Let me do all the good I can, to all the people I can, as often as I can, for I shall not pass this way again. – John Wesley
Let me do all the good I can, to all the people I can, as often as I can, for I shall not pass this way again. – John Wesley
Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can. – John Wesley
You must be DIVORCED from your SIN, or you cannot be MARRIED to CHRIST. C. H. Spurgeon
Sanctification is not regeneration. The very words teach us that. They are not the same, do not mean the same thing, and are not used synonymously in the Bible, Hymn Book, standards, religious biographies, and testimony of Christians. They are felt to represent two different things. Justification means pardon; conversion, a turning about; regeneration means renovation, reproduction, entering upon a new life, while sanctification means the act of being made holy. If regeneration and sanctification mean the same, and include the same work, then 1st Corinthians 1. 30 becomes senseless, and should read thus: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us regeneration and regeneration and regeneration and regeneration.” But the two words are different, and refer to different works wrought supernaturally in the soul, and so the passage reads: “Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” The word “righteousness” should be translated “justification.” Again, the two words, representing different works, follow each other in point of time.
To the Thessalonians, who were Christians, and possessed joy in the Holy Ghost, Paul writes that God wanted them to be sanctified. He said the same thing, in substance, to the Romans, the Corinthians, and to the Hebrews. Sanctification, or Christian perfection, comes after regeneration. The Saviour himself recognized this order, for while in the fifteenth chapter of John he tells his disciples that they are clean through his word, yet a little while after he informs them that they must yet be sanctified, which sanctification, we remember, took place on Pentecost. – Beverly Carradine
–Pastor Ward Clinton
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
THE FINAL OBJECTION THAT SANCTIFICATION IS NOT A METHODIST DOCTRINE CONSIDERED AND TRIUMPHANTLY ANSWERED
On many sides we have heard the objection gravely urged that sanctification is not a Methodist doctrine. As the Church becomes more worldly we may expect to hear this strange utterance more frequently. In one sense, however, it is true. I thank God that sanctification is longer and broader and older than Methodism. It is Biblical, celestial, and eternal. Moreover, all denominations have recognized it, and Christians in all Churches have enjoyed and taught the doctrine.
Cardinal Fenelon, of the Catholic Church, had this blessing and preached it, and wrote book after book on the subject. Dr. Upham, of the Presbyterian church, enjoyed the blessing, and wrote concerning it: “I was then redeemed by a mighty power and filled with the blessing of perfect love. There was no intellectual excitement, no marked joys when I reached this great rock of practical salvation, but I was distinctly conscious when I reached it.” Time would fail to give the experiences of individuals outside of our denomination who have rejoiced in this blessing, showing thereby it is broader and older than Methodism. And yet, viewing the matter in a certain light, the doctrine is peculiarly Methodistic. It is ours from the reason that, as a Church, we were called forth providentially to proclaim the truth; and have, as a people, advocated and lived the experience as no other branch of Christ’s Church has done.
It shows an ignorance, dense and amazing, on the part of a Methodist preacher or layman to say that the doctrine and experience of sanctification is un-Methodistic. And when Methodist congregations, on the presentation of the subject, affect surprise, and affirm that we are introducing some strange or new doctrine, it is equal to a young girl who has been absent a few months at a fashionable boarding-school requiring an introduction to her mother. In either case we are puzzled for diagnostic words. Here, we say, is a marvelous case of unnaturalness, or one of remarkably short memory. Let us take a swift glance at history, and see if this doctrine of instantaneous sanctification by faith belongs to the Methodist Church or not. In the Conference of 1765 Mr. Wesley asked the question: “What was the rise of Methodism ? ” The following is the answer given: “In 1729 my brother Charles and I, reading the Bible, saw we could not be saved without holiness; followed after it, and incited others so to do. In 1737 we saw that this holiness comes by faith. In 1738 we saw likewise that men are justified before they are sanctified; but still holiness was our object, inward and outward holiness. God then thrust us out to raise up a holy people.” Let me ask the reader here what he thinks of this statement given by the founder of the Methodist Church. Ought not the father of our Church know the essential features of Methodism better than some of its sons born over one hundred years later? Look at the italicized words above, and see that the very two things now being denied by Methodist people were solemnly affirmed by Mr. Wesley. Turn now to Stevens’s “History of Methodism” (page 270), and read as follows: “The Holy Club was formed at Oxford in 1729, for the sanctification of its members. The Wesleys there sought purification, and Whitefield joined them for that purpose.” So we see that Methodism was born in a Holiness Association. We turn next to Bangs’s “History of the Methodist Episcopal Church” (page 195) “The doctrine more especially urged upon believers in early Methodism was that of sanctification, or holiness of heart and life, and this was pressed upon them as their present privilege, depending for its accomplishment now on the faithfulness of God, who had promised to do it. It was the baptism of the Holy Ghost which fired and filled the hearts of God’s ministers at that time.” In 1766 Mr. Wesley wrote to his brother Charles: “Insist everywhere on full salvation received now by faith. Press the instantaneous blessing.” In 1768 he wrote to the same: “I am at my wit’s end with regard to two things–the Church and Christian perfection. Unless both you and I stand in the gap in good earnest, the Methodists will drop them both.” Some people have affected to believe that Mr. Wesley was at his wit’s end because of the doctrine being preached; but read the letter, and see that his trouble arose from the fact that he feared the truth would be lost.
Again, other people have asserted that Mr. Wesley himself never claimed the blessing. In reply we quote a letter written by him in 1771: “Many years since I saw that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. I began by following after it. Ten years after God gave me a clearer view than I had had before how to obtain it–namely, by faith in the Son of God–and immediately I declared to all: ‘We are saved from sin, we are made holy by faith.’ This I testified in private, in public, in print, and God confirmed it by a thousand witnesses.” In 1761-63 he wrote to two of his preachers: “You have over and over denied instantaneous sanctification, but I have known and taught it above these twenty years. I have continually testified for these five and twenty years, in private and public, that we are sanctified, as well as justified, by faith. It is the doctrine of St. Paul, St. James, St. Peter, and St. John, and no otherwise Mr. Wesley’s than it is the doctrine of everyone who preaches the pure and whole gospel. I tell you as plain as I can speak where and when I found this. I found it in the oracles of God, in the Old and New Testaments, when I read them with no other view or desire than to save my own soul.”
More than once the writer has heard Methodist people say that Mr. Wesley believed in sanctification in the beginning of his ministry, but changed his mind toward the conclusion of his life. In utter refutation of this I direct the reader to “Wesley’s Works” (Vol. VII., pages 376-384); also to a letter written by him in 1790, only two years before his death, where he says: “This doctrine is the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists; and for the sake of propagating this chiefly he appears to have raised us up.” Does this look like he had changed his views?
Let the reader turn to Wesley’s “Christian Perfection,” and on page 61 see how the matter is summed up under four or five points–that sanctification is deliverance from all sin, is received merely by faith, is given instantaneously, and is to be expected not at death, but every moment. This book was never recalled by Mr. Wesley; but, on the contrary, in a late edition he solemnly reaffirmed its statements. Now we turn to the Fathers. We mention only a few: Dr. Adam Clarke says in his “Theology:” If the Methodists give up preaching entire sanctification, they will soon lose their glory. Let all those who retain the apostolic doctrine that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin in this life pray every believer to go on to perfection and expect to be saved while here below, unto fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” Again, in his “Commentary” we find these words on Hebrews vi. 1: “Many make a violent outcry against the doctrine of perfection. Is it too much to say of these that they neither know the Scripture nor the power of God?”
Dr. Watson, the great Methodist theologian, says in his “Institutes” (Vol. II.,page 450): “We have already spoken of justification, adoption, regeneration, and witness of the Spirit, and we proceed to another as distinctly marked and as graciously promised in the Holy Scriptures. This is the entire sanctification of believers. This,” he goes on to say, “is a still higher degree of deliverance from sin.”
Carvosso, as widely known as either of the above, writes in his autobiography that several months after his conversion he began to crave inward holiness.” For these I prayed and searched the Scriptures. At length one evening, while engaged in a prayer-meeting, the great deliverance came! I began to exercise faith by believing: I shall have the blessing now. Just that moment a heavenly influence filled the room, and no sooner had I uttered the words from my heart, ‘I shall have the blessing now,’ than refining fire went through my heart, illuminated my soul, scattered its life through every part, and sanctified the whole. I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus had cleansed me from all sin.”
Bishop Asbury wrote thus to a minister: “Preach sanctification, directly and indirectly, in every sermon.” He wrote to another: “O purity! O Christian perfection! O sanctification! It is heaven below to feel all sin removed. Preach it, whether they will hear or forbear. Preach it!”
Bishop McKendree, in a letter to Bishop Asbury, describes his conversion; then adds: “Not long after Mr. Gibson preached a sermon on sanctification, and I felt its weight. This led me more minutely to examine my heart. I found remaining corruption, embraced the doctrine of sanctification, and diligently sought the blessing it holds forth.”Farther on he tells how, while walking in a field, he received in an overwhelming way the grace he sought. Here are the five leading names in early Methodism. We could give many more, but cannot for lack of space. Does it not look as if the Methodist Church believed in the doctrine of sanctification?
We turn now to the Conferences. In 1824 the bishops of our Church, in their quadrennial address to the General Conference, said: “Do we come to the people in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of peace? Do we insist on the witness of the Spirit and entire sanctification through faith in Christ. Are we contented to have the doctrine of Christian holiness an article of our creed only, without becoming experimentally and practically acquainted with it?
If Methodists give up the doctrine of entire sanctification, or suffer it to become a dead letter, we are a fallen people. Holiness is the main cord that binds us together; relax this, and you loosen the whole system. This will appear more evident if we call to mind the original design of Methodism. It was to raise up and preserve a holy people. This was the principal object which Mr. Wesley had in view. To this end all the doctrines believed and preached by the Methodists tend.”To this address are attached the names of Bishops McKendree, Hedding, Soule , George, and Roberts. In 1832 the General Conference issued a pastoral address to the Church, in which we find these words: “When we speak of holiness we mean that state in which God is loved with all the heart and served with all the power. This, as Methodists, we have said, is the privilege of the Christian in this life. And we have further said that this privilege may be secured instantaneously by an act of faith, as is justification. Why, then, have we so few living witnesses that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin?
Among primitive Methodists the experience of this high attainment in religion may justly be said to have been common. Now a profession of it is rarely to be met with among us. Is it not time to return to first principles? Is it not time that we throw off the inconsistency with which we are charged in regard to this matter? Only let all who have been born of the Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, seek with the same ardor to be made perfect in love as they sought for the pardon of their sins, and soon will our class meetings and love-feasts be cheered by the relation of experiences of this character, as they now are with those which tell of justification and the new birth.” In 1874 the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, thus concluded their address to the General Conference: “Extensive revivals of religion have crowned the labors of our preachers; and the life-giving energy of the gospel, in the conversion of sinners and in the sanctification of believers, has been seldom more apparent amongst us. The boon of Wesleyan Methodism, as we received it from our fathers, has not been forfeited in our hands.” To this document is affixed the signatures of Bishops Robert Paine, George F. Pierce, H. H. Kavanaugh, W. M. Wightman, E. M. Marvin, D. S. Doggett, H. N. McTyeire, and J. C. Keener.
In 1884 the Centennial Conference of American Methodism, which met in Baltimore, reaffirmed the faith of the entire Church in all its separate branches: “We remind you, brethren, that the mission of Methodism is to promote holiness. It is not a sentiment or emotion, but a principle in-wrought in the heart, the culmination of God’s work in us followed by a consecrated life. In all the borders of Methodism this doctrine is preached and the experience of sanctification is urged. We beseech you, brethren, stand by your standards on this subject.” Turn now to the “Wesleyan Catechism No. 2.” After asking and answering the question, “What is regeneration?” farther on we find the following: “Question.–What is entire sanctification? “Answer.–The state of being entirely cleansed from sin so as to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.” Turn now to the Hymn Book. If we glance at the edition preceding the last, in the second verse of hymn 542 we read these words of Charles Wesley: Speak the second time: “Be clean!” Take away my inbred sin: Every stumbling-block remove; Cast it out by perfect love. This hymn has been left out of the new Hymn Book. *[See the Endnote by L. L. Pickett at the end of this chapter] Let the Hymn Book Committee answer to their conscience now and to God at the day of judgment why they did this. To purge the Hymn Book of the doctrine of the second blessing, the iconoclasts would have been under the necessity of eliminating hundreds of stanzas instead of one. The expression: “Speak the second time, ‘ Be clean! ‘ ” seems to be obnoxious to many. What a pity it is for them that the same thought crops out in the grand old hymn, “Rock of Ages!” Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure. Let the reader take up the attenuated last edition of our hymns and find still forty-four left that teach plainly the doctrine of sanctification. Especially do we call attention to hymns 422, 425, 429 440, 445, 447, and 449, and to 411, familiar to thousands, but never losing its sweetness and blessedness: Lord, I believe a remains To all thy people known; A rest where pure enjoyment reigns, And thou art loved alone: A rest where all our soul’s desire Is fixed on things above; Where fear and sin and grief expire, Cast out by perfect love. O that I now the rest might know, Believe, and enter in! Now, Saviour, now the power bestow, And let me cease from sin. Remove this hardness from my heart, This unbelief remove; To me the rest of faith impart, The Sabbath of thy love. And now turn to the Discipline. In the baptismal service, and in the collect said at the Lord’s Supper, and in Article XX., found in the first chapter which contains the Articles of our religion, the doctrine is both implied and taught. In the ordination or reception of ministers into the Conference it is unmistakably apparent. Paragraph 66, Question 2: “What method do we use in admitting a preacher into full connection?” The answer is, that after solemn fasting and prayer upon the part of the candidates, the bishop shall ask them the following questions: “Have you faith in Christ?” “Are you going on to perfection?” “Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?” “Are you groaning after it?” Is it not marvelous that a Methodist preacher, after having answered these questions affirmatively, should ever deny the doctrine of sanctification, or, worse still, take a stand against it? He once solemnly vowed that he believed in the experience, was going on to it, expected to obtain it in this life,. and was groaning after it; and now, pitiful to relate, he pens articles, preaches sermons, or writes a book against a doctrine that he swore in the presence of God and a hundred preachers that he firmly believed.
It was on condition of his avowed belief in that doctrine, and in view of his promise to seek and obtain the experience, that the Methodist Church admitted him into her pulpits as an ordained preacher. And yet here he is denying the faith, giving up the struggle, and surrendering the distinguishing doctrine of our Church, which Mr. Wesley called “the grand depositum of Methodism.” And now I submit it to the reader, who has followed me in my quotations from Methodist Conferences, standards, bishops, and fathers, the question: Who is most truly a Methodist–he that believes in, or he that denies, the doctrine of sanctification? And who has left in creed and life the Methodist Church–the person who denies the doctrine and experience of holiness received by faith, or the individual who enjoys and testifies to that most precious blessing? Verily, as the writer takes note of those who oppose, and contrasts them with the spiritual giants of our Church, who enjoyed and lived and advocated the doctrine of sanctification, and who were the founders and deliverers of Methodism in the past, he cannot but cry out: “Let me live the life of these men, believe what they believed, do as they did, and may my last end be like theirs!”
Therefore, I am a Nazarene and not a Methodist; many, if not most, Methodist congregations have drifted away from their “grand depositum.”
It is a blessed thought, however, that the truth of sanctification comes from a higher source than Methodism. The doctrine is not of man, but of God. And so it will live and flourish in spite of all opposition and unbelief. Church after Church may refuse to proclaim it, denomination after denomination may lose this great blessing of Pentecost; the Methodist Church itself, that was raised up of God for the main purpose of restoring this blessing to the people of God and “spreading scriptural holiness over the land,” may prove recreant to her trust and surrender the doctrine which was once her glory and joy and strength. Nevertheless the doctrine will live and the experience will be enjoyed by countless multitudes until the end of time. If necessary God will raise up other Churches and stir up distant peoples, in order that his children may hear of and possess by faith a full salvation from all sin, inward as well as outward.
The experience that Christ promised his disciples, and his Church after them, in the words “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” shall not perish, but shall abide as the priceless legacy of the Church forever. May God grant our beloved Church to stand with lips purified by the coal of fire from the altar, with heart aflame with love, with soul burning with holiness, with spirit and body ready to spring away with the messages of God, with wing of faith and wing of consecration in constant, tireless movement, and with this cry of the soul ascending continually: “Here am I, Lord; send me!” May sanctification, the lost blessing of the Church, be poured out upon the people far and near! Then will the Church arise and shine; then will a nation be born in a day; one man chase a thousand, two put ten thousand to flight, and the kingdom of God will come.
Endnote *Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit Into every troubled breast; Let us all in thee inherit, Let us find that second rest: Take away our bent to sinning, Alpha and Omega be, End of faith, as its beginning, Set our hearts at liberty. [This clear verse is retained in the new hymn Book.–L. L. P.]
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.]
HOW TO OBTAIN THE BLESSING OF SANCTIFICATION
Nothing seems simpler to the man who has received the blessing than the way of holiness, while to the person not yet in the experience nothing is darker. One of the reasons that it is called “the secret of the Lord” is that it is a hidden experience to begin with, and it takes the Lord to reveal the blessing. It is the Lord’s secret. After he has revealed it to us we tell it to others, show the way we trod, and wonder that they do not at once enter in. We forget that once we were as profoundly mystified, and the whole matter wrapped in darkness. Letters have been written to me, anxious questionings have been propounded: “How may I enter in?” The reply I would make to all is:
First, you must believe that there is such a blessing. More depends upon this than one would at first imagine. The fact of doubt shuts me not only out of the blessing, but will prevent all effort to obtain it. Christ says: “According to your faith, so shall it be unto you.” If I do not believe that Christ can justify, it will not be done; and if I do not believe that he can sanctify, I will never realize that blessed experience.
Second, you must realize your need of this blessing. Here let me say that if the regenerated man who reads these lines has never felt convicted, at some time or times, of the necessity of having a perfectly pure and holy heart, then his case is anomalous. These convictions which are wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, if not acted upon, will disappear, and the Christian settles back upon a comparatively low plane again. To obtain the blessing of a holy heart the conviction must be aroused again. This will be effected by a humble, prayerful waiting upon God. He that adopts Psalm cxxxix. 23, 24 as his petition will be amazed at what follows. Just as conviction preceded pardon and conversion, so a second and far deeper conviction precedes purity, or the blessing of sanctification. Certainly he who is satisfied with present attainment, content with a life of fallings and risings, alternate defeats and victories, states of coldness and gloom, and, above all, the presence of sinful tendencies in the heart, such a one will never come into the great blessing.
Third, you must desire the blessing. God must see that you long for it supremely. This time you are not to enter upon service, but upon marriage. Christ is going to establish the most tender and delightful and permanent relationship. He, on this occasion, is going to make the heart holy, and then forever abide in it. In the regenerated life he was a wayfarer that turned in for a night, but in sanctification he is going to dwell in you, consciously, forever. (John xiv. 23. ) He is going to give himself to you in his fullness. Such a gift demands that your heart cry out with burning desires and quenchless longings.
Fourth, you must seek for the blessing. There must be no idle, indolent waiting. The tarrying at Jerusalem was any thing but an idle one. The hours and days were filled with the most ardent seeking and importunate supplication. You must seek for it. Conscience must bear witness that you are seeking; people must see it; nature in the lonely grove and watchful stars must know it; above all, God must see that you are seeking the greatest blessing he has for us on earth. It must be a seeking that will not be diverted by anything. The frowns and smiles of men, the ridicule and opposition certain to come must not be regarded–no, not for one moment. You must desire it like the man of the parable, who parted with all he had for the treasure in the field, and like another, who gave up all his gems for the pearl of great price.
Fifth, you must not be discouraged. A thousand things will arise to create despondency and despair. You will see other people pass in before you. Satan will be busy with you here, but keep your eyes on Christ, and not the people. You may be troubled with fluctuations of feeling. Experience of deadness and heaviness may possibly creep over you. Pay no attention to them. You are not sanctified by your feelings.
Satan will endeavor, in various ways, to darken your mind and sadden your heart. The dark birds of gloom, doubt, and despair will swoop down upon your altar; but, like Abraham, stand and keep them off, and wait till God sends the fire. The fire will come, and likewise the burning lamp. That is, the work will be done, and the witness given; the baptism and the illumination is to see and recognize. The fire and the lamp will both be sent. Only determine that nothing shall discourage you, and all will be well.
Sixth, consecrate yourself entirely to God. This is called the first step. Put everything on the altar. Make an Appomattox surrender of yourself. Become God’s man by solemn covenant. Turn over everything to Christ that you are and have, and ever expect to be and have. Give him your whole self. He will not accept a lesser gift. Christ intends giving himself in his fullness to you, and he demands the same thing at your hands. Put every faculty on the altar; place your money there, and your reputation and ambition. Place your tongue there, and your time and your influence. If you have wronged any one, promise God to right that wrong, and do it. If you are at enmity, first be reconciled with thy brother, then come with thy gift unto the altar. Is every thing upon the altar? If so, who is the altar? Paul tells you in Hebrews that it is Christ. What does the altar do? Glory be to God, it sanctifies the gift! See Matthew xxiii. 19. When the gift was laid upon the Jewish altar, it became as holy as the altar. Thus it is we become holy, if we are on our altar, Christ; if, in a word, we are perfectly consecrated. The word of God says that “every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord.” Will you believe that? Will you take God at his word?
Seventh, you must believe that Christ makes you holy right now. Faith is the second step to sanctification. Will you take that step and receive full salvation? If you can and will believe that the blood of Jesus Christ sanctifies you now, the work of sanctification will be done, and the glory of God will come upon you. “Said I not unto thee that, if thou believest, thou shouldst see the glory of God?” Plant yourself on God’s own word; he says that the altar sanctifies you, that the blood cleanses and makes you holy. You do not say this; the preacher did not originate the speech; it is the word of the Lord! Then believe that word; receive it in your heart; say, “I am sanctified by the blood, because Christ says so;” and hold on with unmoved confidence until the witness comes. The witness will come and will not tarry where the soul is consecrated and the heart exercises a present appropriating faith; It will rush to and settle upon your faith like the dove-like Spirit swept down upon the Saviour. It is bound to come because of the divine faithfulness and in fulfillment of the divine promise. But have I a right to say that Christ sanctifies me before the witness is given? Can I dare to say, will I be able to say that the blood makes me holy before the experience is set up in my soul? To this I reply that if you are conscious of a perfect consecration (and your own spirit will always witness to that fact), then you can say that the blood cleanses, and believe it, because God gives the perfectly consecrated man the right to say it. “Every devoted thing is most holy.” “The altar sanctifies the gift.” The instant I believe it and say it, that instant the work is done. The Bible says: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” I must so believe that I will be willing to confess and proclaim, and then salvation in its fullness comes. This is the order: heart and mouth. Many have failed here. Many have had the belief, but, refused to speak. Felt powerfully moved to do so, but from a sudden timorousness, a sudden false humility, a swift temptation from Satan, they shrunk back into silence and missed the salvation that was ready to be poured, in all its richness, fullness, and blessedness, into the soul. I can recall two cases of recent date when the consecration had been made and the faith was born in the heart, and the Spirit of God with mighty pressure urged them to arise and claim and own the blessing. They could with difficulty keep silence, so great was the inward movement and impulse of the Holy Ghost upon them to speak. In both cases they shrunk back, and in both cases have I witnessed since a rapidly weakening faith and an unmistakable lapse in the spiritual life. It is no presumption to believe what God asserts, and to proclaim what God declares. But it is presumption and sin besides to refuse to believe God’s word, and be afraid to repeat what he affirms. He that is conscious that he is not a perfectly consecrated man should not dare to say that he is made holy; but he who knows in the depths of his soul, and thrilling along every fiber of his being, that he is on the altar–bound, handed over, and devoted to the Lord–cannot only say, “The blood sanctifies me now,” but should say so without a moment’s delay. A lady in Alabama very recently, in obedience to the instruction of a minister, placed everything on the altar. When she had done so the preacher, standing over her, said: “My sister, do you know who the altar is?” She replied: “Yes, it is the Lord Jesus Christ!” The minister rejoined: ‘The word of God says that the altar sanctifies the gift. Will you believe this? Do you believe that Christ makes you holy right now?” She answered, after the pause of a moment, “I do!” and instantly the refining fire of God did its work, and her soul was sanctified. I read once this story of the first Napoleon: His horse had become affrighted and was dashing down the lines beyond the control of the rider, when suddenly a common soldier darted from the ranks, and, flinging himself on the horse’s neck, caught the reins, checked the animal, and placed the bridle in the emperors hand. With a smile of appreciation, Napoleon said: “Thank you, captain!” As instantly did the soldier reply: “Of what regiment, sire?” And the emperors reply, as he swept on, was: “The Old Guard.” What a wonderful appropriating faith the man had! Do you know what many people who read these lines would have replied when the emperor said: “Thank you, captain!” They would have said: “You make a great mistake, sire! I am no captain; I am nothing but a poor soldier–a wretched, obscure private marching in the rear ranks, and will doubtless die in the rear ranks.” This is the way many do in the spiritual life, and is the explanation of their never coming into the higher life.
God says to them: “The blood cleanses you; Christ makes you holy.” “O no!” they reply, “not me; I cannot be holy; the blood cannot purify me; I can never be but what I am–a poor, halting, repining, imperfect follower of the Lord.” And they never do; because they will not believe the word of the Lord. In the rear ranks they stay, when they could be a power in the cohorts of heaven if they would take God at his word. Would that the faith of this soldier in the word of a man might shame or inspire us into at least an equal faith in the word of God! “Thank you, captain!” “Of what regiment, sire?” is the lightening-like response of the soldier. And immediately, the story runs, he walked to the Old Guard and took his position as an officer; and in reply to the indignant protest of the colonel, as to what he did there, said: “I am a captain.” “Who said so?” was the colonel’s inquiry. And the triumphant rejoinder of the promoted soldier, as he pointed to the emperor, was: “He said so!” My brother, if you are on the altar, God says you are a holy man. As he says so, believe it, and immediately take your position in the “inheritance of them that are sanctified.”
In reply to all gainsayers and fault-finders who rise against your profession and life, saying there is no such thing as a holy heart and life, and that they doubt your experience and deny your claim, simply point to the Saviour and reply calmly, but triumphantly: “He said!”
But why is it that we see cases of individuals who affirm that they possess this faith, and yet do not obtain the witness of the blessing? In many instances the failure arises because of a defective consecration. All is not given up to God. There has not been a total surrender of life and property and family and reputation and will. There is mental reservation somewhere. The tongue is not on the altar, someone is hated in the heart, some wrong has not been righted, some confession has not been made, some duty remains undischarged.
Of course, if the heart be wrong in all these matters, the heavenly fire will not fall. The dove will not alight on a carcass. The Holy Spirit will not descend upon and make as his home and resting-place a disobedient and impure heart. A perfect consecration is the mother of a beautiful child– viz., a perfect faith. At the end of the rod of consecration faith buds, blooms, and bears fruit. While I will not say that consecration can evolve faith, inasmuch as faith is a distinct exercise of the soul, yet I firmly believe they never are and never can be long separated. Indeed, so near are they at times as to seem almost one act of the soul. In other instances we see people who say they are walking by faith, and yet never receive the witness, and sadder still, gradually get farther and farther from the blessing. The explanation in this case is that what they regard as faith is nothing but a spirit of listlessness and apathy. Instead of believing, they have really ceased to believe. The ceasing to seek for and to expect possession of the pearl of great price, shows the decay of faith. Theirs is not the rest of faith, but the slumber of indolence, and a virtual giving up of the struggle. They are easily recognized. The face grows cloudy, the fervor of prayer departs, the attitude of pressing forward is gone; they have evidently paused in the race. A real faith pants with the desire for holiness. While it rests on the word of God, it does not rest from its striving to enter in through the strait gate. It continues to knock. Like Esther, it stands before the throne; and, though mute of lip at times, yet is it full of wistful pleadings of heart, and never so beautiful in the eyes of the King of heaven. It rests on the word of God; but its eyes are fixed upon the skies, awaiting the second coming of the Lord Jesus to the soul; this time the coming without sin unto salvation.
There are other cases where all are puzzled to account for the failure. The parties say that the consecration is perfect, that they are steadily seeking the blessing by faith, that they claim it now by faith, and yet they have not the gospel treasure, the holy secret of the Lord. This much we must say: that God is faithful. If we receive not that which God has promised, the explanation is to be found in some failure on our part to comply with divine requirements and conditions. The general cause is known to all under the words defective faith and consecration; the particular reason for failure is known to the man only and to his God. But at the judgment-day all will know the unbelief, or the secret sin, that kept a child of God from coming into the possession of a holy heart, and living a holy life.
WHERE SANCTIFICATION IS SPECIFICALLY TAUGHT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Matthew i. 21: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” The reader will notice that Christ is here promised to save his people from their sins, not sinners. Let the person who insists that the regenerated are made holy in conversion read this verse and be convinced to the contrary. All through the Scriptures there is attributed to Christ at his coming a peculiar work in behalf of and in his people. He will thoroughly purge his floor and cleanse his wheat; he will sit as a refiner, will purify the sons of Levi, and will save his people from their sins.
It refers to a work subsequent to regeneration, and that work is sanctification. Sanctification purifies the sons of Levi and saves Christians from all sin. John vii. 38: “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given.)” This passage cannot be read without perceiving that it holds up for the believer a second blessing.
The Holy Ghost had been given as a Pardoner and Comforter long before. David had prayed: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” Paul says that holy men wrote the word as they were “moved by the Holy Ghost.” Evidently, then, the promise in the passage above is for the gift of the Holy Ghost in a new form or office–viz., as the sanctifier.
This, then, is the second blessing: “They that believe [that are already believers] shall receive the Holy Ghost.” After this living waters shall rise up and flow uninterruptedly from the heart and life. John xiv. 23: “Jesus answered, if a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Here is unquestionably something of a wonderful nature done some time after conversion. The promise is to a regenerated man, for the heart cannot love Christ unless it has been born again.
Now read: “If a man loves me, keeps my words”–all this is in the present. Now comes the assurance of something in the future: “We” — that is, the Father and the Son –” will come unto him and take up our abode with him.” This constant abiding of the Father and the Son in the soul is one of the wonderful and gracious features of sanctification. This is also the fulfillment of what was shadowed in the most holy place, in the perpetual shekinah, the glorious indwelling of God. John xv. 2: “Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Here the Christian is represented as a branch on the vine, Christ, and as bearing fruit. After this, and while bearing fruit, it is suddenly cleansed.
The Greek word kathairei, translated “purgeth” in the verse above, has for its main meaning, according to the lexicon, “cleanseth and purifieth.” Take it any way, this verse is a death-blow to those who insist that we are made holy in regeneration, and need only time for development. It plainly teaches that there is a cleansing after conversion, and that this purification, done by Christ himself, comes not to a backslider, but to a branch on the vine–to a Christian bearing fruit. John xvii. 16, 17: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth.” Christ is speaking of the disciples. He declares that they are not of the world–are spiritual and unworldly, even as he is. In other verses he says that they had received his word, that they were his, that he was glorified in them, and that they had kept his word.
All this settles the fact of their regenerate and spiritual state; and yet he immediately adds, in prayer to his Father: “Sanctify them.” Notice that something else is to be done to them, and they (the disciples) are not to do it. Here is not an exhortation to grow in grace, but the prayer is to God to “sanctify them.” In plain language, here is a second work of God. Acts i. 4, 5: “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence .” This is Christ speaking. He is telling his disciples about a blessing that is soon to come upon them. He calls it the promise of the Father. He affirms that he had spoken to them about it before –“which, saith he, ye have heard of me.” It was so great and gracious a blessing, so distinctive and important as a divine work, that he had repeatedly before spoken of it, and in a measure prepared them for its reception.
It was not pardon; for he long before had said their names were in the Book of Life, and that they were branches in the true vine. It was not the enjoyment of his peace, that he had before breathed upon them.
It was not the receiving of the Holy Ghost for the first time; for several weeks before this he had breathed upon them, and said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” The blessing he told them to wait in Jerusalem for was “the promise of the Father,” uttered a long time before, and through many lips. It was the baptism of the Holy Ghost, prophesied by Joel; the circumcision of the heart, predicted by Moses; the cleansing from all filthiness and idols, promised by Ezekiel; the holiness, mentioned by Isaiah; the healing, alluded to by Malachi; the serving God without fear, declared by Zechariah; the enduement of power from on high, mentioned by the Saviour; and the sanctification, spoken of by Paul and the Lord himself. “Wait for it,” said the Saviour. “Depart not from Jerusalem until you obtain it.”
So here was a blessing that had not come with regeneration. What a death-blow are the words of Christ to that teaching which affirms that we are made holy in conversion, and that nothing more is needed but development, or growth in grace! The promise here is not growth in grace. The disciples are not told to wait until developed into holiness and spiritual power. It was not for man’s work they are exhorted to linger, but for an additional work of God done subsequent to regeneration. The reader, by perusing the second chapter of Acts, will see how and when that work was accomplished. And he will notice what changed men the disciples became from that time. Courage, fearlessness, devotion, love, compassion, and holiness are now the marked features of their lives. They did not grow into this state, but were suddenly translated into it by the baptism of the Holy Ghost–by sanctification, which, is the promise of the Father.
Does any one think that this gracious second blessing was simply for a band of Galilean peasants, tradesmen, and fishermen? Perhaps some of the observers on the day of Pentecost thought so. Perhaps, with sad hearts, they said so. Perhaps the reader, with equal blindness and ignorance of his high privilege in Christ, may have said so many times. Because of this very possibility of doubt and fear the Lord inspired Peter to stand upon his feet and say, with a joyous, exultant voice to the crowds that looked on: “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts ii. 38: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
How wonderfully clear the second blessing, or sanctification, appears in this verse! The remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is one of the names of sanctification, are both mentioned, and that, too, in different parts of the verse. If they meant the same thing, the Holy Ghost would not have used both expressions. If they meant the same, the verse becomes a silly repetition, and would read: “Ye shall receive the remission of sins and remission of sins.” In confirmation of the fact that the expression referred to two different acts of grace we notice that the remission of sins had been received, and now to that the promise is given in the future tense: “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The instances of the believers in Samaria, and of Cornelius, who evidently received the blessing of sanctification, inasmuch as the Bible says that he was before that a devout man, I have to pass over because the scripture necessary to be quoted would be more than the limits of this chapter would allow. Let the reader turn to Acts xiii. 5-17 and Acts x., and be satisfied for himself. Acts xix. I, 2, 6: “Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus; and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”
We fail to see how the second blessing, or sanctification, could be presented in a plainer and more forcible manner than is done here. Of the men mentioned above it is said they were disciples, and that they had believed. This settles the fact of their regeneration. A man cannot believe and be a disciple without being regenerated. To these disciples Paul comes, and informs them of another and higher blessing. They replied that they had not heard of it. Under his preaching and instruction they seek for and obtain the blessing. The sixth verse shows us that it was not conversion, but the identical blessing received by the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Acts xxvi. 18: “That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” This verse is so convincing in itself that it needs no extended remark to call attention to the two classifications of Christians presented so unmistakably. The comma after the word “sins,” the force of the italicized word “and,” the separation of the two blessings by punctuation, and their recognition by actual phraseology, are sufficient to convince anyone but the man who is determined not to believe.
Romans i. 11: “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established.” Paul is writing to Roman Christians. That they were regenerated men appears from his statement that “their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world.” And yet he writes to them that he desires to impart unto them another gift. Let the reader mark the force of the different words of this verse. It is a gift he wants them to have, not growth in grace. And the verse says “a spiritual gift.” So there was something else to be added to regenerated people; not a development, but another gift. The Greek word charisma, translated “gift,” has also “grace” for its meaning, and a third meaning is a “work or gift of the Holy Ghost.” A truer translation will drop the word “some.” So that the sentence reads: “I long to impart unto you a spiritual gift or grace.” The concluding expression is striking and significant: “To the end ye may be established.” The purpose of the grace or gift was to establish them. Now the question is: What gift or grace establishes the believer?
Not a passing emotion. Not one of the blessings we obtain daily at a throne of grace. Nor could Paul have referred to growth in grace as the establishing blessing, for he said he wanted to come and impart the blessing to them, and how could he impart growth in grace? For growth in grace time is needed, and not Paul. I press the question: What grace or gift establishes the believer? and I reply from the word of God, as found in the first and second chapters of Acts, and in 1 Thessalonians iii. 13, where we hear Paul praying that “God may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness.” Reader, remember the word translated “holiness” here has for its twin meaning “sanctification.” So it reads: “May God stablish your hearts unblamable in sanctification. “Now turn back to Romans i. 11, and you are prepared to read it intelligently. Thank God that there is a gift or grace that establishes the believer, and that spiritual gift (not growth) is sanctification! It was this blessing that Paul wanted the Roman Christians to possess. And it is this blessing that the writer would be willing to lay down his life in order to impart or bring to the people of God. Romans v. 1, 2: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” Who is it that can read this passage and not see two works of grace distinctly and clearly mentioned? In the first verse appears the peace of the pardoned and regenerated man, a peace that comes by faith through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now read the second verse: “By whom also.” There is something else, you see. “We have access by faith (not growth), into this grace wherein we stand.” So there is another grace; and it comes by faith. This was the gift or grace that Paul wrote about to the Romans; and in a little while you will find him writing to the Corinthians about it, and to the Thessalonians and to the Hebrews. You notice that he says that by it he is able to ”stand.” There again is the idea of being established. O how the Scripture harmonizes in all its doctrinal statements and presentations of Christian experience! Let the reader testify as he will to what is the falling experience. Thank God there is a “standing” grace, an establishing grace, and that gift or grace is sanctification. Romans xv. 29: “And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” Here Paul, under a slight change of phraseology, is speaking again of the grace and blessings he wrote of in the first and fifth chapters. In the opening chapter he said he longed to come to them, in order to impart the gift that establishes; and here he says, in concluding the Epistle: “I am sure, when I come, I will bring the blessing.” The gospel of Christ brings a blessing, but it has also ” the fullness of blessing.” There is a great difference between the two. There is such a thing as a vessel’s containing a liquid, and a vessel’s being filled with the liquid.
At the day of Pentecost, when the disciples were sanctified, the Bible says “they were filled with the Holy Ghost.” When a man today obtains the same blessing he realizes the same “fullness” in his experience. The old half-empty, yearning, unsatisfied feeling is taken away or disappears in a blessing that permanently fills him with the Holy Ghost. The experience that Paul calls “the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” has come. I Corinthians i. 30: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
The words “wisdom,” “righteousness,” “sanctification,” and “redemption,” in this verse, are all from different Greek words, and signify different works done in us and for us by Christ. Wisdom, from the Greek word sophia, refers to the convicting and illuminating work of the Saviour. Righteousness, from the word dikaiosune, has the same meaning as justification. Sanctification, from the word hagiasmos, is properly translated, although holiness and purity are additional definitions. Redemption is from the word opolutrosis, and refers evidently to the final release and deliverance from the grave. Here are four words referring to four distinct works of Christ, and they are all instantaneous works, and done at different times. These works are “conviction,” “conversion,” “sanctification,” and the “resurrection.” 2 Corinthians i. 15: “And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit.” The word translated “benefit” is from the word charis in the Greek. The following are the three prominent meanings or definitions of the word: free gift, grace, and divine grace. Thus translated, the sentence reads: “That ye might have a second grace.” This is exactly what sanctification is–a second free gift or divine grace imparted to the soul. Certainly no one supposes that these Corinthians had not had another experience of peace and joy since their conversion. Doubtless they had enjoyed a thousand blessings in their souls. The second benefit, or grace, Paul wanted them to have was not a second transitory religious emotion, for this idea degrades or belittles the whole matter. Think of the apostle coming over sea and land to Corinth, just to get a few Christians happy for a few minutes! The second benefit, or grace, he spoke of was the second blessing, or the blessing of entire sanctification . Ephesians i. 13: “In whom [i. e., Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” The two blessings and lives are so manifest in this scripture that they hardly need to be pointed out. I simply call attention to the fact of how distinctly they are separated by their position in the verse, and by the verbiage in which they are described. The two italicized words are full of force. Ephesians v. 26: “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” The apostle is speaking of the Church. Let the reader take up the Revised Version, and the verse quoted above will be found to read as follows: “That he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word.” Here is sanctification promised to those cleansed by regeneration. And that it is a momentary act is seen from the aorist tense in which the verb appears. 1 Thessalonians v. 23: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” The following facts appear in this verse. First, that regenerated people are only partially sanctified. Second, that they can be wholly sanctified. Third, that this entire sanctification is the work of God, and therefore not growth in grace, which is man’s work and duty. Fourth, the passage teaches not a future, but a present and instantaneous work. Titus iii. 5: “He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Here both experiences are again mentioned. If the two terms here used mean the same thing, then does the verse become a senseless repetition. Try it and see — “He saved us by regeneration and regeneration!”
Common sense tells us that washing is one thing and renewing is another. So does our religious experience. Lange has a striking passage on the different meaning and reference of the two expressions. He that has had both blessings can say: “He has saved me by the washing of regeneration and by the renewing of the Holy Ghost in sanctification.” Hebrews vi. 1: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.” We content ourselves with four simple statements in regard to this passage, that teaches so powerfully the fact of the second blessing. First, the perfection referred to is not a divine or angelic state, but a condition of perfect love and purity and rest brought to and set up in the soul by the Holy Ghost. Again, it is made clear that regeneration does not do all for us in the spiritual life, for we are here exhorted to come into possession of another and higher blessing, called perfection. Again, there is no indefinite and endless growth in grace taught by this passage; but, on the contrary, the words point plainly to a distinct and definite experience to which we may come, and to which we are urged and pressed to go. If there be no such place as New York or Washington, what folly to ask me go there! And if there be no such experience or blessing subsequent to regeneration called perfection, why should I be urged to go on to it? Still again, the passage does not convey the thought of a long lapse of time being consumed necessarily before our entrance upon this blessing. Instead of that, Dr. Clarke says the verb teaches the idea of our being borne on immediately into the experience. Hebrews ix. 28: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” I know that some will insist that this verse has reference to the day of judgment, and should not be applied to sanctification. In reply, I would lessen the readers confidence–in the fact that this verse refers to the appearance of Christ on the judgment-day by directing him to the second sentence, where it says: “To them that look for him shall he appear.” Will he not appear to all on that day? And does not the Bible teach that many will not be looking for him, and yet he will suddenly appear to all? But leaving this point, which I do not stress, I direct the reader to the double meaning found in many passages of Scripture. Often we find in a verse a near and, back of that, a remote meaning, a narrow and a wider meaning, a close by and a far off thought. It is like seeing the blue, wavy outline of a distant range of mountains just appearing over a nearer line of hills. In Matthew xxiv. 27 and 28 we see, first, the destruction of Jerusalem, and, far away beyond that, the end of the world. The first point of vision is forty years off; the second outline of time is so distant that no one can measure it, and yet it is there plainly beheld. A meaning, and another deeper! In 1 John, first chapter, and the latter part of the seventh verse we read: “The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin.” Two meanings are buried here. To the regenerated man it represents one thing; but O how much more it means to the sanctified! To the first it is the cleansing away of all sins, guilt, and depravity that is personal and that pertains to the individual; to the second it means all this, and the utter removal besides of inherited depravity or inbred sin. The soul made to rejoice constantly in the delightful and blessed possession of the experience of a positive indwelling purity!
Two meanings, both blessed, but one so much deeper than the other! And so with the verse under examination. To some, and doubtless to many, it only refers to the coming of Christ at the judgment. But, I bless God, to others, and those not a few, it has another and more spiritual meaning. It teaches–glory be to God!–the second coming of Christ to the soul. This time not as the Pardoner, but as the Sanctifier; this time not dealing with personal sin, but coming without sin unto salvation. We admit that it means the second coming at judgment to save his people, but pushing aside the veil of the first evident thought, climbing up on the range of the first teaching, lo! we see the second and deeper doctrine of the verse, and that is, Christ coming to the soul of the believer the second time, and this time with a salvation from all sin, personal and inherited. “To them that look for him,” shall this occur. If I do not believe in the doctrine of sanctification, I will not look for Christ to come in the office of Sanctifier, and so the verse will remain sealed, and the experience it presents be unknown. But to them that look for him, that seek the blessing of holiness, to them will Christ appear the second time!
WHERE SANCTIFICATION IS SPECIFICALLY TAUGHT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
In this chapter and the next we present for the readers consideration about twenty passages from the word of God. Instead of twenty we could easily give ten times as many. The method pursued in these chapters will be to quote the scripture, and under each passage make a few remarks.
As a proper starting thought, we call the reader’s attention to the fact that you cannot read the Bible without perceiving that there is a “higher life” constantly recognized and brought forward in its pages. It is held up as an attainment; we are expected to come unto it; we are commanded to possess it, and are presented with characters who enjoyed and lived this life. An equally striking fact beheld in Christian life is confirmatory of the Bible fact; and that is that we again and again meet with people of God who declare, and whom we evidently see are in possession of, a religious experience and life not enjoyed by the great majority of Christians. The two facts agree; like the two angels in the most holy place, they bend over and look upon the same blessed truth.
Sanctification is the precious treasure and blessing kept for the Church; the Bible and Christian experience are the cherubim that, with extended wings, cover and protect and preserve the experience. And now let us turn to the word of God. The first passage is: Numbers 16. 3-5: “And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face: and he spoke unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even tomorrow the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy.” So it seems that the doubt of God’s people being holy is an old one, and the dispute in regard to it and the attack made upon those who profess the blessing are of ancient standing.
It is noticeable, also, that the argument used now was the one used then against Moses–viz., that all of the congregation was holy, every one of them; that every thing had been done in regeneration. The same slur is heard, “You take too much upon you” in saying that God has made you holy; “wherefore do ye lift yourselves above the congregation?” How familiarly all this sounds! Some of us have heard this many times.
And let any one receive and profess the blessing of holiness, and the words directed to Moses will be leveled at him. No one can read this passage or study the life of Moses without seeing that he was in an experience that his questioners and doubters did not enjoy. Either at the burning bush or on the mount with God the man Moses obtained the blessing that obtained for him the privilege of unbroken companionship with God, and a meekness that was above that of all surrounding men.
God grant us, when doubted and assailed, to do as this man! He fell on his face before God; he committed the whole matter to the Almighty, who had sanctified him; his only reply was: “The Lord will show who are his, and who is holy.” And so he will. Let no person possessing this blessing be the least uneasy. God will bear witness to his own work; he will show who has the blessing, and who has it not. Deuteronomy 30. 6: “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.”
That here is a work and experience subsequent to regeneration is seen from three facts. One is that the promise here made is addressed to believers; another, that regeneration is never likened to circumcision; and third, that the result stated of loving God with all the heart is the feature ascribed all through the Bible to the higher life held up for our attainment. In confirmation study the regenerated life, and see if it impresses you as being such a life of perfect love and devotion to God as appears in this verse. This love is to arise not from growth, but from the circumcision of the heart of the believing child of God.
Psalms 25. 14: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” What is this secret? Not the divine presence on earth; the world admits God’s omnipresence. Nor is it regeneration, for the Christian world believes in that and teaches it. There is but one experience covered by that expression–the secret of the Lord”–and that is the blessing of sanctification. The great type and symbol of it–the most holy place–was a secret place, while the experience and life is still today hidden from multiplied millions in the Church. It is so hidden that even God’s people deny it, although Paul prepares them to believe by describing it as being “hid in Christ,” and David declares that by it we are “hid from the strife of tongues,” and in one of the Psalms calls the possessors of the blessing God’s “hidden ones.”
Regeneration is no secret. But there are certain things about sanctification, in that it is peculiarly an interior life, and requires a second faith to come within the veil that entitles it to the description given in the verse. The “fear” mentioned in this connection, by which we obtain the secret, is no ordinary emotion or exercise of the mind. It is such a fear of God that casts out all fear of man and all efforts after his favor, and that leads to perfect consecration and obedience to God. Isaiah 6. 5-7: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King. the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, … and he laid it upon my mouth and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” The question at once arises: What is this profound spiritual exercise before us? Evidently not the conviction and pardon of a sinner; for Isaiah was one of God’s prophets, and one so deeply pious as to be called the evangelical prophet. Nor was he recovering from a course of backsliding. This appears, first, from his being in the discharge of duty. The fervent chapters preceding spiritually locate him.
Again, his agony of contrition arose not from the commission of sins, but from a vision he had just obtained of the Lord in the temple. This is what comes to every man who is brought into the blessing of the sanctified life; the Lord is revealed to the soul “high and lifted up.” Let the reader turn to the first four verses of this chapter, and see for himself.
Still again, the sin or iniquity that was taken from Isaiah is here placed in the singular number. This shows that it was not pardon of transgressions he received, but the removal of the principle, or body, of sin; or, as it is called, inbred sin. A view of the holiness of God brings this inbred sin to light in the heart, and ushers in that profound agony seen in Isaiah and countless thousands of other devoted followers of God. The coal of fire represents the blessing of holiness.
Fire stands for holiness in God’s word, and never for regeneration. The altar of the temple was made holy by fire. Notice also that this blessing of holiness was brought, came from God, and was not developed within by a long growth in grace. And, furthermore, notice the alacrity, the gladness, and the fearlessness of sanctification, as shown in the experience of Isaiah. “Then said I, here am I; send me.” Ezekiel 36. 25: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” This has been often quoted as referring to the work of regeneration.
But the fact that it is a promise made to God’s people, and that the blessing is one of purity, and not pardon, ought to be enough to convince the most skeptical that the blessing before us in the verse is sanctification.
Another thing will show it. Let every regenerated man who reads these lines ask himself if regeneration has taken all idols out of his heart and life. What about his ambition and love of place and power? what about the fear and favor of man? What about love of money and love of praise, and the love of some creature that is so powerful as to draw you away from duty, and interferes in certain measures with the commands of God? Are these things gone? or do they remain? If they are still in the heart, then the second blessing is needed, in which all idols shall be removed. Joel 2. 28, 29: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.”
Here is undoubtedly a peculiar blessing promised in the last days to the Church. Certainly no one can think it is conversion that is here held forth. Are we to suppose that up to the time of Pentecost, when this prophecy was fulfilled, that there had been no conversions, and that Joel was inspired to say: “In the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit in converting power, and people shall then be regenerated for the first time?” What was David and Moses and Abraham and the prophets of whom the world was not worthy? In what state was God’s people through the past ages? Had he no people? Were everybody damned before Pentecost? For if not regenerated they were compelled to be lost, according to Christ’s statement to Nicodemus.
Whatever this blessing or pouring out of the Spirit was, it could not be regeneration; for that experience was not new, while the promise in this verse is for something remarkable, unusual, and new. When it finally came to pass on the day of Pentecost, the reader will remember that this long-promised blessing fell upon Christian men and women. So the promised pouring out, or baptism of the Spirit, was not conversion.
Nor was it a simple qualification of one hundred and twenty disciples to spread Christianity. What a narrow view to take of this promise to confine an unspeakable blessing to sixscore people, and make it a mere temporary endowment to meet the emergencies of a few days or years! What a belittling of prophecy to assert that God inspired the prophets nearly a thousand years before to solemnly hold up a great blessing that, after all, was only for a hundred and twenty people, and was to pass away and die with them!
Common sense, as well as Scripture, is against such an interpretation. Moreover, the language of the verse itself contradicts such a view. It plainly says the Spirit in this peculiar baptism was for “all flesh.” It furthermore adds that it was a blessing that should be enjoyed by our servants, while at Pentecost we see not a single slave or servant present. Inasmuch, then, as the work of grace prophesied here by Joel was not conversion, nor a mere qualification for work, we are irresistibly driven to the conclusion that it is one of the many promises of the Old Testament of the gift of the blessing of sanctification .
Remember that sanctification, or holiness, is represented in the Bible by fire, and bear in mind that at Pentecost with the descending Spirit came tongues of fire upon every head. One hundred and twenty symbols, or banners of holiness, were waving over as many persons. And remember that at this juncture Peter, a Christian minister, with one of these celestial plumes of holiness floating over his head, arose from the midst of one hundred and nineteen similarly becrowned Christians, and said: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Malachi iv. 2: “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” Those that fear the name of God are his people. In regard to the wicked, the Bible says there is no fear of God before his eyes. So the fact established in this verse is that here are God’s people before us, and to them shall come a second blessing in the future. This blessing is called healing-just what sanctification is felt to be. The remaining sentence of the verse declares the activity of life and rapid growth in grace peculiar to the sanctified soul.