SANCTIFICATION IS A DISTINCT WORK OF GOD
In this chapter some points will not appear that would come properly under this head, because anticipated, and in a measure discussed, in previous chapters. Sanctification is a doctrine. It is as much so as repentance, faith, and regeneration. The word is a distinct word, has a distinct and peculiar meaning, and refers to something that is not found in repentance, faith, or regeneration, and that something is holiness. By its position in the Hymn Book and theological standards, and by the clear way in which it is urged in the Scriptures, we cannot but see that sanctification is a doctrine in itself, recognized as such by man and taught as such by God.
Let us not fall into the mistake here that repentance is a distinct thing, and conversion a distinct thing, but that sanctification is a hazy, indefinable, indefinite, never-to-be-realized state, and thereby lose sight of its individuality as a blessing, and strip from the Bible one of its grandest doctrines. But let us mark how Christians are urged to go to it, and to possess it, and see in these repeated commands the proof that it is a cardinal truth and teaching of the Word of God. Sanctification is the work of God. The Bible says “the blood cleanses,” “the altar [Christ] makes holy,” and still again “the God of peace sanctify you wholly.” In another place Christ prays the Father to “sanctify” his disciples. In still other places the expressions used in description of the blessing of holiness are “the baptism of the Holy Ghost,” “the anointing and sealing of the Holy Ghost,” and “the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” There are many others, but these suffice to show that while all the persons of the Trinity are credited with the work, yet no other being but God is recognized as the Agent and Accomplisher. Still again, by this constant recognition of God in the Bible as the Sanctifier we are shown that sanctification is not man’s work and that as a consequence it cannot be growth in grace, which is always made incumbent as a duty upon man. Conviction is a work of God in the soul of a sinner. No man could produce such a result. Regeneration is a work of God in the soul of a believing penitent. Redemption is the final work of God upon the bodies of his slumbering saints; at his voice and through his power they will come forth from the grave in radiant resurrection forms. Sanctification, or holiness, is the work of God in the soul of a Christian believer. In full view of these distinct and separate operations of the power of God, Paul says: “Christ is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” The very position of these words show the separateness and distinctiveness of the work. Christ’s command also substantiates the idea. This command to the disciples was to tarry until they obtained not simply a blessing that would disappear in a day, but a work that would transform them into totally different men. See Luke xxiv. 49; Acts i. 8. We could say much on this point, but refrain. You who read these lines have felt the convicting power of God, and you have experienced the converting power of God, and you are later on to feel the resurrecting power of God, but have you yet felt the sanctifying power of the Almighty? If not, you are a stranger to him at that point. And if you will not feel it, then you will pass into eternity knowing certainly some of the marvelous operations of grace, but not having felt the most wonderful and blessed work of all that God performs upon the soul in this earthly life. What is this work, and in what respect does it differ from regeneration? Let me say that many have been taught to believe that regeneration does every thing for the soul. My reply to this is that the Bible calls regeneration a new birth–says it makes us new creatures, but never intimates that it makes us holy. It never calls it a baptism of fire. A baptism of fire would hardly be the proper swaddling-clothes for a newborn babe. In striking confirmation of this, I notice that I never heard a Christian liken his conversion to an experience of fire. That experience comes later, and belongs to a different work. Some claim that regeneration has done everything for them. Christ’s blood, they say, made them perfectly pure and holy at conversion, and all that is needed now is time for development. and a steady growth in grace. To this I offer several facts in reply: One is that I never heard but one regenerated person in my life claim that his heart was perfectly pure and holy, and he did it then with a hesitation and slowness that was remarkable and painful.
Another is that if there are a number who make this claim, they do it under the supposition that the inbred sin of their hearts is only temptation. Great is this mistake! Still another fact is that they have evidently mixed and confounded passages in the Bible bearing on the two subjects of regeneration and sanctification. They have taken verses of Scripture that refer exclusively to the sanctified life and used them to describe the life of the regenerated. One that is often thus twisted is the famous passage in Ezekiel: “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.” This was a promise made to believers, and therefore could not be conversion! Again, if regeneration saves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and from all idols of heart and life, then are regenerated men, like angel visits, few and far between!
Regeneration is a new birth, a change of masters, the implanting of a new life and love, the cleansing away of personal sins, and the removal of that depravity that results from personal transgressions, so that the man is a new creature, and can say: “Old things have passed away; all things have become new.” But all has not yet been done. Something still is left to be accomplished, as is evidenced by the command of Scripture to seek it, tarry for it, go on to it, and other like expressions. Moreover, the prayers of regenerated people, who are always asking for a clean heart, and the desires of regenerated people, who are living in the light and growing in grace both alike point to a something in the spiritual life that they have not.
The originator of this prayer and desire is the Holy Ghost, who is urging and drawing on to the higher blessing–to establishment in holiness. To resume, then: sanctification is a work of God in the soul, and this is the work:
First, it is the utter destruction of inbred sin, or inherited depravity, in the heart. This sin is called by various terms in the Bible and in religious nomenclature. “The body of sin,” “the law of sin and death,” “the flesh,” “the carnal mind,” the “old man,” and “proneness to sin,” are some of the names given to describe the dark principle of evil that rules in an unconverted life and that struggles for mastery in the heart of the regenerated Christian. Call it by what name you will, this is the thing that is destroyed in sanctification, and that is not destroyed in regeneration. Regeneration gives me power over it; sanctification kills it.
Second, it is a cleansing and purification. The instrument is the baptism of fire. Nothing purifies like fire. The baptism of water and all that it symbolizes is not equal to the baptism of fire. Ask a Christian, after he has felt this work of God, if his heart is pure, and there will be no hesitation, no slowness, but with the rapidity of the lightning’s flash he will say: “Glory to God! I’m pure. The blood has made me clean.”
Third, it is a filling or fullness of the Spirit, such as was never realized before. Then, says the Scripture, “were the disciples filled with the Holy Ghost,” as if this experience had not been theirs before. They had received the Holy Ghost, Christ had breathed the Spirit upon them; but at their sanctification they were filled. Paul, writing to the Romans, calls it “the fullness of the blessing.” God evidently descends in a manner and a measure upon the soul in sanctification that he does not in any previous work or condition of grace. Christ alluded to this in John 14. 23, when, speaking of the blessing, he said: “We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” God comes to abide in the sanctified heart.
We cannot linger here, but call attention to the order of the divine work–the destruction, the purifying, and then the coming of the divine Blesser to take complete and final possession! It is a proper and necessary order, and an order observed in all cases, though for explainable causes sometimes one may be felt with pre-eminent clearness and force over the other. In my own case I was peculiarly conscious of the destruction, as by fire, and the fullness. After the recognition of these consciousness took hold of the feature of purity, saw and rejoiced that it was there, and now after twelve months still sees that it is there, and rejoices over it as an unchanging possession. – Beverly Carradine