SANCTIFICATION IS NOT A RECOVERY FROM BACKSLIDING
The supposition of many who have not realized this grace in the soul is that it is the recovery of the first love, or return from a more or less backslidden course. The idea is urged again and again, by different writers who are opposed to sanctification, that the professed possessors of the blessing had really drifted through unfaithfulness into a condition of darkness, fear, and even sin; and in looking for a second cleansing or sanctification have mistaken their recovery, or restoration of religious joy, for the blessing of sanctification; and, thus deluded, proclaim the fact that they have received the second blessing, when they have only been recovered from the life and course of a backslider.
This is certainly very different from the teaching of a famous little volume, called “Christian Perfection,” written by one of the most eminently pious men that ever lived, which says that entire sanctification is preceded by a gradual mortification of sin and ardent aspirations after holiness; in a word, by conditions and experiences the opposite of backsliding. According to this definition of sanctification, that it is nothing but a recovery from backsliding, we are necessarily led to infer that the Thessalonians, whom Paul so highly commended in his Epistle, saying that they were “ensamples” through their labor of love, patience of hope, and joy in the Holy Ghost, that they were really a set of backsliders. And when he wrote, “and the very God of peace sanctify you wholly,” he meant that he hoped the God of peace would recover them from their present backslidden condition. Truly this definition and explanation of entire sanctification, or the second blessing, as given by the doubters of the work, is enough to make Wesley turn over in his grave, and to cause the admirers of Fletcher and Carvosso and Clarke and Benson and McKendree to blush for those consecrated men of God. So, according to this explanation, these holy men were backsliders. Who is ready to credit this? Who, after reading their lives and their own statements and descriptions of the blessing of sanctification, can believe such a thing of them? Read the “Life of Fletcher,” and see how the definition fails to agree with the facts. Open the “Life of Carvosso,” and see how, after his conversion, he pressed steadily on, living in prayer, and never resting until he obtained the blessing of sanctification.
Now we turn to Bishop McKendree he is giving his experience: “Not long after my conversion Mr. Gibson preached a sermon on sanctification, and I felt its weight. When Mr. Easter came he enforced the same doctrine. This led me more minutely to examine the emotions of my heart. I found remaining corruption, embraced the doctrine of sanctification, and diligently sought the blessing it holds forth. The more I sought it, the more I felt the need of it, and the more important did that blessing appear. In its pursuit my soul grew in grace.” Then he goes on to describe when and how the blessing of sanctification came upon him. Where does the backsliding come in here? When did he lose God? On the contrary, he tells us that as he sought the blessing his soul grew in grace.
Now let the reader turn to Mr. Wesley’s volume on “Christian Perfection,” and read certain paragraphs on pages 37, 61, and 78, and he will find that the author calls the blessing a total death to sin and an entire renewal in the love and image of God obtained instantaneously, received by faith, and witnessed to by the Holy Ghost. In none of these instances can you find anything favoring the idea of a recovery from backsliding. On the contrary, it is represented as a sudden uplift and deliverance granted a soul that had been previously growing in grace; that it is a second and distinct work done in and for not a backslidden, but a consecrated life.
With great shrinking I mention my own experience in the same breath with such superior and holy men. But God calls upon me to witness here, and by my tongue and pen to protest humbly, but firmly, against this degrading definition of sanctification. God knows that I have not been a backslider. He knows that for over twelve years the rule of my life, rarely broken, has been never to lay my head upon my pillow until I felt a sense of acceptance with him; while every day I have felt his peace and presence in my soul.
Evidently the blessing I received on June 1, of last year, was not a recovery from backsliding.
–Pastor Ward Clinton