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SANCTIFICATION, PAUL ENTIRELY SANCTIFIED - A, PREVIOUS LECTURE - NEXT SECTION - HELP - FACEBOOK
But I forbear, and will present only one more consideration a consideration which has great weight in some minds. It is a question of great importance, whether any actually ever did attain this state. Some who believe it attainable, do not consider it of much importance to show that it has actually been attained. Now I freely admit, that it may be attainable, even if it never has been attained. Yet it appears to me that as a source of encouragement to the church, it is of great importance whether, as a matter of fact, a state of entire and continued holiness has been attained in this life. This question covers much ground. But for the sake of brevity, I design to examine but one case, and see whether there is not reason to believe that, in one instance at least, it has been attained. The case to which I allude is that of the apostle Paul. And I propose to take up and examine the passages that speak of him, for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is evidence that he ever attained to this state in this life.
And here let me say that, to my own mind, it seems plain, that Paul and John, to say nothing of the other apostles, designed and expected the church to understand them as speaking from experience, and as having received of that fullness which they taught to be in Christ and in His gospel.
And I wish to say again and more expressly, that I do not rest the practicability of attaining a state of entire and continued holiness at all upon the question, whether any ever have attained it, any more than I would rest the question, whether the world ever will be converted, upon the fact whether it ever has been converted. I have been surprised, when the fact that a state of entire holiness has been attained, is urged as one argument among a great many to prove its attainability, and that too, merely as an encouragement to Christians to lay hold upon this blessing that objectors and reviewers fasten upon this, as the doctrine of sanctification, as if by calling this particular question into doubt, they could overthrow all the other proof of its attainability. Now this is utterly absurd. When, then, I examine the character of Paul with this object in view, if it should not appear clear to you that he did attain this state, you are not to overlook the fact, that its attainability is settled by other arguments, on grounds entirely independent of the question, whether it has been attained or not; and that I merely use this as an argument, simply because to me it appears forcible, and fitted to afford great encouragement to Christians to press after this state.
I will first make some remarks in regard to the manner in which the language of Paul, when speaking of himself, should be understood; and then proceed to an examination of the passages which speak of his Christian character.
His character, as revealed in his life, demands that we should understand him to mean all that he says, when speaking in his own favor. The Spirit of inspiration would guard him against speaking too highly of himself. No man ever seemed to possess greater modesty, and to feel more unwilling to exalt his own attainments. If he considered himself as not having attained a state of entire sanctification, and as often, if not in all things, falling short of his duty, we may expect to find him acknowledging this in the deepest self-abasement. If he is charged with living in sin, and with being wicked in anything, we may expect him, when speaking under inspiration, not to justify, but unequivocally to condemn himself in those things, if he was really guilty.
Now, in view of these facts, let us examine those scriptures in which he speaks of himself, and is spoken of by others.
"Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holy, and justly, and unblamably, we behaved ourselves among you that believe" (1 Thess. 2:10). There he unqualifiedly asserts his own holiness. This language is very strong, "How holy, justly, and unblamably." If to be holy, just, and unblamable, be not entire sanctification, what is? He appeals to the heart-searching God for the truth of what he says, and to their own observation, calling on God and on them also to bear witness, that he had been holy and without blame. Here we have the testimony of an inspired apostle, in the most unqualified language, asserting his own entire sanctification. Was he deceived? Can it be that he knew himself all the time to have been living in sin? If such language as this does not amount to an unqualified assertion, that he had lived among them without sin, what can be known by the use of human language?
"Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed; but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessity, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" (2 Cor. 6:3-7). Upon these verses I remark: Paul asserts that he gave no offence in anything, but in all things approved himself as a minister of God. Among other things, he did this "by pureness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned," and "by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left." How could so modest a man as Paul speak of himself in this manner, unless he knew himself to be in a state of entire sanctification, and thought it of great importance that the church should know it?
"For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and Godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you ward" (2 Cor. 1:12). This passage plainly implies the same thing, and was manifestly said for the same purpose to declare the greatness of the grace of God as manifested in himself.