For the purposes of discussion, the experience of entire sanctification may be divided into the human side of the blessing, and the divine side. The human side is that qualification that a person must reach before God is able to fill the heart with His cleansing power. In other words, it is the conditions which must be met, or fulfilled, before God will release the sanctifying energy from the skies that purifies the heart.
Inasmuch as this chapter discusses man’s side of the great experience, it becomes an item of considerable importance, that the reader should study this with care, if he is a seeker for the experience of full salvation from inherited depravity, or if he is a minister, and desires to teach the way of holiness, in sermon or conversation.
The first requisite for obtaining the experience of entire sanctification is that the candidate shall have been scripturally and definitely regenerated. That is, that he shall be in possession of all his privileges as a regenerated or justified soul. We mean that he shall be, at the time that he becomes a seeker for this second work of grace, living up closely and loyally to all the demands of the life that he entered at conversion. Entire sanctification is in no sense an experience of reclamation. It is not a recovery from backsliding. It is no renewal of one’s faith in God, after that person has been living for some time in a lapsed state. On the contrary it is another experience, on beyond, and in addition to, anything that a person may receive in the regenerated life. It is not merely a thrill and an ecstasy. Persons can have great, and sometimes deep emotion, during the regenerated life. Full salvation is generally manifested by a deeper emotion than is usually experienced at conversion, but there have been a few instances that have fallen under this writer’s observation, of people appearing to have less emotion when sanctified wholly, than when they were regenerated. It is not usually the case, but such instances do occur.
Remember what a genuine case of regeneration involves: A real penitence for all sin, and a complete turning away from it, as a thing greatly displeasing to God. A conscious forgiveness of all known offenses against God. A knowable witness by the Holy Ghost that God has for Christ’s sake forgiven one, and written his name down in the “Book of Life.” A regeneration or new birth that changes and transforms the life so that all sinful practices are now foregone, and all sinful associates, and places of resort are forsaken, together with a sense of union with and a testimony for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and a love for and relation with His people.
While enjoying all this, and consciously living with the sense of His approval resting upon one, then that soul is a proper candidate for the experience of entire sanctification. If one should find that he was not experiencing all this, then it is perfectly proper to become a further seeker for a genuine, positive, and realizable experience of regeneration. We have found, in many years of public ministry, that there are hundreds of professed Christians who think they are living up to all the light of regeneration, who find that when a really scriptural standard of this initial experience is held up, they are woefully short of it. There are not many churches, even among some of the most spiritual denominations, but will find a few in their membership who do not measure up to the requirements of the new birth, as set forth in the Word of God. Because of this very fact we have dwelt with some minuteness upon the evidences of the new birth, in order to prevent any person from approaching this great experience of heart holiness, with insufficient preparation. Be very sure that you are a truly justified Christian, before you become a seeker for the further grace of entire sanctification. Let it ever be remembered that the outward life of a Christian is brought into all needful conformity to the requirements of righteousness, by the initial or new birth experience. One ought to be everything that a child of God should be, in his outward conduct, in his relation to his fellow men, his family, his church, his state and his nation, under the initial grace of Christianity, before he sets out in his search for a holy heart. Entire sanctification does not affect, or deal with, the outward acts of a man, but it deals with the inherited moral depravity of his heart. The new birth has already adjusted his outward life toward God and man, and now sanctification adjusts his interior life. This is a very important matter, because in this way a person can more easily tell whether a candidate is truly a Christian or not. If he comes as a seeker for holiness with his outward life in the community, or in his home, all awry with maladjustments toward spiritual standards, then he is in no sense a candidate for an interior work of entire sanctification, but needs the work of full and genuine regeneration. This is the reason that holiness meetings and holiness altars attract the very best Christians in a community. It is because they are already living faithful justified lives, and yet realize that there is an interior cleansing of which they stand in need.
The next step is to consecrate yourself, as a living child of God, to Him forever, in order to be made holy. The word, “consecrate,” is said to mean in the original, “to place in the hand.” That would mean that you, a redeemed soul, saved now from the commission of all sinful practices, and living a life of prayer, praise and loyal service, voluntarily, and with longing desire, place your all in His hands for the purpose of being made holy. The motive of one’s coming to God in this way as a humble seeker for a holy heart, is usually a great conviction of need. It can almost certainly be said that if a person has never received the experience of holiness, and yet seriously declares that he has never had any sense of the need of an interior cleansing, since he became saved, he is an abnormal human being We have met one or two cases like this, in over thirty years of connection with the holiness movement, and association with all sorts of people seeking the experience of the second work of grace. In each case, however, we found that the person was peculiar in other ways, abnormal about business and home affairs, and full of eccentricities. Religious history and personal testimony, from the New Testament days to modern times reveal, however, that this heart hunger for holiness amounting to a great and profound conviction, is found. in practically all truly regenerated hearts. Many have felt so terribly burdened for a clean heart, that they have found their desire amounting to agony. Often their friends have feared for their physical welfare. Occasionally they have fancied that these convicted ones were losing their minds, and time and again people have been sadly persecuted by their own relatives, or by their friends in the church, because of this overwhelming desire for holiness.
When this agony of soul is on, it is well for the seeker carefully to go over every item of his devotement of himself to God. It is well to have the heart say a glad “Amen” of earnest approval to everything that the Spirit may bring to one’s mind, and thus be sure that consecration is complete. The reader should be careful to note that it does not necessarily follow, that God is planning to exact everything of one, though He may pass it in review before your eyes. This writer has known several persons who agonizingly yielded to the question concerning a willingness to go as a missionary, while their period of heart burden over holiness was on, and then later, never felt a single impulse toward going. God evidently was sounding them out to see whether the consecration and abandonment was complete, and in order to have the utterly surrendered soul itself realize that if He called it would go. We have also seen men and women say yes to a complete donation of all their earthly goods, while the seeking days were on, and when they had gloriously obtained the purity for which they sought, they found many ways to use that property for the advancement of the Kingdom of God, and there was no intimation that God wanted it all disposed of. It is just possible that this was what Jesus meant when He told the rich young ruler to sell all his goods and give to the poor, and then come and follow Him. It is barely possible that had he started to do so, Jesus would have accepted the will for the deed, and directed him to use it otherwise. If, however, He meant for the young man to do exactly as His words imply, it would have been vastly better for him, and for future generations, if he had obeyed. And we would caution the seeker, to be sure that when he says yes, to God, during the agony of self crucifixion, that he really means it, and will be absolutely ready to obey, for otherwise it will be but a hollow mockery, and it is fatal to play with situations where Deity is involved.
The seeker should make sure that from henceforth, his time shall be at the disposal of God. While He allows us, for the most part, to decide just what we think He desires that we should do, in regard to the devotion of certain items of time, yet it does not take very much experience in relation to the Church, nor much perusal of the Word, before we realize just about what is demanded of a fully consecrated soul. There must be time allotted each day for prayer. No family can be so busy as to neglect it, and stay right with God. Though school may demand the young people’s attendance, and business call for the husband, and a thousand duties wait for the housewife, yet, if that family, or the heads of it, are wholly consecrated to God, they will arise a bit earlier, they will adjust the demands of the school and business, and devote a suitable amount of the day to humble, fervent worship. Bible study cannot be neglected, or one will lose his full sense of consecration. Complete consecration cannot sleep an extra hour on the Sabbath and let the minister agonize under the burdens of the coming church service, while the wholly consecrated layman rests. Full devotement to the Lord will demand that you rise as early on Sunday as on weekdays and spend that extra time in earnest prayer. Time must be taken for private devotions. However much one may worship with his family, this will not take the place of private communion.
Your full consecration must also include your body. The apostle suggests this, “I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.” This will naturally include all the uses to which a sanctified man can put his body. How ought one, who is sanctified wholly, to treat his body, which now has become the temple of the Holy Ghost? What ought he to eat? How often ought he to fast? What ought he to put on that body? How much exercise ought it to have? What about the gratification of its appetites? For sanctification will not change the appetites of the body. It will give one ability to regulate them, but he must do this with his own sanctified intelligence. These physical appetites are a fruitful door through which many temptations to the sanctified come. These doors must be regulated, by intelligence, and guarded by discernment. However graciously sanctified, one can never dispense with his good common sense, this side the resurrection day. Ask yourself the question, will I govern all my body’s desires as one should, whose heart is now fully. freed from unholy carnality, and filled with the Holy Ghost? Will I give my body rest enough? Will I be careful and not let it grow lazy and indolent and spend too much time in rest?
Sanctified people must ever remember that while the body is sanctified to God, that sanctification only covers the matter of the taint of sin. It does not restore the primitive perfection that made Adam physically perfect. The body, though now in His holy keeping, and occupied by His holy Spirit, is still a fallen body. It is weak, and will require your best watch-care lest its weakness become a snare to your holy heart. It is subject to fallen appetites and desires, and will keep one constantly on the alert, lest Satan take an advantage of this, and overcome you. St. Paul declares, “I keep under my body, . . . lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27). There can be little doubt but that through this door has come the fall of more Christians, than probably through that of any other. Ministers by the score have fallen at this point. In spite of a wholly sanctified heart, physical desire is not dead, and requires the greatest watching, with much prayer, and, becoming lax at this point, history is witness that many have collapsed, made shipwreck of their salvation, carried others with them to the pit, occasioned the backsliding of countless more, and finally made their bed in hell. It cannot be too impressively stated, that eternal vigilance must be maintained over the physical appetites, despite the full sanctification of the soul.
The mind must be placed in God’s hands. The sacred Book declares that “whatsoever is of good report, . . . think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). The intellect is another of the items that, though it is relieved from all taint of sin, when one is sanctified wholly, yet is still in the weakness of the fallen state. Holy men will ever be compelled to study in order to acquire knowledge. Extra care must ever be taken to prevent the thoughts from wandering. The apostle to the Gentiles declares that he made an effort when with his converts, to enable them to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” It is an easy thing, many times, to think erroneous thoughts, while all the time keeping one’s every activity safely within the realm of propriety, but “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). If one has committed his mind to the keeping of God, he cannot read books that will poison it against God, or any phase of His holy religion. This is precisely the gate that has admitted modernism. It is just here that evolution entered, and carried away many of God’s best people. Some people prate learnedly about the “freedom of the mind.” A sanctified man cannot have any freedom of the mind, outside the blessed truth of the Bible, and the will of Jesus Christ. One might just as well talk about an American having freedom to think treasonable thoughts against the government of this country. This cannot be, if he is to remain an American. He may do so, if he chooses to become an enemy, but never as a loyal citizen. Neither can one read books that undermine the teachings of the Bible and still be a Christian. Nor can one follow silent thoughts that reflect on God, or on the Trinity, or on the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, or on any other fundamental truth of the Scriptures, and continue to be a loyal Christian. Hence the mind must be consecrated to God. It must pledge itself that it will be true to Him. It must promise with deep sincerity that it will ever resist all erroneous and strange doctrines, that reflect upon the teachings of the Bible. This phase of one’s consecration is exceedingly important, because all heresy comes, not so much from outward sins that men commit, but from intellectual treason against the truth. We are well aware that minds tinctured with modernism will reply that all the advancement of the Church during the dark ages was made because men dared to think contrary to the teachings of the priesthood about them. But this was when the real Bible was denied to people, and they were asked to remain loyal to the traditions of men. Now, however, the Bible is with us. It has been translated from the original languages in which it was first written. Now we possess it in all its beauty and power. Dare we now to throw the door wide open to men to think about it as they will, and yet call them Christians? This is exactly what has brought modern unbelief into existence. It was because men felt privileged to place their own private interpretation on the sacred Book. No one can do that, and remain a loyal follower of Jesus Christ. “Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected” (1 John 2:5). Let the candidate promise faithfully, with all the earnest sincerity of his heart, that he will accept the Book at face value, and keep the Word of God. Several splendid ministers have fallen at this very point. They once were shining lights in the firmament of the holiness movement, but their minds were solicited by the temptation to accept some private explanation of portions of the Word of God. Yielding here, they soon began to bring the whole Book into question. Ere long, they were wholly at sea. Their public addresses lost all scriptural compass with which they had formerly been guided. They became derelict ships in the wide ocean of religious thought. Let your consecration, then, include a deep faithful pledge that you will be true to the ‘Scriptures, and that you will guard yourself against the writings of men that would poison you against it, as you would guard your body against material poison.
Another item of consecration must be one’s conduct. Deeds always speak more loudly than words. Regardless of what you may profess as to the condition of your heart, unless your conduct verifies that profession, the world will accept your deeds as the expression of the real man, and allow that your words are false. Consequently you must pledge to the Lord, as you wait before Him in deep abandonment, that whatsoever you do, you will do it all to the glory of God. Your speech must be “seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6), for, “by thy words shalt thou be justified, and by thy words shalt thou be condemned” (Matt. 12:37). “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). How careful one’s speech should be in order that we may give no offense. At home one should be unusually careful of what one is prompted to say. The shelter of home leads people to be off their usual guard, oftentimes, and to a person’s relatives, sometimes frank speech takes on a tartness, that will soon open a wide door to the reentrance of the old moral defilement that entire sanctification removed. Argument, unless conducted with great sweetness and regard for the person opposed, will generate sharp feelings before one is aware. The Lord never said for us to go and argue the gospel, but to preach it. He never said that we were to argue about water baptism, but to disciple all nations. He never said that we were to hair-split over just how much carnality was left in a converted soul, or whither it went when it was removed, or how it was able to return when it came back, but to testify of Jesus and His power to save.
Not only must the speech be guarded with great care, but the actions of one’s daily life must be in full conformity to the experience of holiness. Every business transaction, every errand, every bit of buying or selling, where you go, how long you stay, who went with you, everything, everything, everything is now to be enacted as though you were already standing at the judgment bar of God, whither ere long, every one of us must come, and these very things be reviewed by the Lord Christ Himself. Oh, with what care ought holiness people to walk. How cautiously they ought to speak. Do you know that every word that you utter is being impressed on the record-taking phonograph of the sky? Do you know that a mighty photographic equipment is taking moving pictures of everything you do, and everywhere you go? In the very act of consecration, then, let your soul register a solemn pledge to God that you will carefully adjust all your conduct to the rigid requirements of His mighty experience of holiness, and then when the blessing shall fall upon you, maintain that pledge inviolate unto the end, and. you will give your account to the great Judge with joy and not with grief, when the accounting day shall come.
Finally, consecrate all your affection to God This is the chief thing that He is after anyhow. One’s prayers, one’s gifts, one’s testimonies, one’s faithfulness in attendance upon divine worship, are not acceptable unto Him, unless they are performed because you love Him. Offer Him your affection that He may perfect it with His fiery grace. This will please Him more than anything else. He says, “Give me thine heart.” Ah, that is what He longs for, it is the hearts of His people! May He have yours? May He fill it with Himself? May He forever possess it as the temple of His Spirit? May He make it His home? May He cleanse it perfectly of all things that are opposed to Himself? May He hang new pictures on the walls, and place new furniture in its rooms, and sweep and garnish and occupy?
Friend, can you look up into the face of God, and assure Him that you are fully, entirely consecrated to Him forever? Do you now place all your past, all your present, all your future in His hands? Will you allow Him to open the unread pages of the tomorrows, and announce to you just what is therein contained as day by day your life rolls on, and will you accept it with sweetness and humility and utter trust, whether it be joy, or sorrow, or wealth, or poverty, or honor or dishonor, or good report, or ill report? May He have your family, your business, your means, your health, your mind, your body, your everything? No soul can receive, much less retain and possess, the burning fullness of the Holy Ghost in His wholly sanctifying power, unless He can have just such a complete and entire abandonment of the soul to Himself. Will you, then, say a glad “Amen” to all God’s will for you? Can He check on you for anything that you have?