. He also had two godly generations on his mother’s side.

Father and mother were warm-hearted, fervent Methodists. They served the Lord with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength. His father, William Brengle, was the Superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school. A fervent Christian, he was often called upon to preach and lead out in the Methodist Societies. His mother, Rebecca Anne, had the most influence on his early life because his father died when he was young.

Early Tragedy

When Samuel was two, his father was called away to fight in the Civil War. Nine months later he returned home a very sick man and an invalid. He died three months later.

This tragedy changed the entire course of Samuel Brengle’s life. Had it not been for the death of his father, he probably would have grown up on the higher side of society with all that he could ever want. Instead, his life became one of continual poverty, with all its privations, humiliations, and disciplines. We all know very well that God makes no mistakes as He rules in the affairs of men on earth. He uses tragedies to mold vessels for His glory. God was at work in Samuel’s life. A long list of heart-rending circumstances followed the death of his father.

After two and one-half years of widowhood, his mother decided to re-marry. She felt it would be best for them both. Mother described her new husband as a good man and told Samuel that things would be better. Things did not turn out to be better, but instead, they brought more heartache for both mother and son. It seems the marriage was not good and there were continual tensions in the home. What a sad disappointment to a little boy who had lost a father that he idolized. He was forced into the difficult task of relating to a stepfather to whom he was not close. Samuel watched his mother’s sweet, gentle personality change into one that was troubled and full of anxiety.

Samuel’s stepfather, who was a doctor, did not do well in his profession. It was decided that farming would be a better way to make a living. A move was proposed, followed by another one after that. Farming turned out to be another bad profession for Samuel’s stepfather; however, the burden of poverty fell on all in the house. The long lonely hours of farm life were not translated into success, but rather more failure.

Loneliness set in to the young lad’s life, and along with the loneliness, depression. He was not close to Dad, and Mom was very busy trying to make ends meet. Though he was very close to his mother, Samuel withdrew into his own little world. God used this loneliness and translated it into many creative things that molded his abilities for future ministry. I will write more on this later.

When Samuel was fifteen years old, another tragedy came his way. While he was away at school, he received his first telegraph. It read: “Come quick. Mother dying.” He never made it home in time to say goodbye. He was stopped by a neighbor one mile from home and told, “You are too late; your mother just died.” After the funeral, he wandered in the woods for days in despair. He returned to his studies, a sad and depressed fifteen-year-old boy. Samuel Brengle was on his own from the time of his mother’s death and onward. It appears that he had very little to do with his stepfather. We can only read between the lines of this very silent subject in his biography. His stepfather’s name is not even stated in the book.

Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” This verse was being worked out in Samuel’s life, though he did not understand it at the time. God was using the humility of failure, the disciplines of poverty and hard work, to build special abilities into His servant. In his loneliness, he learned creative thinking and imaginative meditation. In his poverty, he was motivated to get an education and learn all he could. God used all of this to bless multitudes of hungry people in his future ministry.

Mother’s Christian Influence

We are going to backtrack for a few moments and look into the life of Samuel’s mother. Because his godly father died early in his life, she became the mainstay of his early years. Mother’s fiery Methodist heritage translated itself into many Christian activities in her home. She carried the burden and responsibility to lead the family in devotions each day while father sat and listened along with the children. A portion of Scripture was read and explained on a level that the children could understand. She was also careful to spend time reading Bible stories to the waiting, imaginative minds of her little ones.

Samuel had many fond memories of long walks with his mother. They would walk and talk of all kinds of little boy things. She wisely wove the truths of the Word of God into all they spoke of. As they walked and talked, Rebecca read the book of God’s creation to her son and inspired him to see God in all of it. These special times built a very strong relationship between them. I don’t think Samuel could have made it through the many hard portions of his life, had he not been very close to his godly mother. The query, “What would mother think?” kept him through many times of temptation.

Mother’s guiding words of counsel placed a determination in Samuel to keep himself pure, and to save his heart for the one woman God would give him. This commitment eventually brought the rewards of a long and happy marriage to a godly soldier in the Salvation Army. It thrilled my heart to read the accounts of their deep love for one another, which blossomed out of their pure courtship. They had many years of service together for the King of kings.

Saved Through the Methodists

God uses many different means to influence a life in the direction of His plan. As I studied Samuel’s life and the many difficulties that he faced, it became very clear to me that the church played a major role in the development of his life.

Young Samuel Brengle grew up in the midst of a lively active Methodist church. Although it is clear that his stepfather made some mistakes in directing his home, one of the things he did right was to take the family to a godly church consistently. In this atmosphere, Samuel saw much solid reality, which had a saving effect upon him. Because of the uneventful nature of prairie life, church life was the highlight of every week.

He saw hardened community sinners fall on their faces at the altar and arise transformed by the power of Jesus’ blood. He saw a church full of godly people joyfully singing the great hymns of the faith. He heard the Word of God preached with power by laymen who lived it all week long. Their words only confirmed the words of his mother’s teachings at family devotions during the week. All this and more had a profound effect upon him as he came closer to his age of accountability.

When Samuel was twelve years old he felt God’s call to him. The nature of evil within caused him to despair at times, but God used it all to bring him to that same mourner’s bench where he had watched so many others go. It took several trips to the altar before he was finally at peace. One night, with his mother beside him giving counsel, he found salvation in Jesus Christ alone. She guided his heart to a simple faith and trust in Jesus. From then on, all was glory for months in his new life in Christ.

The structure of the Methodist Church societies gave him many opportunities to get involved from the very beginning, which stimulated quick growth in the grace of God. By the time Samuel was fifteen, he was assisting in the oversight of the local Sunday school. All these activities paved the way for a long life of Christian service that reached around the world.

Samuel’s Books

In those days, education out on the prairies was limited to three to four months of the year. The farmers had it hard, and they needed their boys to help more than was good for them. Nevertheless, Samuel had an intense desire to learn all he could. Because of this, much of his early education was self-taught.

Family libraries were small out on the prairie, but the books there were the solid character-building kind. He read the same books repeatedly, developing his meditative skills as he went. Many evenings were spent reading the few books and picturing the things he had read. Samuel’s imagination matured through this exercise, and God used it mightily in his preaching ministry. He gradually developed a love for words and saw them as vehicles of expression. God was training him.

What were some of these books? This is an important question in a day when children’s books are filled with nonsense. Pilgrim’s Progress, Stephen’s History of Methodism, Charles Dickens’ books, the works of Josephus, and a History of Wars. When he desired a change, he would take the Webster’s 1828 Unabridged Dictionary and study the meanings of the words. Through all this self-study, Samuel became a master of words and began to realize the power of right words.

Samuel Logan Brengle’s biographer, Clarence W. Hall beautifully states the effect these books had on him. He writes that “Samuel developed an inner eye that could make pictures in his head, and an inner ear that could hear, enjoy and pursue words and their meanings. These were Samuel’s possessions as a boy, possessions which then helped to relieve the monotony of prairie life, but later made of him an orator, a painter of word pictures, and later still, helped to make him a preacher of power, with the ability to present vividly and realistically the tragic terrors of hell and the transcendent delights of heaven.”

Conclusion

A wise Heavenly Father tempered Samuel’s brilliant mind with the rigors of poverty and prairie life, thus preparing a vessel of honor, humble yet alive with talent and ability. God is doing these self-same things through us and to our children. All these things work together to mold a life. Books are important. Materialism is a danger. Hard work is a benefit for all of our children. Oh, to have eternal eyes to see the importance of every move we make in the lives of our children. It seems that nothing is insignificant. Let us make every move count with purpose. And the purpose—let it be to the praise of the glory of God’s kingdom.

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