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CHAPTER - SANCTIFICATION THE CURE OF DEPRAVITY The careful reader has already observed that the author holds, with the many authorities he has quoted, that the word sin is used in the Bible with at least two very distinct meanings. It is also so used in theological literature generally. This may be a misfortune; but if so, we can not help it.
We have been born too late in the history of the world to correct the language of St. Paul and St. John, and the theologians of the Christian ages. We do not invent language usually; we use it as we find it ready-made. The word sin designates: 1. Actual transgressions, willful acts of disobedience to a known law of God. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” It is very frequently used in the plural, as “sins,” “iniquities,” “transgressions.” It is for this kind of sin that every man’s conscience holds him directly responsible. 2. The word “sin” is often used, without any adjective and, as scholars who have studied the subject most carefully tell us, always in the singular number, to designate a sinfulSTATE, not an act.
This second use of the word refers to that sinful state of our moral nature brought upon each of us by our connection with a sinful race. It is that natural lack of conformity of our whole being to the moral law. A small Greek lexicon of the New Testament lies before me. The first three definitions of a common Greek word for sin are “error, offence, sin,” but the next three definitions are, “A principle or cause of sin; proneness to sin; sinful propensity.” These two sets of definitions of a Greek noun in an unbiased dictionary prove that this double use of the word sin in the New Testament is no fanciful notion of the author, but the actual Bible usage.
The Apostle John used the word in the first sense when he wrote: “If we confess our sins he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” ( John 1:9, R. V.). He used the word in the second sense when he wrote: “All unrighteousness is sin” ( 1 John 5:17). The same Greek word is used in both passages. St. Paul used the word in t his second sense when he wrote of “the sin that dwelleth in me” ( Romans 7:17).
Now this corruption of our moral nature, this disordered state of our faculties, this abnormal condition of our being, needs to be rectified. It is a perpetual source of temptation to acts of sin, which in turn react upon the innate corruption and intensify it. We are not primarily responsible for this diseased condition of our moral nature. It was born in us through no fault of ours. As Dr. Steele writes: “Under the remedial system, it involves no guilt till approved by the free agent and its remedy is rejected” (Love Enthroned, p. 11). A man may not be blamed for taking involuntarily a contagious disease; but he is to blame if he keeps it by willfully rejecting a known remedy.
Though a gracious God does not hold us responsible primarily for the evils of the fall that have perverted our beings, yet he can not be pleased with the fact that his children, designed to be perfect images of himself, are morally diseased, infested with “sin that dwelleth in us” “the body of sin,” “the old man” of corruption, “the law of sin and death,” “the body of this death,” “the lusts which war in the members.” These striking expressions all mean the same thing, and constitute what is called “depravity” or “indwelling sin” or “inbred sin.” It makes us unlovely in the eyes of a pure and holy God. So he has made a provision of grace for us, “that the body of sin might be destroyed,” that “our old man might be [is] crucified with Him.” He “condemned [to destruction] sin in the flesh,” that he might “take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you an heart of flesh.”
This inbred sin produces a sad harvest of unlovely fruit — pride, anger, self-will, jealousy, covetousness, peevishness, impatience, hatred, variance, emulations, strife, envyings, unbelief, and such like. These do not reign in the justified believer, but they keep up an incessant warfare against the holiest purpose of his soul. The thoughts and feelings and cravings and appetites are unclean, and displeasing to God. The conduct and inner life of the disciples grieved Jesus. They were converted men, ordained preachers, with power to work miracles and cast out devils. Jesus said of them in his intercessory prayer: “Thou gavest them me,” “and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
Jesus also said to the disciples: “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven,” and “ye [which] have followed me in the regeneration.” And yet the Saviour had found it necessary to reprove them for unbelief, instability, selfishness, a worldly, secular spirit, a retaliating spirit, a cowardly and vacillating spirit, and repeated feelings of jealousy. These manifestations of the “indwelling sin” — the “carnal” nature, — troubled the Master, and he prayed for them that they might be “sanctified.” When the Holy Ghost came upon them that “old man” of sin was crucified, and they were sanctified. He took the cowardice out of Peter, and the unbelief out of Thomas, and the overgrown ambitions out of James and John. The “Son of Thunder” became the “Apostle of Love.” And right here we touch the meaning ofSANCTIFICATION. It is the work of the Holy Spirit — the act of God’s grace, by which “our old man is crucified” and the moral nature is “cleansed” of all unrighteousness,” — unrightness, “proneness to sin,” “sinful propensity.”
John Wesley, following the Apostle John, called it “Perfect love.” Mrs.
Jonathan Edwards, with doubts forever slain and looking with steadfast gaze upon her Saviour, “whose presence was so near and real” that she “was scarcely conscious of anything else,” called it “The Full Assurance of Faith.” A. B. Earle, the great Baptist evangelist, was so conscious of a deep, sweet resting in Christ, after his painful struggles for holiness, that he called it “The Rest of Faith.” President Mahan, filled and thrilled by “the refining and sin-killing Spirit” chose Pentecostal language and called it “The Baptism of the Holy Ghost.” Prof. Henry Cowles, with heart aglow with the conception of a church some day purified and walking with God, called it the “Holiness of Christians.” President Finney, with a flood-tide of rapture flowing over his soul, used the language of Christ, and called it “Entire Sanctification.”
But the work, by whatever name called, is essentially the same. It is God’s act of cleansing the soul.
When he was eighty-two years old, the venerable Mahan wrote: “Facts of experience of the most palpable character, and of every variety of form, absolutely evince that in the renewing of the Holy Ghost believers are fully cleansed from indwelling as well as from actual sin. Tens of thousands of eminent and most trustworthy believers testify to being as conscious of permanent changes and removals of evil appetites, tempers, and dispositions, of the longest standing and dominion, as they are of their own existence. Nothing can be verified by testimony if the fact of such changes can not be. Those who deny that such changes are among the possibilities of faith render impossible, this unbelief continuing, their ‘deliverance from the body of this death.’ ‘ If ye will not believe ye shall not be established’” (Autobiography, p. 345).
In another passage he wrote: “My inner life, as I came unto God by Jesus Christ, not only for pardon, but for heart purification, was taking a surprisingly new form. Old habits, evil tempers, and sinward propensities which had been the bane of my impenitent career, and the cause of the groaning servitude of my primal Christian life, had suddenly lost all power and control. I became distinctly conscious to myself of being no longer ‘carnal, sold under sin,’ but the Lord’s free man, emancipated from former enslavement, and now a divinely inaugurated sovereign over those propensities.” … “I seemed to anticipate the great verity thus impressively set before us by Dean Vaughan, Master of the Temple: ‘We are to believe, not in the suspension or supersession or down-trampling of what we call the laws of nature, … but in certain other things which to eyes not spiritually enlightened are at least as difficult; we have to believe in the actual forgiveness of things actually done; we have to believe that that black, hateful thing done or said yesterday — even though it had, fever in its breath and corruption in its influence — can be, shall be, obliterated and annihilated in the blood of Jesus Christ; we have to believe that that bad habit formed in boyhood, weakly yielded to in manhood, still strong, still predominant, can, by the grace of God, — shall, by the grace of God, — beVANQUISHED in us,ERADICATED,BURNT OUT of us, so that we shall be more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us’” (pp. 326, 327).
We are now ready for some formal definitions of sanctification.
Rev. Luther Lee, President of Leoni Theological Institute, defined sanctification thus: “Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement has power to cleanse from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, which is justification, but are washed entirely from its pollution, freed from its power, and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts, and to walk in his holy commandments blameless” (Elements of Theology, p. 211).
Wesley, in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection, says: “It is the loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This implies that no wrong temper — none contrary to love — remains in the soul; and that all the thoughts, words, and actions are governed by pure love.” “By one that is perfect, we mean one in whom is ‘the mind which was in Christ,’ who so ‘walketh as Christ also walked,’ who is cleansed ‘from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,’ in whom is ‘no occasion of stumbling,’ who accordingly ‘does not commit sin,’ one in whom God hath fulfilled his faithful word, ‘From all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you; I will also save you from all your uncleannesses.’” Rev. Isaiah Reid, an exceedingly clear writer on this subject, says, in ‘The Holy Way’ (pp. 10,11): Doctrinally, holiness may be defined as that secondary work of grace by which the depravity of the soul is remedied … Holiness or entire sanctification is the application of redemption to the depraved, corrupt nature in which we were born. It is that feature of salvation which lies back of pardon, — which is for an act and back of justification, which refers to our adjusted relations: it relates to our depravity. For the inheritance of our depravity we are not responsible. We never committed the sin that produced it, and can not repent of being so born, nor seek pardon for it. God’s remedy isCLEANSING, called ‘entire sanctification,’ ‘holiness,’ ‘perfect love.’ On the side of man it is through consecration and faith. On the part of God it is the application of the cleansing blood. Entire sanctification makes us morally pure from our inherited depravity. It destroys the old man of sin, the carnal mind. The subject is perfected as to the kind of his Christianity or religion, yet not in such a way that the measure of it can not be increased. He is holy in the sense that he is morally pure. He is sinless in the sense that his past sinful acts have all been pardoned, and his corrupt nature cleansed. He is blameless in the sense that God sees in his pardoned and cleansed soul nothing condemned by the gospel law. As to his love, it is perfect in the sense that he loves with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength, and in the sense that ‘love is the fulfilling of the law.’ As to progress, he is growing in it. ‘His soul made in kind heavenly, now matures in degree, and ripens for glorification.’ “Holiness is properly the name for the state of a soul sanctified wholly, and denotes (1) the absence of depravity, (2) the possession of perfect love. A heart emptied and a heart refilled.”
President Mahan gives this definition: “Sanctification is exclusively the work, not of the creature but of God, a work wrought in us by the eternal Spirit, on the condition that ‘God be inquired of by us to do it for us.’
Entire sanctification implies ‘salvation to the uttermost’ from sin in all its forms as God sees it, and perfect moral purity as he requires it” (Autobiography, p. 375). “By the state under consideration I do not understand mere separation from actual sin, and full actual obedience. I understand more than this, namely: a renewal of the spirit, and temper, and dispositions of the mind, and of the tendencies and habits which impel to sin, and prompt to disobedience to the Divine will. A fully sanctified believer is not only voluntarily separate from sin, and in the will of God, but is in this state with the full assent of every department of his moral and spiritual nature. He not only ‘feareth God and escheweth evil,’ but loves righteousness and hates iniquity” (p. 322).
Dr. W. McDonald, of Boston, defines as follows: “It is to be cleansed from all actual sin and original depravity. Sin exists in the soul after two modes or forms, — actual and original, — the sins we have committed, and the depraved or sinful nature inherited, which was ours before we were conscious of sinning … A fully saved heart can look up into the face of Jesus, and without mental reservation say, ‘Thy will be done,’ while the whole nature responds, ‘Amen.’ This is entire holiness … But if depravity remain, it will rebel and refuse to yield. But to have ‘A heart in every thought renewed And full of love divine Perfect, and right, and pure, and good, A copy, Lord, of thine,’ is to be saved from all sin, and made perfect in love. A soul in possession of such a blessing can sing, ‘Thou art the sea of love, Where all my pleasures roll, The circle where my passions move, And centre of my soul.’ There is no longer a conflict between the inclinations and the judgment.
The desires are no longer at war with the will. The seat of war has been mainly changed. Formerly we not only contended with outward foes — the world and Satan — but with inward enemies — our own unholy desires and tempers. Now the citadel is purged, the heart made pure, the enemies are without, and the fort royal is all friendly to the king” (Saved to the Uttermost, pp. 25-32).
The Methodist Catechism says: “Sanctification is that act of divine grace whereby we are made holy.”
Dr. Steele says: “The act is that of removing impurity existing in the nature of one already born of the Spirit — the deliverance from sin as a tendency born with us.”
These definitions have been sufficiently extended to make clear to the most careless reader the meaning and scope of sanctification. We are now prepared to see a broad and clear distinction between regeneration and justification — the primal experiences of the Christian life, and sanctification, about which some writers are strangely confused.
Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, graciously inclining the sinner to repentance and faith in Christ, and so renewing the voluntary nature that the power of sin is broken, and the principle of obedience is planted in the heart. It is accompanied by justification and adoption, which we may treat together.
Justification is the sovereign act of God by which the sinner, on condition of repentance of sin and faith in an atoning Saviour, is forgiven his past transgressions, and restored to the Divine favor, and treated legally as if he had not sinned. The clearest extended picture of justification in the entire Bible is found in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The father takes the repentant boy to his bosom and reinstates him in the home, puts on him the ring of adoption and the robe of charity to cover the shame of his guilty past, and does not twit him of his sinful career, but treats him as if he had never wandered.
But that prodigal was still diseased in body and mind and soul, in passions and appetites and feelings, in thoughts and imaginations and desires — the vile effects of his riotous living. But if that father had been a mighty physician, as our Saviour is, and had laid his dear hand on the child and said, “My son, be thou clean through all thy being,” as Jesus used to do, and does yet, that would have been a picture of sanctification. 1. Regeneration is God’s work done ut us, rectifying the attitude of the will toward him and holy things.
Justification removes the guilt of sins already committed.
Justification secures the pardon of actual sins.
But sanctification so “cleanses from filthiness and idols,” and puts within the soul such “a new heart and a new spirit,” that the whole man reinforces the will, and perfect obedience and a holy heart are secured. 5. Justification brings the favor of God.
Regeneration gives a relish for holiness and a longing for the image of God.
But by sanctification, “we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory,” and we are “made partakers of the divine nature.” The longings for holiness and the image of God become realized. (See Lee’s Theology, p. 200.)
In short, regeneration brings renewing, justification brings forgiveness, and sanctification brings cleansing. I know not how to make it more plain.
Rev. William McDonald adds the following pithy distinctions: 1. “In regeneration, sin does not reign; in sanctification, it does not exist. 2. “In regeneration, sin is suspended; in sanctification, it is destroyed. 3. “In regeneration, irregular desires — anger, pride, unbelief, envy — are subdued; in sanctification, they are removed. 4. “Regeneration is salvation from the voluntary commission of sin; sanctification is salvation from the being of sin. 5. “Regeneration is the ‘old man’ bound; sanctification is the ‘old man’ cast out and spoiled of his goods. 6. “Regeneration is sanctification begun; entire sanctification is the work completed” (Perfect Love, p. 30).
To make the subject still more clear we will define negatively, and show what sanctification is not, and what it does not do in us and for us. 1. It does not bring us to ideal or absolute perfection. God only is absolute. “God charges his angels with folly; with errors in judgment, but not with sin.” In this sense, “there is none good but one, that is God.” 2. It does not bring us to angelic perfection. With their freedom from all inherited infirmities, and their superior knowledge, judgment and discernment, they have a degree of perfection which no grace of God makes possible to mortals in this life. 3. It does not bring us to the perfection of our own glorified state, in the after-resurrection life. St. Paul disclaimed that celestial perfection in Philippians 3:12, while he did claim the perfection of a sanctified man in verse fifteen. 4. It does not bring a “sinless perfection,” in the sense that it makes it impossible for one to sin and fall. The angels fell and Adam fell, though they were once holy. 5. Entire sanctification does not imply or involve infallibility of knowledge or judgment or memory. There is still room for innocent mistakes; the heart may be right while the judgment is wrong. 6. It does not secure us from temptation; only the tempters and temptations are not reinforced by traitors within the citadel of the soul. Jesus himself was tempted but he said, “Satan cometh and findeth nothing in me.” 7. Sanctification does not end Christian growth but, cleansing the heart of its vileness, makes the growth of all graces possible and certain. Eleven months after the recorded date of her sanctification, Frances Ridley Havergal wrote: “Perfect, yet it floweth Fuller every day, Perfect, yet it groweth Deeper all the way.
Like a river glorious Is God’s perfect peace, Over all victorious In its bright increase.” Thus does the tide of divine life deepen and widen in the soul when the cleansing has come, and the proneness to evil no longer vexes the heart. 8. This blessing of sanctification does not obviate the need of constant dependence upon the atoning work of Christ. No other class of believers so constantly trust in Jesus, or so feel their utter dependence upon him, and so live in him moment by moment. Miss Havergal thus stated the method of holiness: I would distinctly state that it is only as and while a soul is under the full power of the blood of Christ that it can be cleansed from all sin; that one moment’s withdrawal from that power, and it is again actively because really sinning; and that it is only as and while kept by the power of God himself that we are not sinning against him. One instant of standing alone is certain fall!” (Forty Witnesses, p. 240).
In this chapter it may he well to observe that in current discussions both the terms regeneration and sanctification are sometimes used in two senses.
Dr. Daniel Steele, in an address before the Boston ministers’ meeting, following Arminius and the early writings of John Wesley, spoke of regeneration first as “the instantaneous impartation of the divine life; second, as the “perfect recovery of the moral image of God which sin has effaced.” In this latter sense, regeneration is not a single act, but “a process implying steps and intervals, and entire sanctification is one of these steps, and the preceding interval was a period of progressive sanctification.” … “After a man is born of the Spirit he needs an interval for a heart knowledge of Christ, through the light of the Holy Spirit, as the basis of that supreme act of faith in him as the Sanctifier.”
Bishop Merrill, in “Christian Experience,” speaks of sanctification first as initial sanctification which, though entirely distinct from regeneration, is concurrent with it, beginning with the cleansing of the soul. In its fullest signification, sanctification relates to a process of cleansing which goes on and on through all the experience of growth, maturity and perfection” (p. 188). Second, he speaks of it as the act of entire sanctification. “In the primal act of sanctification, at the time of the new birth the heart is washed from the defilements of old sins; but neither Scripture nor experience will justify the assertion that all the impurities of thought and the evil tendencies of nature, which are impurities in God’s sight, are entirely purged till the new life has expanded and the indwelling Spirit has revealed to the enlightened conscience the enormity of inbred depravity. The ‘ filthiness of the flesh and spirit ‘ must be loathed before it can be washed away. Hence the general experience is that the full cleansing follows a season of deep self-abasement. The provision for this entire sanctification is ample, and the Spirit of God is always ready to respond to a longing desire for it. As soon as the soul feels the need of this great deliverance and takes hold of the atonement as efficacious to this end, the merit of the cleansing blood is applied, and the Spirit reveals the result as suddenly as faith will apprehend the evidence given” (p. 194).
To avoid all confusion of thought the author speaks of regeneration only as the initial, creative act of the religious life, and of sanctification as entire — the act of God cleansing the heart of the true believer of all its sin.
Another question comes up that may be mentioned here, whether it is possible for a soul to be entirely sanctified at the moment of conversion or regeneration? It is not necessary to deny the possibility of it; but the question is philosophical rather than practical, at this stage of the development of the Christian Church. The practical, urgent, crying question of the hour is how to get all these millions of Christians up to the high spiritual level of entire sanctification. Until the vast mass of church members are lifted to this high level, and the whole Christian public is as thoroughly educated on this subject as it is now thoroughly ignorant, to suppose that one sinner in a hundred thousand will know enough to go to the altar and seek regeneration and entire sanctification at the same moment is a wild supposition. The improbability of it is shown by the fact that John Wesley never found a person who had done it. The world would be sweeping along into its millennium if the Christian Church was so gene rally in this experience that all converts could be hurried along into it in the early days of their fresh first love.
We may close this chapter by meeting an objection raised in some quarters, that those who advocate holiness as a special, second experience belittle justification to make room for sanctification. It is a mistake. I find nothing of the kind in all these forty volumes on the subject of holiness. Three quotations will suffice to show the sentiment of all. Wesley says: “But even babes in Christ are so far perfect as not to commit sin.” Luther Lee says: “No man can believe with the heart unto righteousness, or so as to obtain justification, while living in the practice of any known sin, or in the neglect of any known duty.
The moment he does what he knows to be a sin, or neglects what he knows to be a duty, faith, by which he is justified, loses its hold upon God, and he loses his justification” (p. 191). Dr. McDonald writes: “Freedom from sin belongs to the justified believer. No man can retain his justification and commit sin. Entire sanctification is far in advance of mere freedom from the voluntary commission of sin. This is too low a standard for entire sanctification … Conversion is no inferior work. It is a change so great as to be called a ‘new creation.’ If it be genuine, it will stop men from committing sin, and free them from the condemning power of the law, and make them obedient to all of God’s commands. Do not call this entire sanctification; it is far below that exalted state … Some place Christian holiness too low and make a profession of sanctification, when, as Mr.
Fletcher very justly says, ‘they have not so much as attained the mental serenity of a philosopher, or the candor of a good natured, conscientious heathen’” (Saved to the Uttermost, pp. 22-24).
Dr. Carradine sums up the whole matter as follows: “InJUSTIFICATION, which means pardon, my own actual or personal sins are forgiven, but not original sin. How can I be pardoned for what I did not commit? How could I ask God to forgive me for what I did not do? And how could God, in truth and justice, grant me pardon for what I had not done? Justification evidently can not reach original sin, and the conclusion is that I stand a justified man, with inherited depravity within me. “InREGENERATION the soul is born again, made new, entered upon a spiritual life. That personal depravity which arises from one’s own actual sin is corrected by regeneration; but inherited depravity remains untouched.
It is idle to say that this was removed in regeneration. Sound reasoning is against it and a universal Christian experience.” … “My will may be rectified in regeneration; but what if sin be something more than an act of the will? It certainly seems so, when we behold it transmitted from Adam down to us without the consent of our wills, and exhibiting itself in children too young to exercise their judgment and moral powers. When I am born again, I stand a regenerate creature in the presence of wayward tendencies of the flesh, and this dark element, that has been indescribably but certainly sent down from Adam to us, and interwoven in our natures. It is not long before the young convert finds out its presence and power … The fact to which we are driven is that the regenerated soul is left in the presence of inherited sin or depravity. “SANCTIFICATION has no quarrel with regeneration, either in the Bible or Christian experience, and is not in antagonism with it in any respect whatever, although some would so persuade the people. Regeneration is a perfect work in itself, and needs no improvement. Sanctification aims to do another thing, and accomplishes another work altogether. It removes something from the soul that has been a constant trouble and hindrance to the regenerated man. It kills inbred sin; or, as Dr. Whedon calls it, the ‘sinwardness’ in us; or, as some would recognize it, the ‘prone-to-wander’ movement of the heart … Our hope for a perfect deliverance is in the sanctifying grace of God … When that work occurs sin dies in the heart.
Various propensities of the body, which regeneration subdued, but could not eradicate, are instantly corrected, arrested, or extirpated. The craving of habit is ended, the root of bitterness is extracted, pride is lifeless, self-will is crucified, and anger and irritability are dead. A sweet, holy calm fills the breast, actually effects the body, steals into the face, and rules the life” (Sanctification, pp. 26-31).
Jesus said: “That they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me” ( Acts 26:18). “The great salvation is two-fold: ‘Forgiveness of sins, and … sanctified by faith that is in me.’ The forgiveness of sins is a perfect work; but a perfect forgiveness is a very different thing from entire sanctification. Forgiveness refers to one hemisphere of your moral nature, and entire sanctification to another. There is a hemisphere of voluntary wrong-doing and a hemisphere of unintentional evil dispositions; there are things people do that they know are wrong, and there are yearnings that do not come to the surface; they lie beneath and do not come to the will power; it lies behind the will. The hemisphere of what a man is responsible for is covered by pardon. When God forgives your sins he forgives every sin you were ever responsible for; but complete sanctification goes into bed rock in the moral nature. There are evil dispositions way down that we grieve over; sanctification proposes to give us relief in the ‘basement story’ of our moral nature. And this is ‘by faith,’ not by growth; grace can grow, but cleansing can’t grow. Cleansing prepares the way for grace and puts grace where it can grow” (Love Abounding, p. 28).
The difference between the justified and the sanctified state of the believer is not inaptly set forth in the following lines by Dr. A. B. Simpson: CHRIST HIMSELF Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord; Once it was the feeling, now it is His Word; Once His gifts I wanted, now the Giver own; Once I sought for healing, now Himself alone.
Once ‘t was painful trying, now ‘tis perfect trust; Once a half-salvation, now the uttermost; Once ‘t was ceaseless holding, now he holds me fast; Once ‘t was constant drifting, now my anchor’s cast.
Once ‘t was busy planning, now ‘t is trustful prayer; Once ‘t was anxious caring, now He has the care; Once ‘t was what I wanted, now what Jesus says; Once ‘t was constant asking, now ‘t is ceaseless praise.
Once ‘t was my working, His it hence shall be; Once I tried to use Him, now He uses me; Once the power I wanted, now the Mighty One; Once to self I labored, now for Him alone.
CHAPTER - EVIDENCE THAT HOLINESS IS ATTAINABLE The venerable and famous Professor in Andover Theological Seminary, Dr.
Woods said to his pupils one day: “If there were somewhere a hospital in which souls could be made whole, I would go there as a patient.” I can not but feel that if he had read John Calvin and the Catechism less, and had read John Wesley more, he would have had a clarified vision to find from his Bible that there was a “fountain opened to the House of David,” both “for sin and for uncleanness.” Let us notice some of the arguments and evidence that a loving, atoning God has indeed provided humanity with healing for the hurt of sin.
I. There is the argument from Probability. This has been noticed by General Booth, of the Salvation Army. All God’s dealings with the race prove that he hates sin with an infinite hatred, and loves his sin-cursed children with an infinite love. With infinite remedial agencies at his disposal, what will his redeeming grace be likely to attempt with regard to us — a partial or an entire cure of the malady of sin? Mary Magdalene, being willing to receive a complete salvation from Jesus, did her blessed Lord cast out four devils and leave three in to torment her and tempt her to dishonor her Master, or did he “forgive her much,” and give her a complete deliverance? What would a skillful earthly physician do whose son had been fatally poisoned? Would he use every possible antidote to drive out all the poison, and that immediately, or would he leave a portion of the virus in his system to be fought gradually and to make him a suffering invalid for life? There is but one answer to such a question. How much more is it probable that our sin-hating and infinitely compassionate and omnipotent Heavenly Father would provide an instantaneous and complete salvation for his “grievously tormented” children? Reasoning simply from the nature of a sin-hating, holy God, who tries to save at all, it is not probable that we must all go on in an endless round of sinning and repenting and confessing, and be infested with the “sin that dwelleth in us,” until death. It is highly probable that such a God as the gospel reveals “would provide some better things for us,” and enable us to “serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” ( Luke 1:74,75).
II. The Bible as a whole is a witness for the possibility of holiness. The most careless reader can not fail to see that it is a Book against sin of every kind and degree. As a grand whole, it is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” ( 2 Timothy 3:16,17, R. V.). It is fraught with instruction, appeals to the conscience, informs the judgment, illuminates the understanding. It plies the heart with the most cogent and winning motives, drawing hearts to holiness by the sweetness of communion with God and the blessedness of his service, while it drives from sin by the revelation of divine displeasures and “the interminable horrors of damnation.” This makes it plain why Christ prayed that his people might “be sanctified through the truth,” and why Paul should speak of their being sanctified and cleansed with “the washing of water by the Word,” and of Christians as attaining salvation “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” “Truth is the means, and the Spirit is the efficient agent.” Men are to “purify their souls by obeying the truth through the Spirit.” Prof. Henry Cowles wrote: “Surely here is everything of motive that can well be conceived. How could God make them stronger? Who can weigh them fully and yet resist them? And they are all perfectly adapted to promote the sanctification of the heart. Can it be believed that the result must inevitably fall short of the end proposed? If there is failure, does it lie in defective means, or defective application of those means?” (Holiness of Christians, pp. 64. 65.)
III. We may infer the possibility of complete salvation — the entire sanctification of Christians — from the Bible descriptions of the possible experience of believers. They are spoken of, — (1) As having aCLEAN HEART, washed from all sin. Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart.” Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (2) As living such a blameless life that God himself shall not see anything to condemn. Philippians 2:15: “That you may be blameless and harmless children of God without blemish.” 2 Peter 3:14: “Give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight.” The same Greek words are used of Christ, as in 1 Peter 1:19: “But with precious blood as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ.” This suggests the solemn as well as most comforting thought that we may, by the sanctifying power of Jesus, live such a spotless, blameless life as he lived. This is the end towards which we are exhorted to make an effort.
Again, the same word is used in James 1:27, which represents the keeping of ourselves “unspotted from the world” as one of the essential elements of religion. On this passage Dr. Steele, recent Professor of New Testament Greek in Boston University, writes: “This seems as impossible to the man of weak faith as it would for a white-robed lady to dance among dye-tubs or tar-buckets, without being smirched. But all things are possible to him that believeth. This world needs a gospel which gives victory over sin. The first is deliverance from sinning. The new birth introduces the sin-sick soul into a state of triumph over actual sin, giving him the ability not to sin. Justification saves from sinning, but not from the tendency to sin, improperly called sin, because it lacks the voluntary element essential to guilt. “But in these proclivities to sin, though repressed, there is peril and cause of inward strife, the flesh warring against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. When this war ends by the extinction and annihilation of the flesh as the lurking place of the sin principle, there is deliverance from sin also, as well as from sinning. Justification, implying regeneration, saves from sinning; entire sanctification saves from sin.” Then one can live the pure and undefiled religion, “unspotted from the world.” (3) The Bible speaks of the possibility of such a reconsecration on the part of a believer that he will be wholly given up to God to be possessed and used by him, and made holy and acceptable. Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” The saintly Bishop Simpson taught that these “brethren” were Christians already; that God was pleading with them for a more intelligent, all including consecration, the body, the present home of the soul, being a comprehensive word for the whole being. When all was brought to the altar — Christ — in faith “the altar sanctified the gift,” the sanctifying power came, and the life was henceforth “holy” and “acceptable to God.” (4) The Bible speaks of “Love” as “the fulfilling of the law,” and the proper requirement of God. Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:10. The divine requisitions of holiness in the present life do imply that we “love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves” ( Luke 10:27). Thus Jesus taught; this love to God involves adoration, reverence, submission, faith and universal obedience; this love to man implies all practical and possible efforts to promote his well being. This is wholly practicable. We are not required to love with an angel’s powers, but with our own; not with his mind, or degree of intelligence, but with our own. Professor Henry Cowles says “The question then becomes simply this, Is it possible for a man to do and love all he can? — about which question there is perceived no room for dispute. It scarcely need be added that this holiness implies that all the selfish and sinful passions are subdued, and reign no longer” (Holiness, pp. 20 -22). (5) The Bible asserts the possibility of Christians reaching an experience in which they shall be “DEAD TO SIN,” having the “old man crucified,” “the body of sin destroyed,” and the soul “freed from sin.” Romans 6:11 “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:6: “Our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed [done away], that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin.”
On this verse Dr. Steele observes: “The Greek for ‘destroy’ is never used by Paul in the sense of rendering inactive, as those assert who insist that the root of sin is not killed till it is plucked up by old Mortality himself.
Says Cremer, who had no doctrinal partiality to warp his definition: ‘Elsewhere it signifies a putting out of activity, out of power or effect; but with St. Paul it is to annihilate, to put an end to, to bring to naught.’ If any expression could be stronger than this, it is found in the reciprocal crucifixion found in Galatians 6:14: ‘By whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.’ This,’ says Bishop Ellicott, ‘is a forcible mode of expressing the utter cessation of all communion between the apostle and the world.’ ‘Paul and the world, the sum total of all that is opposed to the spiritual reign of Christ, regard each other as dead.’ Hence no surprise is awakened by Paul’s declaration that he is made free from the law of (the uniform tendency to) sin and (spiritual) death. The proclivity toward sin is not only removed, but an upward gravitation is substituted.
As the cork set free at the bottom of the sea rapidly rises to the surface, so the soul that is ‘risen with Christ, seeks those things which are above’” (Half-Hours with St. Paul, p. 10).
Wonderful salvation! which so sanctifies the soul that it is”crucified to the world,” and “freed” from the tendency to sin, and “dead” to all the solicitations of evil! (6) The Bible holds up to Christians the possibility of being “FILLED WITH GOD.” Ephesians 3:19: “That ye might be filled unto all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 5:18: “Be filled with the Spirit.” “The possession of the Spirit,” says Dr. A. J. Gordon, “commits us irrevocably to separation from sin.” The “fullness of God” can not be realized by a corrupt, defiled heart. It was for sanctification that Paul was praying in behalf of those Ephesians; and language could go no further and prayer could rise to no greater height than this climax petition reached when Paul supplicated that they might be “filled unto all the fullness of God.”
The Scriptures declare that he came “to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” ( Daniel 9:24); that “he would grant us that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life” ( Luke 1:74,75). Here is deliverance from all spiritual enemies and sanctification, not at death, nor after death, but “all the days of our life.”
But again: “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the Word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” ( Ephesians 5:25-27). How can a whole church be sanctified and holy and without spot or blemish, unless this wonderful blessing can come and does come to its individual members?
Again: “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate” ( Hebrews 13:12). “Who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works” ( Titus 2:14). “Hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that ye should follow his steps who did no sin” ( 1 Peter 2:21,22). “For this end was the Son of God manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil” ( 1 John 3:8). What are the works of the devil but sin and sinning, the corruption of our hearts, and the ruin of our outward lives. Jesus came to rectify all this and make us pure and holy. “Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness “ ( 1 Peter 2:24).
Now take all these passages together, and how could the statements be more plain, or the evidence more cumulative? God has put his whole heart into this work. He designed the great plan of salvation to restore fallen man to holiness. Christ gave himself that he might accomplish this work. The Spirit renews individual believers, and afterwards gives them a sanctifying “baptism of fire,” to consume all hidden evil in their hearts, and make them holy.
Professor Henry Cowles says: “The plan manifestly contemplates the accomplishment of the work in the present life, for the means said to be employed are used here, and so far as we know, here only... As the gospel feast of pardon shall not be made in vain, though many scorn it, so these provisions for sanctification, and this great design to have a glorious church, unspoiled, shall not come to nought. For this let God be praised.
The praise is his. The plan — he laid it — the provisions and the execution are his work. Happy thought that God is employing the resources of the Trinity, to redeem from sin a revolted race! Let the work go on, and nought from earth or from beneath impede its progress” (pp. 26, 27).
V. We may make an unanswerable argument for the possibility of this sanctification from the continuous mediatorial work of Christ. His parting words with his disciples were: “Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” ( Matthew 28:20). “He ever liveth to make intercession for them” ( Hebrews 7:25). It is “he that sanctifieth” his children, “bringing many sons unto glory” ( Hebrews 2:10,11). He labored in his atoning work and still labors, “that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled IN US, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” When his loved ones permit it, he will come and make his “abode with them” and “live in them” the sanctified life that pleases God. This was St. Paul’s explanation of his own holy and blameless life. “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me” ( Galatians 2:20, R. V., Am. Com.). The old man of sin was crucified and dead; the sinful principle was extinct, and now Jesus was living the perfect life in him and for him. It was probably to a similar experience that Martin Luther referred when a stranger knocked at his door and inquired if Martin Luther lived there. His reply was “No, sir; Luther does not live here any more. Jesus Christ lives here.” Paul was conscious of a spiritual life, that was not so much of himself as of Christ, who had created it and was sustaining it. “It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell “( Colossians 1:19). “And of his fullness we all received, and grace for grace” ( John 1:16). Where this grace of the “fullness of God” is sought, and cherished, and used, evermore is given “grace for grace.” This same Christ Jesus “was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness [“justification” in the Greek] and sanctification and redemption.” Professor Henry Cowles says: “Here we have the inventory of spiritual blessings which come from Christ. And what more does a Christian need? Here is wisdom to guide him; righteousness for his acceptance with God; sanctification to fit him for heaven; and redemption to buy him from the curse of the law, and the slavery of sin... How wonderfully is Christ made everything to us, and that, too, by God himself!
No wonder Paul should say ( Colossians 2:9,10): “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and in him ye are made full.” Again: He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins.” And what else? “And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” ( 1 John 1:9). That is sanctification.
Furthermore through this interceding Saviour, we have all the resources of prayer put at our disposal. “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask and ye shall receive. If ye shall ask anything of the Father he will give it you in my name” ( John 16:23,24). The Christian is spiritually poor and bankrupt in himself; with the use of Christ’s name he can draw without limit from the infinite storehouse of grace. The Christian is weak in himself, but he is “strong in the Lord,” his sanctifying Saviour ( Ephesians 6:10).
What matters it who or what are his foes if Christ is his strength and the “Captain of his salvation”? What matters it what or how many and subtle are his temptations, if Jesus is his hiding-place from the storm, and his covert from the tempest”? Well does Prof. Cowles ask: “Does not the Bible exhibit most glorious and adequate provisions for the Christian’s aid in the life of holiness? Need he live in sin and want who has Christ’s name for his credit — Christ’s strength and help for his weakness — Christ’s wisdom for his folly, and Christ’s all-pervading, and inspiring presence for his atmosphere of life and breath, and being?” (Holiness, p. 48).
The Spirit’s work is so vast and many-sided that a full description of it alone would fill a volume. We can only say here, briefly, that the Spirit “teaches” believers, and helps them to “remember” divine truth, and reveals Christ to them in all his atoning and sanctifying work. He further “reproves,” “convicts,” the world of sin, comforts in trouble, develops the “fruits of the Spirit” in the souls of believers, “sheds abroad the love of God” in their hearts, “helpeth our infirmities,” “maketh intercession for the saints.” Believers who open their hearts to receive are “filled with the Spirit,” until out of them “shall flow rivers of living water” of holy influence. “Holy affections are free and flowing just in proportion as the Spirit’s aid is sought and obtained. Sweetly willing are love and obedience when that Spirit moves and melts time soul.” Still further: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” ( 1 Corinthians 6:16). “ Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost?” ( 1 Corinthians 6:19).
And again, the Spirit “fills” us. “ Be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit ( Ephesians 5:18). Gordon observes: “The passive verb employed here is suggestive. The surrendered will, the yielded body, the emptied heart, are the great requisites to his incoming. And when he has come and filled the believer, the result is a kind of passive activity, as of one wrought upon and controlled rather than of one directing his own efforts. Under the influence of strong drink there is an outpouring of all that time evil spirit inspires — frivolity, profanity, and riotous conduct. Be ‘God intoxicated men,’ the apostle would seem to say; let the Spirit of God so control you that you shall pour yourself out in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” And now notice, reader, the effect of being thus “filled with the Spirit.” Three are mentioned which culminate in a fourth, namely, power, sealing, anointing, and sanctification.
Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” ( Acts 1:8). “Strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man” ( Ephesians 3:16). Here is the source of POWER to do God’s will — not our own resolute, heroic strivings, but the all conquering might of the indwelling God to whom we have yielded ourselves to be controlled.
Godet says: “Man is a vessel destined to receive God, a vessel which must be enlarged in proportion as it is filled, and filled in proportion as it is enlarged.” Dr. Gordon adds: Whether consciously or not, it is the fact of the Holy Spirit’s coming in new power to the soul, that all new life is due: and the more that this is consciously understood, the more is the Holy Ghost in his due place in our hearts. It is only when he is consciously accepted in all his power that we call be said to be ‘baptized’ or ‘filled’ with the Holy Ghost.”
And now the “SEALING”: “Now he that stablisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also SEALED us, and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” What does this divine transaction mean? Dr.
Gordon directs our attention for an explanation to 2 Timothy 2:19: “Howbeit the firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness.” In other words, God puts his seal on us, as an express agent puts the stamp of the “seal” upon the precious package. The two inscriptions on God’ s seal which he stamps on us are OWNERSHIP and HOLINESS. The ancient High Priest had “Holiness to the Lord” sealed upon his forehead. Upon those who would have the fullness of blessing now, the Spirit puts the seal of God’s ownership and irrevocable separation from sin upon their whole being.
Then there is the “anointing.” Jesus said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath ANOINTED me to preach the gospel” ( Luke 4:18). “Ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”
Here is the spiritual discernment and divine insight into gospel truth which the Spirit alone can give. “No man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit alone can reveal to men the lordship of Jesus, and “the word of wisdom” and “the word of knowledge” ( 1 Corinthians 12:3,8). He holds the key to the knowledge of divine mysteries, and fills the heart with the understanding of truth that sanctifies the soul. “The seal with assurance and consecration; the filling with power, and the anointing with knowledge.” All these gifts are wrapped up in the one gift of the Holy Spirit. And to what end?
Now we reach the climax of all. “God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13). “Elect.... in sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience” ( 1 Peter 1:2).
The Greek word for sanctification is hagiasmos. Dr. Steele writes: “It is used ten times in the New Testament. In the old version it is translated by ‘holiness’ five times, and five by ‘sanctification.’ The Revised Version always renders it by ‘sanctification.’ This is the more accurate version, since the ending mos in Greek means an ACT, as does the ending tion in English. Hence the revisers have furnished five new proof texts to the definition of sanctification as an act in the Catechism of the M. E. Church: ‘Ans. 57. Sanctification is that act of divine grace whereby we are made holy.’ The act is that of removing impurity existing in the nature of one already born of the Spirit. Deliverance from sin as a tendency born with us is the act of God through the Holy Spirit” (Half Hours, p. 106). Let theologians, who speak and write of sanctification as a long, indefinite, hazy, nebulous process of human growth that begins anywhere and ends nowhere in this life, take notice that the Greek New Testament shows that sanctification is an INSTANTANEOUS ACT of the omnipotent SPIRIT OF GOD.
And let the teachable hungry soul that is seeking after purity know that the Holy Spirit is hovering about him to teach, and admonish, and intercede for him with God; and if he will permit it, and “inquire “ for the great blessing, the Spirit will come in and “fill “ him, and “seal” him, and “anoint” and, by one blessed, all cleansing act of grace, sanctify his soul.
CHAPTER - ARGUMENTS FOR THE ATTAINABILITY OF SANCTIFICATION CONTINUED We have seen in the previous chapter that an argument for the possibility of entire sanctification can be drawn from probability, from the general teaching of the Bible, from the Scriptural descriptions of believers, from the purpose of the life and death of Christ, also from his continuous mediatorial work, and from the revealed work of the Spirit.
We now approach another argument equally unanswerable.
VII. God commands his people to be holy. We begin with Abraham and read in Genesis 17: “I am the Almighty God: walk before me and be thou perfect.” I abbreviate a comment by Dr. Steele on this passage: “Twenty-four years after Abraham’s first call, and several years after his justification, when he ‘believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,’ he passed the third and final transition in his religious career, which in modern parlance would be called his spiritual perfection.
When he was ninety-nine years old, Jehovah disclosed to him His Almightiness, under the name of El-Shaddai, Almighty God, as the ground of a new commandment, ‘Be thou perfect.’ With this injunction was the institution of circumcision, demonstrating typically that spiritual circumcision, or entire sanctification, is the gateway into Christian perfection. Here we find a striking type of original or birth sin, put away by ‘the circumcision of Christ,’ through the agency of the sanctifying Spirit, not by a gradual outgoing of native depravity, but by the heroic treatment of INSTANTANEOUS excision. Hence the doctrine of spiritual circumcision is a two-edged sword, cutting away Pelagianism — the denial of inbred sin — with one edge, and gradualism — the denial of its INSTANTANEOUS extinction — with the other. God found Abraham perfect in loyalty and love in after years, and in the supreme test of his faith in obeying the command to offer up Isaac, he demonstrated the fact to all the coming generations” (Half Hours, pp. 166, 167).
Again, Deuteronomy 6:4,5: “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” How is such a life to be lived by depraved men? Deuteronomy 30:6 lets us into the secret: “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” That is, when the “Almighty God” of Abraham lays his sanctifying hand on the soul in the INSTANTANEOUS ACT of spiritual circumcision, then it can live the life of perfect love.
Jesus again commanded ( Matthew 5:48): “Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Romans 6:11: “Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.” Dr. Dugan Clark, Professor of Systematic Theology in Earlham College, has the following on this passage: “We are wholly unable to destroy or do away with the body of sin by any resolution or will power of our own. Sin will not go dead at our bidding, nor can we become dead to sin by wishing or striving to be so.
Again, we are brought face to face with our helplessness, but the apostle solves the problem for us by directing us to resort to the process of reckoning. ‘Likewise reckon ye, also, yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.’ Ah! now our help is laid upon One that is mighty. ‘ The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.’
What we reckon, with the sublime reckoning of faith, Christ can make real and true. We have only, therefore, to reckon ourselves to be dead, indeed, unto sin and leave to Him to make the reckoning good. But we must not fail to reckon ourselves alive as well as dead. And to be alive to God means to be responsive to every intimation of his will, to love him perfectly, to be, to do, to suffer all he may determine concerning us, in short, to be sanctified wholly. O beloved, what a blessed reckoning is the reckoning of faith! How vastly does it transcend all the reckonings of logic or mathematics. For by it we experience a continual deadness to sin, and a continual holiness of heart and life” (Theol. of Holiness, p. 97). Romans 6:13: “Present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” On this verse Dr. Clark also makes this striking comment: “The command is to ‘yield yourselves,’ not a certain portion of your money, nor a certain portion of your effort, nor your sins, nor your forbidden indulgences...
It is a personal transaction of a heart already regenerated — “alive from the dead” — with a personal God, for the sake of complete holiness and the greater glory of a sanctifying Saviour. Hebrews 12:14: “Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord.” “Only holy beings can rise to the sight of the Holy One. Whenever the Scriptures speak of the divine vision as the prerogative of the sanctified, it is a blissful, spiritual perception of God here and now. Spiritual perception comes from love; love comes from the Spirit, who fills the sanctified heart to the exclusion of the sin-ward trend. Hence sanctification gives clear spiritual eye sight” (Half Hours, pp. 107, 108). Ephesians 4:22-24: “That ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, which waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which is after God, created in righteousness and holiness, of truth “ (R. V., Am. Com.). 1 Peter 1:15,16, reads: “Like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy.”
With these commands to holiness, we put two other passages, indicating God’s desire and efforts to produce holiness in believers. Ephesians 1:4: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love.” Colossians 1:22: “In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before him.” These words “perfect” and “holy” and “holiness” point unmistakably to sanctification which enters into the very essence of the moral nature. The holiness of angels is inherent and natural; in man it is a divinely inwrought and gracious state. “ Holy and without blemish before him in love.” Love is the element in which holiness exists. “Hence,” as Steele observes, “a tart holiness, a bitter holiness, a sour holiness, an envious holiness, is a contradiction and an impossibility.”
But what shall we say of these commands as a whole? Is God a heartless tyrant issuing commands to a race of moral beings that none are able to keep? These commands are as authoritative as any in the Bible; and if holiness is not attainable, then God commands what is impossible. To affirm it is a wicked reflection on his holiness. Some one has observed that all God’s commands are enablings. Whatever he commands he furnishes a gracious ability to perform. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves; … but our sufficiency is from God” ( 2 Corinthians 3:5). But a sanctifying Spirit, an indwelling Christ, can live in us a holy life, “which is our reasonable service.” “His commandments are not grievous” ( 1 John 5:3).
VIII. Another conclusive argument is drawn from the PROMISES of God.
He promises holiness to those who seek it. Take Ezra 36:25-27: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Verse 29: “I will also save you from all your uncleannesses.”
Mahan observes on this passage: “Three great blessings, in all fullness, are here specifically promised; namely, full and perfect cleansing from all sinful dispositions, tendencies, and habits; an equally full and perfect renewal, ‘the gift of a new Spirit,’ and ‘a heart of flesh,’ in the place of the ‘heart of stone which had been taken out of the flesh; and the gift of Holy Ghost,’ by whose indwelling the believer is ‘endued with power,’ for every good word and work, and perfected in his obedience to God’s statutes and judgments” (Autobiog., p. 293).
The reader will notice that every item of this promise stands before us as the exclusive work of God. “I will sprinkle,” etc. We are not sanctified gradually by our own poor, fitful and life-long strivings, but by God’s INSTANTANEOUS ACT of cleansing. Our part is revealed in the thirty-seventh verse: “Thus saith the Lord God I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” It is God’s part to keep his covenant with us and accomplish the work. Malachi 4:2: “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings: and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall.” “First the healing or sanctification — as sudden as the sunrise of the morning; then growth. This is God’s order. If we neglect the sanctifying healing of the Sun of Righteousness, our growth will be very intermittent and feeble instead of ‘going from strength to strength’” (Autobiog., p. 294). Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Prof. Henry Cowles, the Bible commentator, says: ‘Righteousness here means being right. It is questionable whether our Saviour ever uses the word righteousness in the sense of justification by faith. Personal holiness is naturally the object of hunger and thirst. If, then, as we suppose, the passage speaks of personal holiness, it is exceedingly rich in promise. What is the measure of the promised blessing? Is it a stinted morsel, now and then a scanty taste, just enough to prevent starvation? Is this the manner and the measure in which God feeds his hungry children with the bread of life? No; ‘they shall be filled.’ But it will be said that this promise is fulfilled only in heaven. I answer: I am hungry and thirsty now for the bread and the water of life; sin within me grieves my heart and sinks down my soul unutterably, and how can I live so? Let me look at some other promises for further light. Christ said: ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.’ And I remember it is said, ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification.’ ‘And the very God of peace himself sanctify you wholly.’ ‘Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it.’ What could have been plainer? God has made provision for the attainment in the present life of all the holiness which he requires” (Holiness, pp. 80-86). Luke 1:74,75: “To grant us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, should serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” 1 Corinthians 1:8: “Who shall also confirm you unto the end that ye be unreproveable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:19: “And my God shall fulfill every need of yours, according to his riches in glory.”
On this verse the saintly Frances Ridley Havergal wrote: “One arrives at the same thing [the possibility of sanctification] starting from almost anywhere. Take Philippians 4:19: ‘Your need.’ Well, what is my great need and craving of soul? Surely it is now (having been justified by faith and having the assurance or salvation) to be made HOLY by the continual SANCTIFYING POWER OF GOD’S SPIRIT; to be kept from grieving the Lord Jesus; to be kept from thinking or doing whatever is not accordant with his holy will. “Oh, what a need is this! And it is said, ‘He shall supply all need.’ Now shall we turn around and say ‘all’ does not mean quite all? Both as to the commands and the promises, it seems to me that anything short of believing them as they stand is but another form of the serpent’s ‘Yea, hath God said?’” (Forty Witnesses, p. 42).
This blessed woman laid hold of Jesus in faith for all she needed — entire sanctification — on December 2, 1873, and was IMMEDIATELY granted such an experience that to use her own words, it “lifted her whole life into sunshine, of which all she had previously experienced was but as pale and passing April gleams, compared with the fullness of summer glory.” Two months later she wrote her immortal consecration hymn: “Take my life, and let it be.” Five years later, thinking of the inbred sin that had once troubled her, but had been cleansed away by the blood of Christ, she wrote: “I know the crimson stain of sin, Defiling all without, within; But now rejoicingly I know That He hath washed me white as snow.
I praise Him for the cleansing tide, Because I know that Jesus died.” <470701>2 Corinthians 7:1: “Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Dr. Steele says: “All filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit is to be cleansed in the ACT of perfecting holiness. Paul leaves no room for sin continuing until death. Having these promises, as adopted sons and daughters, the work of entire sanctification is to be perfected in so thorough a manner as to exclude every ‘filthiness of the flesh,’ — all tendencies to those sins which find expression through the body, —’and of the spirit,’ every taint of the spirit prompting to sins independent of the material organism, as pride, unbelief, rebellion, hatred, etc. The doctrine taught by St. Paul is that spiritual circumcision follows spiritual sonship in order to the perfecting of holiness. Impenitent sinners are nowhere in the Holy Scriptures exhorted to holiness, to perfection, to fullness of the Spirit, but rather to repentance and the new birth. only they who ‘have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost,’ can be filled with the Spirit, only they who have become believers can mount up to the altitude of perfect faith, and only they that have life are capable of having the more abundant life” (Half Hours, pp. 91 and 162). 2 Peter 1:4: “Whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” Now we reach the conclusion of the whole matter, the two things that human beings universally need: first, “escape “ from the universal corruption of human nature that is in the world; second, we need to become “partakers of the divine nature.” This is precisely the work of the sanctifying Spirit of God, — to cleanse our hearts, and to made us in nature holy like Christ. And it is to this very end that all these promises tend. “All these commands and promises are correlated to each other.” What God commands he promises aid to perform. They are all in the present tense, “on demand,” for immediate realization in the present life. President Mahan said of them: “Nothing but salvation from ALL sin in its entireness, and sanctification in full completeness, is here expressed, and salvation and sanctification in this one specific and exclusive form are here set forth in terms the meaning of which can not be misunderstood. If they authorize and require us to ‘inquire of God to do’ anything for us, they authorize and require us to ask and expect ‘salvation to the uttermost,’ and nothing less than this. A denial of the doctrine of entire sanctification is nothing less, and can be nothing else, than a visible staggering at God’s most sacred promises, all of which inspiration affirms to be yea and amen in Christ Jesus’” (Autobiog., p. 340).
CHAPTER - ARGUMENTS FOR THE ATTAINABILITY OF SANCTIFICATION CONTINUED — THE INSPIRED PRAYERS We now approach one of the strongest of all possible arguments to one who knows the meaning of prayer. For, — IX. Christ and inspired writers pray that believers should be thus holy.
What is prayer? Is it a form of spiritual gymnastics whose only benefit is the development of soul muscle by reflex influence? Or is it the voice of a child asking of a father what that father has encouraged him to ask for, and promised to grant? This is the only rational, as it is the well-nigh universal, conception of prayer. What Jesus and inspired apostles prayed for, then, is proof of what God is willing to do for us, and what it is possible for man to receive. “No truth, to my mind,” says Mahan, “can be more self-evident than this, that the Holy Spirit never did influence and inspire Christ and his apostles and saints to pray for a specific blessing, and inspire men to record in the Bible prayers for a specific blessing, which God, in the same Scriptures, requires us to believe he never did, and never will, bestow upon any believer.” True; and therefore what Jesus and Paul prayed for it is possible for believers to experience. Any other theory is fatal to prayer itself, and is the rankest nonsense, even though it be supported by the teaching of famous theologians and endorsed by a Catechism several hundred years old.
Let us turn our attention now to some of the Bible prayers. Jesus prayed, or taught his disciples to pray ( Matthew 6:10): “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” No one will deny that the saints and angels in heaven are holy and sanctified. Then Jesus prays that believers may be sanctified on earth. Again, “Deliver us from evil” (13). There is no evil but sin and sin’s consequences. When we are delivered from that we shall be sanctified. John 17:17: “Sanctify them in the truth.” John 17:15: “I pray that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” John 17:23: “I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” Who can deny that these prayers are for the Christian’s perfection — the sanctification of God’s people? Who will be rash enough to affirm that the Son of God was praying for something that was not “according to the will of God,” and was therefore impossible? 2 Corinthians 13:9: “This we also pray for, even, your perfecting.”
Meyer says Paul here prayed for “your complete furnishing, perfection in Christian morality.” Whedon says he prayed for “complete symmetry of Christian character.” Alford says: “Perfection generally in all good things.”
Steele says: “This is the burden of Paul’s prayer for the church members in Corinth. Paul had too good sense to spend his breath in praying for what was impracticable in this life, and for what would come to them as a matter of course in the hour of death” (Half Hours, p. 115). Ephesians 3:15-21 is the record of Paul’s wonderful prayers for the sanctification of believers. Let us transcribe a few of the petitions, and let the scholars be heard in interpretation. “I bow my knees … that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” “That Christ may take up his lasting abode in your hearts” (Alford and Ellicott). “This rendering,” says Steele, “gives the force of the aorist tense.” Meyer says that opposed to this taking up of the lasting abode of Christ, is a transient reception of the Holy Spirit, as in Galatians 3:3: “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Steele adds: “This is a searching question, which many modern believers of the Galatian type would do well seriously to ponder. Their eager pursuit of worldly pleasures, their dallying with temptation, their inquiry, What harm in the dance, the drama, and the card party? all too painfully prove that the Holy Comforter, the artesian well of water, is not in them, springing up into everlasting life.” “It is instructive also to note that Christ dwells only in the vital center of our being, not in the tongue, which would produce only a mouth-religion, nor in the hand, which would make a lifeless routine of works, but in the heart. which rules the tongue, the hands, and the feet, making them the instruments of a glad and willing service. He never takes up his abode in the brain alone; but it is his purpose, after taking possession of the heart, to extend his conquest to the head. To reverse this order would reduce Christianity to a theory instead of a joyful experience. A Christ flitting through the intellect now and then, gives no such repose of soul as the Christ who becomes a permanent resident of the heart” (Half Hours, p. 19). “May be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth.” “The tense of the verb ‘apprehend,’ Ellicott suggests, implies the singleness of the act, as if through the INSTANTANEOUS PERFECTING of love, there comes a SUDDEN revelation of God to the soul in the face of his adorable Son, revealed by the Holy Spirit” (p. 20). “When he prays that the believers in Ephesus may be fully able to apprehend with all saints, he hints at the idea of the equal privilege of all, ascribing to the humblest Christian the highest and most precious knowledge.” “‘That ye may be filled into all the fullness of God.’ Something more than initial Christian life is here prayed for by Paul. The new birth begins with the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit. But such a heart is narrow and needs enlargement it has remaining defilements which need cleansing. The crowning act is here denoted by the being ‘filled unto all the fullness of God’” (p. 23). 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame.” Here is INSTANTANEOUS sanctification, not after death, nor at death, not by a process lifelong, nor by the growth method, if language can teach any such thing. Says Dr. Steele: “The aorist tense of the verb, ‘sanctify,’ denoting SINGLENESS OF ACTION, as distinguished from a continuance or repetition, strengthens our position that there is no postmortem cleansing taught in these passages. This remark is for the special benefit of some good and otherwise orthodox theologians, who reject the modern philosophical inference that a change of relation to God’s law from condemnation to justification, may take place after death, but look with favor on the doctrine of the completion after death of the SANCTIFICATION which began in the new birth. The latter is as destitute of Scriptural foundation as the former. The only purgatory for sin is the blood of Christ. To assert that this purgatory stretches out from death to the Day of Judgment is to pass over the gulf between Protesantism based on the Bible and Romanism built on traditions. Prayer for the unsanctified dead would logically follow” (Half Hours, pp. 85, 86).
Let us all, then, pray with Paul that “God himself” may “sanctify” us INSTANTANEOUSLY and wholly, here and now. 1 Thessalonians 3:13: “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness.” Hebrews 13:19,20: “Now the God of peace make you perfect in every good thing to do his will,” etc. And in the same chapter, to throw light upon the meaning of the prayer, we read: “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered without the gate” ( Hebrews 13:12). Colossians 4:12: “Epaphras, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you, always striving for you in his prayers that ye may stand perfect and fully assured [complete] in all the will of God.”
The apostle quotes this prayer of Epaphras, and so endorses the petition. “What language,” asks Finney “could more perfectly describe a state of entire sanctification? If this is not sanctification, what is?” Mahan, quoting this prayer of Epaphras and others, observes: “Such is the unvarying character of those Spirit-inspired prayers, not at all for an increase of holiness, or for greater and greater freedom from sin, but for salvation ‘TO THE UTTERMOST’ and for a ‘standing perfect and complete in ALL the will of God.’ Do such prayers, which it would be an offense in us not to repeat, and that in all sincerity, pertain to what God requires us to regard as the unattainable? Does the Spirit of God thus contradict Himself? From my heart of hearts I answer, No. When we thus pray, we are bound to expect, not less,but ‘exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.’” If the attainability of holiness here and flow be a visionary notion that can not be realized, then Christ was not sincere when he prayed God to “sanctify” us, and put in the lips of all believers a prayer for holiness — “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” There is no escape from the alternative. Either these prayers of Christ and his apostles were stupid blunders, praying and teaching us to pray for an impossibility, or they teach the attainability of entire sanctification HERE and NOW. How would this prayer sound: O Lord, help me to do thy will perfectly and be holy like thee ten years from now, but not now? Who does not see that such a prayer would be a mockery of God?
X. Another unanswerable argument may be drawn for the attainability of holiness from the Scriptural declarations concerning what CHRIST IS ABLE to do for us.
Jesus said to his disciples: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” And we are expressly taught that “He came to destroy the works of the devil,” and to “sanctify the people.” To what end will that unlimited power of the exalted Saviour be exerted? What gave, and still gives, him infinite pain and sorrow? Sin. What does he hate with infinite hatred? Sin.
Let us notice now the specific declarations of what Jesus is ABLE to do for us with all this infinite power.
I. Hebrews 2:18: “He is ABLE to succor them that are tempted.” The Greek word for “succor” is composed of the verb “to run” and the noun “a cry.” It means “to run to the aid of those who cry for help.” But an insufficient help would be no help. Suppose that General Grant, with two million men under his command, had ordered a colonel to attack with his regiment a brigade of the enemy, saying, “I am fully able to succor you”; and in the engagement that followed he furnished inadequate help and allowed his colonel to be defeated. Under such circumstances, who would not say that General Grant “made a promise to the ear and broke it to the hope”? Would the adorable Saviour, with “all power on earth and in heaven” treat us in that way, when we were in a mighty struggle for holiness and crying to him for help? His holiness forbids us to believe it.
But we must believe it, or else accept the truth that entire sanctification is attainable. 2. Jude 24: “Now unto him that is ABLE to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish, in exceeding joy.” The old version reads, “without falling”; but the new version is even stronger and more comforting, and tells us that Christ is able to keep us even “from STUMBLING.” “And we are not,” as Dr.
Steele observes, “to be found faultless in some dark corner of the universe, where flaws and flecks would be unnoticed, but faultless amid the splendors of his ineffable glory. This is what divine grace, as mediated by the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, is able to do for the weakest saint who perseveringly trusts in Jesus Christ, the adorable Son of God and Saviour of men.” “And it is the office of the Holy Spirit to complete such characters in this life, not in the hour of death, nor in purgatorial fires after death, as Dr. Briggs hints, when he suggests that the believer’s sanctification may be completed in the intermediate state” (Half Hours, pp. 29, 99, 103). 3. Romans 4:21: “Being fully assured that what he had promised, he was ABLE also to perform.” Let us refresh our minds with two or three promises to see what he is able to perform. “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.” “God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it” ( 1 Corinthians 10:13). “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Even before the Messiah came, one was inspired to say of him: “He shall be as a refiner’s fire and as fuller’s soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” ( Malachi 3:3). “The very God of peace himself sanctify you wholly … “Faithful is he that calleth you who will also do it” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24).
Wonderful promises! And they are made by one who is ABLE to keep them. Jesus today sits upon his throne of exaltation as a refiner — not only to reign over and purify the Church as a whole, but each individual member. All the mighty provisions of grace are the crucible. The Holy Spirit is the sanctifying fire. Jesus is the watchful and practiced refiner, who is able to “purge” and “purify” and “sanctify” till each heart shall be a reflection of his own. 4. Romans 14:4: “Yea he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath POWER to make him stand.” There is no fall, in the Bible sense, but a fall into sin, and here is the declaration that Jesus is able to make us stand.
After the ordinary “up and-down” Christian experience of ever repeated sinning and repenting, it seems impossible to men; but it is not impossible to an omnipotent Saviour. “For He is abundantly able to save.” 5. 2 Timothy 1:12: “I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
We all know what it is to try to keep ourselves. We have covenanted, and pledged, and resolved to live for God and keep his commandments. We have watched against the besetting sin; but in spite of our vigils, there have been sudden temptations and weak hours, and our “old man” of sin has risen up to cast us down. We have fallen and repented, and wept and prayed, and rededicated ourselves and tried again, only to meet again the dark hours and repeat the sad failures, and go down into the dust in repentance and tears. And the Christian life of most believers is made up chiefly of an endless repetition of these unhappy experiences and fruitless attempts at self-keeping. Paul had learned a better way. He was taught by the sanctifying Spirit to “commit” himself to the Almighty Saviour for safe-keeping; and he was not disappointed. F. B. Meyers, of London, says: “Give yourself up wholly to Jesus and he will keep you. Will you dare to say that he can hold the oceans in the hollow of his hand, and sustain t he arch of heaven, and fill the sun with light for millenniums, but that he can not keep you from being overcome by sin or filled with the impetuous rush of unholy passion? Can he not deliver his saints from the sword, his darlings from the power of the dog? Is all power given him in heaven and on earth, and must he stand paralyzed before the devils that possess you, unable to cast them out? To ask such questions is to answer them. ‘I am persuaded that he is ABLE to keep.’” 6. Acts 20:32: “Able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified.” Paul was taking his final leave of that beloved church at Ephesus, for which he had labored in one of his longest pastorates. His first question at his first meeting with them was: “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” This great doctrine of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost unto sanctification was put into the foreground in his ministry. And now, in his farewell, thinking of the “grievous wolves” that should follow him, “speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them,” — teaching something else than this mighty doctrine of a full salvation which had been the warp and woof of his preaching — he tells them of a mighty Saviour in this solemn parting who was “ABLE to give them an inheritance among the SANCTIFIED.” 7. Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore also he is ABLE to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” “This verse alone might prove the attainability of entire sanctification ….. The Greek word for ‘uttermost’ is a compound word meaning ‘all to the end.’ As the R. V. margin shows, it means ‘completely, to the very end.’ Olshausen says the Greek for ‘to the uttermost’ signifies ‘completely, perfectly.’ Lange says: ‘ The reference is not to his saving always, or forever, but to his saving completely those that come unto him.’ Alford teaches that it means ‘completeness,’ not duration.
Delitzsch says it means ‘perfectly, completely, to the very end,’ but without necessarily any reference to time. Christ is able to save in every way, in all respects, unto the uttermost; so that every want and need, in all its breadth and depth is utterly done away.’ McDonald says: ‘ In fact, there is no word which more fully expresses the completeness of salvation. The divine ability is pledged for a finished salvation — a completed work’” (Saved to the Uttermost, p. 9).
President Mahan remarks: “There are not a few believers at the present time who admit and teach that we may, by faith. be saved from all actual, but not from indwelling sin. On this subject I remark: “1. That the terms ‘sanctified wholly,’ ‘saved to the uttermost.’ and ‘cleansed from all sin,’ must include sin in every form in which it really exists. It is a contradiction in terms to affirm that any person is ‘wholly sanctified,’ ‘saved to the uttermost,’ and ‘cleansed from ALL sin,’ when there is one form of sin, indwelling sin, from which he is not saved at all. “2. We might just as properly, and with just as full warrant from Scripture, that is, with no warrant at all, affirm that the Bible teaches salvation from indwelling but not from actual sin, as to affirm the doctrine under consideration. “3. The testimony of Scripture on this subject is perfectly plain and explicit. All admit that the terms, ‘sin that dwelleth in us,’ ‘the body of sin,’ ‘ the old man,’ ‘the law of sin and death,’ ‘the body of this death,’ and ‘lusts which war in the members,’ mean the same thing, and constitute what is called ‘indwelling sin.’ What then do the Scriptures mean by such expressions as these? ‘ That the body of sin might be destroyed;’ ‘condemned to [destruction] sin in the flesh;’ ‘our old man is crucified with Him.” No dogma can be more obviously unscriptural than is that of the non-destruction of the body of sin in believers” (Autobiography, p. 344). “These passages authorize and require us to trust for, and expect salvation in this one complete and perfect form. To deny this is to charge the Spirit of God with mocking our misery, and all the divine aspirations which he has stirred up in our hearts, and to do this in the most revolting form conceivable; that is, revealing Christ as ABLE, in the most vital of all our interests, to do for us what he requires us to believe he never will do. God forbid that I should lay a foundation for such a charge against the Spirit of Inspiration” (Autobiography, p. 338). 8. 2 Corinthians 9:8: “God is ABLE to make all grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work.” It seems as if Paul were taxing the resources of language, piling up Alps upon Appenines, Pelion on Ossa, as he heaped up superlatives in this verse to express his conception of the abounding grace of God. Here is “sufficiency,” “all sufficiency,” “always all sufficiency,” “in everything,” “all grace abound,” “abound unto every good work.” Could stronger words be used to magnify the sufficiency of sanctifying grace?
Well does Dr. Steele observe that “the mass of believers are mere babes in spiritual development. They see days of great weakness and are often on the verge of surrender to the foe. Some, alas, throw away their arms, and run away from the fight, and never renew the battle. Others fight all their lives with foes in their own hearts and never overcome and cast them out.
They have been told by their preachers that this war in th e members is the normal Christian life. Hence, believing their preachers, instead of the Word of God, they limit his power by their unbelief, and never gladly run, but always sadly drag along the heavenly way. This large class of Christians need enlightenment and encouragement, and not denunciation. They need to dwell in thought on the ‘exceeding great and precious promises,’ that they may have all experience of the ‘exceeding greatness of God’s power to usward who believe.’ They need to lock arms with St. Paul and walk through his glorious epistles, and get his large view of the extent of Christ’s saving power, since he has sent down the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier. — Especially should they ponder that declaration of God’s ability to save, found in 2 Corinthians 9:8: ‘God is able to make all grace abound towards you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work’” (Half Hours, pp. 157, 158). 9. Ephesians 3:20: “ABLE to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Here is another verse in which language itself is strained to contain one of God’s infinite truths. If we were only told that Jesus was able to do “all that we ask,” it would seem to be ample. How quickly we could drop on our knees and cry from the depths of loving hearts: “O blessed Saviour, take away these evil propensities, this indwelling sin. Crucify this ‘old man,’ this ‘carnal mind,’ and let me ‘die to sin’ and be ‘alive to righteousness’ and like thee in holiness for evermore!” It would be a great thing to ask of God. But it is just what he longs to do for us: and he is “able to do all that we ask.” Yea, more: ‘above all that we ask”; still more, “abundantly above all that we ask”; and still more, “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask.” And as if that were not superlative enough to inspire a mighty faith to lay hold on God for a full salvation, he puts it, “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or THINK, according to the power that worketh in us.’ There is an infinite Spirit working in us, and if we will only yield to him, and ask for and expect great things, he is ABLE to do more than we ever, in our highest aspirations and moments of deepest, holiest communion with God, even THINK. O God, give us enlargement of heart — a spiritual apprehension to take in this mighty truth! Adam Clark translates it ‘Able to do superabundantly above the greatest abundance,” and asks, “Of what consequence would it be to tell the Church of God that he had power to do so and so, if there were not implied all assurance that he will do what his power can, and what the soul of man needs to have done?”
Upon the teaching in these wonderful passages Mahan remarks: “For what purpose can these provisions for our ‘salvation to the uttermost’ have been revealed, but to induce in us faith and hope for salvation in that specific form? No one would dare, in view of the passages before us, to deny the fullness and adequacy of the revealed provisions of grace for our entire and present sanctification. To teach that they are not available in their fullest extent, is to deny that they are real provisions at all; for provisions not available are mock, and not real, provisions. To teach that these provisions are not available to their fullest extent, is also to render them utterly indefinite, unmeaning and inaccessible, so that we are left in utter ignorance of what they authorize us to trust and hope for” (Autobiog., p. 339).
CHAPTER - ARGUMENTS FOR THE ATTAINABILITY OF SANCTIFICATION CONTINUED — OTHER PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE — THE COUNSEL TO THE APOSTLES AND THE CHURCHES XI. Still another argument can be made for the attainability of sanctification from various assurances and exhortations in the Bible not yet quoted. They all confirm the doctrine of an INSTANTANEOUS deliverance from all sin. Hebrews 12:10: “For they verily for a few days chastened us as seemeth good to them; but he, for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.” “This,” says Steele, “is the recovery of the lost moral image of God. a glorious possibility to every believer.” And the verse declares that this is the end and aim of God’s chastenings and providences. If we are God’s children he allots to us our experiences, not so much primarily to make us happy as to make us holy. If we are proud, he manages to mortify our pride. If we are self-seeking in the matter of reputation, he gives us shame for glory, till we learn to set our heart on the honor that comes from God. If we have an inordinate love for riches, he can consume them by water or flame or financial disaster, till we turn our stricken hearts to the treasures in heaven. If domestic blessings ensnare and lead us to forgetfulness of the heavenly home, he can take away the darling of the heart and the pride of the life. He chastens because he loves th at we may “bear the peaceable fruits of righteousness,” and become “partakers of his holiness.” Colossians 2:9-11: “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full, who is the head of all principality and power; in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ.”
Here he explains now. All “fullness of the Godhead” is in Jesus, and we can come into such a condition or relation that we “shall be full in him.” We attain this condition by spiritual circumcision, or entire sanctification. “The putting off of the body of the flesh,” says Bishop Ellicott, “is practically synonymous with ‘the body of sin,’ in Romans 6:6.” Steele says: “We call the attention of every Greek scholar to the strength of the original noun, ‘putting off.’ It is a word invented by Paul, and found nowhere else in the Bible, nor in the whole range of Greek literature. To show the thoroughness of the cleansing by the complete stripping off and laying aside of the propensity to evil, the apostle prefixes one preposition (apo) denoting separateness, to another (ek) denoting outness, and thus constructs the strongest conceivable term for the entire removal of depravity” (Half Hours, p. 163). Meyer comments thus: “Whereas t he spiritual circumcision, divinely performed, consisted in a complete parting and doing away with this body (of sin) in so far as God, by means of this ethical circumcision, has taken off and removed the sinful body from man, like a garment drawn off and laid aside.” Steele adds: “ If this does not mean the complete and eternal separation of depravity, like the perpetual effect of cutting off and casting away the foreskin, then it is impossible to express the idea of entire cleansing in any language” (p. 89).
Col 3:14, 15: “Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of Christ rule [arbitrate in your hearts.”
Meyer translates “In addition to all this, however, put on love by which Christian perfection is knit.” Love, in other words, is to be put on like an upper garment, because love establishes moral perfection. Dr. Steele adds: “Let that peace of Christ, that holy satisfaction of mind wrought by Christ through the Spirit, the blessed inner rest and delicious repose, arbitrate in your hearts.” It is very gratifying to find John Wesley, the heroic defender of Christian perfection in a darker age, so perfectly vindicated by Meyer, pronounced by Dr. Schaff ‘the ablest exegete of his age.’ He even uses the very phrase, ‘Christian perfection,’ for which Wesley was almost snowed under by hostile pamphlets written by his clerical brethren. The world moves, thank God” (Half Hours, p. 112). Hebrews 6:1: “Wherefore let us cease to speak of the first principles of Christ, and press on unto perfection.” Here again we meet this same word for “perfection,” used but twice in the Greek Testament. Here perfection” refers especially to the fullness of spiritual knowledge manifesting itself in a Christian profession as the antithesis of babyhood.” Delitzsch teaches that the verb “press on” is used very appropriately here with epi (unto), of the mark or object aimed at; it combines the notion of an impulse from without, with that of eager and onward pressing haste. “It refers to life as well as to knowledge.” Dr. Whedon says: “When Hebrews 6:1 is adduced as an exhortation to advancing to a perfected Christian character, it is no misquotation.” It seems to refer to the same idea advanced in Ephesians 4:12,13: “For the perfecting of the saints … till we all attain unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Dr. Steele says of Hebrews 6:1: “Perfection is here represented, not as something realized by the lapse of time, or by unconscious growth, and, least of all, attainable only at death. We are exhorted to press on against wind and tide, till we reach this ‘land of corn and wine and oil,’ and take up our abode. For the Greek preposition ‘unto’ here embraces both motion to a place and rest in it, and can not mean an aim at an unattainable ideal” (Half Hours, p. 113).
Dr. Clark says: “The verb teaches the idea of our being borne on IMMEDIATELY into the experience.”
Dr. Lowrey says: “The goal invariably set before the racer in Scripture is a sinless state. And those who talk about progressive sanctification without such definite goal talk nonsense. It is like shooting into vacancy, and then prowling around through the weeds for the game” (Possibilities of Grace, p. 16.)
Bishop Taylor says: “Allow me to call attention to this important fact — this term ‘perfection,’ and terms used synonymously, such as ‘holiness,’ ‘sanctify you wholly,’ and ‘perfect love,’ are not of human origin at all.
They are all employed by the Holy Ghost, in application to the experience of believers in this life. It is fair to presume that he perfectly understood the use of language, and that in the employment of such terms he meant something. He certainly would not use such words unless he designated them to represent some definite, understandable, attainable thing. To suppose that he would use these terms as mere verbiage, and yet make them the subject of specific command and promise, is monstrous blasphemy. If we must admit that the Holy Spirit did understand the use of these terms, and did design by them to teach a definite, attainable development of Christian life called ‘perfection,’ to which he promises to lead us, if we will cheerfully walk after him, why should any man dare to ignore God’s teaching, and say, ‘O, it is impossible! impossible! No man ever was perfect or can be in this life!’ The least we can do in safety is to admit that in the use of the term in application to the experience of men and women in this life, the Holy Spirit meant something, and something, too, of vast importance to ourselves, and hence we should patiently and prayerfully investigate the subject, and ascertain what he did mean, and how we may attain it.” “You may readily perceive that Christian perfection is not that misty, incomprehensible, unattainable something that Satan and poor dwarfish doubters would have us believe, but a simple, appropriate, necessary, practical attainment. Not for a certain ‘caste,’ or small class only, but the privilege of all believers. Not a matter left to their own option, but an imperative duty which they can not ignore, when brought home to their conscience by the Holy Spirit, nor neglect without a forfeiture of their justified relation” (Infancy and Manhood, pp. 19, 1 23).
JUSTIFICATION Acts 2:38: “Repent ye and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; Acts 26:18: “That they may receive remission of sins. Titus 3:5: “He saved us by the washing of regeneration,1 John 1:9: “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, SANCTIFICATION AND ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (which means sanctification).
AND an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me.”
AND renewing of the Holy Ghost.’
AND to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The first member of no one of these sentences means the same as the second member. It is idle to pretend that “remission of sins” is the same thing as the “Baptism with the Holy Ghost”; or that “remission of sins” is a synonym for “an inheritance among them that are sanctified “; or that “washing is “renewing”; or that “forgive us our sins” is equivalent to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The sins are many; the unrighteousness is single — that unrightness of our moral being. The former are acts; the latter is a state. The former must be forgiven; the latter must be cleansed away.
On the first of this group of passages ( Acts 2:38) Dr. A. J. Gordon says: “This passage shows that logically and chronologically, the gift of the Spirit (in sanctification) is subsequent to repentance.” This point is so clear that one of the most conservative as well as ablest writers on this subject, in commenting on this text in Acts says: “Therefore it is evident that the reception of the Holy Ghost, as here spoken of, has nothing whatever to do with bringing men to believe and repent. It is a SUBSEQUENT operation; it is an additional and separate blessing; it is a privilege founded on faith already actively working in the heart. I do not mean to deny that the gift of the Holy Ghost may be practically on the same occasion; but never in the same moment. The reason is quite simple, too. The gift of the Holy Ghost is grounded on the fact that we are sons by faith in Christ, believers (already) resting on redemption in him. Plainly, therefore, it appears that the Spirit of God has already regenerate d us” (William Kelly, Lectures on New Testament Doctrine of Holy Spirit, p. 161). Rev. Andrew Murray also writes: “To the disciples, the baptism of the Spirit was very distinctly not his first bestowal for regeneration, but the definite communication of his presence in power of their glorified Lord.” In other words, in Acts 2:38, two distinct and separate Christian experiences are clearly spoken of — first, regeneration with all that accompanies it of forgiveness, justification, and adoption; and second, that other “second experience” discussed in this volume, “the Baptism with the Holy Ghost unto sanctification.” Ephesians 5:25,26: “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it.’, Here is sanctification promised or provided for those who have already had the first work of grace wrought upon them. “And that it is a MOMENTARY ACT is seen from the aorist tense in which the verb appears.”
What is more needed today than that all our churches (the individual members of them) shall be sanctified. Let any one go about from church to church, as the writer does in revival work, and his heart will ache over the low state of religion and the desolations of Zion. On this painful subject Dr.
A. J. Gordon, who developed such a wonderfully spiritual church in a large city (Boston), observes: “An unsanctified church dishonors the Lord, especially by its incongruity. A noble head, lofty-browed and intellectual, upon a deformed and stunted body is a pitiable sight. What to the angels and principalities, who gaze evermore upon the face of Jesus, must be the sight of an unholy and misshapen church on earth, standing in that place of honor called ‘his body’? Photographing in a sentence the ecclesia (church) of the earliest centuries, Prof. Harnack says: ‘Originally the church was the heavenly bride of Christ and the abiding place of the Holy Spirit. … A self-indulgent church disfigures Christ; an avaricious church bears false witness against Christ; a worldly church betrays Christ, and gives him over once more to be reviled and mocked by his enemies’” (Ministry of Spirit, pp. 59, 64).
Paul’s instruction to the churches.
We have already incidentally noticed that Jesus treated the disciples as regenerate and addressed them as such. Their “names were written in heaven”; they had “followed him in the regeneration” and they were “not of the world”; and “they have kept my word.” They were commissioned to preach the gospel and to cast out devils as representatives of Jesus. It is rashness itself to say that they were not regenerated men. But Jesus prayed that they might be “sanctified,” and charged them to wait for the “Baptism with the Holy Ghost,” which would be to them a sanctifying second experience. This is no conjecture of ours. Peter has left us no room for doubt on this subject. In his speech before the council at Jerusalem, Acts 15:8,9, he declared the effect of that baptism: “God which knoweth the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us, cleansing their hearts by faith.” Dr. Steele says: “This text is an incontrovertible demonstration that the fullness of the Spirit is a synonym for entire sanctification.” That is exactly what we are insisting upon in this whole volume, and what the Bible teaches — that sanctification is the “cleansing of the heart by faith “ — the result of a “Baptism with the Holy Ghost.” And the after lives of those disciples prove that they were sanctified.
We might, in passing, mention the case of Cornelius, who was “a devout man,” “one that feared God with all his house,” and “prayed to God always,” and was “a just man.” When Peter learned all the facts about this Roman he declared: “In every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him.” ( Acts 10:35). He was one that God had saved — a regenerate man, yet he was not sanctified; but while Peter yet spake “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” And then was realized what Charles Wesley sang of: “Refining fire, go through my heart, Illuminate my soul, Scatter thy life through every part, And sanctify the whole.” Now we will touch upon Paul’s instruction to the young church at Rome.
He thanked God that their “faith was proclaimed throughout the whole world” (i. 7). Yet he prayed that he might be able to come to them and impart a “spiritual gift to the end that they might be established,” much as Peter and John went to Samaria after the revival under Philip, to confer a spiritual gift to the converts who had “believed and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” “who when they came down prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost “ — a sanctifying “second experience.”
He is praying for those Roman Christians much as he prayed for the Thessalonians — that “God may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness.” And he wanted to visit Rome and help them into this confirming, “stablishing” experience of sanctification. But he could not come then. So he wrote about the grounds of their salvation, teaching them of the atoning work of Christ and justification by faith. “Being therefore justified by faith let us have peace with God” (v. 1). But he goes farther than justification, and shows them also that sanctification is not gained by a process of works, but by faith. He will not be satisfied with anything less than the death of the “old man” of inbred sin, “that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin” ( Romans 6:6). “So reckon ye yourselves dead to sin” (11). “But present yourselves unto God as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (13) and then, “being made free from sin, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life” (22). If St. Paul did not urge upon those Roman converts a “second experience” of sanctification in these passages, then language could not do it. It would be as absurd to say it, as to say that the author is not arguing for sanctification in this book.
We find the same kind of instruction in the epistles to the Corinthians. He courteously salutes them in the introduction ( 1 Corinthians 1:2) as “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus,” that is, “called to be saints.” But they are not yet saintly, for there are dissensions and sins among them; so that he “could not speak unto them as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ” ( <460301>1 Corinthians 3:1). But he holds up before them the conception of their being “the temple of the Holy Ghost” ( 1 Corinthians 6:19). He tells them of the all-sufficient grace ( 1 Corinthians 10:13), and urges them to imitate him as he also imitated Christ ( <461101>1 Corinthians 11:1). He tells them of the “anointing,” and “sealing,” and “earnest” of the Spirit that always insures sanctification ( 2 Corinthians 1:21,22) and that their “sufficiency” to live the holy life was from God ( 2 Corinthians 3:5). He gives them encouraging promises to holiness, and then beseeches them to “cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” ( <470701>2 Corinthians 7:1). Again, giving them a double assurance that God is able to make all needed grace to abound ( Corinthians 9:8 and 12:9), he closes thus: “And this we also pray for, even your perfecting” ( 2 Corinthians 13:9). I say again, if St. Paul did not urge upon people in Corinth already converted a “second experience” of sanctification, then language could not do it.
Let us now look at the epistle to the Ephesians St. Paul writes it “to the faithful in Christ Jesus “ ( Ephesians 1:1). Here are certainly regenerated people. But so full was the apostle’s heart of this great theme of sanctification, and so eager was he to have the churches experience it, that in the fourth verse of the epistle he assures the Ephesians that God “chose” them before the foundation of the world that they “should be holy and without blemish.” And before the first chapter closes, he breaks out in his unceasing prayer that God may give them “the spirit of wisdom,” that “having the eyes of their heart enlightened “they might “know what is the hope of his calling and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe,” — that mighty power that is ABLE to sanctify the soul ( Ephesians 1:16-19). He tells them ( 2:22) that they were builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit. Then he breaks out into another ardent prayer ( Ephesians 3:14-21) “that God would strengthen them with power through his Spirit,” that they might “be strong to apprehend” and “know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge and be filled unto all the fullness of God.” And he assures them that such a blessing is possible because Jesus is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” for any one of us. To further urge them on to this blessing, he writes them (4:12) that God has provided means “for the perfecting of the saints,” till we all “attain” “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ “ (4:13). He therefore begs them (4:22) to put off the “old man” of sin, and (4:24) “put on the new man ….. created in righteousness and holiness,” and “be filled with the Spirit” (5:18), for “Jesus loved the church and gave himself for it that he might sanctify it “ (5:25, 26), that it might be “holy and without blemish.”
This beloved apostle sits down to write to Christians at Colosse, and he calls them “faithful brethren in Christ.” Surely they must have been converted, regenerated, justified people. But he can not get through the first chapter without touching on the great theme and telling them that Christ is trying “to present them holy and without blemish and unreproveable before him” (1:22). And in the next chapter he reminds them that “all the fullness of the Godhead is in Christ,” and “in him they are made full,” and they may have their whole being circumcised by “a circumcision not made with hands in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ,” and be clean (2:9-11). He urges them, therefore, to “put on the bond of perfectness” (3:14), and tells them that Epaphras prays constantly for them that they “may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God” (4:12).
Now we consider his words to the Thessalonians. It is a dear church, so precious that he tells them that he thanks God unceasingly for their “work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1, 2), “so that ye became an ensample to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia and in every place, your faith to Godward is gone forth.”
Here there was a body of believers above the average, far-famed for justifying faith and hope and works. Yet, strange as it may seem to certain theologians of a peculiar philosophy, St. Paul tells them in the third chapter and tenth verse, that he is praying night and day exceedingly that he may see them and “may perfect that which is lacking in their faith.”
Why, Paul, what is the matter with such Christians? When a man is justified, is he not “as holy as he can be”? “There is ‘no basis’ in philosophy or theology” for any “second experience” beyond, is there? St. Paul quietly adds, to the surprise of some: “May our God and Father bring me to you ….. to the end he may stahlish your hearts unblameable in HOLINESS before our God and Father” (3:13). “And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire without blame” (5:23). “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (4:3). “For God called us not for uncleanness but in sanctification “ (4:9).
Verily, St. Paul’s philosophy and theology must have been different from some people’s that we wot of. He evidently believed a “second experience” was not only possible but exceedingly desirable, a blessing so needful to the churches that it is to be prayed for unceasingly. He felt that there was a difference between regeneration and sanctification, and that no believer ought to rest short of being “established unblameable in holiness,” and “sanctified” which was the “will of God.”
According to some authorities, this Thessalonian church was only six months old — young converts from heathenism, of all ages and conditions.
Yet this great apostle is urging them on, by exhortations and prayers, to entire sanctification, the privilege of all believers. President Mahan says: “Were all converts ‘instructed in the way of the Lord’ as they were then, instead of appearing as they do now, ‘a feeble folk,’ sickly, and unable to ‘fly or go,’ they would everywhere be seen ‘girded with everlasting strength,’ ‘holding forth the word of life,’ and ready and ‘able to endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ.’ At no period of his Christian life can the believer be so readily prepared to receive ‘the baptism of the Holy Ghost,’ and thus to be ‘ filled with all the fullness of God,’ as during the period of this ‘ first love.’ His consecration to Christ is then supreme; his hunger and thirst after righteousness subordinate in his mind to all other desires, and his faith is so simple and childlike that he will readily receive ‘the things which are freely given us of God,’ as soon as he clearly apprehends them. But when these primal joys have faded out, and the mind has become habituated to a state in which it ‘walks in darkness and has no light,’ and has come to think, perhaps, that God has ‘reserved’ no ‘better things for us,’ in this life, how difficult it is for the believer, in the midst of all his worldly entanglements, to get back into that child-like faith in which he will ‘ receive with meekness the engrafted word!’” (Autobiog., pp. 59, 60).
If we turn to the Epistle to the Hebrews, which President Woolsey, of Yale, after a lifetime spent in studying the Greek Testament, thought Paul certainly wrote, we notice the same fact. It is a letter written to Hebrews to whom he would unfold the privileges of believers. Again and again he writes of the Saviour “that sanctifieth” (2:11), “who is able to save to the uttermost” (7:25) and “able to succour them that are tempted” (2:18). For this reason they were urged to “cease to speak of the first principles of Christ, and press on unto perfection” (6:1), for “by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (10:4). God chastens us that we may become “partakers of his holiness” (12:10) and yield the “fruit of righteousness “ (12:12); therefore “follow after sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord” (12:14). And may that Jesus who suffered “that he might sanctify the people” (13:12) “make you perfect in every good thing to do his will” (13:21).
A theologian, who denies that such language teaches the “second experience” of sanctification might be safely challenged to write anything that would teach it.
But what shall we say of all these passages taken together in epistle after epistle? What shall we say of the fact that the word “perfection” and its relatives is predicated of human character under the operations of grace more than fifty times; and the words “holy” and “holiness” and “sanctify” and “sanctification” and “without spot” and “without blemish “ and “unblameable,” as affirmed of believers or urged upon them, move through the Scriptures like a flock of birds? President Mahan said: “If such terms as ‘ sanctify wholly,’ ‘ save to the uttermost,’ ‘cleanseth from all sin,’ ‘cleanse from all unrighteousness,’ and ‘preserve blameless,’ do not mean salvation from all sin, and entire sanctification, then who can tell us what they do mean? No man, living or dead, can tell us. All words of Scripture pertaining to the provisions and promises of grace are rendered utterly indefinite and void of any assignable meaning” (Autobiog., p. 347).
CHAPTER - FINAL ARGUMENTS FOR THE ATTAINABILITY OF SANCTIFICATION — DIFFICULTIES REMOVED AND GENERAL STATEMENT OF CONCLUSIONS XIII. The possibility of immediate sanctification can be proved by the testimony of God’s own Word concerning his children. We might suppose that, if such a doctrine were true, we should find in the Bible some examples of men who had attained to such holiness as God requires, and such as the Word terms sanctification or perfection. We are not in the least disappointed. We have the witness of the Spirit to God’s own holy ones, “ABEL.. had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness,” “ENOCH walked with God three hundred years,” until he walked straight into heaven without passing through the gateway of death.
MOSES so walked with God in intimacy of holy communion, that “the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend,” He came down from the Mount of Vision with so much of God in him that his “face did shine.” And Aaron, his brother, and all the people, were “afraid to come nigh him.” But in the modesty of his sanctified soul “he wist not that his face did shine.” When he talked with the people he had to veil the divine glory that was in him from their eyes. “But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off,” and spoke with God “face to face.” And when jealous Korah, Dothan and Abiram rose up against Moses and Aaron and said unto them, “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them,” Moses meekly responded, “Tomorrow the Lord will show who are his and who are HOLY.” Wonderful man, shining with the glory of indwelling deity!
Job lived in the dim twilight of the world’s morning. For one in his circumstances and conditions he was what God required, “a perfect and an upright man’, one that feareth God and escheweth evil.” For the world’s benefit and to teach spiritual lessons to a suffering humanity, he was permitted to suffer in body and mind and heart all that man may endure. “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” ( Job 1:8-22).
Isaiah was a prophet of God whose bosom glowed with the fervor of piety.
He was certainly neither an unregenerated man nor a backslider. But he had a marvelous second experience, amply described for our purpose in the sixth chapter of Isaiah, The great prophet had an exalted spiritual revelation — some vision of God that made him painfully conscious of uncleanness. This is the state of heart that invariably precedes sanctification, He cried out, “Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips!”
Then flew one of the seraphims unto him “having a live coal in his hand,” and he laid it upon his mouth and said: “Lo, this has touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Amidst this wonderful imagery, describing this profound spiritual experience, some things are perfectly plain. Fire is repeatedly the Scriptural emblem of the Holy Spirit; and the effect of fire in purifying metals is made to represent the work of the Holy Ghost in cleansing the heart.
This was the thought of Malachi: “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi and purge them ….. that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” ( Malachi 3:3).
John the Baptist repeated the prediction: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” ( Matthew 3:11). At Pentecost “tongues, like as of fire, sat upon each one of them,” “and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” ( Acts 2:3,4). All this shows the nature of that which befell Isaiah. It was not the pardon of transgressions which he received or a restoration from a spiritual lapse, but a sanctifying act of God “purging” away his indwelling sin. This may explain why, ever after, he was emphatically “the evangelical prophet,” proclaiming in loftiest strains the deepest, divinest things of the kingdom of God. Dr. Carradine on this transaction writes: “Notice also that this blessing of holiness was brought, came from God, and was not developed within by a long growth i n grace.
And, furthermore, notice the alacrity, the gladness, and the fearlessness of sanctification, as shown in the experience of Isaiah. ‘Then said I, here am I; send me’” (Sanctification, p. 111).
The great Hezekiah, Isaiah’s contemporary, said to the Lord in prayer: “I beseech thee, O Lord, remember how I have walked before thee in truth and with a PERFECT HEART” ( 2 Kings 20:3).
Of Zacharias and Elizabeth — the father and mother of John the Baptist — it is recorded: “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” ( Luke 1:6). “And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost” ( Luke 1:41). “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost” ( Luke 1:67). “This fullness of the Spirit,” says Dr. Steele, “is a synonym for entire sanctification. (Proved by Peter’s incidental remark in Acts 15:9,) Since there are but two forces that can sway the soul, the flesh and the Spirit; to be completely filled with either is to exclude the other. To be filled with the Spirit is to be completely emancipated from the flesh, or inherent depravity.
To be but partially swayed by the Spirit is to afford a foothold in the soul for a contest between these antagonistic powers. — Galatians 5:17” (Love Enthroned, p. 96).
Both Jeremiah and John the Baptist were sanctified by a special miracle of grace in earliest infancy. “I sanctified thee, and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” ( Jeremiah 1:5). “He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost” ( Luke 1:15). We have no comment to make upon these extraordinary cases of sanctification, except to call attention to the fact that it was, as ever, in each of these persons the cleansing act of the infinite God, and no gradual work of man. And the after lives of these mighty prophets support fully our theory of sanctification.
St, Paul said so much about sanctification that we certainly might expect to find him an illustration of his own doctrine. And we are not disappointed.
There is abundance of both negative and positive evidence that he was a sanctified man, There are his frequent requests for prayer on his own behalf — never that he may be “forgiven sin” or “delivered from an easily besetting sin,” or that “he may hold out faithful,” or that he “may be delivered from a bad habit “ — never anything of this kind. He asks the Roman Christians to pray ‘that he may be delivered from them which do not believe in Judea, and that his service to the saints may be accepted” ( Romans 15:30-32). He asks the Ephesians to “pray that utterance may be given him to make known the mystery of the gospel” ( Ephesians 6:18,19). He asks the Colossians to “pray God would open a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ” ( Colossians 4:3). He asks the Thessalonians to pray “that the Word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified.” And it is thus to the end — never any confession of sins, or prayers for forgiveness or spiritual cleansing. “Hence we infer,” says Dr, Steele, — “1. That Paul enjoyed the grace of Christian perfection, being delivered both from sinning and from sin having been saved from the first by regeneration and from the second by entire sanctification. “2. That he had a clear, satisfactory, and joyful knowledge of his sonship to God, through faith in Christ, by the abiding witness of the Holy Spirit. “3. That the self-condemning, self-loathing style of piety is not the highest style. St. Paul says nothing depreciative of the self on which the image of Christ is clearly enstamped. He is a stranger to a spiritual crucifixion in which he is forever dying on the cross and never dead” (Half Hours, p. 40).
Once he told the Philippians and twice the Corinthians, “Be ye imitators of me even as I am also of Christ,” and to the Thessalonians be wrote: “Ye are witnesses and God also how holily and righteously and unblameably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe” ( 1 Thessalonians 2:10).
Here is direct testimony to his sanctification, which only the rash will venture to dispute. He showed a perfect love for his enemies who were following him about from city to city and banding themselves together by an awful curse to take his life. “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Ghost, that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart, for I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans ix, 1-3). Such a spirit, like that of Jesus on the cross, could only be found in a sanctified heart. There is no taint of selfishness or sin in a love that truthfully affirms: “I will most gladly spend and b e spent for your souls” ( 2 Corinthians 12:15). He spoke “not as pleasing men, but God, who proveth our hearts” ( 1 Thessalonians 2:4). For “if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ” ( Galatians 1:10). He had an unworldliness of heart which enabled him to say: “Our citizenship is in heaven” ( Philippians 3:20), and our “life is hid with Christ in God” ( Colossians 3:3). The secret of it all was given in his own words: “I have been crucified with Christ [that is, the “old man” of sin in me] yet I live: and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me,” Surely Christ did not live in him and through him an unsanctified life. (See Half Hours, Chaps. VII, to XI) XIV, The witness of the Holy Spirit is unanswerable proof of the attainability of sanctification. Of course, this argument has weight only with those who have the witness of the Spirit, and those who will believe testimony. To indicate our meaning, let us read over again that remarkable passage, Acts 15:8: “And God, who knoweth the heart, BARE THEM WITNESS, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.”
The men who deny the possibility of sanctification may argue their case to a conclusion, not with the obscure author of this book, but with the Holy Ghost — the infinite God himself, He “BEARETH WITNESS” to his own divine work of cleansing and sanctifying; if anybody denies it and cares to “make God a liar,” they may settle it with Him. It is our aim simply to unfold what He teaches, — what are the blessed possibilities of grace to those who believe.
Remember, the Holy Ghost is a witness bearer to all humanity of their spiritual condition. He is sent to the sinner to bear witness to him and convict him of sin, in rejecting Jesus ( John 16:9). He bears witness to the believing convert that he is a child of God. “Ye received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” ( Romans 8:15,16). And, as we have seen above in Acts 15:8 and Hebrews 10:14, he is a witness to “them that are SANCTIFIED.”
That doubtless was why St. Paul was so “persuaded,” and so marvelously serene in all the inconceivable evils that beset him. He had the witness within him, and knew that his “life was hid with Christ in God,” and that a sanctifying Saviour was living in him ( Galatians 2:20). This was what enabled the Apostle John, another instance of sanctification, to say: “And hereby we know that he abideth in us by the SPIRIT which he gave us.” “It is the Spirit that beareth witness because the Spirit is the truth” ( 1 John 3:24 and 5:7).
Sinners are ever ready to question the witness of the Spirit to believers of their justification, And it is a very sad fact that believers, in the same way, turn around and question the witness of the Spirit to the sanctification of the sanctified. Dr. Carradine justly observes that “the scoff and denial of the experience and witness of sanctification comes with a poor grace from one who confesses that he has never sought or obtained the blessing. This is on a par with saying that he does not believe in the existence of London because he has never been there, or he has doubts that Jenny Lind had a voice because he never heard her sing; or, closer still, that he heard her sing one song, but does not believe that she ever sang another song in a different key, The denial of the witness of sanctification when sifted down, merely means, that the brother who denies it has simply never had the witness himself. He thinks that the Spirit has but one song for the soul (forgiveness), and speaks in only one key (regeneration), and testifies to but one fact (justification)” (Sanctification, p. 85).
Hear that wonderful man of early Methodist annals, Carvosso, say, when seeking sanctification a year after conversion: “I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus had cleansed me from all sin” (Life of Carvosso, p. 33).
Rev. William Bramwell testifies: “The Lord, for whom I had waited, came suddenly to the temple of my heart, and I had an immediate evidence that this was the blessing I had been for some time seeking. My soul was all wonder, love and praise” (Perfect Love, p. 124).
Bishop Hamline says of his experience: “All at once I felt as though a hand, not feeble, but omnipotent, not of wrath, but of love, were laid on my brow. I felt it not only outwardly but inwardly. It seemed to press upon my whole body, and diffuse all through and through it a holy, sin-consuming energy” (p. 127).
Mrs. Jonathan Edwards gives her experience in these glowing words: “So conscious was I of the joyful presence of the Holy Spirit that I could scarcely refrain from leaping with transports of joy. My soul was filled and overwhelmed with light and love and joy in the Holy Ghost, and seemed just ready to go away from the body” (p. 133).
Mrs. Phoebe Palmer, the blessed evangelist, wrote: “While thus exulting, the voice of the Spirit again appealingly applied to my understanding: ‘Is not this sanctification?’ I could no longer hesitate, reason as well as grace forbade; but I rejoice in the assurance that I was wholly sanctified throughout body, soul, and spirit” (p. 129).
Dr. Daniel Steele, relating his experience, writes: “Very suddenly, after about three weeks’ diligent search, the Comforter came with power and great joy to my heart. He took my feet out of the realm of doubt and weakness, and planted them forever on the Rock of assurance and strength….. In the language of Dr. Payson I daily exclaim, ‘O that I had known this twenty years ago! ‘ But I thank God that after a struggle of more than a score of years ‘I have entered the valley of blessing so sweet, And Jesus abides with me there; And his Spirit and blood make my cleansing complete, And his perfect love casteth out fear.
O come to this valley of blessing so sweet, Where Jesus doth fullness bestow; And believe, and receive, and confess Him, That all his salvation may know.’” (Half Hours, p. 306).
Dr. Carradine, after writing his experience, adds: “Can not God witness to purity of heart as he does to pardon of sin? Are not his blessings self-interpreting? He that impresses a man to preach, that testifies to a man that he is converted, can he not let a man know when he is sanctified? I knew I was sanctified, just as I knew fifteen years before that I was converted. I knew it not only because of the work itself in my soul, but through the Worker. He, the Holy Ghost, bore witness clearly, unmistakably and powerfully to his own work; and, although months have passed away since that blessed morning, yet the witness of the Holy Spirit to the work has never left me for a moment” (Sanctification, p. 22).
Bishop Foster writes of his experience thus: “The Spirit seemed to lead me into the inmost sanctuary of my soul — into those chambers where I had before discovered such defilement — and showed me that all was cleansed, that the corruptions which had given me such distress were dead — taken away — that not one of them remained. I felt the truth of the witness, it was so; I was conscious of it; as conscious of it as I had ever been of my conversion” (Defense of Christian Perfection, p. 63).
Prof. T. C. Upham, D. D., a Congregationalist, testifies: “There is calm sunshine upon the soul. I have continually what seems to me to be the witness of the Holy Spirit — that is to say, I have a firm and abiding conviction that I am wholly the Lord’s, which does not seem to be introduced into the mind by reasoning nor by any methods whatever of forced and self-made reflection, and which I can ascribe only to the Spirit of God. It is a sort of interior voice which speaks silently, but effectually, to the soul, and bids me be of good cheer. I can not help saying, with the apostle, ‘God hath also sealed us and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts ‘ — 2 Corinthians 1:22” (Forty Witnesses, p. 280).
We could fill a volume (larger than we propose to make this book) with similar testimony. But we have presented enough to show that God verifies his word, and still gives the witness of his Spirit to the sanctification of men. To those who receive it, this is absolute proof of the doctrine of sanctification; and it is satisfactory proof to those who are willing to accept the consentaneous testimony of a multitude of God’s ripest saints. Those who are committed against the doctrine, no amount of argument or testimony of Scripture or of living souls will persuade. Precisely that same state of mind rejected the Son of God, and sent him to the cross. Blessed are they whose hearts and minds are open to the truth.
What conclusions, now, may be safely drawn front these fourteen arguments? We have, as the reader observed, defended the doctrine of entire sanctification as an attainable experience, (1) from probability; (2) from the Bible as a whole; (3) from Bible descriptions of what is possible to believers; (4) from the revealed purpose of the life and death of Christ; (5) from his continuous mediatorial work, as our Sanctifier; (6) from the revealed work of the Spirit as our Sanctifier; (7) from God’s commands to be holy; (8) from God’s promises of holiness to those who seek it; (9) from the inspired prayers that believers may become holy; (10) from what Christ is declared to be ABLE to do for us; (11) from the assurances of, and exhortations to, holiness; (12) from Christ’s words to the disciples and Paul’s instruction to the churches; (13) from the testimony of God’s Word concerning his own children; (14) from the witness of the Holy Spirit himself to sanctification.
If a hundred proof-texts of unmistakable bearing, confirmed by the exegesis of the ablest Greek scholars, can support a doctrine; if the revealed work of Christ and the Spirit, and the inspired commands, and exhortations, and promises, and prayers, and assurances, and encouragements of the Bible, and the witness of the Holy Spirit, can teach a truth — then the attainability of sanctification and the duty to be sanctified are among the revealed truths of God. They stand impregnable against all the assaults of infidelity, in the church or out of it. There are five times as many proof-texts, fairly interpreted, for the support of this doctrine as there are for the doctrine of conversion and regeneration. There are ten times as many as there are for the divinity of Christ. If these texts, teaching sanctification and holiness as an attainable experience, by nouns, adjectives and verbs, in every possible form of expression, do not confirm and establish this doctrine, then no doctrine can be taught by Bible language.
As rational beings, then, we must accept this doctrine of entire sanctification as a revealed truth of God, and hold that “Jesus is ABLE to save ALL to the UTTERMOST, or we must hold to the following ABSURDITIES: 1. That God of choice induces imperfect, when he might just as well induce perfect, moral and spiritual purity. 2. That Jesus “abides” in believers who are filled with “warring lusts” and constantly “sinning in thought, word, and deed,” when he might render their hearts and beings clean temples of the Holy Ghost. 3. That Jesus, though “ABLE to save to the uttermost” and “sanctify wholly” his seeking, willing children, yet prefers to “dwell in them” and “walk with them,” while they do not “separate themselves nor “cleanse themselves from all defilement of flesh and Spirit perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 4. That Jesus came to be not only our righteousness (justification) but our “sanctification,” and he has “all power,” to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” yet when we come with agonizing hearts pleading to be “sanctified wholly,” he will not do it, preferring to have us remain in sin,5. That Jesus taught that our heavenly Father was more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him than are earthly parents to give bread to hungry children — that Spirit that can “purify our hearts,” and “cause us to keep his commandments and do them,” yet when we plead for the baptism with the Spirit, our Father in heaven will not send him, preferring to have us remain uncleansed and disobedient,6. That God commands us to be holy, a command which he knows, with all possible grace to help, we never can keep — thus making himself an unjust tyrant. 7. That God declares that “he is able to make all grace to abound,” and “my grace is sufficient,” when it is not sufficient, and we are under the painful necessity of sinning “daily, in thought, word, and deed “ — thus making himself a liar before the universe. 8. That Jesus prayed for our sanctification, and Paul prayed, “Now the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly “ — prayers that never were or can be answered. 9. That all the promises that we may be “sanctified” and “partakers of the Divine nature” are mock promises. 10. That the “witness of the Holy Ghost” to the sanctification of believers is all untrue. 11. But I forbear. There is absolutely no end to these absurdities to which a man is driven who rejects this truth. As for myself, I prefer to reject all these absurdities, and open my whole being to the joyful truth that we have a Saviour both ABLE and WILLING to “save to the uttermost,” and a “Holy Spirit waiting and longing to purify our hearts” and “fill us with all the fullness of God,” We come, therefore, to these conclusions: 1. That there is a second work of grace, which God would have wrought in us all by the Holy Ghost, entirely distinct from? regeneration, and subsequent to it. 2. It is a cleansing, purifying ACT of God himself that sanctifies the heart. “The God of peace himself sanctify you wholly.” Sanctification is not, therefore, reached by a gradual development or growth. Such a notion is a grave and even calamitous error. “So long as the Church supposes that sanctification is a gradual growth in grace, so long will God’s people be kept out of the blessing of a holy heart. How Satan smiles when he sees the Church seeking holiness in a direction and a plane where it can never be found! He is not the least alarmed so long as God’s people look to themselves, or to time, or to growth, or to anything but the blood of Christ for holiness.” 3. It is like justification, or anything else performed by an act of God, INSTANTANEOUS. It is as sudden as Pentecost. Such a work seems great to us and impossible, but not to God. He speaks, and it is done. “If God can take a perfect giant of sin and make him a babe in Christ in a moment, can he not take a babe in Christ and make him a perfect man in Christ Jesus in a moment? If God can instantaneously make a spiritual man out of a sinner, he can, with even greater ease, make a holy man out of a Christian” (Sanctification, p. 75).
President Mahan says: “Forty-seven years ago, when my desire for the open vision had become almost insupportably intense, in a moment, in the twinkling of all eye, I stood face to face with the Sun of Righteousness, feeling his divine healings through every department of my being” (Autobiog., p. vi.).
Moody says: “This blessing came upon me SUDDENLY, like a flash of lightning” (Forty Witnesses, p. 269).
Such an INSTANTANEOUS sanctification is the only kind that will answer our purpose. Any one Christian living may be dead tomorrow and at the bar of God. Living or dying, we want the blessing, and want it NOW. Such a sanctification, INSTANTANEOUSLY received and accessible to all, the Scripture reveals and promises to those who seek.
This is the will of God, even your sanctification: it is not his will, nor for his honor, that one of his children should be defiled or unholy a single hour. 4. This blessing, like justification, is obtained by faith. “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of FAITH” ( Galatians 3:2) “We receive the promise of the Spirit through FAITH” ( Galatians 3:14). “Giving them the Holy Ghost — purifying their hearts by FAITH” ( Acts 15:8,9). “Sanctified by FAITH in me” ( Acts 26:18).
Sanctification, like all other spiritual blessings, comes by faith. Jesus does not regenerate you by faith, and then leave you to make yourself holy by your own struggles of soul CHAPTER - STONES OF STUMBLING REMOVED; OR, OPPOSING TEXTS EXAMINED There are a few passages of Scripture which seem, on the face of them, to be against the doctrine of sanctification. They have long been a “soothing syrup” to the babies in Christ, who love chronic spiritual babyhood. They have been long used as conscience balms and quieting opiates to those who are content to be at “ease in Zion” and “have only a name to live.” They are stones of stumbling, which those who are “conformed to the world,” and “mind earthly things,” have industriously gathered together and built a fortification around themselves, so that neither truth nor the Spirit of God may reach them with promptings to higher and holier things. It is fair to give them at least a brief examination. 1. We will take 1 Kings 8:46: “If they sin against thee (for there is no man that sinneth not) and thou be angry with them,” etc. This can not teach the perpetual sinfulness of the saints; for, in verse forty-eight, they are supposed to “repent with all their heart and soul.” We will let two scholars speak on the passage. Dr. John Morgan, a lifetime Professor in Greek and Hebrew in Oberlin Seminary, says: “The parenthesis ought to be rendered, ‘for there is no man who may not sin’, (Holiness Acceptable to God, p. 78). Dr. Daniel Steele, of Boston University (Theological Seminary), writes: “It is very much like the Governor of Massachusetts at the laying of a corner-stone of an insane asylum being reported as saying, in the dedicatory address, ‘If any citizen of the Commonwealth become crazy, and there is no citizen who is not crazy, let him come here and be cured of his mental maladies.’ All would say the reporter blundered, and it ought to read, ‘For there is no citizen who may not be crazy.’ N ow, an examination of the text in the original Hebrew develops the fact that the word for ‘sinneth’ is in the future tense, the only form in the Hebrew for expressing the potential mood (See Nordheimer’s Grammar, sec. 993; Green, Sec. 263; Rodigers’ Genesius, p. 238 a). The correct rendering then would be. ‘For there is no man who may not sin.’ The Latin Vulgate of the Roman Catholic Church translates ‘non peccet,’ ‘may not sin.’” (Half Hours, p. 152). 2. The same criticism and correction apply to Ecclesiastes 7:20: “For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” It should read, “and may not sin,” as the Vulgate and Septuagint and ancient versions read. “A little scholarship,” says Dr. Steele, “applied to these texts would improve the theology of some people” (p. 153). 3. Job 9:2,3: “How should man be just with God? If he will contend with him he can not answer him one of a thousand.” Dr. Morgan says: “These words say nothing at all on the question of constant sinfulness.
They speak only of the numberless sins of which every man in the course of his life has been guilty, so that on the ground of sinless perfection from the commencement of moral agency, no man can ‘be just with God.’ The words might be properly employed by a saint who had been a thousand years in heaven “ (Holiness Acceptable, pp. 79, 80). 4. Job 9:20: “If I justify myself mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” Dr. Steele says: “This verse lies just as strongly against justification as against entire sanctification. In the evangelical sense, in which God is the Justifier and the Sanctifier of the believer in his Son, this verse contradicts neither. Job disclaims justification, by works and absolute perfection. That he had evangelical perfection, unfaltering faith, unquestioned loyalty, and perfect love, the root of all obedience, God’s testimony ought to be conclusive: ‘Hast thou considered my servant Job, … a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [is shy of] evil?’” (Half Hours, p. 153). Job himself made the following stout profession of his righteousness: “All the while my breath is in me, my lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit till I die. I will not remove mine integrity from me.
My righteousness I hold fast and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live” (27:3-6). 5. Psalm 14:2,3: “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men. ….. They are all gone aside; they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” St. Paul quotes this in Romans 3:10, as a proof of the universal depravity of the race; but it does not at all militate against our privilege as believers, through regenerating and sanctifying grace, to live without sin. 6. <19B996><19B996> Psalm 119:96: “1 have seen an end of all perfection; but thy commandment is exceeding broad.” Martin Luther renders it: “I have seen an end of all things, but thy law lasts.” “Hence, the word perfection not being in their version, the Germans have no difficulty with this text. All earthly things end, but the Bible lasts, as is taught in Isaiah 40:6-8 and 1 Peter 1:24,25, ‘All flesh is grass.. but the Word of the Lord endureth forever.’ We confidently make the assertion that no candid scholar, however strong his prejudices against evangelical perfection, or loving God with all the heart, after a thorough study of this text, will ever again hurl it against this precious Scriptural doctrine and blessed conscious experience of myriads of saints” (Half Hours, p. 155). 7. <19D003><19D003> Psalm 130:3: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” “Who,” says Dr. Morgan, “uninfluenced by a theory in need of support, would resort to such a text as this? Not a syllable is dropped from which we could gather that the Psalmist refers to present sin. Is it for present, and, of course, unrepented sin, that there is forgiveness with the Lord?” (p. 8o). 8. Isaiah 64:6: “But we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Evidently the prophet here speaks in the name of the backslidden Jews, who were all “fading as a leaf.” In the two verses immediately preceding we see the contrast of the righteous: “From the beginning of the world men have not perceived or heard or seen what God hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways.” Says Dr. Morgan: “This text, instead of disproving the doctrine of holiness, appears, when taken with its context, decidedly to sustain it,’ (Holiness Acceptable, pp. 81, 82). 9. Proverbs 20:9: “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” Such interrogative sentences are often intended as a form to express a universal negative but not always, as is shown by Proverbs 31:9: “Who can find a virtuous woman?” The context shows that the writer did not mean to intimate that there were no virtuous women, but that there were comparatively few: so the men of “clean hearts” and “pure from sin”’ are comparatively rare. (See Psalm 73:13.) 10. Romans 7:14-25. This is a passage too long and too familiar to be quoted. There are some that would have us believe that this is a picture of St. Paul in his best Christian experience, and of all believers in their most exalted state. This chapter has been a battleground of theologians. Only the briefest statement of some of the difficulties in the way of such an interpretation of this remarkable passage, in the support of the doctrine of unavoidable and continuous sin, is needed. (1) If this was St. Paul’s highest and lifelong Christian experience, it contradicts all that he has declared about his life in the other epistles. He elsewhere called men and God to witness how “holily and unblameably” he had lived ( 1 Thessalonians 2:10). (2) It violates the immediate context. In 6:2 he says: “We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?” In 7:14, “I am carnal, sold under sin.” In 8:2, “The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin.” In 7:17 he says, “It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me,” while in 6:12, 13, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body: but present yourselves unto God as alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” And in 8:4, “That the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” In 7:18, “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing,” while in 6:19 he says “Present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification.” And in 8:9, “Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit.”
In 7:23, “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity, under the law of sin which is in my members,” while in 6:22, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life.” And in 8:10, “If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” In other words, the seventh chapter of Romans details an entirely different experience from that described in the sixth chapter and the eighth chapter. (The sixth and eighth chapters depict the ideal Christian experience of righteousness and sanctification and eternal life; the seventh chapter is a dark picture of a servant of sin groaning in bondage and crying out for deliverance from the body of death. The eighth is the shout of a victor “more than a conqueror through him that loved us.” It is a false interpretation which thus makes a writer contradict himself. (3) Such an interpretation makes the gospel itself and all the atoning work of Christ as great a failure as the law, in reconstructing human character and redeeming man from sin.
It is evident to the logical mind that the apostle was either using himself in an earnest vivid style of composition, to represent others who were living very much below their privilege as believers or he was depicting some past experience of his own, when, as a legalist, and without the help of Christ whom he was rejecting, he labored in vain to satisfy the law, and thus was once a representative of a very large class, whom now he is trying to lead into a better way. “The best scholarship.” says Dr Steele, “ discredits this chapter as the photograph of regenerated man. The Greek Fathers, during the first three hundred years of church history, unanimously interpreted this scripture as describing a thoughtful moralist endeavoring without the grace of God, to realize his highest ideal of moral purity. Augustine, to rob his opponent Pelagius of the two proof-texts, originated the theory that the seventh of Romans delineated a regenerate man. Luther and Calvin followed him. The trend of modern scholars is to return to the view of the Greek Fathers.
Among these are Moses Stuart, Calvin E. Stowe, Meyer, Julius Muller, Neauder, Tholuck, Ewald, Ernesti, Lepsius, Macknight, Doddridge, A.
Clark, Turner, Whedon, Beet, and Stevens, of Yale” (Half Hours, p. 74).
He then adds: “If we suppose that Paul, in the words, ‘I am carnal, sold under sin,’ did, as the primitive church understood him, intend to describe a legal experience, and in the words, ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death,’ intended to describe a faith experience, then all is plain. But if the other interpretation holds, and we must believe that the apostle affirmed that both of these declarations were true of him at one and the same time, he as palpably contradicts himself as he would have done had he said that the same thing may, at the same moment of time, exist and not exist” (Autobiog., pp. 347, 348).
There are three verses that seem on their face to resemble a Christian experience: “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good” ( Romans 7:12). “For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man” (22). “So then I myself with the mind serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin”(7:25). This mental delight in the law of God may be only the intellectual ideal of morality contemplated by wicked men with admiration, but never practiced. So drunkards praise temperance, but continue their revels; and the licentious admire virtue and seek it in marriage, and still live in licentiousness. So learned Brahmins, at the “Congress of Religions,” in Chicago, declaimed beautifully about love to God and love to man; but when at home in India they would pass a brother of another caste dying by the roadside of thirst without thinking of offering him a drink. Noble moral sentiment is one thing; noble character is quite another. The well known lines of Ovid will occur to the reader: “My REASON this, my PASSION that persuades; I see the RIGHT, and I approve it too; Condemn the WRONG, and yet the wrong PURSUE.” Dr. Steele says “the last sentence of the chapter is an epitome of the whole struggle between the ‘mind’ or moral reason, and the flesh or sinful proclivity. The emphatic words are ‘I myself,’ alone, on the plane of nature, without the aid of Christ, can do no better than to render a dual service, with the mind serving the law of God, by my admiration of its excellence, but with the flesh the law of sin, by such a surrender as carries my guilty personality with it.” (See Half Hours, pp. 74-77.)
Professor Morgan, adopting similar views with Dr. Steele, says: “We confess to an intense interest in the true interpretation of this important passage; for we believe that the current false view has done more to hinder the saints and to flatter the hopes of hypocrites than any other single error that has prevailed among good men” (Holiness Acceptable to God, p. 59).
Malian adds: “Had Ryle said. ‘Of every saint of God who has not received the Holy Ghost since he believed.’ he would have been correct in his affirmation. That was the only form of the Christ life which he then knew.
In this state the believer is not ‘spiritual but carnal, a babe in Christ,’ ‘carnal, sold under sin,’ ‘the law of his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members.’ Well may he exclaim, ‘O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ Apostles, and Christ, and heaven, and all Pentecostal believers sympathize with such a saint, and they also marvel at his unbelief. I know what such a wretched life is, for I have experienced it’, (p. 408).
Whichever of these two views is correct, the third, which makes Romans 7:a picture of Paul’s best, and a support for the doctrine of necessary and perpetual sin, can not possibly stand. In St. Paul’s mature experience, he was not a bond slave, “carnal, sold under sin,” making miserably abortive efforts to do good, and avoid evil. No more is it a picture of our best estate, with the help of an indwelling Christ and a sanctifying Spirit. Such a conclusion is monstrous in itself, and out of harmony with a hundred passages of Scripture, and can not stand a moment. 11. Philippians 3:11-15: “If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.”
This is the chosen text for preachers who appear to hug the doctrine of necessary and perpetual sinfulness, and fight the doctrine of sanctification, and deny the possibility of holiness. It would seem as if they were in love with weak and worldly churches, and were afraid to have their members become “spiritually minded” and Christlike. But such ministers only use verses 12-14. I have purposely added the eleventh and fifteenth verses, which utterly vanquish their misinterpretation.
Notice, first, that the verb “obtained” in verse 12 has no object. Its logical object is “the resurrection of the dead” in verse 11. When Paul, therefore, says, “Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect,” he simply says that he had not yet attained to the perfection of the resurrection state.” Jesus spoke in the same way in Luke 13:32: “Behold, I cast out devils and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected.” Jesus, by that remark, did not brand himself as a perpetual sinner, sinning “daily, in thought, word, and deed,” neither does St. Paul. “But why,” asks Dr. Steele, “should St. Paul assert a fact so manifest as this, that he had not risen from the dead? Did any one assert that he had risen? Yes; some were spiritualizing the resurrection, perverting St. Paul’s own words in Ephesians 2:6 and Colossians 3:1 into an argument against the resurrection of the body, while others were boldly declaring that the resurrection is past already’ ( 2 Timothy 2:18). Under this state of facts it was not the declaration of a mere truism for Paul to aver that his resurrection was future, not past” (Half Hours. p. 64).
Now, secondly, you will notice that in the fifteenth verse St. Paul does make a claim to perfection: “Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” Spiritual imperfection is not so much as hinted at in verse 12, but only an affirmation that the unseen glory is yet ahead; but in the fifteenth verse he affirms his Christian evangelical perfection in the present life, as a servant of Christ and a racer for glory. “The twelfth verse is beautifully harmonized with the fifteenth. In the twelfth St. Paul disclaims perfection as a victor, since he has not finished his race and touched the goal; in the fifteenth verse he claims perfection as a racer ‘having laid aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset ‘“ (Half Hours, p. 65).
Prof. Morgan wrote on the same passage: “An erroneous translation of one word has alone occasioned this glorious passage to be cited to prove the dogma of constant moral imperfection in the saints. Prof. Robinson, in his Lexicon, p. 812, has corrected this mistake. His interpretation is: ‘Not that I have already completed my course and arrived at the goal, so as to receive the prize.’
Thus understood, the passage exhibits the apostle as an illustrious example of the full performance of all the duties of the Christian race — one of which can not be to be all the time at the goal” (Holiness Acceptable, pp. 96, 97). 12. Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other, that ye may not do the things that ye would.” The old version reads: “So that ye can not do the things that ye would.” The new version is a great improvement — taking from indolent, unaspiring Christians their standing excuse for sin, namely, inability to be holy.
It is characteristic of sinners that they fulfill the desires of the flesh. But, in order that his people may not do this, God has placed his Spirit in them, to oppose and govern these desires; yea, to put an end to them. “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill them.” There is no longer any “can not” in the problem of Christian living.
Dr. Steele’s comment is too good to leave unquoted: “‘So that ye can not do the things that ye would.’ Alas! how many unsanctified souls have made this astounding mistranslation the pillow upon which they have slept the deep of death! There is no ‘cannot’ in the original nor in the Revised Version, which is word for word the version of John Wesley a century and a quarter before: ‘that ye may not do the things that ye would.’ The doctrine taught by Paul is that in the regenerate, but not in the entirely sanctified, there is a struggle going on; the purpose of which is this: When ye would do the works of the flesh the Spirit strives to prevent you, and when you would follow the leading of the Spirit the flesh opposes. This warfare ceases when ‘the flesh is crucified’ (24) ‘and the body of sin is destroyed’ ( Romans 6:6). Of this mistranslation Wesley says: ‘It makes Paul’s whole argument nothing worth; yea, asserts just the opposite of what he is proving.” The author was once giving a Bible reading on th e subject of practical holiness, when an official of his church arose and read this mistranslation, alleging the impossibility of living up to his moral ideal.
Apologies for sin, and extenuations of sin as unavoidable, are fraught with the utmost peril” (Half Hours, pp. 68, 69). 13. 1 John 1:8: “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” This verse, and the passage in Philippians 3:12-14, and the seventh of Romans, already examined, are the great reliance of the advocates of the doctrine of continuous sin. Many use this text to keep themselves, and drive all others, away from the hope of holiness. On its face, it does seem to declare that all Christians do sin continually, and if any say they do not, they deceive themselves and the truth is not in them. But there are absolutely fatal objections to such an interpretation. For, notice (1) That this view makes John flatly contradict himself in the same breath.
It puts verses 7 and 9 in opposition to 8 and 10. A man whose “sins are forgiven” and who is “cleansed from all unrighteousness” does not “have sin,” as a co-existing fact. 1 John 3:9 reads: “Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin,” and 3:6 reads: Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not.”
It is the privilege of all Christians to thus “abide in Christ” and abstain from sin. Plainly, then, verses 8 and 10 can not assert continual sin of Christians. (2) Dr. Steele quotes Bishop Wescott and Bengel as pointing to the fact that the phrase to “have sin” is one of the strongest expressions for sin, and always implies guilt and desert of punishment. Is every Christian, trusting Jesus and abiding in him, still in guilt and under wrath? To “have sin” can not be a present experience of a devout Christian heart, living in a justified state. It is a general statement, meaning simply, “if we say that we have no blameworthiness (on account of sins, no matter when committed) needing atoning blood and pardoning mercy, we deceive ourselves.” That is its only possible reference to Christians. “ This,” says Dr. Steele, “is the dilemma of the Alford school of expositors. Their theory that all Christians have guilt negatives justification, and contradicts St. Paul’s joyful exultation in Romans 8:1, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation.’ The steps in our argument are few and plain. Guilt and the new birth are mutually exclusive. Sinning — a course of willful violations of the known law of God — excludes being born of God (3:9) because guilt is incurred. ‘To have sin’ in the meaning of St. John is to have guilt. Therefore the words ‘to have sin’ exclude from regeneration and the spiritual life” (Half Hours, p. 259). (3) It is pertinent to ask how it was, then, that St. John came to write in this remarkable and apparently contradictory way. A historical fact makes the matter plain. A body of false teachers had arisen who were seducing the churches. They were liars and antichrists. Jude and Peter tell us they “were going everywhere and drawing disciples after them.” These men professed to have fellowship with God, and yet led the most scandalous lives, “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.” These Dualists, or Doceta, taught that all sin or evil belongs only to the body and existed in all matter, and denied that the mind or soul could possibly “have sin.” But Christ had a body: and these seducers were logically driven to teach, therefore, that Christ was a man, a physical being, only in appearance. He was a “sham man,” and his atoning death was “a phantom appearance” only. Of course, Satan induced them speedily to draw another inference, namely, that their souls, being immaterial, had no sin, whatever their bodies might do, and had no need of an atonement. Sin could defile, and must defile, their physical beings only, but could not reach their souls. Inspired by such a philosophy, they plunged into all manner of beastly excesses — gluttony, drunkenness and licentiousness, still holding that their souls remained untarnished amid all this sensual sin, like a jewel in a dunghill.
When these people were pointed to Christ, and urged to repent and believe and be saved, they impudently replied that they were not sinners — “had no sin” and “had not sinned “; they had nothing to repent of, and Christ was a man only in appearance, and the atonement was only an illusion, and was of no use to them. It was to save the churches from the onsweep of this seductive and Satanic error that John wrote this epistle. Read it now, with this thought in mind. In the first verse he begins. Jesus was not a sham, phantom Christ, for we “have heard” him, “ we have seen [him] with our eyes,” “and our hands handled” him. “And this message we have heard of him and announce unto you. If we say we have fellowship with him [God] and walk in darkness” (as these vile seducers and their followers are doing) we lie ( 1 John 1:5,6). “ But if we walk in the light — the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (v. 7). “If we say we have no sin” (8), “if we say we have not sinned” (10) (as these vile, false teachers are saying while living in their shameless sins), “we deceive ourselves, and make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” In other words, the apostle is saying, “We can not practice iniquity and have fellowship with God.” And if we say that we have never sinned and have no need of an atoning Saviour, and of his forgiveness and cleansing, we simply deceive ourselves, and make God a liar. But if we humble ourselves in repentance and confess and forsake our sins “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It is now plain why the holy apostle wrote as he did. What a wretched interpretation it is to take these words, hurled against vile seducers of the bride of Christ, and force them to teach, as a divine revelation, that the bride herself, with all the Heavenly Bridegroom’s sanctifying indwelling, and the “cleansing” of the Holy Spirit, can not herself be pure and clean!
President Mahan says: “The use that is made of 1 John 1:8, by the advocates of the dogma of continuous sin in all believers, changes the weapon with which inspiration has furnished us against all who, in any age, may deny the fact of sin and consequent need of atoning grace, into a herculean club, with which to knock out the brains of such believers as Polycarp, Clement, Barnabas, Hermas, Ambrose, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Fenelon, Madame Guyon, Wesley, Fletcher, James Brainerd Taylor, Upham, and Finney (St. John and St. Paul), by holding them up as self-deceivers, void of truth, and as making God a liar” (Autobiog., p. 350).
We have now examined all the passages which appear to a superficial view to affirm the necessity of continuous sin; but we clearly see that they do not do it. The Bible is a book against sin from cover to cover, and is consistent with itself. God does not command us to be holy and reveal a Saviour and sanctifying Spirit, “able to save to the uttermost,” and then tell us in the same breath that we must live in sin till death.
CHAPTER - OBJECTIONS ANSWERED The writer knows of a venerable man who has been for many years a pillar in the church and an example in good works. Some holiness literature has been put in his hands, and his remark is: “This work of the Holy Spirit, as depicted by these writers, in sanctifying the heart is beautiful, and I should like to have it realized in myself; but I do not understand the philosophy of it.” And so this noble college Professor does not seek this great blessing, this “pearl of great price,” because there are mysteries which he can not understand. But that same dear man can no more explain the mystery of the new birth; and many educated sinners in his college classes are probably rejecting regeneration for precisely the same reason that he is rejecting the higher blessing of sanctification.
It reminds me of an incident in the life of Daniel Webster. Just as he was entering an orthodox church in Boston one Sabbath morning, a Unitarian passing by pointed his thumb contemptuously at the church and asked: “Are you going in there to worship three Gods?” Webster turned upon the flippant man his great, Jove-like face and wondrous eyes, and said: “Friend, there are a great many things in heaven and earth that you and I do not understand.” And then the great man went into the sanctuary and bowed his intellect like a humble child in adoration of the triune God. But Unitarians can not understand the philosophy of it, and so reject this doctrine of the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ. On precisely the same ground, free-thinkers reject the doctrine of the Atonement and Agnostics relinquish all practical faith in God. They can not comprehend him with their feeble minds!
Now, devout Christians ought to have learned better than to deprive themselves of God’s most precious gift of grace, on such grounds. The “Baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” sanctifying the heart, is a blessed experience, whether any one can compass the philosophy of it or not. There may be philosophical and metaphysical difficulties about it; but the great blessing is received by FAITH. It is enough for the humble Christian to know that God has promised the blessed gift to those who seek. Men do not sail to this Beulah summit on the two expansive wings of philosophy and metaphysics. They reach it on the bended knee of humble faith. This probably explains why lowly souls often find this blessing which the learned miss. “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes.” “This verse,” says Dr. Carradine, “explains why I have obtained that which nobler, better, wiser men have not received. I came to God as a little child in seeking the blessing of sanctification. I reasoned not, even as a child does not reason. I created no mental difficulties I never went near Sir William Hamilton nor any like him. I knew the work was above him and all other human intellects. It was a part of the mystery the angels studied and could not fathom. I went not to books written by ancient or modern authors on the subject. I went to God! The Bible said he could do it, and would do it, and, better than either, that if I believed, he did it then! I simply believed God — I took him at his word! The doors of the sweet experiences of regeneration and sanctification do not fly back at the touch of the hand of the metaphysician for several reasons. One is that the great mass of people on earth are not learned or trained in the laws of mental life; and if the reception of blessings were dependent upon the apprehension of syllogisms and recognition of certain great principles of mental science, the race would be lost. Another reason that occurs to me why the door of grace opens not to the touch of the reasoner is that salvation is above reason. It was not conceived by man, nor is it understood by lordly intellects today. I have often been struck with two expressions in the Bible. One is that the wisdom of God is foolishness to men, and the other that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. It is noteworthy that the Gospel came down to us through the air to Bethlehem, and not through the Brains of the scribes and learned members of the Sanhedrim” (Sanctification, pp. 150-153).
I have known ministers not so willing to open their minds to the heavenly light. And when this blessing of the Holy Ghost with cleansing, sanctifying power was brought to their attention they immediately went to their bookshelves and took down some volume of hostile philosophy, such as I have described in Chapter III., and braced their minds against the truth. If they had only gone to the Holy Word instead, and knelt over the sacred page, and prayed for light, they might not have turned a deaf ear to the call of God. “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” “Sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord.” “For God hath called you... unto sanctification.” “The God of peace HIMSELF SANCTIFY you WHOLLY” “FAITHFUL is he that CALLETH you, who also WILL DO IT.”
A second objection is that the doctrine of possible sanctification perilously lowers the divine standard of living. To this we may answer, sanctification, as the above texts show, is wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, and is not an achievement of our own, only that “God is inquired of by us to do it for us.” The “Baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire” so purges and purifies that the soul is “saved to the uttermost,” from sin of every form and kind and degree, as God sees it, and it induces such evangelical perfection as pleases God. We become so “sanctified and cleansed” that we are “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” and are “holy and without blemish, before him in love” ( Ephesians 1:4; 5:26, 27). What writer or critic can demand any more of us than such a life as pleases God?
Alford translates Paul as saying, “I know nothing against myself.” And again: “Our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom, but in the grace of God, we behaved ourselves in the world” ( 2 Corinthians 1:12). “Whom I serve, in a pure conscience” ( 2 Timothy 1:3). “Ye are witnesses and God also how holily and righteously and unblameably we behaved ourselves” ( 1 Thessalonians 2:10). A man who, when inspired, can speak thus of himself, has undeniably such sanctification and holiness as God requires. What right has Dr. Charles Hodge to require more, and say that this lowers the divine standard of living?
A third objection is that the doctrine of attainable sanctification as an obligatory experience holds up an impossible standard of living. The reader will observe that this objection is exactly the opposite of the last, and broadly suggests the fallacy of both. No; holiness is no unattainable standard, or God would not have commanded it and so strenuously urged us to attain unto it. Bear in mind two things: First, God only requires us to “love with all our heart and soul and mind and strength”; not with an angel’s ability, but with our own; not even with what might have been our powers and conditions if the race and we had never sinned, but with what powers we have left now, in our present condition and circumstances. This is God’s revealed standard of living — unquestionably reasonable and possible; whoever proclaims a standard either higher or lower is preaching “another gospel,” that is not the authoritative message from God. God only requires that we love with what power we have, and serve and glorify him with such power, not with some other “unknown or unknowable strength.”
Second, observe that, while this holiness may seem impossible to imperfect man, it is perfectly possible with God. Again and again we must reiterate, it is God that giveth the ability, that does the sanctifying, that does the keeping, whose “grace is sufficient,” who “worketh in us to will and to do.” He is “ABLE to keep you from STUMBLING,” and “able to make you stand,” and to “keep that which you commit to him,” and to “sanctify you wholly.” There is a “SANCTIFYING” grace and a “KEEPING” grace, and a “ STANDING” grace. Whatever man may not be able to do in his own strength, he can do when God commands it, and girds with his own omnipotent strength. St. Paul knew the secret of holy living when he wrote: “Our sufficiency is of God,” and “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” “If God should command me to fly,” said John Wesley, “I would trust him for wings.” Such an utterance is divinely wise. When Moses and his people stood on the shore of the Red Sea, and God said “go forward,” it was their business to obey and it was God’s business to make a path through the deep. When he commanded them to cross the swollen Jordan, it was their business to attempt it and his to hold back the stream till the waters were piled mountain high. When God commands us to be “holy” and “sanctified,” he furnishes the cleansing blood and the sanctifying Spirit to make it possible, and it is impudent and foolish wickedness to deny the possibility.
And yet there are those who are set up by the Church as authoritative teachers, who deny the possibility of receiving this great blessing, and treat the doctrine of sanctification as an attainable experience as “a dangerous heresy”! Finney says: “Suppose that the teachers of religion set themselves to prevent the expectation of becoming religious. Suppose they represent to sinners that there is no rational ground of hope in their case — that men can not rationally expect to be saved or to be converted, however much they may desire it (and God commands it). What must be the effect of such teaching? Everybody knows that just so far forth as such teachers had any influence, hell could not desire a more efficient instrumentality to dishonor God and ruin souls. This would be just what the devil would himself inculcate. It would prevent hope, and, of course, prevent faith, and render salvation impossible, and damnation certain, unless the lie could be contradicted and the spell of error broken. “Now apply this principle to the promises that pledge a victory over sin in this life. Let, for example, ministers explain away 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24: ‘And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame….. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.’ Or let them teach, as some of them do, that it is a dangerous error to expect that these promises shall be fulfilled to Christians, and what must the result be? This would be just as the devil would have it. ‘Ha, hath God said, he will sanctify you wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and preserve you blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? Ye shall not surely be so sanctified and kept, and the Lord doth know this, and it is dangerous to trust him.’ This surely is the devil’s teaching; and when he can get the ministers of Christ to take this course, what more can be done? “Suppose the ministers admit, as many do, that the blessing of sanctification is fully promised in the Bible, but at the same time teach that it is promised upon a condition with which it is irrational for us to hope to comply. What must result from such teaching as this? It represents God and his gospel in a most ridiculous light. What remains but to regard the gospel as a failure? It is in vain to say that entire sanctification in this life is not promised; for it really and plainly is, and nothing is more expressly promised in the Word of God. Now what an employment for the leaders and instructors of the people to be engaged in teaching them not to expect the fulfillment of these promises to them — that such an expectation or hope is a dangerous error — that it is irrational for them to hope to so fulfill the conditions of these promises as to secure the blessing promised. I say again the devil himself could not do worse than this. Hell itself could not wish for a more efficient opposition to Go d and religion. This is indeed a most sublime employment for the ministers of God! But how many ministers have fallen into this infinite mistake of laying a stumbling block before the church! How many are crying, There is no reason to hope for the fulfillment of God’s promises. You must expect to live in sin so long as you are in this world. It is dangerous to entertain any other expectation! The fact is, an unbelieving minister is the greatest of all stumbling blocks to the church” (Finney’s Theol., Vol. III., pp. 364-371).
Martin Luther said: “If the clergy could have destroyed the Church of Christ, doubtless it would have been destroyed long ago.”
A fourth objection urged against the doctrine of entire sanctification is that “those who are ‘sanctified’ would be lifted up with pride and self-righteousness,” that “a sense of sin is indispensable to humility!” Was ever an objection against attaining a life of holiness more absurd? Bear in mind that “a sense of sin” is produced by the existence of conscious, actual sin, and that a sanctified soul while in that state is “freed from sin,” — the sin of pride and all other sin. The objection then reduces itself to this absurdity: You must have sin in order to be free from the sin of pride, and a man whom the Holy Spirit has sanctified still has the sin of pride from which he has been freed. To put it in other words, sin is the remedy for sin, and therefore you must be sinful in order to be holy, and you must not seek to be holy, for that will induce sin! Indeed! Is it not amazing what absurd things even wise men can say when they are opposing the Word and will of God?
The Apostle Peter does not appear to have agreed with such a sentiment, for he says: “The time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles.” That is, we have no more need of sin to produce the absence of pride, and induce humility or any other Christian virtue. No Christian virtues are gained by the presence of sin in the heart, and, on the other hand, holiness induces neither the sin of pride, nor any other sin. Our hearts are not purified by sin, but by the Holy Ghost, in response to faith.
To be sure, a man may be mistaken in his spiritual state and think he is sanctified when he is not — and be lifted up with pride. But so may a man be mistaken about being justified, and for that reason shall we cease teaching justification by faith? Was Paul proud because he walked holily and unblameably before men? No; he humbly declared that all his “sufficiency was from God,” and that “he could do all things” simply “through Christ” who strengthened him. “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
This objection is not only absurd in itself, but it is not true as a matter of fact. The most modest and humble people I meet in all my rounds as an evangelist are these dear souls who are professing and living the life of sanctification. They give God all the glory for all they are, for it was all a gift from him. They received it by faith. One such soul sings: Glory to the blood that bought me!
Glory to its cleansing power!
Glory to the blood that keeps me!
Glory, glory, evermore!” There is no self-pride in such a sentiment as that. It is the man who rejects the Holy Spirit as a Sanctifier, and tries to sanctify himself by his own resolutions and strivings and growth, that is in greatest danger of spiritual pride and Pharisaism. John Fletcher, in his “Last Check to Antinomianism,” thus answers this objection: “Sin never humbled any soul. Who has more sin than Satan? And who is prouder? Did sin make our first parents humble? Who was humbler than Christ? But was he indebted to sin for his humility? Do we not see daily that the more sinful men are, the prouder they are also? If sin be necessary to make us humble, and to keep us near Christ, does it not follow that glorified saints, whom all acknowledge to be sinless, are all proud despisers of Christ? See we not sin enough, when we look back ten or twenty years, to humble us to the dust forever, if sin can do it? Need we plead for any more of it in our hearts and lives? If the sins of our youth do not humble us, are the sins of our old age likely to do it?
Lastly, what is indwelling sin but indwelling pride? And how can pride be productive of humility? Can a serpent beget a dove?” (Beauties of Fletcher, p. 284).
There is another batch of objections, namely, that our doctrine, if realized, would make sin impossible, and temptation impossible (I could heartily wish it were true), and growth impossible, and would make people infallible at least according to their own profession. There is nothing in any of these objections, as they all arise from misconceptions of the doctrine.
They have been briefly, but sufficiently, answered at the close of Chapter IV.
A fifth objection that may be considered, is, that not many people believe in the doctrine of sanctification and our best people do not profess it. So much the worse for “our best people”! If it were not so sad, one who is himself possessed of this great blessing might serenely smile at that weakness of humanity that must always run with the majority, and lean on “our best people,” instead of standing in with, and leaning on, God Almighty. This objection is very old, and as weak as old. Dr. Carradine observes: “It sweeps back more than eighteen hundred years into the city of Jerusalem. We find ourselves in the temple. There is a babel of voices around us. The people are discussing Christ, and they are saying the identical thing that appears in this objection: ‘Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in Him?’ In other words, do the best people, the prominent people, take to Christ and follow him? That they did not was sufficient with them to condemn the Son of God, unheard and untried” (Sanctification, p. 187). There are indeed excellent people in the church who reject sanctification; but there are also high-toned and quite excellent people in some respects in the world who reject regeneration. Such facts prove neither doctrine false. “Our best people” in the parlors on the avenue, in their worldliness and pride, often reject Jesus; while their servants in their kitchens, and their neighbors in the alleys, are walking with him in the white raiment of the saints! The question is not what “our best people” (even though they be theologians) believe is true, but what God says is true.
And as to majorities, — may God keep us from walking with them yet, when it comes to our reception of spiritual things. Dr. Steele observes: “The question how much God can do for a soul in probation is not left to be determined by the majority vote of the great men of any church. This question, in the words of Joseph Cook, has not been left to be decided ‘by a count of heads and a clack of tongues.’ In a question of speculative theology or of Scriptural interpretation, it will do to lean on the authority of a majority of experts; but on the practical question of the extent of gospel salvation from sin, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the unlearned minority who have put the doctrine to experimental proof may be very much wiser than the learned majority of the magnates of the modern church, who have never subjected the question to the test of personal experience. Here the testimony of some Uncle Tom or Amanda Smith of the slave plantation may outweigh the opinion of a whole faculty of German theological Professors. Experience outweighs theory; faith makes philosophy kick the beam” (Half Hours, p. 239). It is well not to forget that “a count of heads and a clack of tongues” sent Daniel to the lions, and banished “Aristides the just,” and condemned Socrates to drink the hemlock, and nailed Jesus to the cross, and sent Paul to the executioner’s block, and threw the early Christians to the beasts in the amphitheater. The same delightful and authoritative “count of heads and clack of tongues” of “our best people,” burned John Huss and Jerome of Prague and Savonarola at the stake. They were against the doctrine of the divinity of Christ in the beginning of the first century, and also in great Boston in the early part of the nineteenth century. They were against the doctrine of salvation by faith in Paul’s day.. and in Martin Luther’s day.
They were against the doctrine of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost and full salvation in John Wesley’s day and in our day, yet all these doctrines are true nevertheless. Remember the consenting opinion and unanimous vote of a wicked world full of “our best people” can not overthrow one “thus saith the Lord,” or vanquish the “witness of the Spirit” to the sanctification of the humblest saint.
St. Paul spoke about “the offense of the cross.” Dr. Carradine points out the fact that the offense of the cross “shifts as time moves on; it goes from doctrine to doctrine.” Once it consisted in acknowledging one’s self to be a Christian, which was then a term of reproach. It is not there now. Do you demand proof? Ninety nine hundredths of all the distillers and brewers and gin mill tenders in the land are church members, and the majority of their customers also. I am writing these lines within less than four miles of a church at the dedication of which ninety-one kegs of beer were drank, Proof positive that it costs little now, either in morals or decency, to be a member of some so-called Christian church.
It is quite the fashionable fad now to be a church member. I find as I go about that in all our towns of considerable size “our best people” get together in some one or two churches and turn them into Ecclesiastical Progressive Euchre Clubs! No offense of the cross there — nor any cross, either. Once it was in the doctrine of justification by faith — but not now.
Once it was in the doctrine of assurance of faith — but not now. “ Let a man arise and proclaim by tongue or pen that he is a Christian, that he is pardoned, that he enjoys the witness of the Spirit, and not a ripple of disturbance is created. But let him declare that Christ has sanctified his soul and then comes the storm.” He will soon find the “offense of the cross” in the doctrine of holiness as obtained INSTANTANEOUSLY BY FAITH in the sanctifying Spirit and the blood of the Son of God. “Satan can not endure it, nor does he propose that the church shall come into the possession of the lost blessing of Pentecost. It is a sweet, loving, blessed doctrine — one, it seems, that should delight and gladden every Christian heart — viz., a doctrine that teaches the death of sin in the heart, and a perfect love to God and man indwelling and reigning there supreme.
The writer was riding with a thoughtful Christian a few weeks ago, who, in course of conversation, made the remark: “It is a sad thing that so many Christians are living in ignorance of their privilege as the sons and daughters of God, to enjoy the blessing of holiness. It is sadder still to see so many who do know about it and do not want it. It is saddest of all to see Christians who do not want the blessing turn around and fight those who do want it.” That probably will explain why so many of “our best people” do not seek this blessing. There is too much “cross” in it for their easy-going, indolent, worldly souls. 6. The last objection which we will consider here is: “It leads to fanaticism, and makes people impractical in the church.” To this objection we make several answers. First, notice the wise observation made by President Finney, quoted by us toward the close of the third chapter. If the pastors will furnish themselves with literature on this subject, both books and periodicals, of which there are now plenty, and put into the hands of, and wisely lead and instruct, those who are seeking and perhaps attaining this blessing, and cease the wicked persecution of these dear souls who are seeking with hungry hearts the sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost, there will be no coming out from the church and no clannishness, and no fanaticism. “Blessed be God,” wrote John Wesley, “though we set aside a hundred enthusiasts (fanatics), we are still encompassed with a cloud of witnesses who testify in life and in death that perfection which I have taught these forty years! This can not be a delusion, unless the Bible be a delusion, too; I mean loving God with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves.” Later still he wrote (1785): “As soon as any find peace with God, exhort them to go on to perfection. The more explicitly and strongly you press believers to aspire after full sanctification, as attainable now by simple faith, the more, the whole work of God will prosper.” Again, please remember that people have been erratic and misguided about a thousand other things of unspeakable value in themselves. Every great truth has been misrepresented by fanatics. The truth was truth just the same. So when people enter upon the experience of sanctification, and not clearly understanding it, and being uninstructed or unbalanced and persecuted, wander into lines of error and become impractical, the whole occurrence proves but one thing, and that is that the erring brother or sister is simply ignorant, weak-minded or misguided.
We close our answers to this objection with a question: Why is it that those who oppose this second blessing of the baptism with the Holy Ghost, or holiness, or entire sanctification, or Christian perfection, no matter by what name called, always pick out the cranks and fanatics? Why can not they be honorable enough to think of and name some whose lives and work are the glory of the Church of God during the last two centuries. Let me name just a few of the mighty host who have received this baptism with the Spirit, and exhibited its effects to the world, and advocated holiness, however they differed in philosophy and theology — John Wesley, Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Mrs. Edwards, Adam Clark, Fletcher, Carvosso, Hester Ann Rogers, David Brainerd, James Brainerd Taylor, William Tennent; and these Bishops of the Methodist Church — Whatcoat, Asbury, McKendree, Hamline, Peck, Simpson; and these Bishops still living — Foster, Newman, Ninde, Thoburn, Foss, Mallalieu, Taylor of Africa, Bowman, Goodsell, Pierce; and in other denominations, President Mahan, President Finney, Professor Upham, Moody, C. J.
Fowler, Torrey, Chapman, the great Baptist evangelist A. B. Earle, and Evangelists Haney and Caughey, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Phoebe Palmer, Frances Ridley Havergal, Mrs. Van Cott, Frances Willard — who received the blessing and lost it by ceasing to confess it — Hannah Whitall Smith, Rev. A. B. Simpson, Prof. Dugan Clark and David B. Updegraff, the saintly Friends, Dr. Daniel Steele, of Boston University, Rev. J. A. Wood, Drs. Levy, Inskip, McDonald, Lowrey, Gordon, Dunham, Keen, Andrew Murray, J. O. Peck, J. A. Smith, F. B. Meyer, Alfred Cookman, General Booth and his holy wife Catherine, who mothered the most efficient family in the kingdom and service of Christ the century has seen. These are a few goodly souls, representatives of the great army of saints who are called “holiness cranks,” by people scarcely worthy to touch their shoe-latchets.