Perfect Love – By John Wood

Chapter 13

Ministers Should Be Entirely Sanctified

145. Is it not vastly important that ministers of Christ be entirely sanctified to God?

It is. Hence, in our ordination service, each minister declares that he is “groaning after it,” and expects to “be made perfect in love.” Holiness is the chief element of efficiency in the ministry. Talents, learning, and eloquence without it are “as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.” Without it the minister can neither live, nor preach, nor labor as he should. There is a clearness, a strength, a fullness, an energy, and an unction needed in the sacred office impossible without entire holiness. It would be infinitely better for the church and the world, if every partially sanctified minister would suspend all effort in other directions till, “with strong crying and tears,” he receive the cleansing baptism of the Holy Ghost.

After the disciples received their great commission, they were repeatedly commanded to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they received power from on high. Although they had been under the immediate tuition of the Master himself (which was better than any theological school in the world), yet they were not prepared for their work without “the promise of the Father ” — the endowment of power.

“Perfect love casteth out fear,” and ministers need it in order to faithfulness to all classes, saints or sinners, in or out of the church of God. Perfect love makes fearless ministers. It enables them to labor in the strength of God with perfect freedom from all fear of the rich, the influential, or the wicked of their congregations. In the light and power of the Holy Ghost, the manner of their preaching is, “warning every man and teaching every man;” the matter of their preaching is, “Christ in you the hope of glory;” and the end of their preaching is, “that they might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

Ministers have duties, trials, and temptations peculiar to themselves, and need this grace to give them constant and complete victory over all their foes, and keep them firm in the path of duty. Nothing but the power and dominion of grace in a pure heart, can save any man from being affected in his ministerial work by his pocketbook, his reputation, or the frowns, the smiles, or praise of men. It requires a pure heart and a perfect love to be dead to all these things and keep our “eye single,” and our “whole body full of light.”

Brethren, the importance of our work, its difficulties, and the fearful responsibilities involved, all demand the best possible moral preparation. As ministers of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should be sanctified wholly, to a man, so as to stand in united solid phalanx against the combined powers of earth and hell. How Charles Wesley expresses this! —

“Stand then in his great might, With all his strength endued; But take to arm you for the fight The panoply of God.

“Indissolubly joined, To battle all proceed; But arm yourselves with all the mind That was in Christ our head.”

What glorious havoc such a body of ministers would make in tearing down Satan’s kingdom, and winning victories for Jesus! Their constant triumphs would fill heaven with joy, and hell with consternation. The great want of the church, the world, and the times, is a ministry filled with the fire, love, and power of the Holy Ghost — true, invincible, holy men of God.

Rev. Charles G. Finney says: “To me it seems very manifest that the great difference in ministers in regard to their spiritual influence and usefulness, does not lie so much in their literary and scientific attainments as in the measure of the Holy Ghost which they enjoy.

“A thousand times as much stress ought to be laid upon this part of a thorough preparation for the ministry as has been. Until it is felt, acknowledged, and proclaimed upon the housetops, rung through our halls of science, and sounded forth in our theological seminaries, that this is altogether an indispensable part of the preparation for the work of the ministry, we talk in vain and at random when we talk of the necessity of a thorough preparation and course of training.”

“I must confess that I am alarmed, grieved, and distressed beyond expression, when so much stress is laid upon the necessity of mere human learning, and so little upon the necessity of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”

“Of what use would ten thousand ministers be without being baptized with the Holy Ghost? Ten thousand times ten thousand of them would be instrumental neither in sanctifying the Church nor in converting the world.” — Letter in Oberlin Evangelist.

Bishop Hedding says, in his address to the N. J. Conference: “It is as important that you (ministers) should experience this holy work. as it is that the sinners to whom you preach should be converted.”

146. Can a minister successfully preach perfect love without the experience himself?

He cannot as clearly, nor as successfully as with the experience. He may, and should preach it, as well as he can, while he may not be clear in the experience; he may present the theory correctly, and may lead some to its enjoyment, but not as he might with the light and power of the grace in his own soul. Without the experience, no man can urge believers to obey God in all things, to be holy, and love Him with all the heart, without the reproving thought, “Physician, heal thyself” How can we skillfully pilot others through a channel filled with shoals and dangers, into the haven of Perfect Love, which we have never traversed ourselves? If ministers would successfully lead the children of God into the spiritual Canaan, they must first go themselves and taste the sweets of that land “flowing with milk and honey.” Christ said: “The shepherd goeth before the flock, and leadeth them.” How can we expect to send the people ahead of us? If we know the way better than they do, should not our superior knowledge be accompanied by a superior life? Have not the people a right to expect it? Oh, let us go before them, and be able to say, Follow us, even as we follow Christ.

1. Bishop Peck says “How can her ministers thoroughly and effectually ‘show the house of Jacob her iniquities, and God’s people their sins,’ and leal them to the cleansing blood, while they are themselves neither made ‘perfect in love,’ nor groaning after it.” The cause of such lamentable weakness in these Heaven-sanctioned efforts stands out as clear as the sun. Many of us, to whose charge the work is solemnly committed, are sanctified but in part and with deep solicitude, but strict fidelity, we must add, some of us seem content to remain so.” — Central Idea, p. 128.

2. President Mahan writes: “I must myself be led by the Great Shepherd into the ‘green pastures, and beside the still waters,’ before I could lead the flock of God into the same blissful regions.”

3. “Whatever is our level in Christian life,” says Dr. Lovick Pierce, “will be the level of our general membership. If we are not after entire sanctification, so neither will our members be.” — Sermon before Gen. Con.

4. Dr. George Peck says: “How important is a holy ministry! Well was the injunction given, “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord!” The church will scarcely take a higher stand in religion than that which is occupied by the ministry. And the ministry will lead the flock on in paths of peace and holiness in the same proportion in which they are themselves possessed of the spirit if holiness.” — Christian Perfection, p. 422.

5. Before Rev. Henry Smith enjoyed the blessing, he preached it merely because it was in his creed. He says in a letter to Bishop Asbury: ” When you, sir, was enforcing the necessity of preaching sanctification, ‘not in a commonplace way, but to feel the importance of it,’ it sunk deep into my heart for I knew I had been guilty of preaching sanctification merely because it was in my creed.”

After the Lord cleansed his heart, he writes to Bishop Asbury the following: “Glory be to God in the highest, I am unspeakably happy. The half respecting perfect love has never been told me. Oh, how I long for all Christians, Christian ministers in particular, to be made partakers of perfect love! … Oh, if all our preachers enjoyed perfect love, how they would scatter the holy fire through the cities, towns, and country! Our enemies themselves would be constrained to call the Methodists the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord. The Lord grant you great success in STIRRING UP THE PREACHERS TO SEEK AFTER HOLINESS.”

6. Rev. B. W. Gorham well says: “What a man is to teach he must have. If it be to teach mathematics, he must be a mathematician; if it be to teach botany, he must be a botanist; if it be Greek, he must get Greek; and if we are to teach holiness, we must first have holiness….. An oculist must not have sore eyes. The man who treats rheumatics must not limp. He must not go about with a chronic cough who sells ‘a sure cure for consumption.’ ” — God’s Method with Man, p. 176.

The experience of this blessing furnishes the power and impulse to preach it. Such a minister can preach holiness, and say: “We speak that which we do know, and testify that which we have seen.” with such there will be no apologizing for delaying to preach on the subject but the holy fire burning within will flame out, and holiness will be preached and offered to all who “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” The doctrine and experience will come out of a sanctified man as spontaneously as sweetness comes out of a rose, or as water bubbles up from a living fountain.

147. Why is there so little preaching upon this subject?

Undoubtedly it is because so few of the ministry enjoy it themselves.

Bishop Peck says “But there are reasons why holiness is not more faithfully preached. It is hard to raise the stream higher than the fountain. It is hard to preach what we have never experienced, and the fear of the reproach, ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ we doubt not, hinders many of us from charging home upon the members of the churches their remaining corruptions, their neglect of ‘the blood’ that ‘cleanseth from all sin,’ and their exposure to apostasy and final ruin in consequence.

“Every command to the disciples of Christ uttered by us from the word of God, ‘Be ye holy,’ would condemn us; every promise urged for the encouragement of seekers for the blessing, would excite the inquiry, Why does not the preacher lay hold of the promises? Alas! how many have been deterred from preaching a present, rich, and full salvation, by the terrors which these interrogatories have inspired!

We can thus see how it is that we have so little preaching on the subject of holiness. The want of experience renders it unpleasant to do it, and hard to do it truthfully and effectually.” Central Idea, p. 376.