There has arisen of late years a religious movement that teaches that sin can not be destroyed but only suppressed; that the native tendencies to sin in the soul, which are a state of sinfulness must remain until death; that the best that the Holy Spirit can do in this world is to keep these sinful tendencies in a state of suppression. For instance, they teach that the passion of sinful anger cannot be destroyed, so that we will not feel it, but divine grace will put such a restraint upon us that we shall not let it find expression in words or deeds. This school of teachers assert that grace is sufficient to enable us always to do right, and will keep us from that which is wrong, so that there is no need of committing sin. This is an improvement on much of the religious teaching of today in one respect, in that it declares we can live free from the commission of sin, though we have to fight hard sometimes to keep old nature from breaking forth and committing sin.
We are glad for the measure of truth that these teachers are giving voice and expression to. Their standard, however, is the experience of regeneration only. It is not entire sanctification or a clean heart. It is the scriptural standard of conversion.
Their idea of the baptism with the Holy Ghost is, that it is simply empowerment for service. Here they are right as far as they go, but the baptism with the Holy Ghost is more than empowerment for service. It also includes the work of cleansing the heart, and this is the removal of that which hinders our effectiveness.
To see the fallacy of this position, all that is necessary is to notice that the very definitions which they use are contrary to their teaching.
Baptism means cleansing. That is the definition of the word. It could be just as well translated the cleansing with the Holy Spirit. The very symbol used in the ordinance of baptism (water) shows that baptism means cleansing. This is the reason that water and fire are symbols of the operation of the Holy Spirit. Water and fire are the mightiest cleansing agents known. No symbols in nature could be more expressive of cleansing. Symbols could not indicate the cleansing work any more clearly.
A clean heart is not a heart in which sin is suppressed any more than a clean room is a room in which the dust and dirt have been wet down so they do not arise. The dirt is still there, and in spite of the wetting down the room is dirty. Clean cannot be made by any twisting of language to mean the presence of any defilement. When we say that heaven is a clean place we mean that there is no defilement in it. If there were any defilement in heaven, if it were repressed or kept hidden away, still heaven would not be a clean place. This is too apparent to be misunderstood. And a man who has a clean heart is a man who has no defilement, either repressed or unrepressed, in his heart.
When David prayed for a clean heart, in Psalm 51:10, he understood that this was what he needed and might have. A few verses previous to his prayer he said, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Is there anything in these figures to teach or indicate that he simply meant to have the stains of sin covered up or the defilement still there? Does “whiter than snow” mean defilement kept back or repressed? Who ever thought of such a thing except some people who have a theory to maintain?
David had seen doubtless a ceremony that took place sometimes in the tabernacle, and if he had not seen it, he knew about it, for it was a law. We mean the cleansing of the leper whom God had healed. Sometimes, in that age, God healed lepers, and there was a ceremony connected with it. Remember, leprosy was the Bible type of sin. What leprosy did to the body, God would have us understand, was equaled by the ravages of sin in the soul. As leprosy was the type of sin, consequently its cure is a type of salvation — the cure of sin.
When the leper was cured, he was obliged to go before the priest and after examination had proved him clean, the priest took two birds and killed one of them over running water. The blood was caught in a golden basin and mixed with scarlet and cedar, and then a bunch of hyssop was dipped in the mixture, and with this hyssop branch the live bird was sprinkled and allowed to go free. The first bird represented the sacrifice for the pardon of sin. The second represented the cleansing away of sin in sanctification.
When David prays, therefore, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow,” he meant real freedom from sin. He meant that he would be as free from sin as the leper was free from leprosy. If it does not mean this, then the type means nothing. The cleansed leper was not a case of suppressed leprosy. God did not simply suppress the disease so that it was not visible in its outward blotches and eruptions. No, the man was free from it, AS FREE FROM IT AS IF HE HAD NEVER HAD IT.
Our friends who teach the suppression theory never use the types of baptism or cleansing as given in the Old Testament to sustain their theory. When Jesus said to the leper, “I will. Be thou clean,” there was no one then or since that thought that he meant that he would simply check the leprosy so that it would not break out again. And when Jesus cleanses a soul he does not leave any of the leprosy of sin to rankle and struggle for expression. As some one says, he does not suppress it, but he expresses it. He sends the old man to his execution by an express train, and does not keep him in his misery nor the soul in misery to struggle with him.
The Holy Ghost is represented as fire and as fuller’s soap; what can these figures mean if they do not mean that a thorough house-cleaning takes place, when He prepares to dwell in his temple, the heart. God will not come in his fullness to dwell in the heart and have sinfulness there, too. God can deliver his people from this awful warfare with inbred corruption, so that they can have time and liberty to “serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75).
Suppression of sin is not a clean heart. If suppression of sin is a pure heart in this world, then it is the same in heaven. Who believes that a clean heart in heaven is only sinful nature kept down and repressed. And who can believe that it is sin suppressed here. A clean heart must mean the same thing in earth or any other place, as it means in heaven.