Living The Holy Life
Holiness of heart and life is the greatest spiritual experience taught in the Bible, attainable by redeemed humanity, in this life. Consequently the living of a holy life, from day to day, is of tremendous importance. The sainted Wesley averred that many people obtained the experience of heart purity, but that comparatively few lived the life for any length of time. It is one thing to pray through at a place of devotion, and obtain the cleansing of one’s heart by the baptism with the Holy Ghost, and then it is an altogether different thing to live that life moment by moment, and day by day.
God plans by His grace, however, to see us through to daily victory, and if we will only do our part on the human side, a wondrous sainthood will be our reward. The fact that church history reveals a goodly number who did succeed in living holy lives, amid the most aggravating circumstances, encourages us all to persist in this hallowed achievement.
This chapter shall consist in enumerating the points at which, it would seem to this writer, dangers would surely appear, and an earnest exhortation to give these points especial watchfulness.
One of the most important points to be constantly guarded is one’s consecration. The cleansing of the Holy Ghost can only be imparted to one who comes to God with a completely consecrated heart and life. Not an item can be withheld. All must be absolutely laid on the altar of devotement to God before the fire from heaven can be released upon that heart. In exactly the same way the devotement, the utter consecration, must be continued, or a sad forfeiture of the cleansing of the Lord will result.
It is a most helpful spiritual exercise faithfully to inspect one’s terms of consecration frequently. The human mind is so frail, and the judgment so faulty, and the darkness of our fallen nature so blinding, that we are unable properly to judge of our own complete and utter consecration to God, without divine assistance. It is for this purpose that He accords the witness of the Spirit, and we ought, in estimating our own consecrated condition before the Lord, to study closely our consciousness of the presence and approval of the Holy Spirit. If there is a warm and tender sense of His presence, and especially of His approval, if we feel graciously led out in prayer, if we can search the soul to its depths and find no ill-feeling toward any person, no rancor, no trace of bitterness, no fever, no desire to have our own way, no disposition to be set and unyielding; but all is sweet, forgiving, tender, unctuous, and redolent with perfect love toward God and mankind, then one has good reason for feeling greatly assured.
If you can examine your property and find that it is all held subject to His blessed will, and that He can do with any portion of it just as He pleases; if you can accept all conditions of life with humble dependence on Him for their continuance or change; if all you have, or desire, or long for is happily and eagerly entrusted to Him without reserve, and there is no lingering sense of condemnation or dissatisfaction, then you may take great comfort in the fact that your consecration is intact and complete.
If you can read the Scriptures, and, after placing the Word of God alongside your own life as a plumb-line, the comforting witness is accorded from the Spirit that you have done the very best you can, to put all its sacred teachings into effect, there is good ground for satisfactory assurance. But this matter of full and complete consecration must be watched faithfully. Any letting down, any withdrawal of aught from His hallowed possession, any feeling of resentment toward neighbor, friend or relative; any lack of generosity, any refraining from full service toward God and the needs of His kingdom; any coldness of heart or chill of devotion ought to send one to a humble search, on his knees, for the spot where consecration has been violated and have it promptly corrected. If hasty words have been uttered, and a depression of spirits has consequently resulted, it is very likely that a humble apology to the one to whom the words were uttered, will be needful, in order to bring again the sweet witness of the Holy Ghost in your heart. But do not, we entreat of you, reader, neglect this. Possess again the burning presence of the sanctifying Spirit at all hazards. Never permit yourself to be content with other than the real experience. Never drag along trusting that somehow the feeling of dissatisfaction will adjust itself. Make apologies, make restitution, spend hours in prayer, wait on God until again consecration is full and complete, and the fire is on the soul. Anything short of this is not holiness of heart, and a person is only harboring incipient carnality, if he allows himself to continue without the burning baptism which alone cleanses the soul.
A second point of watchfulness must necessarily be one’s faith. It is due to faith that we ever found forgiveness of sins, and over this marvelous channel that we first realized that there was such a thing as holiness of heart. Later it was with a mighty exercise of its functions that enabled us to release God on our souls in sanctifying power. Consequently it is very important that we maintain the same sort of faith by which we obtained the cleansing, in order to keep the heart clean. Satan very artfully and with subtlety, attacks a person’s faith. He attacked Eve at that point, and assails practically every one in a similar manner. As long as he can keep one from believing God, he knows that he can prevent him from obtaining anything from God in the way of salvation. A lack of faith will keep one also from ever securing entire sanctification. Later on, a similar lack of faith will rob one of it. It is possible to have a perfect consecration, and yet by lack of faith, still be without the joy, fire and enthusiasm of full heart holiness. It is also possible so to let down in one’s faith after sanctification, as effectively to ruin one’s heart experience.
A close watch, consequently, should be kept on the faith faculty. Cultivate it. Read the great promises of God, and then make a conscious effort to believe them. Work your believing powers constantly. Attempt great things for God with as hearty a faith as you can muster. If Satan can keep you from believing greatly for achievement he can fearfully invade your usefulness in the kingdom, even while you may retain salvation from sin. Make it a point to believe much. Guard your faith jealously. If you realize that faith is getting low, take a special season of waiting on God, reading the promises, searching the accounts of great deeds done by God’s saints in other days, till faith is again ascendant. With consecration complete and full, and with faith rich and active, there should be good reason to rejoice and be glad in the happy consciousness of possessing that “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”
Incident to one’s consecration and faith is prayer. It is seldom that a Christian prays too much. It is almost certain that we all pray too little. Much prayer breeds faith. Great faith calls for prayer. Earnest, importunate prayer is almost certain to result in full consecration. Complete consecration depends upon, subsists on, is based on, frequent, passionate, and eager prayer. It is practically impossible for one to retain the blessing of holiness and not be much given to prayer. Prayer affects the one who prays. Prayer affects the ones for whom one prays. Prayer affects the great God to whom one prays. Let one’s prayers be simple, whole-hearted outpourings of the heart to God. Let them be frequent. Let them be ejaculatory, if you are pressed for time. Let them be intercessory. But pray, reader, pray I If you would live a holy life, if you would retain the blessing of full sanctification, if you would keep the fires of the Holy Ghost upon your heart, pray! Take time to do it. Omit other things. Few things are as valuable as prayer. If you are in doubt about things, pray. If you are misunderstood, pray. If your heart is not as filled and thrilled as it was once, pray.
Also as a corollary to consecration and faith, is testimony. A sanctified person must testify. Not a mere parrot-like repetition of some set statement, but a real expression of the heart to other Christians, or to neighbor or friend. Sometimes, when alone, it is not an unwise thing to testify to one’s self. Tell yourself how much you love God, recite His marvelous doings in your own ears, and praise Him where none but your Lord, and the enemy, can hear you. This will have a fine tendency toward making your testimony less stereotyped and formal. It is helpful also to testify to some intimate friend, like one’s wife, husband, or family circle. The stiffness of set speech and the strangeness of talking in public about one’s own experiences, will be greatly lessened by doing this. A testimony should be as free and easy as a conversation, and it certainly ought to be unctuous. Nothing is more stale than a dry, formal testimony. The average layman feels, when participating in a Sabbath service, that he has a right to complain a bit, if a preacher discourses in a dry-as-dust fashion, and he feels that if the proper steps of earnest prayer, and the cultivation of the presence of the Holy Ghost had been taken, that such a juiceless sermon would never have been the result. In something of the same manner a person’s fellow worshipers feel when they hear a dry testimony. If you are in earnest, if you are really in possession of the sanctifying Spirit, you will have waited on Him with such tender intimacy before ever coming to the praise service as to have prepared yourself for uttering a fresh, anointed, pungent, original testimony. Cultivate your heart with much prayer, Scripture reading and meditation, and see if your testimony does not improve. When the praise service hour comes, if you find yourself without anything to say, be alarmed. Go to prayer for your own heart condition, for it is impossible to have a really sanctified experience, and not have something to praise the Lord about. If your heart is truly connected with the standpipe of His grace, the faucets of your speech will be ready to spill forth the fact to His glory.
Another accompaniment of a perfect consecration and a genuine faith is a happy generosity in giving. A tenth of one’s possessions is surely the minimum. A Christian with the grace of holiness in his heart must never be out-done in large-hearted giving by the Jew under the dominion of the law. Consequently there must be added to one’s tithe a frequent praise offering, or love offering, or thank offering. Stinginess has very probably robbed more people of the grace of entire sanctification than any other one fault. Money and property are so needful to us day by day, and the world is now so organized around the matter of material things, the pursuit of which occupies chiefly the attention of its peoples, that it will invade the heart condition of God’s own, unless they. have a very great care. Covetousness is named by the Apostle Paul in the same catalogue with the grossest and most wicked sins of the flesh. There can be no doubt but that at the point of consecrating property and wealth eternally to God and holiness is fought the greatest battles that human hearts ever know. If Satan and a carnal heart fought so hard when you were dying to the “mammon of unrighteousness” little wonder that he will return to inject that deadly poison again into your sanctified heart, if he can do so. A large proportion of the “repairs” that Christian people are up for, when revival meetings or camp meetings are on, is because of some form of surrender to this same “mammon of unrighteousness.” The only safe place for the truly sanctified man or woman in regard to the matter of money or property, is rigidly to observe tithing, and then to intersperse that with offerings of generous size and cheerful frequency. Watch your own heart in regard to giving. If it is truly sanctified there will be a genuine joy in handing over to God and His cause your gifts. If you detect a hesitancy, a reluctance, a disposition to excuse yourself easily from participating in the financial end of the work of the Lord, if you discover in yourself a proneness to exact less of yourself than of others, or to conceal from the rest your own benefactions because they are not quite as generous as they once were, have a care, for that is almost certain to be a sign of the return of carnality. Faithfully read the blessed Word where it declares that you must “make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,” and “ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24), and “Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For’ with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38), and “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, for where your treasure is, there will your heart he also” (Matt. 6:19-21). By keeping your heart plumbed with these spiritual passages, and your offerings to God and His house frequent and as large as your circumstances will at all allow, you will be able to keep your consecration free from the moths of covetousness and the rust of stinginess which have slain their ten thousands.
One of the most blessed adjuncts to living a holy life, is to be on one’s guard against a species of ease and sloth. There is a dying out that enables the Holy Ghost utterly to slay the carnal mind, but a person will not have been sanctified wholly, very long, before he will be aware of another death that he must die, if he would constantly retain the holy burnings of the Spirit in all their fullness and flavor. That is a dying out to conveniences and comforts. Not that we mean that one should make his life ascetic, and refuse to use carpets and rugs, rocking chairs and household comforts. No, but we do mean that he must die to all these comforts and conveniences so that when the hour comes to serve God either in church service or prayermeeting, or house to house visitation among the neighbors, in order to enlist another soul in the great concern of its own salvation, they must have absolutely no hold on one! When the meeting hour comes, dress for the battle, and haste to the scene of action. Go there to pray, devoutly kneeling on your knees. Go there to lift, while the messenger preaches, with all the faith that you have. Go there to gather around the altar and stay till victory comes, or till the leader gives the signal for dismissal. To feel that you can have a complete consecration and only attend church services once in a while, when it chances to suit your convenience, or when the weather is just right, or when circumstances serve comfortably; or to remain as you may chance to desire, leaving with an altar service in full sweep, and not take a hand in the battle for souls, is simply to deceive yourself. An entirely sanctified soul does not act that way. It forgets the warm and comfortable home, the pleasant chair, and the unread book or magazine. It regards not the weather, nor hesitates when storms are in the skies. It comes to refresh its own experiences with God and to battle earnestly for the salvation or sanctification of another. The call to such a soul for assistance around an altar is like the bugle blast to a cavalry horse, or the gong that releases the fire wagon for a run to the burning building. Unless you can die to your own comforts and conveniences when God’s cause summons, you will in a short time grow lethargic, and lethargy is only another name for laziness, while laziness is a symptom of carnality, and “to be carnally minded is death” (Rom. 8:6).
While entire sanctification is retained by keeping a perfect consecration and a perfect faith, nevertheless the ability to keep one’s consecration perfect and one’s faith full and complete, depends very much upon whether the wholly sanctified soul early becomes active in the matter of achievement. Unless a person throws himself wholeheartedly into securing the accomplishment of things for the kingdom of God, he will speedily grow lax, become flabby in his soul, and backslide. If you are so fortunate as to have a holiness church of which you are a member, be faithful to all its services, but in addition to this start something that will be your peculiar care. A cottage prayermeeting in your neighborhood, a missionary prayermeeting, a children’s meeting, a revival meeting in the next village or community to you; something — something, into which you can throw all your heart and energy. Distribute tracts; make calls on strangers and invite them to church; be a “glad hand” committee to stand at the door of the church and welcome newcomers; start a Sunday school class; do something for the cause! A holy life cannot be too passive. There must be some sort of holy action. Unless trees leave out, they die, and unless sanctified people express themselves in deeds, they too will die spiritually. If your business or home or health prevent you from being directly active in your community, then get busy in intercessory prayer, and with achieving faith; bring fire down from heaven by sheer exercise of your believing powers. The Scriptures authorize you to do this, and Jesus gives many mighty statements on faith that ought to encourage us all to do more at this than we do. Believe God for something definite. Lay hold of Him by faith, in a holy passion, for something that is clearly within His will, such as the salvation of your family, the precipitation of a revival in your own home church, or within the boundaries of your district, or for a widespread awakening within the confines of your own denomination, or for a visitation of the Holy Ghost to the mission fields. Grasp the promises with an exercise of importunate faith, such as is described in the parable of the three loaves of bread, and persist without cessation of faith till the promised event takes place. Doing something for the spread of the kingdom, and accomplishing something for the Master, though it is done out of sight and hearing of your fellow Christians, will stir the passions of your soul for holy companionship with Him that will keep your heart quick and sensitive to His presence, and alert to climb the heights of holiness.
Few things are so deadening to spiritual sensibilities as the feeling that you are able no longer to accomplish anything, and like a worn out garment laid aside for uselessness and decay. Helpless though you are, physically, an invalid or a cripple; unable maybe to participate in the active battles for the kingdom, yet you can by faith so release God upon the combatants, or upon some remote field, or upon some loved ones, as to engage all your thinking, and exercise all the passions of your soul. Spiritual idleness kills. Spiritual rust soon eats away the brightest experience. Remember that though active toil is beyond your reach, by virtue of a broken body, shattered health, or the requirements of small children or invalid loved ones at home, yet achievements by faith are always within your grasp. Avail yourself of them, and watch your soul grow rugged and robust, while your flesh is feeble, and your time, perhaps, forcibly denied you.
God’s children sometimes forget that though perfect love (which is a result of the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost), is created in the heart by His indwelling presence, yet that such an obtainment is susceptible of cultivation. Remember that the Holy Ghost is a divine person, and that His presence may be, so to speak, intensified. The more you offer humble, adorable worship to God, the more you defer to the voice of the Spirit within, the more you exalt the matchless Son of God, the more you humbly depreciate self, and call to mind your total lack of merit, or spiritual worth, receiving all from Him as the gift of His wonderful grace, the more the Holy Ghost’s presence will be manifested to the soul, and the warmer will grow the perfect love of that heart for God, and for humanity about you. Perfect love can be cultivated. No doubt our age is producing so few great saints, largely because we have so much neglected the art of cultivating the presence and power and activity of the Holy Ghost within our own hearts. Would to God we all might begin to develop great sainthood by the cultivation of a more tender intimacy with the Third Person of the Trinity!. If this is done in the name of Jesus, and for His glory, and that we may the more perfectly represent Him to this death struck world, we believe that all fanaticism that so often springs from what might be termed forced interviews with the Holy Ghost, would be absent, and a tenderer spiritual Christlikeness would be the result.
The necessity of careful, conscientious obedience to God, to the Holy Scriptures and to the combined moral sense of the spiritually minded people about you, is of great importance in living a holy life. This is an age of license. This is a time of throwing off the trammels of the past. This is an hour when self-expression, self-determination, freedom to do as you please, liberty to be happy, are sounding their siren calls midst society, politics and in literature. It has also been heard in the pulpit. Little is said these days about obedience. Yet we hazard the statement that every soul that has lost its standing with God, and fallen over the brink of endless woe, is there because of failure to obey. Satan himself furnishes us with the dazzling example of the highest arch-angel of the skies losing his place, position, and character by failure to obey. The first human pair in the garden followed his unhappy example and advice, and wrecked their souls, their lives, and the world that had been created for them, and handed the ruin on to their descendants, all because of disobedience. We venture further to say that every Christian living today can trace every trouble that he has had in his own heart and experience, to that same fell disposition to disobey God. Consequently there can hardly be placed too great an emphasis on the need of obedience in order to live a holy life. Humble obedience to the Word of God, as interpreted by the majority of spiritually minded people. Glad obedience to the laws of the land in which you find shelter and home. Loyal obedience to the laws of the denomination in which you have elected to make your church home. Thoughtful obedience to the wishes of loved ones and relatives, in so far as this is consistent with loyalty to God and His Word. Obedience throws a chastening restraint about the soul, that is most helpful. It provides the necessary balance wheel for enthusiasm and ardent activity. It enables the cause of God to be organized and collectively to strike the enemy with solid impact. It is the centripetal force that holds the Christian democracy together, and prevents a person from losing sight of the advantages of organization, and of endeavoring to suppress the rebellion, or end the war, by marching in a solitary manner to the battle field, and ignoring the presence and assistance of his comrades, and the orders of the commander-in-chief.
A final suggestion for making a success of the holy life here below, is to cultivate humility. This is a low, sweet, aromatic plant that flourishes in a shy manner at the bottom of a deep ravine, the sides of which are so steep and precipitous that few venture down to where it grows. Once gathered its fragrance is wafted far on the scent-laden air. But so shy is this delicate herb, that if we grasp it too hard, its fragrance disappears, and we find that we are clutching nothing but a handful of withered leaves, that give forth a rank and moldy odor. It is declared by them of ancient times that it cannot be carried out of the deep ravine where it grows, and still retain its delicate fragrance. Can a person know when he is truly humble? That is difficult to say, for when one thinks that he really possesses it, that is the moment that he usually loses it. Words are clumsy in endeavoring to describe this rare but necessary accompaniment to genuine heart holiness. Humility loves to serve, and let the other fellow receive the credit for the deed accomplished. It is more happy laboring in the background than in the forefront. It hews wood and draws water for its Lord, while others receive the plaudits and the praise. It suffers another to be the corner stone, while it is content and joyful in filling in the cracks and bringing up the rear. It cares nothing for recognition here below, gladly awaiting the “well done” of its adorable Lord in the heavens. Its presence is the sweet flower of perfect love, and its perfume is the delicate fragrance of the Christ of Calvary.