The first great step in the process of recovering the race from the condition of sin, unto which the enemy had enticed it, is regeneration. This has already been considered in chapter four and is, as we have seen, a gracious and amazing experience. It is a literal miracle which brings the soul out of spiritual darkness and death, into the light and life of forgiveness.
The second great step is entire sanctification, which we are to discuss in this chapter. This is a second work of grace, and is as distinct, and is witnessed to by the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the consciousness of the candidate, as clearly as the Spirit witnessed to the first experience or regeneration.
The expression, “entire,” is seemingly employed because of the fact that the experience of regeneration is, in some degree, an act of cleansing. All committed sins are graciously forgiven, and the pollution of these is largely purged away. To speak technically, one is sanctified when he is regenerated, but he is not sanctified wholly. It is this latter qualification of “entire” or “wholly” that characterizes the experience that destroys the carnal nature, and frees the heart from inherited moral corruption. This is an important distinction, in our judgment. Many persons get wonderfully blessed while seeking God, and under the urge of such a buoyancy, they feel that they are sanctified wholly. Later on, they discover the workings of the carnal mind still within their hearts, and are led to doubt whether there is in this teaching the mighty results that are claimed. The truth of the matter is, they were sanctified, so to speak, but they had not reached the point where the real crucifixion of their own hearts had taken place, and the “old man of sin” utterly slain. When this place is reached, they will be sanctified wholly! It is very important that this be clearly grasped, so that seekers will not confound an ecstatic emotion for the destruction of the moral corruption, which they have inherited.
There are gracious emotions, ’tis true, connected with the reception of the experience of entire sanctification, but no one should be led to feel that it is all emotion. If we do, then, as soon as the emotion subsides a bit, under the routine of ordinary living, or the stress of temptation, the candidate will imagine that the experience has been lost. But if one waits on God with a humble, complete abandonment of one’s self, the past, the future, the present; all utterly yielded to Him, for Him to possess, and guide, and use just as He wills, and then trusts Him fully to cleanse the depraved nature away, and to fill one with the Holy Ghost, there will not only come a blessed emotion, but also a definite consciousness that He is now doing that for which the surrender was made, and the soul will be enabled to say, with certainty, that the witness has been given, and the cleansing is complete. The soul will then have its first feeling of complete spiritual satisfaction.
The great John Wesley used to say, when teaching this experience to his converts, that it was such a sweet, beautiful, soul-satisfying possession, that “the only way to get the dogs to worry it was to put a bearskin on it.” That is, in other words, it is the caricatures of holiness that excite the contempt and opposition of many of its enemies. Many strange and peculiar teachings have attached themselves, first and last, to this great doctrine. Many odd, eccentric and even very objectionable persons have upheld it, until it has partaken, after a manner, of some of the disgust that was felt toward the ones who preached about it. However, we must never allow a doctrine of the Bible to be discarded because of the grotesque and outrageous misrepresentation that has been made of it. If we did that, there is hardly a blessed doctrine in the Book that would escape; for practically all its good teachings have at some time been wrested from their meanings, twisted to make a trap to catch the unwary, or warped completely out of shape, to fit some private. scheme of so-called salvation.
Let us proceed to take the “bearskin” off this holy truth of heart purity, and see what it is that its enemies have flouted, hated, objected to, and scornfully discarded. We desire to call, then, the attention of the reader to a few things that entire sanctification is not, in order to clear the ground for a full consideration as to what it is.
In the first place, entire sanctification is not in any sense an absolute perfection. Absolute perfection is a qualification that God claims for Himself, and He will not, very probably cannot, share this with another. It is very possible that the holiness that God possesses, is the very same hind that exists in the heart of the truly sanctified, but the degree is not the same. Just as the ocean water in a pail is the same as the water that rolls in the ocean’s depths, but the degree is vastly different. When one is wholly sanctified, his heart is filled with perfect love, and that is the same kind of love that God possesses, but there is a vast difference in the degree of it.
Again, entire sanctification is not the kind of holiness that angels possess. The angels who have kept their first estate, and have never sinned against God, possess a unique position with regard to that. They have never sinned Since their creation they have obeyed God without a flaw or a mistake. But the kind of holiness that men can secure, must always be the kind that is accorded to beings who have been sinners. We have disobeyed God.. We have hated His divine holiness. We have been redeemed through the grace of His Son. We have come up out of a horrible pit. We have been hewn from the rough boulders of sin. Now that we present ourselves before Him, for His holiness, it cannot be the innocent kind such as angels possess, but it must be the kind that can be accorded only to men who have been “plucked as brands from the burning.” No, we do not profess to be angels, when we receive this great blessing, but just common men and women, woefully weak, still under the curse of the fall, as to mental and physical powers, but pure and holy in heart, and filled with His perfect love.
Then again, entire sanctification is not, as we have intimated above, the sort of complete perfection that was the happy privilege of Adam and Eve when they occupied the Garden of Eden in their unfallen state. Their bodies were perfect, while ours are full of the possibilities of pain, weakness, abnormal appetites and passions, decay and final death. Their minds were perfect, and they needed not to learn, but possessed an intuitive knowledge. The minds of human beings, even after they are wholly sanctified, are subject to weakness, frailty, imperfect judgment, poor memory, indecision, and failure often, to see the effect that will spring from a certain cause; all of which have been entailed on them by the fall of the race, and will last this life out. The reader ought to understand that God has put His redemptive plan into effect by dispensations and not all at once. In the Old Testament days He brought a degree of regeneration into effect, but did not introduce entire sanctification in all its fullness, till Pentecost Many of the Old Testament saints, no doubt, had a blessed degree of holiness, but it was not filled full, and rounded out, as we may possess it now, after the descent of the Holy Ghost, and the inauguration of His dispensation. So, today His faithful people can have the sin problem completely solved, and come into His holy presence with a pure heart, but all these days we must carry with us the defects of our fallen and imperfect bodies, and the weaknesses and imperfections of our blighted mentality. In a future chapter we desire to consider the degree of salvation that shall be accorded us when we reach the experience of glorification, but suffice it to say here, that it will be this marvelous blessing that will remove the defects of the physical, and accord us our perfect resurrection bodies, and will also transform our halting, enfeebled mentality into that suited to the heavenly knowledge and companionship into which we shall come. If all holiness people would look well to this feature of the redemptive plan of God, they would not place the experience of holiness too high, or demand too much of their sanctified friends and fellow Christians. Another thing that entire sanctification does not do: It does not lift a soul to such a height that it cannot sin, if it chooses to do so. Many detractors of holiness declare that we teach that a person cannot sin, but this is not true. In near thirty years of association with holiness people, and in listening to all sorts of holiness preachers, we have never heard one state such a position. However, we do teach, and fully believe, that the Scriptures teach, that this experience does remove the carnal sin principle from the hearts of God’s fully abandoned, fully trusting people, and fills them. so graciously with the Holy Ghost as to enable them not to sin. The blessing of heart purity fills them full of the holiness of God, so as to make anything that is remotely like sin, abhorrent to them. This effectually enables them to refrain from committing sin, if they are aware that it is sin. But however well sanctified a person may be, he nevertheless must be constantly on his guard against the insidious inroads of this malady of hell. At no time, can one remit the eternal vigilance that is ever the price of heaven. We apprehend that Satan never abandons the possibility of encompassing the downfall of any saint, and keeps his name, as it were, on his list of possibilities until that soul is safe in paradise. If this eternal watchfulness could have little more place among us, we feel sure that lapses from the faith would be fewer than they are.
So far are the holiness teachers removed from alleging that a person can reach the place where he cannot sin, that they admit that one can never reach such a place this side of the grave. Indeed, it is freely declared that a person can be almost within reach of the goal of heaven, and yet, at that point, if he so desires, can turn back, and perish in the flames of woe. All the more, then, we should be on our constant guard! All the more ought we to go forth each day thrice armed! All the more should we never neglect prayer, Or suitable testimony, or attendance upon the appointed means of grace, or any portion of “the whole armor of God.” For if we are in jeopardy every hour, then let us “watch and be sober,” lest that jeopardy prove our ruin.
Another negative for entire sanctification is this, viz., that it does not place a person where he cannot be tempted. It would be almost absurd to discuss this, but for the fact that serious-minded men actually declare that holiness preachers so proclaim This is a great mistake. No holiness preacher of any reputation for intelligence or sanity ever made such a declaration. Temptations will continue during our entire sojourn in this “vale of tears.” Instead of entire sanctification lessening temptation, it has a tendency to increase it. To be sure, the temptations will be modified some, after one has been freed from the moral corruption of the carnal mind. But they will be found surrounding us on every hand. Temptations to spiritual pride; to think that we are, in some way, God’s favorites; to believe that there is little or no real love for God outside the holiness people; to let down in spiritual fervor; to think that now we are sanctified wholly, we do not need to be as careful about attending services for God’s worship; to criticize those who have not seen the light of holiness, or those who have lapsed from the way; to assume that we can tell just who has backslidden and who has not — those who agree with us, of course, must be, we are apt to think, all right, and those who have dared to differ with us are certainly fallen! We may be tempted to think that God has spoken to us, giving us information about other people. And so on, almost endlessly. Temptations will dog our steps, until we have left the earth for eternity.
Temptation is, we believe, a part of the necessary training for God’s people here below. Rightly considered it is only a testing time, and all moral beings need tests now and then, in order to reveal to them their spiritual whereabouts. Those who succumb, will soon find themselves in a sadly lapsed state. Those who successfully combat the enemy when he appears in the guise of temptation, will find themselves promoted. Indeed, the whole plan of temptation is not unlike the officers’ camps that the government conducted after America entered the World War. Young men were assembled in officers’ schools. They were compelled to dig ditches, only to fill them again, for digging another day. They marched up hill in their heavy accouterments, only to march down again. They were made to march on the “double time,” when there was nothing at the end of the race to have occasioned their haste. What was it all for? To prepare them for the commissions they were to carry into the war. Many of them were made into majors and colonels when they arrived in France. If one refused to dig ditches, or climb the hills, or to “double time” with heavy loads, he was left behind to come over later as a private, or to do the cleaning up about the camp, as a “conscientious objector.” But he received no promotion, and was entrusted with no responsibility.
We may well believe that those who successfully pass through the spiritual testings of this life, will be promoted to the positions of responsibility and trust, in the world to come. Those who refused to endure, and succumbed to temptation, will receive no heavenly commissions. Holiness will help us endure. Holiness will put the thrill into the spiritual ditch-digging, and the spiritual hill-climbing. Holiness will send us up the dusty spiritual road with heavy burdens on our shoulders, preparing for the promotions of the skies.
Another negative to place over against entire sanctification is this: This beautiful blessing will not always equip its possessor to present, on all occasions, a perfect conduct. Conduct is graduated by knowledge and information. Holiness does not confer upon the candidate perfect knowledge but does confer perfect love. With a woefully limited knowledge, and oftentimes shortage of information, even sanctified people frequently make mistakes that result in conduct of which we must sometimes disapprove.
When will the world learn, and when will the holiness people learn, that a heart may be pure, motives just, intentions without a flaw, and yet the conduct sadly off-color. Many people with holy hearts have been judged unjustly, harshly, and with unkind criticism, for some imperfect action, that resulted from limited knowledge or faulty information, when if they had known more, they surely would have offended less. Oftentimes it is almost a certainty that if the ones who criticized had themselves known as little as the one against whom they were hurling their unkind remarks, they would have done no better. How careful we ought to be not to judge. How silent should be our lips when others are being considered. Little do we know what limited light, and deficient information, our erring brother labors under. Until we can know, judgment is better reserved!
Let it be here frankly stated, that while we uphold, believe, and experience, the gracious second work of grace that sanctifies the heart wholly from inherited carnality, yet we just as frankly admit that every saint comes nightly to his couch with many instances against him of unintentional offenses against the perfect will of God. It will always be safe for people who are sanctified wholly to pray with tender unction, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” These debts do not refer, we insist, to known sins, or willful offenses against God. They refer to those comings-short of the perfect will of our heavenly Father, of which all mankind is more or less guilty every day, and for which the most beautiful saint needs forgiveness. They are not sins, as we understand that term, but are unwitting transgressions. Only a perfect knowledge of the whole will of God could possibly prevent this. Who is capable here below of such knowledge? Who, except the divine Son of God, ever possessed it? When the resurrection day shall dawn, and we are accorded our perfect intellects, and can be “clothed upon” with our bodies prepared for celestial habitation, then we will cease even to transgress any phase of the beautiful will of God, and will serve Him in complete perfection, and perfect conduct.
Having cleared away some of the rubbish, and debris, that have accumulated around this beautiful truth of full salvation, obscuring its beauty, lessening its attraction, and marring its power, let us proceed to discuss more definitely some of its positive features. Regeneration, the initial experience, looking to the recovery of the “lost estate,” cast Satan, that ancient enemy, out of the heart, but left a moral corruption within. The experience of entire sanctification removes that moral depravity. In regeneration we obtained something that we bad never had before, viz., the life of God. In entire sanctification we lost something that we had possessed all our days, the carnal mind. In regeneration we received the love of God imparted to our forgiven hearts. In entire sanctification we had that love “made perfect.” In regeneration we obtained “peace with God.” In entire sanctification we obtained “the peace of God.” In regeneration we had the Holy Ghost “with us.” In entire sanctification we have the Holy Ghost in us.” When we were converted to God, the Holy Ghost became our Guest. We welcomed Him, and deferred to Him, but, nevertheless, He was a Guest. When we entered entire sanctification, we turned all the affairs of our lives over to Him, and He became our Host. The difference between a guest and a host, is very marked in many ways. One comes to visit, the other is the Lord of His own house.
When the heart of a believer is sanctified, not only is the inherited corruption of inbred sin destroyed, but the heart is filled with the Holy Ghost. Indeed, the Spirit is the agent who applies the efficacy of the atonement of Jesus, and accomplishes the cleansing. The heart is cleansed when He baptizes it. His baptism is a baptism of cleansing. The soul of man is then made “a habitation of God, by the Spirit.” That is’ the Holy Ghost dwells there. He moves in and imparts the graces of the Lord Jesus. He brings the gentleness of the Lord into a heart that has known impulsive and resentful temper; the humility of the Christ, where erstwhile there was pride and vanity; the obedience of the Son of God, where but yesterday there was hot resentment against God’s will; the sell-sacrifice of Mary’s Son, where selfishness and grasping greed held sway; the “otherworldliness” of the lowly Nazarene, where “until the day dawned, and the day star arose in our hearts,” there was a passion for this world with its follies and fashions; the love of the King of kings, where but lately there had been “a habitation of dragons;” “the mind of the Master,” where had once been the erring mind of sinful flesh.
When entire sanctification is come, then love becomes perfect. With hatred gone, and envy no more, and jealousy driven away, and pride cast out, and anger transformed, and malice removed, and unholy ambition sanctified, and place-seeking banished, and avarice nailed to his cross, and covetousness “clean gone forever,” the heart now released from its bondage to moral corruption, swells with the ecstasy of perfect love to God, perfect fellowship with all God’s children, and a tender compassion for the lost members of Adam’s race.
‘Tis as easy now for the heart to be true, As for the grass to be green and skies to be blue, ‘Tis the natural way of living.”
With the coming of a clean, holy heart, the soul rises in its grasp of God, to a “full assurance of faith.” The Father becomes very real. Jesus the Son, in all His offices of prophet, priest and king, is apprehended by the believer with a beauty never known before; while the Holy Ghost sheds His sweet radiance throughout one’s being. Now is the sin problem, for that soul, solved. Now, the “estate,” lost in Adam, is so far as its relation to the problem of sin, restored. It only remains for the weaknesses, and defects, and lost ideals, and limitations, and crippled aspirations, of the mind; and for the pains, aches, fevers, wearinesses, decay, debility, atrophy, sub-normal appetencies and final death of the body, to be recovered at the resurrection hour, when, together with the renewed earth, that shall then be brought through the baptism of purifying fire into “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21), and we, shall have restored, in all its holiness, beauty and power, the “lost estate,” and sin’s night shall be forever ended!
Oh, friend, who is now perusing these words, answer: Have you received this experience? Is the sin principle destroyed within your heart? Are the motions and evidences of carnality no more? Has the Holy Ghost arrived? Does perfect love fill all your heart and mind? Are you sanctified wholly? Are you in the center of God’s will for you? Is the sin problem solved?
Remember, reader, there can be no solution of it other than the one presented by Jesus Christ, and we believe that the teaching herewith of the second work of grace, comes the nearest to His plan for solving the age-long problem, of any teaching offered among the millions of His followers. The world has never solved it. Various religions have never solved it. Materialism will never accomplish the object in view. Philosophy does not reach the spot. Intellectuality and scholarship go a thousand miles astray from the desired consummation. But Jesus Christ, with His dying screams on Calvary, and His dripping blood that flowed down the rugged beam of wood on which He died, can, and does, with two works of grace here on earth, and one that waits the springing from their moldering beds of “all that are in their graves” (John 5:28), solve it. Friend, He can solve it for you!