In our recent chapter we have discussed the necessity of complete consecration, in order to fulfill the conditions of the human side of the experience of full salvation. Now we approach the question, how is the divine side of the experience accomplished? The answer to this is, that God works in all His relations to mankind, over or through the medium of human faith. If we offer God a genuine faith for something, within His will, He promises to accord it to us.
It is some small degree of faith in God, and the truth of His Word, that leads a hungry soul to seek Him in the first place. When sufficient of His holy Word has found lodgment in such a person’s heart, he becomes a definite seeker at some place of prayer. There, when his faith is perfect enough, through desperation and agony, so that God can release Himself over it, for the accomplishing of the end for which that faith has been exercised, that person becomes converted, or regenerated.
It is through a determined exercise of faith that such a person continues to possess his regenerated experience. The Word is very clear. It declares that “the just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). Unless a constant and conscious faith is maintained day after day, the power of God cannot be released continuously upon that heart, and soon its spiritual life will languish and die. While a lack of continuous faith is not the only reason why new converts backslide, yet it is one of the prolific causes.
When such a soul learns about entire sanctification, it may be that at first he refuses to believe in it. This, if persisted in, completely cuts him off from the possibility of receiving anything further from God. He may continue this for a time, without forfeiting his regeneration, but not long. If he continues to refuse holiness, he will soon be unable to keep his faith for justification intact, and will lapse from all salvation experience. It is impossible for one who refuses to believe in the plain teachings of the Scriptures concerning the second work of grace, to approach this “holy of holies,” and to release God’s burning grace upon himself for such an experience.
If, however, a soul hearing of entire sanctification, shall earnestly, and with an honest heart, begin to study the Scriptures about it, read books in which other men describe this grace, listen to testimonies of people who have obtained the blessing, and in every way cultivate his faith in the possibility of such an experience being in God’s will for men, such a person will soon find his faith increasing until it will be strong enough to enable him to become a definite seeker at some place of special prayer for that wondrous baptism with the Holy Ghost.
Whether he finds the experience at once, or whether he must linger for several days in the attitude of a seeker, will depend entirely on whether he approaches the place of prayer with a perfect consecration, such as we have discussed in the preceding chapter, or whether he must wait for some time to enable his heart to offer itself to God on terms of such abandonment as will qualify on the human side. Then, also, it will depend on whether he can exercise for the immediate possession of this experience, a perfect faith. A perfect faith releases God’s power perfectly, while a lesser degree will not enable Him to come in the power necessary to burn away the inherited carnality, and sanctify the heart wholly.
So very important is this matter of perfecting one’s faith, that we desire to discuss it a little more at length. This great theme of faith has been unhappily neglected by religious teachers for the most part, and it is seldom discussed in pulpit utterance, or religious treatise, with very much definiteness. The allegation of this writer is that faith enables God to operate automatically when its conditions are fulfilled, just as any and all other of God’s laws operate. That it permits Him to do what otherwise He cannot do. That faith is, as St. Paul declares in Hebrews 11:1, a “substance.” A spiritual substance, to be sure, but a reality, just the same. That this spiritual substance is a medium or connection over, or through which, God can operate to accomplish the thing for which that faith stands. Hence the utterance of Jesus, “according to your faith, be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29). That is, no faith, and you get nothing; some faith, and you receive something; perfect faith and you will receive perfectly, the thing for which your faith stands.
This is in full accord with other great utterances of our Lord in regard to faith. As for instance: “Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, BELIEVE that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). Or again, “shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith” (Mark 11:23). And in another place, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). And still again, “all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matt. 21:22).
How is it possible for these statements to be true and for Jesus to have uttered them with such confidence, unless faith, when it is exercised toward God, in any sort of perfect ¦ manner, releases over itself, His divine power for the accomplishing of the very things for which that faith stands? If this be true, then how very important faith is. It was this kind of faith that brought forgiveness of one’s sins, when in deep penitence he bowed and pleaded for forgiveness. The reader, if he be a genuinely converted Christian man, will recall that although he sought to obtain forgiveness in many ways, and confessed all his sins, and repented deeply of them as well, and made restitution for every wrong that was possible, did not obtain the coveted regeneration, which he sought, till he offered to God a real faith. As soon as this was done, instantly the experience was bestowed, forgiveness was accorded, regeneration took place, and he was a saved man. How did it occur? Obviously over his faith. Why did it not occur sooner? Because he had refused, or refrained from, or neglected to offer unto God the only medium through which He could bring it. All the preliminaries of confession, repentance and restitution (or the pledge, at least, of restitution) were necessary, in order to reach the condition where faith could be exercised, but it was faith that enabled God to accomplish the generation of new life in the soul. It was faith that released His power. It was faith that became a medium between God and man, and over this medium God saved him.
It operates the same when one comes seeking for the grace of entire sanctification. One’s consecration must be complete, as we have indicated in the previous chapter. But a perfect consecration will not bring entire sanctification. It will also require a perfect faith. It is the faith channel over which the Spirit operates to pour His cleansing fire into the soul, and until that faith channel has been lifted to God, His power is not released upon that soul. Just as soon as it is, then He descends, with the “Spirit of burning,” and baptizes the heart with His holiness. Faith brings the cleansing.
It becomes very important then to know, how can a seeker perfect his faith for the experience of heart purity? Our answer would be that if his consecration is complete and genuine, as we have just outlined 4n Chapter Eleven, this will go far toward giving him a perfect faith. The thing that chiefly keeps our faith low, and prevents its perfect exercise, is a lack of utter abandonment to God. With our bodies, souls and spirits utterly yielded to Him, the ground work for a perfect faith is laid. There are a few items of consecration, however, that we might examine a bit more particularly:
Consider well your prayer life. One may do a great deal of praying without much faith, but one cannot generate faith without much prayer. Learn to pray without ceasing. When you retire at night, plead the promises as you drop to sleep. When you waken in the middle of the night, pray yourself to sleep again. As your consciousness struggles back from sleep, devote its first, fresh seconds to prayer. Pray as you clothe yourself for the day. Pray as you perform your morning ablutions. Pray over your breakfast, and then again, if possible, with your family. Pray as you proceed to work. Ejaculate a prayer sentence now and then. Pray at odd seconds during your work hours. Quote His promises to Him. Call His attention to the Word on which you rely. Bring your arguments to His attention. You are, now, we will imagine, seeking to be sanctified wholly. Remind the ever blessed heavenly Father that He has commanded holiness, “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy” (1 Peter 1:15). In your prayer suggest that He has commanded it, then He ought to bestow it upon you, a humble believer in His divine Word; and we are sure He will, when your faith will dare to claim it. Remind the Lord Jesus that it was for the very purpose of sanctifying the people that He suffered without the gate; that it is the purchase of His blood. Can He then withhold from one of His fully consecrated children, the very thing for which He died? It is certain He will not refuse, if you will utterly trust Him for it. Remind the blessed Third Person of the Trinity that He purified the hearts of the disciples at Pentecost by faith, and that you, a modern disciple, are waiting on Him for the same cleansing, and are offering Him the same sort of faith. This will bring the sanctifying power.
As you pray, cultivate the faith faculty. Assure your own sometimes doubting heart that you do believe His every promise. Faith is susceptible of cultivation, just as is one’s memory. Venture out on the promises of God, with all the faith you can muster. Trust Him for the experience this moment, and see what happens. The more we sincerely pray, the more faith grows. The more utterly abandoned is our communion with God, the more faith flames into perfection.
Another item of great importance in cultivating faith, is to ascertain with some degree of certainty, whether you have really entered what might be termed the “crucified life” of a genuine Christian. There is a dependence in our hearts on this world, its people, its customs, its honors, its ways, to which we must literally die, in order completely to trust God, and depend on Him. We do not mean, now, just the carnal phases of the world only, but we mean its legitimate hold on one, in a thousand ways. Nor do we purpose that this abandonment should be fanatical and extreme, such as refusing to eat certain foods, that are commonly eaten (unless we know they are injurious to us, personally), or to dress in such an outlandish fashion, as to point us out as extremists. But rather that we die to our hearts to the world, its customs, its ways, its praise, its pull, its ambitions, its rewards. When we are sanctified wholly, we must die to the carnal sin taint of the world, the flesh and the devil, but now we refer to something a trifle more drastic, and that is to die in spirit to many of the legitimate demands of the world. In other words, to possess them, but never to let them possess us. To use them, and yet live above them. To live among them, and yet never allow them to capture, hold and govern us. To die in this way so dead that God can trust us. Trust us, maybe, with wealth, and yet we would live as though we were poor. Trust us, possibly, with the gift of healing, and yet we would be just as humble, free from the effects of fame, or notoriety, or commercialism, or a “holier than thou,” feeling, as though we had never laid a hand on the sick or prayed the prayer of faith over one. To die so dead that He could confer upon one, maybe, the ability to lead many souls to full salvation, and yet he would never get heady, or high-minded, or professional about it. So dead, indeed, that if He should elevate you to leadership in some church, that you would still be the same lowly; humble saint of God, that you were when you were a struggling country pastor, a “brush evangelist,” or a converted plow-boy. Nothing perfects faith like humility, and lowliness of heart. Nothing enables us to offer a genuine faith to God, like the consciousness that we are truly dependent only on Him, and “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). A crucified life puts one where he has nothing to depend on but God. When every tendril of the heart which clings to and trusts in the world has been voluntarily broken and transferred to God, then how marvelously He can operate over a faith like that, and make holy one’s heart thus abandoned to Him.
Money, or this world’s goods, is one of these tendrils that will cling, almost without our knowing it, to materialism. We are not here advocating any fanatical notions about the necessity of poverty, nevertheless, a willingness to be poor, must be included in every person’s consecration, if God’s providences will it so. This is a commercial age, and we are bound in a degree to its laws and demands. However, we ought always to remember that God is greater than all the laws of commerce or finance or material necessity. And it is possible to be in the world, subjected to the laws of eating, drinking, buying, selling, and living after the laws of the material universe about us, and yet to be so utterly lifted above them, as not to be of them, until our real self shall be as free from the demands of the material world, as though they did not exist.
“The love of money” is exceedingly dangerous to a sanctified man, and is often the hardest thing to which to die. It has so many legitimate needs, and so many lawful demands, that before one is aware, he has been caught in its toils, and is trusting his income, his bank account, his check book, more than he is trusting God. A note of commercialism creeps into his daily life. A religious professionalism begins to take the place of the sweet spontaneity of his first Christian experiences. He finds his faith in God failing. Why? He is trusting Mammon. We believe that the Scriptures demand that if one is to exercise a perfect faith for the perfect cleansing of his heart, and is to retain that experience, he must have a marvelous freedom of his mind and soul from the tendrils of materialism, especially as it is expressed in money, property and the needs of daily living. One of the great needs of the hour is for a race of ministers to be generated who shall count it all joy to accept hard, financially unprofitable fields, and till them for Jesus’ sake, who will emulate the example of their Lord who went about doing good, Himself the poorest of the poor. We leave so little room for trusting God in the present day organization of the church. Everything must be in sight for the well being of the preacher or he will not accept the assignment. We need a host of “brush” evangelists who will be humble and unpretentious enough to enter a small opening for service, who will map out great circuits as the itinerants of another generation did, and cultivate the small school house and private-residence crowds, and lead stray and wandering souls to holiness. We need great, blazing, fire-baptized evangelists of brilliant ability in holy song, and eloquent utterance, who can evangelize our large churches, receive their splendid emoluments, and yet move among us as humble as little children, and who are willing occasionally to pour out their riches of song and speech upon some humble congregation with as much devotion and unction as though they were ministering to the thousands. We need laymen who will earn money for the kingdom, and not feel that all they secure is their own. Is it not possible to reach a place where money can be earned, handled, amassed and expended, and yet the man who does that live, so to speak, utterly apart from it, in his soul? How can we believe unto the full cleansing of our hearts from inherited moral corruption, unless we can detach, as it were, ourselves from this rushing, money loving world, and watch it go by, as we continue a part of it, and yet hide in the “cleft of the rock”?
Another item that will marvelously assist in perfecting one’s faith for the obtainment of the blessing of a clean, holy heart is to cultivate a disposition to sacrifice conveniences. As long as we coddle ourselves, insist that everything must be convenient and comfortable, it is hard to offer the Lord a perfect faith. The Scripture says “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).
‘Tis true, we have fallen upon soft and easy times, for the most part. Comforts are now so common, conveniences are so handy, luxuries are so within the reach of millions, that we have generated an easy, soft, flabby disposition. If the church, hall or school house is not heated to the perfect temperature, we whine, complain, and fuss about it, or more likely still, refuse to attend. If the weather is rough, we never think of facing the Storm, or chance the possibility of getting wet, or exposing ourselves to inclemency, but remain at home, turn on the radio, take a little religion second hand, and let the cause of holiness care for itself as best it can. If a morning service overruns the dinner hour by ten minutes, we are miffed, or sulky, or refuse to attend the morning service thereafter, or arise from our place in meeting, at twelve o’clock sharp, and with a set jaw, and a toss of the head, march out, just as the minister is doing his best to make a fitting effect in his closing effort. Such a spirit, whether we are actually guilty in deeds, is ruinous to the perfection of any faith in God.
If we desire a genuine faith that will release the sanctifying power of God upon our hearts, and retain that holy fire till Jesus comes, we must have a spirit of self denial. We must be willing to forego conveniences, and let comforts depart, when God’s house, cause, kingdom or hallowed interests call. We must be prepared to hasten to the place of prayer, whether or no the weather shall always be just as propitious as we would enjoy. We must go for worship and praise to God, and not just to consult our comforts and fleshly feelings. We must direct all our efforts to the glory of God, and not to the satisfaction of our own notions, and physical desires.
How can faith be lifted to God when we coddle ourselves so constantly? How can we ever receive, or retain the burning baptism of holiness, the first essential of which is likeness to Jesus. The living Spirit of the Son of God is the Spirit of self sacrifice. How can we be heroes when we refuse to be heroic? How can we believe for the removal of the inherited depravity of the heart, when we are cultivating its retention by the very homage we pay to comforts and conveniences? We are not pleading for discomforts for their own sake. We are not begging that we inconvenience ourselves just for the sake of being uncomfortable. That is popery. That is the mere affliction of the flesh for the sake of doing penance. We are pleading for the development of a spiritual self sacrifice, personal, financial and every other kind. We are endeavoring to state a law of the spirit of life, and that is, faith cannot be lifted. in its perfection where we refuse to undertake things inconvenient for His sake, or to subject ourselves to discomforts when thereby we might honor Him.
Oh, reader, has your faith for the blessing of full salvation been made perfect? Oh, sanctified Christian, is your faith this moment strong, triumphant and complete? Can you release the Holy Spirit into your heart with a fresh, new, and burning consciousness? Is not a fresh consciousness of God the chief thing we need? How can He be made conscious to the soul, especially in His cleansing and energizing power? Only by a perfect faith.