CERTAIN OBJECTIONS TO SANCTIFICATION CONSIDERED AND ANSWERED
When St. Paul was in Rome the Jews residing there said to him, in regard to the Christianity he believed in and confessed: “We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” The expression “this sect” meant Christianity. In spite of its greatness, fullness, and divinity it was, they said, everywhere spoken against.
Certainly, if the system itself be attacked, we may expect one of its doctrines to be roughly handled. That sanctification is everywhere spoken against is patent to all who listen and read. Indeed, as far as I can judge, it is now the most offensive of all the doctrines of our religion to the people. Many of us are familiar with the expression “offense of the cross.” Can anyone tell me where that offense resides today? You cannot have your attention directed to the matter without perceiving that the offense of the cross shifts as time moves on. It goes from doctrine to doctrine; it is now in one part of the cross and now in another.
In the first century the offense consisted in the being and acknowledging one’s self to be a Christian. But who sees any offense in that today? Is it not felt generally that it is a credit to be a Christian? In the time of Luther the offense of the cross moved again and settled in the doctrine of justification. The Church of that day arose and protested against such teaching. He that embraced it was made to feel his position keenly and bitterly. But who imagines for a moment that the offense of the cross is still to be found in the claim of pardon by faith? Who is made to suffer today by arising in the experience-meetings of the Church and saying that through faith in Christ he enjoys peace with God.
The offense has gone from that doctrine. Like a star it travels, and the next time it becomes stationary we find it abiding in the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit, as taught by our fathers. The reader knows well what reproach and contempt were heaped upon those who professed to enjoy the assurance of salvation. Those that affirmed that truth had to pay dearly for its possession. It was to the world and many in the Church a most objectionable doctrine. It was, in a word, the offense of the cross! But is the offense of the cross in that doctrine today? Who believes it for a moment? Accustomed as we are to hear it on all sides and at all times, in song, prayer, testimony, and sermon, it scarcely awakens a comment. The offense of the cross has moved once more.
Where is it today, and in which truth or doctrine has it settled? Look where you will, and as long as you will, and you will be compelled to admit that it is today resident in the doctrine of entire sanctification. Fifty years from now it may be abiding in another part of the Christian field, but today it is to be found in the doctrine of holiness as obtained instantaneously by faith in the blood of the Son of God. Let a man arise and proclaim by tongue or pen that he is a Christian, that he is pardoned, that he enjoys the witness of the Spirit, and not a ripple of disturbance is created. But let him declare in assembly or in the columns of a religious newspaper that Christ has sanctified his soul, and then comes the storm. For making such a claim Madam Guyon was imprisoned. For asserting that we could be sanctified instantaneously by faith Mr. Wesley was assailed on every side. There is something about the doctrine that seems to arouse antagonism. Satan cannot endure it, nor does he propose that the Church shall come into the possession of the lost blessing of Pentecost.
It is a sweet, loving, blessed doctrine–one, it seems, that should delight and gladden every Christian heart–viz.: a doctrine that teaches the death of sin in the heart, and a perfect love to God and man indwelling and reigning there supreme. And yet its introduction and proclamation in Church and community is the signal of commotion. The reason is that the offense of the cross abides therein. Such are the separations, misunderstandings, and ecclesiastical ostracism that it produces that but one thing can account for a man’s openly testifying to its enjoyment, and that is the fact of its possession. In the face of the opposition and death that came to the disciples but one thing upheld them in preaching the resurrection of Jesus, and that thing was that they knew he had risen from the dead! And so most truly can this writer affirm that in view of what will surely come in the future to him who claims the blessing of sanctification but one fact on earth will enable him to go on preaching the doctrine and experience, and that fact is the enjoyment of the blessing itself.
As the Jews said to Paul: “It is everywhere spoken against.” Many are the objections urged against it. And yet not one but is easily met and explained. Let us notice a few of them.
First, men object to the psychology of the doctrine. The argument against us is that, if we claim that depravity is utterly taken out of the soul by sanctification, this blessing, being enjoyed by parents, will deliver their children from the curse of inbred sin. This deduction, we suppose, in the objector’s mind is that a pure nature is transmitted from father to son; that conversion would thereafter be unnecessary, and all subsequent sin would be like the fall of Adam. In reply we say, if this holds good against sanctification, it will also be valid against regeneration; and especially if the objector claims that in regeneration the heart is made holy. And if he admits that depravity is not taken out at the time of conversion, then does he grant what we contend for, the need of a second work of grace. Which horn of the dilemma will he take? The argument–at first sight formidable–goes to pieces under this simple statement: that depravity is general, coming upon the race judicially, but that salvation is an individual and personal matter. A man may reach up by faith out of this flood of universal evil and obtain the blessings of regeneration and sanctification; but he has done this only for himself–he cannot do it for his son. No one can inherit a holy heart. An individual, accepting deliverance from the curse of depravity, does not stop that dark flood-tide as it rolls down the ages upon and through the human race. A bird has escaped the storm. An individual has come forth from his fellows and obtained what each one must separately and distinctively find for himself. Depravity will doubtless be coeval with the race of man on earth; it has come upon all by birth; but we escape from it not through our fathers, not as a race, but one by one, through faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, that sanctification is not scriptural. In reply to this I direct the reader to turn to Chapters XIII., XIV., and XV. of this work, and see whether we have not a Biblical basis for the doctrine. Let him also turn to the prophets in the Old Testament and the Epistles in the New, and see if he does not discover there descriptions of, and facts stated about, a higher life to which we are urged to come.
Let him turn to the fourth chapter of Hebrews and after reading carefully and prayerfully ask himself what is this “rest” that Paul is there urging Christians to enter upon. It is not pardon or conversion, for he calls them brethren and addresses them as God’s people already. It is not heaven, for he tells them to enter in today; and adds: “We, which have believed, do enter in.” What is it but sanctification? the blessing whose marked and most blessed feature is a rest of soul that nothing can destroy. The writer heard a prominent evangelist say in the pulpit this year that regeneration was mentioned in the Bible about twenty-five times, but that sanctification was mentioned one hundred and twenty-five. He then added (and he was not a sanctified man) that if we believed in the first, we ought to believe in the second five times more than we did in the first, because it was taught five times as much.
Third, that it is an unnecessary work; that regeneration has done all for us that is needed. According to the Scriptures the objector has made a great mistake. If regeneration is all God does to the soul, why is it that regenerated people are urged in the word of God to become sanctified? Mind you that to be sanctified is not to grow in grace. “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly,” says Paul. Here is no development, no growth in grace, but a work of God solicited for the soul. The Bible plainly teaches in this and many other passages that there is another work to be done in the soul by divine power.
According to Christian experience the objector has made a mistake. The writer has yet to hear a regenerated person say that he felt that his heart was holy. If the reader doubts, let him institute a series of questions. He will find that the universal experience is that something is still lacking in the sou1–a something to be done by grace, a something to be taken away, a something to fill the nature, that finds descriptive expression in the words, a “clean heart,” a “holy heart.” In a visit to a neighboring State, at a meeting for holiness, a venerable minister arose, whom everybody in the town knew, loved, and esteemed. His had been a blameless life, and he had enjoyed religion for years. For the past three years he had quietly, yet firmly, opposed the holiness movement. Yet suddenly and unexpectedly he gave testimony in the meeting to which allusion has been made. Among a number of things he said he admitted this: “You all know me to be a Christian man, and so I am. I walk with God, and yet I feel that there is something here in my heart that needs to be taken away, a something that is not right.” The writer will never forget the solemnity of the face and attitude, and especially the way in which the old man of God placed his long bony finger over his breast, working it as he spoke, as if he would penetrate his heart and extract that dark, disturbing, worrying something within. Verily, let a man study the Bible and listen to Christian testimony, and look deep into his own soul, and he will never say that sanctification is an unnecessary work.
Fourth, that our best people do not profess it. This objection sweeps us back more than eighteen hundred years into the city of Jerusalem. We find ourselves in the temple. There is a babel of voices around us. The people are discussing Christ, and they are saying the identical thing that appears in the objection: “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him?” In other words, do the best people, the prominent people, take to Christ and follow him? That they did not was sufficient with them to condemn the Son of God, unheard and untried. We grant that there are many most excellent; people in the Church who do not believe in the doctrine of sanctification, but that is no argument against it. If you insist that it is, then with that same argument we can overturn the doctrine of regeneration.
The writer knows some most excellent people in this city, people high-toned and moral, who do not believe in conversion; therefore, according to the objection above, there is no such thing as regeneration. The blessing of sanctification is received by a perfect consecration, and by a special and perfect faith in the blood of Christ to make holy. But suppose an excellent Christian will not thus consecrate, and will not thus believe, what will be the result? Simply this: that, although I may be the highest in the land, I will not obtain that blessing. It is not your excellence that obtains the precious gift of God, but your faith. On the other hand, one may be the weakest, the obscurest member of the Church, and yet, if he complies with the conditions mentioned, he will obtain the great blessing.
The writer has known an elegant woman of the world to be unconverted, while her cook was a devout Christian. And he has also known prominent: lady members of the Church knowing only the experience of regeneration, while their white servant girls were enjoying the blessings of sanctification. Peter said at Pentecost that it was for any and all, to them that were afar off and all that God called. Joel said that the blessing of sanctification would come upon the servants in the last days. The writer has seen this prophecy fulfilled repeatedly. Very humble people are obtaining this high blessing of God, even as once before the common people heard and followed Christ gladly.
It deeply offended many then; it offends many now. But in the midst of all Christ was glad. The Bible said he rejoiced in spirit, and said: “I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes.” “Ye see your calling, brethren,” said Paul; “how that not many wise, nor mighty, nor noble are called; but God hath chosen the weak, the base, the despised, and things which are not to bring to naught things that are.” Fifth, it leads to fanaticism. This is what many assert and are confident in the assertion. Even where they have not seen the fanatics made by sanctification, yet have they heard of them. They saw a man who saw another man who saw the fanatics. We are told of the “Come-outers,” in Mississippi; the “Body Healers,” *[See the Endnote by L. L. Pickett at the end of this chapter] in Kentucky, and the “Infallibility People,” in Texas.
The argument is that this crankiness, practiced by a few people claiming holiness, proves the doctrine to be false. This argument, if accepted, proves too much, as we say in logic. If the fanaticism of a certain number of sanctified people proves sanctification to be false, then the fanaticism of certain converted people proves the doctrine of regeneration to be wrong. Does the reader know any “Come-outers” among regenerated people? I knew a good old converted brother who left the Church for ten years because an organ had been introduced in the public worship. Did that action of his prove that there was no such thing as conversion? Since the writer has been in New Orleans he has seen a dozen prominent members of the Church who were converted people get in a huff over a little matter and quit coming to church for years. They said they could worship God at home. The evangelist of Georgia has evidently met with some of these people, and he has named them ” Old Brother Quitter ” and “Old Sister Quitter.” Did anyone assail the doctrine of regeneration because of the crankiness of these individuals? In a certain neighboring State, in a community where the doctrine of sanctification was never preached, where only regeneration was taught and believed in, the writer met a man who fancied he was God, and therefore infallible. Who for a moment regarded this as a fruit of regeneration? As for “Body Healers,” there is a certain physician in Louisiana–a converted man–who has no patience with the doctrine of the second blessing, who solemnly affirms that he healed a paralytic man by the power of his own will.
If a man professing the experience of sanctification should say this, he would be assailed on all sides and dubbed a fanatic, and the doctrine of sanctification would be made to suffer. And yet this Christian physician states that he performed a case of healing by an exertion of his will, and nothing is said in ridicule, he remains highly honored, and the doctrine of regeneration is not assailed. The fact is that every religious movement and revival (we might add, every doctrine) is afflicted with some extremists, who are generally weak-minded, unbalanced, and ignorant people. To hold Christianity or any of its doctrines accountable for the erratic course of this class of people is a manifest and gross injustice. Nor is it always done. All recognize the folly of the “Millerites;” but, while we condemn their course, we do not the less believe in the second coming of Christ to judge the world. Simon Stylites, perched on a pillar for years, has excited the contemptuous smile of multitudes; but none the less did the smiling throng believe in the doctrine of self-denial and mortification of the body. Stylites was a fanatic, but the doctrine was divine. It was not the doctrine that made the man fanatical. The weakness was in himself, and would have as readily manifested itself in some other line.
So, when people enter upon the experience of sanctification, and not clearly understanding it, and being uninstructed or unbalanced in some respects, wander into lines of error, the whole occurrence proves but one thing, and that is that the erring brother or sister is simply ignorant, weak-minded, or misguided. When a steam-boat boiler explodes on the Mississippi River no one dreams of saying that the steam was at fault, but that something was the matter with the boiler. As truly there is no fault to be found with the doctrines of regeneration and sanctification, but there is oftentimes something serious the matter with people who profess them. For the sake of common sense and justice let us distinguish between steam and a weak boiler, between a doctrine and a weak human vessel. It is certainly significant that the objectors to the doctrine of sanctification, in leveling their shafts of ridicule, invariably call attention to the fanatical exponents of the doctrine.
Why is it that in opposing and denouncing it they point only to the cranks, and not to the grand men and women who, by countless thousands, are enjoying and adorning this doctrine of God our Saviour? With equal justice a guide might direct the attention of the traveler to the lepers of Palestine as the type of the Asiatic, or the dwarfs of Tyrol as a sample of the manhood of Europe. It is something more than significant–it is suspicious–that the objector only mentions the fanatic, and withholds the names of Wesley, Clark, Carvosso, Asbury, McKendree, Fletcher, Peck, Foster, Lovick Pierce, the saintly Inskip, the holy Finney, and thousands of others who have enjoyed and professed the blessing of sanctification.
*[As to the doctrine of divine healing, we think the beloved writer should not class it with “Come-outism,” “Infallibility People,” etc.; since many very able, earnest Christians believe heartily in it, both professors and non-professors of sanctification. They refer us to Exodus xv. 26, xxiii. 25; Deuteronomy vii. 15; 2 Chronicles xvi. 12; Psalm ciii. 3; Jeremiah xvii. 14; Matthew viii. 16, 17. –L. L. P.]