SANCTIFICATION IS A STATE OR CONDITION WITNESSED TO BY THE HOLY GHOST
Had you thought that the Holy Ghost witnesses to every state in the spiritual life? Every sinner that lives has the witness of condemnation. The Spirit bears witness with his spirit that he is a child of sin and Satan, and on the road to everlasting death. Moreover, the Spirit bears witness to grades of sinful life and character. The Holy Ghost has long ago told the wicked man how corrupt and perverse and abandoned he was, and how he was surpassing others in iniquity.
Likewise the Holy Ghost bore witness to your conversion. He declared to you, indescribably, that you were a child of God, pardoned of your sins and washed from your personal guilt and transgressions. Again, he brought from the Trinity your call to preach, and bore witness to it. And on a certain occasion of the past, after you had been agonizing in prayer for days respecting the salvation of some dear one, he bore witness to your spirit that the prayer was heard, and that the answer would come in due time. Do you remember how you arose instantly from your knees without another doubt, and how silly your confidence seemed to outsiders and how precious to yourself?
Moreover, the Spirit has borne witness to your spirit of inbred sin, convicting you afresh, as he did Isaiah, of inward uncleanness. You have felt it on sudden calls of responsible religious duty, unexpected calls to preach or to pray with the dying or to direct a penitent sinner to Christ, or you have been made powerfully to feel it under a sermon on holiness, or when you were a very sick man with little hope of recovery. These are the favorite times of the Spirit to tell the Christian he has something wrong in him. Finally, when you fully and forever consecrated yourself to God and trusted Christ for sanctification the Holy Ghost bore witness to the blessed work done in the soul.
The fact that you cannot grasp now or understand this witness does not affect or alter the matter a particle. A man of the world cannot comprehend the Spirit’s witness to conversion; a Christian layman cannot take in the Spirit’s call to the ministry, and a regenerated man cannot realize how the Holy Ghost can witness to any state or experience different from the one he enjoys. I certainly cannot be expected to know how a place looks until I see it. Do you remember your disappointment and surprises on this line? Nor can I know a book until I read it, nor have a satisfactory idea how certain fruit tastes until I eat it. A blind man has no conception of colors, and, though you may pile description upon description of this world, he has a most confused and incorrect notion of what nature is, and if his sight is restored is amazed at what he beholds. It is exactly so in the spiritual life: the things of God have to be experienced in order to be understood. And this law prevails in all the ascending and successive steps of religious experience. The higher experience yet to come is like an undiscovered land to me until I go through. Of necessity it is a mystery until my experience of the grace solves and clears it up. I may even believe there is such a grace and witness; but until that grace has become mine, and I have heard the Spirit saying to my heart “Child, you are clean,” how can I speak intelligently and explain the work and word satisfactorily to others?
There may be a road leading to a distant city; but until I have traveled that road, and in a sense made it mine, it is bound to be an unknown thoroughfare to me. But, mark you, although strange to me it may be thoroughly known to others. Hence it is 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 tantamount to saying that he does not believe in the existence of London because he has never been there, or he 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 sung 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, and speaks in one key, and testifies to but one fact. Such a man denies the existence of a sensation or emotion or experience because he has never had his intellect or sensibilities stirred in that direction. He demands to understand a thing before complying with conditions the observance of which alone can bring one into the knowledge and experience of the thing itself.
Such a principle adopted and applied in life would stop every wheel, revolutionize and reverse the working of the greatest laws in the kingdom of nature and grace. Suppose an unconverted man should say to a Christian: ” I do not believe that the Spirit of God witnesses to your pardon; I can’t understand it, have never felt it myself, and don’t believe a word of it.” What, think you, would be the feeling of that regenerated man? Would there not be a half-sad, half-amused stirring of the heart? Do you think he would agree with the unconverted man, and give up his experience because of the ignorance of the other? And what would he reply? He would unquestionably say that he doubted not that his unbelieving friend was sincere and that to him there was no witness of pardon; but that nevertheless there was such an experience, and it would come to all who complied with the conditions laid down in the Bible of repentance and faith. So, the skeptical smile and word turned on the man enjoying the blessing of sanctification does not in the leastwise disconcert him or cause him to doubt the experience of purity and the voice of the Spirit declaring the fact to him continually.
Nor is he puzzled to understand the secret of the unbelief of his brother in regard to the witness and the life of sanctification. He knows that the blessing simply has not come to him; that the voice of the Holy Ghost that has said many blessed things to him has not yet uttered the thrilling words, “Child, you are clean; I have made your heart pure; I have sanctified you wholly;” and he knows that when the conditions of a perfect consecration and a perfect faith are complied with then will the experience be set up, and the witness come, and not till then.
My beloved reader, let me ask: Shall the Holy Spirit be kept to one string on the golden harp of redemption, confined and kept down to one note, made to testify to just a single fact all through the changing life of a Christian, and that fact his pardon? Is there no such thing as purity and holiness in the dispensation of the Holy Ghost? Can’t he produce these conditions? And if he does, will he not witness to his work, and let a man know that he has a pure heart and is now sanctified?
Your reply is that you can see in the Bible where the witness to pardon and conversion is taught, but not where the witness to sanctification appears. Suppose you turn to I Corinthians 2. 12: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” Is not purity, or holiness, one of the works of God? If we obtain it, this verse says that the Spirit will let us know. Now turn to Acts 15. 8, and read: “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost.” The verse that follows tells what had happened–that God had sanctified their hearts by faith, and now he sends the Holy Ghost to bear witness to the purity imparted. Now let the reader turn to Hebrews 10. 14, and see the fact stated clearly and unanswerably: “For by one offering he hath forever perfected them that are sanctified, whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us.”