SANCTIFICATION IS AN INSTANTANEOUS WORK OR BLESSING
We are not simply led, but driven to this conclusion. Sanctification certainly does not take place in eternity. Vain is the hope of purgatorial fires. Here on earth is the time and place of probation; here the Spirit strives and purifies, and here is the blood applied. There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin beyond the grave.
The writer stood once in the Mechanics’ Hall of the World’s Exposition. Hundreds of workmen were busy in the midst of flying wheels and cutting saws, and all manner of instruments, in making and shaping different kinds of vessels. Suddenly the 6 o’clock bell sounded, and at once every wheel stopped, and saws became motionless, and all instruments were laid aside. The workmen put off their working garments and left the building. The hall was closed and given up to silence and darkness; and I noticed that whatever was unfinished at the 6 o’clock bell remained unfinished. The complete was left complete, but the unfinished remained an uncompleted, imperfect thing. It was a solemn illustration to me of spiritual things. So, I thought, are we being operated on by the instruments of God’s grace. He is trying in life to perfect us, to make us holy. But the time is coming when life shall end, probation will be over forever, and eternity begin.
The knell of death will be the signal; and when that happens, the Spirit and the blood and the Word will be removed, the divine Worker will withdraw, and the door will be shut. Then it shall come to pass that whatsoever is incomplete shall remain incomplete. The imperfect shall abide in imperfection. The Scripture settles this question in Revelation 22. 11. God is looking into the world of spirits in eternity after the work of life is over, and here is what he says: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still.”
Again, sanctification cannot take place through death. If we say that death makes the soul holy, then do we ascribe a power to it that the Scripture only attributes to the blood of Christ. This would make death our Saviour, and so rob the Son of God of his glory. Indeed, if we wait for death to purify us, we make it even greater than the Saviour; for in that we have postponed the obtaining of holiness until the hour of dissolution we have thereby declared that we looked to death to do what Christ could not and had not done for us. Let us bear in mind that there is nothing in death to purify. It is not an entity, nor a creature, with intellect and force, but a simple dissolution of soul and body; a mere ceasing to live is called death. What is there in a negative state like this to purify the soul? The Bible settles this second point by two unmistakable verses. The first is in Ecclesiastes xi. 3: “If the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.” Look out, my brother; God says as you fall in death so shall you lie forever.
Death will simply crystallize your character. The other verse that teaches that holiness is to come in life, and not in or through death, is found in Luke 1. 73-75: “The oath that he swear to our father Abraham, that we might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life.” It is evident from reason and from the plain word of God that we can look for sanctification or holiness in this life.
Now comes the question: “At what time of life?” Will any one say not till old age? Where in the Bible are the young excused from holiness? Will any one say after a number of years we may expect it? Show me a passage where God’s word teaches such a thing! Will any one postpone the blessing of a holy heart even until tomorrow, or to any time in the immediate future? Show me a verse where God commands us to be holy tomorrow! Point out the passage where he says next week or next year we must be holy. Does any one say we will come into it gradually? My reply is: “Show me the verse in Scripture that we are sanctified or made holy gradually. At once you quote the verses, “Grow in grace” and “The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” But neither of these passages refer to sanctification. The expression “perfect day,” Dr. Clarke says means the “endless felicity of heaven.”
The words “grow in grace” bear not the slightest allusion to the work of sanctification. As we have previously shown, the words are different, have different meanings, and refer to different works. Consecration and growth in grace are man’s work, but sanctification is the work of Almighty God. Men consecrate gradually, and grow in grace gradually; but when God regenerates or sanctifies the soul he does it instantaneously.
Let us sum up the foregoing points: If sanctification cannot take place in eternity, nor at death, nor is to be deferred to old age, or to a year hence, or even until tomorrow, then are we driven to the conclusion that it is to be had at any moment, and that moment may be now. Several facts confirm us in this conclusion.
First, the necessities of the case. The very uncertainty of life teaches me that the work should be quickly done. Tomorrow I may be gone; the next hour may find me dead–nay, the next minute may witness my soul flying from the body to the God who gave it. If the blessing of sanctification be a gradual work, then would we be undone.
Second, our knowledge of the power of God prepares us for the instantaneous blessing. Is any thing too hard for the Lord? He speaks, and it is done. He that converts a soul in a second, can he not sanctify in a second? Look at it, reader; 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.
A third argument for the instantaneous nature of sanctification is found in the will of God. The Scripture says: “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” Will any one dare to say that God wills our sanctification or holiness some time in the future, and not today? The one conclusion to which the mind is irresistibly drawn from this last thought is that the present moment is the time for sanctification. A fourth fact or argument for the instantaneous nature of this blessing is found in the glory of God. It is not to God’s honor that the hearts of his people should be defiled or unholy a single second of time. But the sooner that soul purity is obtained and lived naturally and necessarily will God be that much more glorified in a man who reflects the divine Spirit and image in every thought, emotion, speech, and action of life.
Still another argument we urge to prove that sanctification is the work of a moment is found in the tense in which the commands for our sanctification or holiness is presented. Study these commands, and you will find they are all in the present tense, or couched in forms to show an instantaneous work, “Be ye holy” is an unmistakable injunction for a present state and life. The passage in Hebrews, “Let us go on to perfection,” that at first seems to suggest a gradual work, teaches a definite and distinct state to be obtained, while the verb conveys the idea of being borne on immediately into the blessing.
The final proof is the statement of God’s word. Read Malachi iii. I: “The Lord, whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple.” Who is this temple? Paul answers: “Ye are his temple.” So has it ever been with those who received this unspeakable blessing; it came suddenly, not gradually.
Now turn to 2 Corinthians 6. 2. God in this passage forever settles the question by telling us what is his time. The verse reads “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” This removes all doubt, for is it possible that God is willing to pardon me now, and not willing to make me holy now? Does he desire a single sin to remain in us a moment? Is he not willing to give his people a full salvation the instant they will accept it? The book answers: “Behold, now is God’s accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Chapter Nine Chapter Eleven