Perfect Love – By John Wood

Chapter 12

Reasons Why Every Christian Should Be Entirely Sanctified

140. Why should every Christian possess perfect love?

1. Because, with out it, we can neither do, nor be all that God commands. His greatest and iterated command is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” We certainly cannot love God with all our heart, while indwelling sin remains in it. He commands us to “rejoice evermore,” to “love our enemies,” to “pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks,” to “reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin,” to “be clothed with humility,” to “be filled with the spirit,” and to “be holy,” all of which is impossible without a pure heart. The commands enjoining holiness are just as numerous, positive, and imperative as any in the Bible.

2. Because without entire sanctification it is impossible to be free from indwelling sin, the rudiments of the “carnal mind,” which is enmity against God. These disturbing, discordant elements — “roots of bitterness — will spring up and trouble us. The death of the “old man,” the “body of sin,” by crucifixion, mortification, or destruction, is imperative. It is commanded: “Mortify, therefore, your members, which are upon the earth.” “That our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed.” Then grace will purify every thought, and regulate every desire, and sweeten every disposition.

3. Because, without it, the remaining evils of our unsanctified hearts will often prevail in our passions and propensities, and our Christian characters will be marred and defective. While any forces remain in the heart, antagonistic to grace, the Christian is not fully prepared for the conflicts and race before him. Our privilege and duty are clearly seen in the declaration: “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing but that it should be holy and without blame.”

4. Because, if our hearts are not cleansed from inbred sin, the work of grace will be so interrupted and obstructed by it, that we cannot become “rooted and grounded in love.” No man can become thoroughly settled and established, like a tree whose roots strike deep and extend without obstruction in every direction, while his heart remains uncleansed.

“That ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

5. Because, without Christian purity our growth in grace will be obstructed and unsteady. Christian purity secures the best possible ground for rapid growth in love, knowledge, and power. While only partly saved, like ancient Israel, our Christian life will be unsteady, and we shall take a zigzag course in the wilderness, object to all the workings and dangers of “indwelling sin.” “Let us lay aside every weight, and the (inbred) sin, which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (steadiness) the race that is set before us.”

6. Because, without entire sanctification our knowledge of personal salvation is necessarily superficial, as we know only in part. Without an experimental knowledge, we cannot know personally that “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Some things can be known only by experience. The pure in heart have the “witness of the Spirit,” and a consciousness of full salvation. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.”

7. Because, without holiness we cannot be free from distressing convictions of moral deficiency — that we are not what we ought to be, in view of the possibilities and necessities of the Christian life. Christ has said, “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; ” and, “That servant, which knew his Lord’s will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

8. Because, without purity our communion with God will inevitably be intermittent. None but the pure in heart are free from the disturbing antagonisms to grace. Inbred sin interrupts communion with God. It is only the pure in heart who have constant fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

“What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God.”

9. Because, without perfect love we cannot be entirely saved from tormenting, slavish, unsanctified fear. “Perfect love (alone) casteth out fear; ” and he that is not in possession of this grace has some “fear that hath torment.” “God is love and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment. There is no fear in love. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

10. Because, without perfect love we cannot enter fully into gospel rest, and possess undisturbed peace of mind. Purity alone can secure soul rest — freedom from all the disquieting and jarring discords of indwelling sin. “We, which have believed, do enter into rest.” In this rest the tumult of the heart is hushed in peace. The work of righteousness (holiness) shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”

11. Because, purity is essential to “full assurance of faith,” and a continuous witness of justification. Inbred sin darkens our spiritual vision, often obscures the clear light of justification, and is fruitful of darkness, doubts, and fears. Conscious confidence in Christ and a conscious neglect of privilege and duty cannot coexist in our hearts. Clear light and the witness of the Spirit cannot be steadily retained without possessing or seeking full conformity to all the will of God. “Ye are my friends,” said Jesus, “if you do whatsoever I command.”

12. Because it is the end and aim of the whole Christian system. Holiness is the grand object and aim of the gospel economy. For this purpose Christ died, the Holy Scriptures were given, the means of grace instituted, and the work and agency of the Holy Ghost furnished. “And holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”

13. Because, if not sought there is the utmost danger of backsliding. Not to go forward is to go back, and “end in the flesh.” There is no standing still in a religious life. Israel could not stay on the borders of the promised land; they had either to go over, or measure their steps back into the wilderness.

14. Because, without entire sanctification we cannot occupy the best vantage-ground to resist temptation and achieve complete victory over Satan. Holiness involves all the elements of stability and strength, and affords power in the hour of trial, and great moral endurance in the conflicts of life. It secures the safest possible condition of probation. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Christian holiness would save us from many annoyances and difficulties of life. It would lift us above them. If the eagle were to fly low along the ground, every man might aim a dart at it but when it soars into the clouds, it is above every arrow’s reach. So they that are fully saved, “mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”

15. Because, without perfect love we cannot possess that full measure of religious joy and healthful happiness which God has provided for us, and which our nature and circumstances require. The enjoyments of the entirely sanctified heart are full, purely religious, and divine.

When our blessed Redeemer stood and cried at the Jewish feast, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink,” He called upon all to come and drink at the fountain of his own infinite felicity. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” This completes the climax. Halleluiah!

16. Because, without entire sanctification we cannot reach the maximum of our spiritual power, or attain our greatest usefulness. Other circumstances being equal, God always graduates the Christian’s influence by his purity. Love and purity are the strongest elements of moral power, and he who has them is invincible. Proportionately to our purity, God and good men will love us, and in the same proportion we shall have influence with God and with men. “If a man therefore purge himself from these (inward defilements), he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”

17. Because, perfect love is the most pleasing expression of gratitude to God for his infinite goodness. When we were in our sins, he convicted, pardoned, and regenerated our unworthy soul. Should we not be as entire now in the service of God as we were in the service of the devil? We are under infinite obligations of love and praise to God. He has given us his Son, his Truth, and his Spirit. He has provided for us a seat in heaven, a robe of righteousness, a harp of gold, a crown of glory, and special place in the center of his eternal love. “That where I am there ye may be also.”

18. Because, God is holy — essentially, absolutely, unchangeably, and transcendently HOLY. He infinitely loves holiness, and infinitely hates sin. He delights only in that which possesses his own nature, and bears his own image. He is the infinite model and source of holiness, and desires that all his creatures should be holy. Because it is written, “Be ye yourselves also holy.” — Alford.

19. Because, holiness has intrinsic excellence and glory in itself. It brings a whole constellation of virtues into a single heart — perfect love, perfect faith, perfect humility, perfect patience, and perfect purity. Here are riches and honors, like the source whence they emanate, glorious as heaven and lasting as eternity. These graces constitute the richest adornment of our nature. The garments of holiness are for glory and beauty. John Bunyan declared, “The ornament and beauty of this lower world, next to God and his works, are the men and women who sparkle and shine in the beauty of holiness.”

20. Because, the interest of the Redeemer’s kingdom demands it. We cannot glorify God fully without it. The lives of Christians are to be the practical exponents of the holy principles of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. “Ye are the light of the world.” Millions of sinners are perishing for want of a holy ministry and membership. For the want of entire sanctification, multitudes in both the ministry and membership do but little for God and the salvation of souls. Of Barnabas it is written: “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith and much people were added unto the Lord.”

If then, dear reader, without entire sanctification we are subjects of indwelling sin, which is unfriendly to our religious life — struggles for ascendency — disturbs our peace — obscures our spiritual vision — is the instrument of sore temptation — mars our Christian character — interrupts our communion with God — cripples our efforts to do good — occupies a place in our hearts which should be possessed by the Holy Spirit — obstructs our growth in grace — renders our service to God but partial — begets doubts and fears — hinders usefulness, and produces distressing convictions of moral deficiency, how can we neglect its extermination with impunity? “This is the will of God even your sanctification.” It is His will both permissively and authoritatively. Can we resist God’s will with impunity?

Bishop Foster beautifully says: “Motives to holiness! where shall we not go to find them? What direction shall we take to elude them? Are they not everywhere? Do they not come down from the heavens, and spring up from the earth? Do we not feel them within, and behold them without us? Is there anything that has a voice that does not preach it? Nay, do not even mute and dumb things urge it with silent but persuasive eloquence? What is heaven but an eternal monument of its glory? What is hell but a terrible and endless declaration of its necessity? The happiness of the former and the anguish of the latter equally impress it upon the hearts of thoughtless mortals. Indeed, turn where we will, whether to time or eternity, to the throne or the abyss, a million arguments commend it to us, a million voices urge it upon us. — Christian Purity, p. 184.

Reader, we are approaching a holy God, a holy heaven, and a company of saints and angels who cry: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; heaven and earth are full of his glory.”

141. Is not death a sanctifier?

It would seem that many believe so. This may not be said in words, but actions speak louder than words. the greater part of believers defer their sanctification until death, while death itself has no more to do with the believer’s sanctification than with his justification.

1. The Bible nowhere states or intimates that death sanctifies the soul. It nowhere exhorts Christians to rely upon death for their sanctification. Christ and the Apostles placed no reliance upon death for that purpose.


2. While the sacred writes speak often of the means, the agencies, and the time of sanctification, they never name death as its means, its agent, or its time.

3. If death sanctifies the soul then it, at least, is partially our Saviour; and thus the effect of sin (for “death is by sin”) becomes the means of finally destroying it; that is, the effect of a cause can re-act upon its cause, and destroy it.

4. Death, in its very nature and circumstances, is entirely unpropitious for the work of sanctification. If sanctification, as the Bible teaches, involves human agency, the free, intelligent action of the mind. “sanctified by faith,” ” through the truth,” death is no process of cleansing the soul.

5. If death sanctifies the soul, then the work is removed from the ground of moral agency, and we have no responsibility in the matter. This would nullify all the precepts requiring our agency to obtain personal holiness. That we have a personal responsibility in our sanctification is clear.

6. In so far as we can see, there is not a shadow of evidence that dissolving the connection between the soul and body will produce any effect upon the character or moral condition of the soul. The change produced by death is in our physical state and mode of being, and a mere physical change of state cannot relieve the soul of its pride, unbelief, selfishness, and corrupt lusts. Change of character is God’s work, and is by grace, through faith, by moral means.

7. Many appear to believe the old pagan dogma that the body is the seat of sin, and that depravity pertains only to the body, and that when the body dies, as the soul leaves the body it will be free from depravity. That the body is degenerated, and possessed of deranged appetites and propensities, making it “an instrument of unrighteousness,” is admitted but Christian sanctification has less regard to the body than to the soul, which is the seat of inbred sin. The carnal mind, or selfishness, pride, anger, covetousness, impatience, hatred, and all filthiness of the spirit, belong to the soul and not to the body.

142. If none are saved without entire sanctification, what becomes of those who deny this doctrine?

1. God will permit nothing unholy to enter heaven. “Without which (holiness) no man shall see the Lord.” This declares that purity (a certain moral quality) is requisite to admission into heaven. The “pure in heart” alone “shall see God.” Before men leave this world they must be purified and made perfectly holy, or they can have no place in the kingdom of God. God has no two sets of conditions for believers; all are to be cleansed from all sin by the blood of Christ, either before or at death.

2. Justification and regeneration do not supersede entire sanctification, which is a full preparation and the only preparation for heaven. A state of continued justification, in the gracious order of God, includes the assurance of entire sanctification. All justified souls are God’s children, are heirs of eternal life, and have a title heaven, and cannot fail of their inheritance if they do not forfeit their justification by apostasy. All men will be saved who die in a justified state before God, as all such are children of God by adoption, are absolved from the guilt of actual sin by pardon, and are free from any voluntary antagonism to holiness. Sudden death to such finds them covered with the covenant of grace, similar to the dying infant, which entitles them to the merits of Christ and heaven. Justified believers, in the event of their sudden death, stand in the same relation to God that infants do, and He (not death) perfects that which is lacking in them. Infants are justified, but they are not entirely sanctified. Dying infants go to heaven, but not without first being entirely sanctified, not by death, but by the blood of Christ.

3. A justified state implies an obedient spirit, and every one who maintains his justification is following after holiness, and his holiness or entire sanctification has begun. Every justified believer is partially sanctified, and has only to fully trust Jesus to be entirely sanctified; and all persevering believers will obtain this grace before death, inasmuch as the promise of eternal life carries with it the pledge on God’s part to bestow all needed grace. (Eph. v. 27; Phil. i. 6 Jude, 24. )

4. Although many Christians seem to deny this doctrine, they do, in fact, admit it virtually, if devoted to God. All true Christians have longings after it, and in different phraseology allow in substance what we claim for the entirely sanctified. Some, we believe, in all the several denominations have obtained what we claim as holiness, and, as already stated, all believers who are faithful unto death, so trust in Christ and renounce self that he makes them perfect in love and takes them home to heaven. They might have experienced it many years before, and lived as well as died in its possession, had they been properly instructed.

Thousands of believers would obtain perfect love if ministers more generally understood the doctrine, enjoyed the experience, and faithfully preached and lived it themselves. It is not essentially necessary that all persons use our phraseology, or that they have a very minute theoretical knowledge of the doctrine, in order to its experimental knowledge. But whatever our views or expressions on the theory of holiness, only those who die in possession of purity can enter the heavenly city.

“It is most absurd to suppose,” says Dr. George Peck, “that a justified soul can be lost, without having forfeited his justification by backsliding.” Christian Perfection, p. 28.

Dr. John Dempster says: “While it is true that no believer is lost, and that none with impurity is saved, it is equally true that no one retains his justification and dies without sanctification. Apostasy or purity is the only possible alternative after regeneration.” — Sermon at Biblical Institute.

143. What course do most professors of religion pursue in regard to holiness? Like the ancient Israelites, instead of going directly Canaan, they take a zigzag course of wandering in the wilderness. Their unbelief and disobedience prevent their entering the spiritual Canaan, and subject them to the necessity of a return to Egypt, or to ceaseless wanderings in the wilderness, almost in sight of the beautiful hills of that land, which flows with milk and honey. It was only twelve days’ journey from Horeb to Canaan. Mr. Wesley tells of believers who passed into Canaan, “some ten days, some seven, some four, and some three days” after they were delivered from the bondage of the devil.

144. What are the results of this course on the part of the Church?

The results are similar to those which befell the ancient Israelites. With their refusal to obey God, and go into Canaan, their backslidings and troubles commenced.

1. The ten cowardly, unbelieving. rebellious spies were struck dead on the spot. And may the Lord have mercy those ministers, who, following the example of the ten unbelieving spies, bring up an evil report from the land. Even some ministers who have been through the land, and have tasted of its precious fruits, have gone back into the wilderness, and have ceased to urge the people to go over. It is to be feared, when Jesus comes, such ministers will be found wanting.

2. The Israelites were ordered back into the wilderness; Christians begin to backslide when they feel it their duty. and see it their privilege, to seek holiness, and refuse to do it. As Israel could not stay on the borders of the promised land and not go over, so believers will backslide if they do not go on unto perfection.

3. Sin changed the countenance of God toward the Israelites, and put them under a terrible discipline. The same is strikingly true of those who know their duty in regard to seeking holiness, and do it not.

4. The Israelites were forsaken of God, defeated by their enemies, visited by destroying angels, by fiery serpents, leprosy, plagues, and earthquakes. They murmured, rebelled, and became cowardly, licentious, idolatrous, and a merciful God only knows what not. The carcasses of three millions of them fell in what was to them a howling wilderness. Analogous to all this are the terrible spiritual results of a refusal, on the part of the church, to go on to perfection. Among these results are, being forsaken of God, defeat in spiritual conflict, fiery trials, doubts, fears, and cowardice, coldness and moral stupor, worldliness, licentiousness, and idolatry. These things are fearfully prevalent in the various churches of Christendom.