Can Carnality Be Eradicated In This Life?
As we have stated in another chapter, Christians generally admit the existence of a sin principle, or a moral corruption in the hearts of believers, after they have been regenerated. The evidence of it among Christians is to be found everywhere. Fretfulness, peevishness, sensitiveness, anger, malice, jealousy, place-seeking, time-serving, a hunger for money, a subtle catering to the rich, a disposition to evade searching truth, and a thousand other manifestations of this tainted disposition, can be seen in the Church of God. We do not mean that any one of these is carried to an extreme, so as totally to disqualify one for membership in the church, but we mean that little evidences and signs of these corrupt qualities are constantly appearing among God’s people.
This is what causes so much backsliding among new converts. The young Christian is hardly more than received into the church, before he encounters some evidence of this moral corruption among the older members, and his heart is chilled. He had supposed that here, in the church of the living God, he was to find a place where the ordinary manifestations of sin that run riot in the world would not be found. Or he detects something of the sort in his own heart, and hurrying to some pillar in the church, asks for a reason for the appearance of this depraved feeling in his soul. The answer convinces him that all the others have the same thing, only they have become accustomed to it, and so do not worry about. it as much as he is doing. This disappoints him, and dampens his ardor. Soon he begins to ask himself what is the use? Or he drops his prayer life, his ringing testimony, and his study of the Word of God, and soon he is again in darkness.
We do not allege that were all converts wholly sanctified within a short time after they were converted, that all backsliding would be eliminated from the church. There are many who profess to have been made possessors of this wondrous grace, who are by no means living up to its requirements. They either did not receive it, when they supposed they did, or they did not retain it afterward. They are “holiness” people, but they are not “holy” people. As long as the church is made up of human beings, it will contain some fallen ones. But. we do declare that if every new convert could be led at once into the blessing of heart purity, that the possibility of backsliding would be greatly lessened, and the chances of his lapsing from grace be much reduced.
But there are many, and some of them very earnest, devout people, who declare that this old sin principle, which every believer brings with him when he comes into the regenerated life of a Christian, can never be removed from the hearts of men, in this life, while the contention of the holiness people is that it can be. Both parties admit that the atonement of Jesus was full and complete, and that atonement plans to bring about the sanctification of the soul from all its inbred corruption sometime. The difference is, that the opposers of the second work of grace claim that it cannot be done here and now, but that it can be done in the moment of glorification. The contention of those who accept the second work of grace is that it can be done now, here in this life, just as soon as the candidate will fulfill the necessary conditions of consecration and trust.
The writer of the Gospel of Luke makes Zacharias say that the coming of Jesus would mean that His people should be delivered out of the hands of their enemies, and “might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness, . . . all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74, 75). Here the inspired volume states that holiness can be had in this life, and that it was to be had in connection with the coming of Jesus Christ into this world. Again, Matthew’s Gospel states that the angel who announced the birth of Jesus to Mary, stated to her, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall Save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). To save one from one’s sins, it would seem that that salvation should be made effective right here and now. The mighty blessing of glorification deals with the infirmities, limitations, and fallen conditions of the mind and body, but the Scriptures invariably declare that the solution of the sin problem is to be wrought out here and now. The Book seems to declare quite emphatically that nothing that is tainted with sin, or corrupted with the sin principle can be allowed to pass the portals of the grave and be admitted into heaven, hence all moral corruption must be removed in this life.
Again, in the fifth chapter of Matthew, our Lord presents the beatitudes. Every one of them refers to this life, and not to the glorified life after death. It says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). Where is that poverty of spirit to be had, here on earth, or somewhere in eternity? “Blessed are they that mourn!” (Matt. 5:4). Inasmuch as there is no mourning in heaven among God’s people, it must mean that they were to mourn here on earth. “Blessed are the meek” (Matt. 5:5). Does one never need to be meek until one reaches eternity’s shore? “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). This can only be applicable to something that occurs in this life. “Blessed are the merciful” (Matt. 5:7). Mercy must be exercised here, where there is much that is wrong, and afflictive, and cannot mean that it is to be exercised in eternity. “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8). This can be nothing other than holiness, and holiness that is possessed and enjoyed right here on earth. If it can be possessed here, then there must be some way that carnality can be removed from the heart, for no heart can be pure and holy unless the inbred moral corruption is removed.
Again in the 19th chapter of Matthew, a man came to Jesus and inquired what he should do that he might inherit eternal life. In answering, Jesus said, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17-21). The man avowed that he was keeping the commandments, and inquired what further he lacked. Jesus said: “If thou wilt -be perfect, go and sell,” etc. Here the Master differentiates between “entering into life,” and “being perfect.” Without endeavoring to fasten any far-fetched meanings to these terms, used here by our Lord, we would still insist that the term “perfect,” must come graciously near to meaning what we denominate holiness. In case this is allowed, then it means a relief from inherited corruption, and that too in this life.
Again in the 15th Chapter of Acts, the Apostle Peter tells to the assembled conference of Christian brethren at Jerusalem, in the eighth and ninth verses, about the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Gentiles, and then sententiously states what the results of that baptism were: “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8, 9). Here it is distinctly stated that what the Gentile converts received was heart purity, and that it was received by faith. It also states that this was the very thing that the disciples at the initial occasion of Pentecost received. If the hearts of these Gentiles were made pure, then the inherited corruption must have been removed; and of course, if it were removed, then it is clearly demonstrated that this corruption of the moral nature, with which the entire race is afflicted can be removed in this life.
But another objection is encountered at this point. Some allege that while it can be abstractly proved by the Scriptures, that this harassing depravity can be removed, that nevertheless samples of its possession, at least in modern times, cannot be found. The statement is not infrequently heard: “Well, I have never seen a holy man!” And this remark is often made with an air of finality, as though that forever settled the possibility of any human being ever possessing the scriptural experience of the removal of the corruption of the moral nature.
Let us first say in answer to this, that it must be borne in mind, that though the questioner has never seen any one who possessed this grace, that nevertheless if the Scriptures clearly teach its possibility, and especially if they commend and demand its possession in order that a soul shall be fit for its heavenly abode, then, whether anyone has it or not, still it is there to be had, and the Holy Book distinctly states that it must be possessed in order to qualify for meeting the great Judge. If any given number of people, with whom the objector is acquainted, do not give evidence of its possession, so much the worse for them, that is all. God demands it clearly in His Word. He has provided for it, as we have seen in the incarnation of His Son. The mighty statements on faith, and the possibilities incident to its exercise, infer that anything that is within His will, that human hearts may desire, can be had. Then, if there is no person to be found who possesses this freedom from the moral defilement of carnality, it is no indictment against the truth, it is no reflection on the experience, it is not the fault of God the Father; God, the Son; or God, the Holy Ghost. It is wholly the blame of the people called Christians, either because they have been erroneously taught, or because they have deliberately refused to qualify, or because they have carelessly neglected to meet the conditions. Whatever it may be, the failure is wholly theirs. This very fact removes much of the weight and seriousness of this objection.
However, let us consider this objection a bit further. It is well to bear in mind that any questioner of these matters of Christian experience, has a limited observation. In order to have a statement that no one had ever seen a holy person, carry much weight, it would have to be made by some one who had examined carefully a. very large percentage of all the persons who claimed to be free from this corrupt nature. Nothing short of at least a majority of those who were thus professing should be examined, and in case then there were not one that was found living up to all the requirements of such a freedom from inbred moral defilement, the opinion thus rendered would carry some weight. But what are the facts? Those who have the privilege of examining any considerable percentage of holiness professors never make such a remark. Indeed, it is almost invariably heard among those who have never examined any, or at most very few. If a person had examined all in any one given community, and found none in possession of this grace, still any honest investigator would be compelled to admit that there might be some in the next community. Like the king of Siam, when told by a European that in Europe he had seen water in winter time grow as solid as the earth, and that rivers would sustain animals, so that they walked freely on their surfaces. The king was later heard to say that he had heard of many wonders, but this one he did not believe, because he had, himself, lived through many winters, and had never witnessed such a thing as solid water. Had the king but moved to another portion of the earth, he would have seen whole lakes and large bays, and even oceans frozen many feet thick. It depends a great deal on who surrounds one, as to whether he can find among them holy men and women. This writer confesses to have seen them, lived with them, dealt with them, labored with them, for many years. They were full of faults in many ways, to be sure, but their hearts were, we are sure, free from all moral defilement, and filled with perfect love to God, and perfect love to their fellow men.
There is also another angle at which we can view this objection. When a person is sufficiently filled with antagonism to holiness, and unbelief in the Word of God, as to state that he had never seen a holy man in all his observation, then it must be that such a soul is dark within, and unhappily blinded by prejudices against the possibility of the cleansing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. The query then naturally rises, would such a person recognize moral purity in case he should chance to see it? It is a matter of history that some of the saintliest persons have been the most greatly traduced by their enemies. The foes of our divine Lord were free to call Him a “gluttonous man,” and to assert that He cast out devils “by Beelzebub, the prince of devils,” and Himself had a devil. Martin Luther was branded as a heretic, and except for the intervention of his friends, would have been burned at the stake, and he was a godly man. Huss, a beautiful character, and Wycliff, a devout old man, and Ridley of saintly repute, were martyred as enemies of the church and the government. George Fox, the white hearted Quaker, and John Knox, the spiritually minded Scotsman, and John Wesley, who went about doing good, and a thousand others of whom this world was not worthy, were hounded and persecuted, and some of them imprisoned, and others cruelly maligned as agents of Satan. The whole land in which we live, honors and believes in Abraham Lincoln, and yet during the fearful war between the states, he was the object of hate and ridicule, travesty and caricature, his honor questioned and his motives traduced by literal millions both north and south. Yet all the time he was an earnest, high-minded patriot, who loved both sides and was in grief and heartache over the catastrophe that had rent asunder his countrymen. We allege that oftentimes one’s heart is so hardened against a doctrine, that he simply does not want to believe it, and refuses the very evidence that would convict his mind, were his prejudices removed. Such an one has disqualified himself from being able to detect truth. His own heart is so full of carnality, and his own eyes are so filled with it, that he thinks and feels and sees carnality everywhere. The Scriptures record that when the Lord lauded Job, and called Satan’s attention to his perfection, that Satan could not see it, and endeavored to convince Jehovah that He was mistaken concerning His great servant.
When a person can never recall any man, or woman, a wife, a sister, a neighbor, a friend, mother or grandmother, pastor, church leader, or any one who was free from the moral corruption which the race has inherited — no one who was ever filled with perfect love — none who were sweetly, beautifully holy, and who does not believe that a person lives who has such an experience, has become himself so sodden with the very thing that we are discussing, until he is disqualified from being a judge of holiness should it appear before him.
Earnest Christians throughout all ages have solemnly testified that God had graciously removed from them the moral corruption inherited from the race, and that their hearts were all aglow with the holiness of the Holy Ghost. Shall human testimony be received in courts of law, and not be received for the confirmation of scriptural truth?
The Bible clearly teaches that the sin principle can be removed in this life, and the preponderance of the testimonies of the saints corroborates this teaching. This is another step that God is enabling His people to take, in their effort again to possess, through the grace of His Son, our lost estate.