The Call to Christian Perfection

Samuel Chadwick

Chapter 8: Christian perfection: A Second Blessing

There is a deep-rooted prejudice against Christian Perfection as a second definite experience assured to the soul. The prejudice is so great that even convention teachers rarely use the term. Substitutes have been invented which take away the offense because they take off the edge. Both in Regeneration and in Sanctification there is a shrinking from the sharp and definite experience of a crisis. Theology has been taken captive by the modern spirit. The theory of evolution has relegated everything sudden and supernatural to the limbo of superstition. We are impressed by the operations that take millenniums, and suspect whatever is wrought by processes we cannot trace and powers we cannot schedule. We can understand culture, but distrust conversion. Growth appeals to our sense of reason, but a sudden elimination of inherited tendencies is not in harmony with the process of Nature. That is why so much modern preaching is vague and ineffective. It is of the sheet-lightning sort; it shines but does not strike. Glittering generalities may dazzle, but they accomplish nothing. Wesley reproached his preachers in the Launceston Circuit because they "either did not speak of Perfection at all (the peculiar doctrine committed to our trust) or they speak of it only in general terms, without urging the believers to go on unto Perfection, and to expect it every moment, and wherever this is not done the work of God does not prosper."

Why Call It a Second Blessing?

Is it worth while to contend for a term? That depends upon what is involved in its surrender. Not infrequently we hear men told to "call it what they please, it does not matter what you call it if you get it." That is true, and yet the more general terms reveal a dislike of the experience which comes as a crisis. The names substituted are beautifully suggestive and singularly evasive. "A deeper work of Grace,." "the Higher Life," and "a Great Blessing" have a gracious and soothing sound, but they lack definiteness, certainty, and assurance. The new names are more indicative of pietism than of testimony. Why this vagueness and laxity in defining Entire Sanctification? True, in matters of life there cannot be the same exactness as in machinery. Experience varies in sanctification as in conversion with temperament and education. No one pleads for uniformity. There are Twelve Gates into the City, and they are equally distributed to all points of the compass. Some enter the blessing as they enter the Kingdom without consciousness of time or place, but an assurance is given them of cleansing as of pardon and reconciliation. Whether we call it a Second Blessing or not, that is what it is. It is distinct from Regeneration and subsequent to it. Those who contend that they received all that is involved in salvation when they were "born again" do not distinguish between potentiality and conscious possession. The man is in the child, but manhood can be attained only in stages.

The experience is the crisis when the immaturity of "Babes in Christ" passes into the mature consciousness of the full-grown. In pagan religions there is a period of initiation. It is said that the process is associated with things that are vile, but the vital point is that it marks a crisis, a transition, an introduction to the powers and responsibilties of manhood. The reproach of the Corinthian Christians was that they had passed the age of adolescence and were still children in experience and understanding. They failed to understand because they had missed the experience of initiation. The "First" Blessing comprehends justification, regeneration, and adoption; and the "Second" Blessing brings cleansing of the carnal mind, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The term is not scriptural, but that is true of many doctrinal terms, and there can be no objection so long as it stands for an equivalent of biblical teaching.

The Second Blessing a Methodist Doctrine

All teaching of holiness as a definite experience agrees that it is for the "elect through grace." It is for those who are born again of the Spirit, for Christians and not for unbelievers. That is by faith, of grace, and by the Spirit. Like conversion it involves a crisis, an acceptance, and a confession. Wesley taught it as a definite blessing instantaneously received by faith. He held that believers are not entirely sanctified in regeneration, but are delivered from the remains of sin by a second work of grace. He called it a "second blessing" and a "second change." He tested those who professed the experience with the care and fidelity of a scientist. He cross-examined the witnesses with the severity of a lawyer. His conclusions were not based upon a few exceptional cases, and so sure was he of the doctrine, that he says if he is mistaken in this he is clearly convinced his whole meaning of Scripture must be mistaken. So strongly convinced was he that three months before his death he wrote:

With some, Dr. W. B. Pope has more weight than John Wesley. In his sermon on the Healing of the Blind Man, in Mark 8, he says:

I heard these words from his own lips, and shall never forget the humility and emotion with which they were spoken. He lacked the assertive confidence of shallower men, but his testimony was not wanting, and his spirit was its daily exposition. There has been much confusion and many abuses of the doctrine, but thousands can testify to the experience.

It is difficult to choose, for there is "a great cloud of witnesses," and there is not space to tell all their testimony; but let Charles Inwood, a world-known Keswick speaker and missioner, give his. He was a Methodist, and reared in the best type of Methodist home. While still a boy at school he was converted, knew it, and lived it. Then when he had become a minister there came to him a wonderful experience of Sanctification - a distinctly second work of grace. There had been no backsliding, no Blackness, no compromise, but there came to him a great soul-hunger, a need of cleansing, and a longing to be filled with the Spirit of God. This is how it came.

Out of that baptism there emerged the Apostolic ministry of the sanctified Charles Inwood, and its rivers flowed to the ends of the earth.

The doctrine is scriptural, and that is more important than being Methodist, but with the Methodist there rests a heavier responsibility than most. It was for this testimony the Methodist Church was raised up, and this is the special "depositum" committed to its trust.

Continue to Chapter 9: Do the Scriptures Teach a Second Blessing?