ADDITIONAL OBJECTIONS TO SANCTIFICATION CONSIDERED AND ANSWERED
Nothing is easier than fault-finding, and no movement of the tongue or pen is less dependent for its exercise upon intellectuality and correctness of information. Indeed, the writer has observed through life that the less knowledge people have of the subject criticized the more do they indulge in fault-finding. The name of one of our sacred songs is “We shall know each other better when the mists have cleared away.” This is true; but it is also true that if we knew each other better the mists would be cleared away now, and indeed never would have formed. Alas for the objections, grounded in ignorance, that are hurled at the holy doctrine of sanctification and the people who profess it!
A sixth objection is that it is nothing but a piece of Pharisaism. The idea is that a sanctified man is constantly parading his own goodness and holiness. Before you believe that, listen carefully to what the sanctified man says. His invariable testimony is that through faith in the blood of Christ God killed the principle of sin within him. Compare his experience with that of a regenerated man, and see where abides the most spiritual pride. The regenerated man, as a rule, looks for holiness to come through growth in grace, and growth in grace we know to be the work of man. The sanctified man has obtained the blessing of holiness not by work, but by faith in the blood of the Saviour. He himself did nothing but surrender to God and believe that the blood made holy. The Holy Ghost did the work. Where is the Pharisaism in this? The constant testifying on all occasions to the possession of a pure heart arises from several facts: First, the joy of such a possession; second, the desire that others might obtain what now gladdens him; and third, there is a divine pressure upon the soul to witness continually to the blessing. Moreover, the man knows that if he ceases to testify to its reality and presence he will lose the blessing. The condition of retaining it is to declare it. It is not given for the selfish enjoyment of the man, but that the Church might know of it and enter in again upon the love and glory and power of Pentecost. This explanation should certainly remove from the mind of the objector the suspicion of the presence of the Pharisee in the testimony and life of the brother claiming sanctification.
Seventh, it depreciates regeneration. Not so. Sanctification has no quarrel with regeneration. They move in different spheres, aim at different things, and accomplish different works. Regeneration breaks the power of sin by the impartation of spiritual life; sanctification destroys sin. Regeneration cleanses the nature from all personal sin; sanctification destroys inherited sin or depravity. Regeneration makes one a child of God; sanctification makes the heart holy. There is no clash or collision between the two, save only in the fancies of misinformed and mistaken men.
Eighth, that men claiming this blessing isolate themselves from their brethren in holiness associations and meetings. Again here is a mistake. Did Wesley and the other young men seeking holiness of heart isolate themselves from the world by their “holy club?” Did they not do more work for humanity? Were they not overflowing with love and good deeds to all men? I notice that we have missionary societies in our Churches and Sunday schools. Is it considered an isolation? Are not all welcome? and is it not done merely to simplify and expedite missionary matters? The Sunday-school and the ladies’ aid societies and parsonage societies are not formed with a view to isolation; but their special meetings apart from other services are felt to be best calculated to achieve the particular end in view. So there is no exclusive and excluding spirit in the holiness associations and meetings now held all over the land. They are held in that name because the men attending have but one object in view at the time, and that is the obtainment of a special blessing. Instead of being an exclusive, self-admiring society, the notice of the meeting is published and everybody invited to come. As for an organization, there is none such. There are several officers, but their only duty is to see about the time and place of meeting. As for Constitution and By-laws, there exists nothing of the kind; there is not the stroke of a pen in that direction. Methodism has not truer and more devoted sons and daughters anywhere than in the people in her midst who enjoy the blessing of sanctification.
Ninth, it teaches that there is no more growth in grace. On the contrary it declares that we never grow so rapidly in grace as when we have received the purifying blessing. The great hindrance to growth in grace in the regenerated man is inbred sin or depravity. He grows in grace, but with difficulty and with much inward fighting. Sanctification removes this obstructing and disturbing principle, and now a swift and uninterrupted development of the Christian graces may be had. When we dig weeds out of a garden that does not hinder or end, but really helps, the growth of the flowers. Let the reader remember that growth is development, while sanctification is an elimination; that growth is life, while sanctification is the death of an evil principle; and, remembering this distinction, the ninth objection will fall into nothing.
Tenth, the doctrine teaches that we cannot sin, and are absolutely perfect. It does nothing of the kind. As long as a man is a free moral agent, and on probation as well, he may sin. If the angels sinned in heaven and Adam fell in Eden, then a sanctified man may fall from holiness on earth. “What, then, is the advantage of being sanctified?” one would ask. Much every way, but mainly this: that the inward inclination and tendency to sin, the proneness to wander movement of the soul, is utterly removed. The only perfection that the sanctified man teaches and claims is a perfect love, that does not sour; a perfect purity of heart, that is constantly realized; and a perfect rest of faith in Christ, that nothing is able to destroy.
Eleventh, it teaches that we cannot be tempted any more. It does nothing of the kind. So far from this being the case, the holders of this doctrine believe that a man is never more violently tempted than after being sanctified. There is, however, this distinguishing mark in his experience under temptation; and that is a marvelous calmness, a poise, and steadiness of the spirit through it all. The struggle is not within, as formerly, but the delightful consciousness is that the pressure and onset is from without. There is a great difference between having an enemy in the room with you, and having him locked outside the door. Sanctification puts the tempter on the outside.
Twelfth, that it leads to oddness and eccentricity. Not necessarily, although in some respects a sanctified man will appear peculiar. Felix thought Paul was crazy, but the world sees today that Paul was the wise man, and Felix the insane one of the two. Even the Saviour appeared to be beside himself to his own brethren and family, and they so expressed themselves. The world has its ways and customs, its pleasures and pursuits. They are all condemned by the Almighty. Now, when a sanctified man comes out altogether from these questionable and prohibited things, he, beyond all peradventure, appears odd and eccentric.
Thus Elijah was very odd in the estimation of Ahab and his courtiers, and John the Baptist was very peculiar in the judgment of Herod and those that lived in kings’ houses. “Why only think,” said the shallow, laughing throng, “what he eats and how he dresses, and how dreadful he is in his denunciations of nice, respectable people! ” So they thought and talked, and yet Christ said: “There has not risen a greater man than John the Baptist.” Moreover, the two Wesleys and Whitefield and the other two young men who formed a Holiness Club at Oxford were thought to be very odd. They were even nicknamed. They were so peculiar that they were called “Methodists.” I can hear the young people of the town laughing about them. “O have you met those odd young men at college? They are so very pious that Sunday service is not enough for them. They believe in being perfectly holy! And, would you believe it? they will not attend our dances and plays, and won’t even throw a card in innocent games. You just ought to see them; they are so odd!” The longer we brood on the subject, the more evident it is that “oddness” is a term with a variable quantity and when sifted down really means that the possessor is different in his spirit, principles, and practices from the people of the world. If an American citizen went to Africa, and there still retained the dress and language of his country, he would be odd in the estimation of the dark-skinned population; and if a child of God moves through the world in holiness of heart and life, in perfect Christ-likeness, he will unquestionably appear to be odd.
Thirteenth, that it makes hobbyists and specialists out of Christians. This again is an unfounded charge. A few individuals may run the doctrine into extremes, but this is not the history of the body of those enjoying this blessing. One of the most active general workers the writer knows of is a sanctified man. He is foremost in his State on the Sabbath question, the temperance question, and every other question that affects the glory of Christ and the good of man. And what is true of him is true of the great body of ministers claiming this blessing. They are active in every good work, the declare the whole counsel of God, and bring up each year to Conference the record of scores of conversions. At a certain famous Holiness campground every doctrine is presented from the pulpit. and last year, among the different subjects handled a most masterly sermon on Church finances was preached by Bishop Key. The thirteenth objection, like the rest, is unjust and incorrect. But we cannot but call the reader’s attention to the consideration of a certain fact which is placed in the form of a question. Suppose you had the blessing of sanctification, suppose you saw that it was the crowning experience of the Christian life, that it brought a rest to the soul and power to the life, that it was a full salvation from not only outward but inward sin, would you not want to proclaim it at all times and everywhere? As you saw your brethren full of inward fears, pain, and unrest, could you keep from calling upon them again and again to come into this great blessing? Could you pray or preach without making some kind of an allusion to it as you swept on? Mr. Wesley, in a letter, says: “Let all our preachers make a point of preaching perfection to believers, constantly, strongly, explicitly.” Bishop Asbury made this entry in his journal during a season of sickness: “I have found, by strict search, that I have not preached sanctification as I should have done. If I am restored, this shall be my theme more pointedly than ever, God being my helper.”
In the judgment of some of our people, Mr. Wesley and Asbury were specialists and hobbyists. Certain it is that if we, who now enjoy the blessing, should give it considerable prominence, we are in most excellent company. The writer is no prophet, but this he can safely predict, and that is that the objectors to sermons and conversations on the subject of holiness will become specialists and hobbyists themselves on the subject at the hour of death. Every man will believe in holiness when the soul is about to take its flight into the presence of a holy God. We will remember then the solemn statement of the Bible that “without holiness no man can see the Lord.” The main purpose of life and the main duty of the soul will be felt then, and the admission will be made in the heart, even though it struggles not to the lip, that holiness is the timeliest, the most appropriate, and most important of all themes. O for a man then who can talk about and lead one on to holiness! Since his reception of the blessing of sanctification the writer had to deal, among others, with a lady full of opposition to the doctrine. So it was in her life; but when she was dying the pastor was sent for, and the first expression that fell from her lips was: “I am so glad to have you with me!” Looking out today at the opposition, I find myself saying: “You will object to sanctification in your life, but you will believe in it when you come to die.”
Fourteenth, that it is such a high and exalted life that it cannot be retained. In reply, we say that the beauty and blessedness of sanctification is that it keeps the man. “Kept” is one of the titles given to the life. It is peculiarly a life of faith, and so long as this special faith in the sanctifying blood of Christ is exercised so long are we kept in the experience of purity. There is no agony of protracted strain and effort; fear that hath torment is cast out, and, of consequence, the experience is one of constant inward rest. There is no feeling of high rope-walking, nor the trepidation of skirting the edge of great precipices. It is a life of broad, green pastures and still waters, and the Shepherd always by the sheep. There is a calm now in the life, and a deep rest in the soul, arising from the consciousness of being momentarily kept by the power of God. Glory to the blood that bought me! Glory to its cleansing power! Glory to the blood that keeps me! Glory, glory evermore! –Louise M. Rouse