Some Causes Why People Fail To See And Obtain The Great Blessing
One cause is the lack of a clear, definite preaching on the subject. It is remarkable, when this doctrine is properly presented, what a flame of holy fire begins to burn at once in many hearts, and how many enter into the gracious experience. On the other hand, the work declines when the pulpit becomes silent. So it blazed in the time of Wesley and Asbury, who constantly pressed it, and so it declined for forty or fifty years because the preachers were silent; and so it swelled again and rolled on in the time of such men as Finney and Inskip, who enjoyed and urged it on the people. In a large Southern city two persons possessed the blessing of sanctification for twenty-five years or more, but they did not proclaim it, and the pulpits were silent at the same time, and there was not a single additional sanctification. But a few years ago a preacher conducted a revival meeting at that place, presented the doctrine, and some forty people at once swept into the blessing.
This remarkable revival or languishing of the experience conditional upon the faithful preaching and witnessing of God’s servants is not to be used as an argument against the strength or divinity of the doctrine. The fact is that the same thing prevails in regard to every doctrine. The knowledge of justification by faith died out in the Church because not preached: and there are many doubters today in regard to the doctrine of hell, because we lack the tender, tearful, solemn, and awful preaching that brings conviction.
Two facts have forcibly impressed us. One is that a general kind of preaching on sanctification; or when it is presented as a faraway attainment, as being a vague, endlessly progressive work; that such preaching never awakens opposition, never seems to move the people, and never results in a case of sanctification. The explanation of the last fact is evident. What is the use of struggling for a thing that is not to be obtained? A remarkable proof of the truth of the second work is seen in the fact that it invariably infuriates the devil, is opposed by worldly Church members, awakens a great antagonism on one side and as great a hope and pursuit on the other, and results in every case in a number obtaining the blessing. The second fact is that a preacher who has not the blessing of sanctification may preach on the subject as often as he will, and two curious results will be observable. First, no one will become offended, and second, no one will obtain the blessed experience.
It is the confession of the experience that so arouses Satan. He is willing for people to declare the fact of the experience, if they will not say that they have it. This accounts for the first result in the above case. As for the second, the failure of the people to enter into the blessing under such preaching is accounted for by a fact that has always been manifest in the spiritual life, and that is that a man cannot lead or lift people higher in the divine life than he has gone himself. Let the reader look where he will, and at whom he will, and tell us what preacher who denies the doctrine of sanctification by faith can show us souls rejoicing in purity of heart and perfect love as the result of the preaching of gradual sanctification. While on the other hand there are hundreds of ministers in the land who “press the instantaneous blessing” (Wesley) who can point to two and three hundred witnesses every year.
A second cause with many for failing to recognize and realize the blessing of sanctification is that it does not agree with their theology.
This can hardly be said of Methodist theology; for Wesley, Clarke, Benson, Watson, Smith, Ralston, and others, clearly present the second work of grace. If the people would study these writers, this objection would fall. The misfortune is, however, that the people fail to go to the fountain heads of our theological system, and listen instead to those who quote them with a mind prejudiced against the holy doctrine. There is a great difference here!
The Methodist Church would be amazed today if she knew how few of her preachers have ever read Mr. Wesley’s little volume on “Christian Perfection.” Some have read a few pages, some have skimmed; but many have not read a line in it, and few ever read it through. And yet all feel qualified to say what Mr. Wesley thought and said on the subject. We have prominent laymen in our Church opposing holiness who never had in their hands this book of the founder of their Church. And yet it is a work that Mr. Wesley never recalled, nor retracted therefrom a single utterance.
We would add another fact: that we never yet met a Methodist preacher who had read Mr. Wesley’s Journal through, and few who have read such of it, and yet it is in this Journal that he has so much to say about the second work of grace. They all can quote from his letter to Maxfield, because so often printed in religious newspapers of today, and because it is a warning against extremism, but are not so familiar with the book itself from which it is taken, where Mr. Wesley writes of the wonderful work of grace going on among the people, and which he calls the second blessing, and declares to be the undoubted work of God.
This much we would say in regard to the theological objection, if there was one: That if we saw many people in an experience of the spiritual life that had lifted them far above their and our own former regenerated experience, and we saw that there were many passages in the Scripture that favored, described, and otherwise taught such a blessing, then we would believe in it, and seek it with the whole soul, whether our theology taught it or not. Theologies are of man. They are men’s conceptions of Bible teachings or truths, and can never equal the Bible itself. As students go deeper into the Word, and the Spirit reveals, theologies grow. Hence it is that we have seen them carried to the anvil and sometimes to the dissecting table. Sometimes the theology of a denomination has to be brought to the legislative department of the Church, and there be enlarged to fit the body of the growing experience of the people of God. Thank God, the Methodist Church is under no need to do this! The second divine work, or hol iness received by faith, is taught by her founder, her commentators, and leading theologians. There are other denominations not so fortunate. But of this we are confident: that in the near future the people of more than one Church will have their theological garments on the legislative tailoring table, with instructions to cut them after the pattern of full salvation, so as to fit the experience of the people. Between a blessed religious experience and a defective theology some denominations are called to decide. The author would advise them to hold on to their experience, and as soon as possible mend and perfect their theology.
A third cause of the failure of many to recognize and realize the blessing of heart purity is that they demand to understand all about it before obtaining the experience. They ask countless questions on the subject. It must agree not only theologically, but physiologically and psychologically, with their notions. It must be susceptible of mathematical proof, and not have a shadow of doubt resting upon it. They must be satisfied thoroughly on every point that may be raised by reason or doubt before they will even begin to seek for the blessing.
Their attitude is precisely similar to that of Nicodemus when he was asking Christ to explain the mystery of regeneration. It will be remembered that the Saviour did not explain, but likened it to the incomprehensible coming and going of the wind. “Thou knowest not whence it cometh or whither it goeth.” If the Lord said this of regeneration, what would be have stated about this work which the Bible calls the “mystery of the gospel” and the “secret of the Lord.” The attitude of the questioners and doubters of sanctification is also like that of the unbelieving world toward Christianity. Everything must be explained to the skeptic before he will even entertain the idea of believing. The trinity–the dual nature of Christ–the character of the resurrection, and other gospel mysteries, must all be demonstrated and proved with the clearness of an arithmetical sum on the blackboard. Then, perhaps, he will descend a few steps from the proud throne of reason and consider the case as it relates to him personally. H ow our regenerated brethren would smilingly say to the skeptic or unbeliever after this manner: “There are some things that reason cannot grasp, but God has given us the power to believe and accept where we cannot understand. It is not necessary to understand a thing in order to be blessed by it. A babe does not comprehend its mother. A man cannot unravel the mystery of the sun, and yet he is cheered and blessed by its beams. Even so believe in Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Thus do regenerated men talk to unbelievers, and yet straightway forget all their arguments when brought face to face with the mystery of sanctification.
If the writer had waited until he understood all the faith-and-reason-trying features of sanctification, he never would have obtained the blessing. Instead of this, he first secured the pearl of great price, determining to study its nature afterwards. He obtained the blessing first, knowing that he had all the present life and the life to come to explore the heights and depths of the gracious mystery. He has never been sorry that he pursued that plan.
There is one lesson that God’s children have to learn over and over. They first mastered it at conversion, but they forgot it, and it has to be relearned many times. This lesson is that obedience to God is the condition of spiritual knowledge. It is not by reasoning that the world knows God or the things of God. The Bible says so, and we all know it to be so. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” Obedience to the Word of God inducted us into the regenerated life; obedience brings us to know the mind of Christ; obedience reveals duty; and obedience to certain divine requirements will bring a man into the experience of sanctification. Experience alone can clear up the darkness and mystery of the doctrine. Regeneration was once dark; but when the pardoning grace of God was felt, how clear! Sanctification seems to have heavy clouds and shadows resting upon it; but once entered upon, the clouds are seen to skirt the edge and border alone, while the life itself is a Beulah Land of brightn ess and glory.
We cannot understand a road until we travel it. It is absurd for one to try to picture its topography– its peculiar features of bridge and woodland, cottage home, village, church spire, and country field until he has traveled along its length. All description will fail of the reality. Just as absurd is it for a man to demand to understand sanctification before he has entered upon the gracious and wonderful experience.
The way for a person to do is, first, to get it, and then take his time to understand. When seeking pardon and regeneration we were not the least concerned about where the doctrine stood in the economy of salvation; what preceded and what followed. A preacher was telling us at the time about the force of the subjunctive mood in a certain verse of invitation. But what did we care for this subjunctive mood? We were after pardon. This was the mood that filled us! So a man who is hunger for holiness, and panting for Christ and his fullness, will not worry his head about the theological position of the doctrine of holiness, nor about the effect of sanctification on his posterity, nor about the new relation he sustains to God, nor about his moral state in case of relapse. These things do not occupy his mind. His one desire is for purity, his one cry is, “My God, give me a holy heart”–and he gets it!
The man involved in tenses and moods and Greek roots, and who is worried about psychology and theology, does not get it. That is just the difference. The Jews did not analyze the manna; they simply and sensibly gathered it, ate it, and lived. They did not take a hammer, file, and acids and go to examining and analyzing the brazen serpent; they simply looked and were saved.
A fourth cause for the blindness of many in regard to this great blessing is, that they are not yearning for the experience. Let the reader run his eye mentally over the congregations he knows in the land. Who among them is panting for holiness and perfect Christlikeness “as the hart panteth after the water brook?” Preachers and religious journals alike all over the country are deploring the coldness, deadness, and worldliness of the Church. The people, as a rule, are satisfied with a low justified state. They want enough religion to save them from hell, but not an amount that would entail the sacrifice of certain practices and pursuits and the entire loss of the world. All of them have just as much religion as they want; if they desired more, they would have more. They are satisfied to live at a poor, dying rate.
The force of the cause mentioned above is now to be seen. Spiritual hunger and thirst not only precede being filled with righteousness, but they somehow clarify the moral vision and discover almost invariably the way of holiness. To be without this hunger and thirst is to be without the desire for a higher experience and without the power to see that there is such a blessing for the soul. To all such the preaching of a holy heart as obtainable by consecration and faith is not only distasteful, but, sad to say, is absolute foolishness.
We mention a fifth cause why many of God’s people fail to come into the blessing. This reason is found in the reproach connected with the doctrine and experience. It has always been attended with reproach, and will be until the millennium. Let the reader inquire into the secret of religious persecution in the past, and he will find the doctrine of holiness always involved. The antagonism and abuse of Mr. Wesley was not occasioned by his views of justification, but by his preaching the doctrine of Christian perfection. There is no truth in Christianity that so arouses the fury of devils and men as that of the destruction of the “old man,” or full salvation from sin.
If any child of God wants to know what reproach and suffering are in the Christian life, let him obtain the experience of sanctification and express it before the people. If a man gets it and keeps quiet, all will go well except the blessing, itself. But if he presumes to testify and preach the glorious truth that Christ can make the heart pure, and declares at the same time that he has done this work for him, then look out for outside trouble at once. The hatred felt in various quarters toward this Christ-honoring and blood-exalting doctrine is as sorrowful a spectacle as it is amazing. It is unmistakable. It appears in the eye, is heard in the voice, is declared in the freezing manner, drips from the editorial pen, rings in the attack made upon it in ecclesiastical assemblies, and is read in Church appointments. Meantime the man himself is at first filled with surprise at the state of affairs. He is conscious that he never loved the Church and the brethren as fervently before, that his ministry was never more fruitful, that he never preached with greater spiritual power; and yet, behold! he finds reproach, reproach, reproach on all sides. He was made to groan by his Church until he obtained the blessing of perfect love, and now he is made to groan again because he has obtained it.
This fact of reproach decides the matter with many. They would like the blessing of sanctification, but not at such a cost. They would like to have a holy heart, but they want to have an easy time and be popular with everybody at the same time. A most impossible thing! And so many turn from this crowning blessing of Christianity. Some prefer to be some great man’s little man than to be God’s man. Some are unwilling to forfeit episcopal favor. Some are not ready to give up large city churches and “go out not knowing whither they go.” Some are unwilling to jeopardize their chances for the episcopate. All are unwilling that reproach and ridicule should be fastened upon them, and that all manner of things should be said about them. The pearl of full salvation is too costly. They are not ready like the merchantman to pay down all their substance for it.
There is a blessed experience of coming to Christ, finding everything, living in his service while he looks on us and loves us; there is another and higher experience in which one sells out in the deepest sense of the word, leaves everything, and follows Christ. We are called to it by the Saviour. But many turn away sorrowful. They have great possessions–reputation, influence, earthly hopes and prospects, and other things that they are unwilling to sacrifice. Moses chose affliction–preferred the reproach of Christ–but they do not.
They fail to realize that the reproaches of Christ are greater riches than the treasures of Egypt or the entire world. Such a life may look like a carcass, but it is a carcass full of honey. We may appear like deluded or demented people to the Michals laughing at us from the window; but the ark of God is with us; we know we have the truth; our own mouth is filled with holy laughter, our heart with praises; and so we can stand with perfect resignation the amusement of an unbelieving world.
Here, then, are some of the causes that prevent Christians from having the “old man” slain, and entering at once upon the enjoyment of full salvation: lack of definite preaching on the subject, theological difficulties, the demand to understand beforehand all mysteries connected with the doctrine, the absence of real yearning for the blessing, and the reproach that always attends the experience.
What a pity that any of these things should be allowed to be a swinging sword of fire to keep the soul out of an Eden filled with spiritual beauty, and glorious with the unclouded and perpetual presence of the Lord!
Reader, have you followed the writer through the pages of this volume, and do you desire the death of the “old man,” and would you be clothed upon with the New Man? Would you have sin to go, and holiness enter, and Christ reign without a rival continually in the heart? Then come at once to the Strong Man, the Mighty to save, the Wonderful, the Prince of Peace, the Saviour of the world. You will find him “outside the gate.” “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.”
“Let us go.” We have lost already too much time in waiting. Alas for the sad hours and days of spiritual failure that should not have been since the Deliverer has come!
“Unto him.” It is Christ we want, not time nor death nor growth. We want the New Man who conquered Satan, and can slay the “old man.”
“Without the camp.” Some victims were slain in the temple court, and one was offered outside the gate. Thus the Bible teaches the double work and cure. The sanctifying blood is not believed on in the camp; alas that we have to go outside until today to find it.
“Bearing his reproach.” We cannot obtain the blessing apart from a certain ignominy. The nails, thorns, sponge of vinegar, mocking, and rejection, all await us who would come to the purifying blood outside the gate.
Nevertheless, let us go to him. We will never be sorry. With the “old man” dead, and the New Man reigning within us, how can one be sorry? Nor is this all; for in the tenth verse of the thirteenth chapter of Hebrews, we read that we will “have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.” Promoted from Levites to priests, there is a different and richer fare according to the word just quoted. The table is set, and we eat in the presence of our enemies, our heads are anointed with oil, our cups run over, goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.