Perfect Love – By John Wood

Chapter 19

Objections To Christian Holiness

172. Will you reply to the following objections to entire holiness?

1. “If all sin were expelled from the heart, the Christian warfare would cease.”

When the heart is pure, Satan is not chained in hell, and a pure heart may have war with outside enemies, both offensive and defensive. After all sin is expelled from the heart, we shall have a warfare to KEEP it out. It is a mistake to suppose that the Christian warfare is confined to inward, bosom foes. The world is our enemy. We can “war a good warfare,” although no enemy has a residence in the heart. England and France were at war with each other for years, without England invading France, or France invading England. Desperate battles were fought on the lines, and on the seas. Satan goeth about “as a roaring lion,” whom we are “to resist steadfast in the faith.” Our blessed Saviour was entirely free from sin, but he had a warfare, and was tempted in all points, like as we are, and yet without sin. “The servant is not above his Lord.”

2. “You teach that men can live without sin.”

St. Paul says: “Awake to righteousness, and sin not.” David says: “Stand in awe, and sin not.”St. John says: “He that committeth sin is of the devil ” that is, he who knowingly, voluntarily, and habitually sins, is a child of the devil and not a Christian. Again he says: “He that is born of God doth not commit sin.” He who commits sin falls from grace, and becomes dead in trespasses and sins. St. Paul says: “God forbid that we should continue in sin.” To commit sin, is to “continue in sin.” God hates sin, forbids sin, and in the light of gospel provision expects us to live without sin. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.”

3. “If any were entirely sanctified, they would immediately die and go to heaven.”

If this is sincere, will the objector tell us how much sins is necessary to keep us alive? and how much holiness we can possess without endangering our lives? According to this, the more wicked a man is the more likely he is to live, while the Bible teaches that “the wicked shall not live out half his days.” Where does the Bible teach that men can live no longer, when they are cleansed from all sin, so as to love God with all their hearts? Is perfect love a poisonous and killing thing? It is generally believed that this poor, wicked world is suffering for want of holy men and women, more than any other world to which they can be transferred. If as soon as a man becomes holy he must die and go to heaven, this world is truly in a pitiable condition.

4. “If a soul is entirely sanctified, it no longer needs the blood of Christ.” Our Lord says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches;” and, “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a (severed) branch, and is withered.” This objection implies, that the branch has no longer any need of being connected with the vine, because it bears much fruit. It takes the same power that saves, to keep. The same light that expels darkness from a room keeps it expelled. If a man should tell you we have no need of the sun now that it is daylight, his argument would be precisely parallel to this objection. (See question 28. )

5. “If a man is entirely sanctified, I cannot see any chance for further improvement.”

In answer to this objection see question 37.

Dr. D. A. Whedon says: “There is, and can be no subsequent experience of a distinct change, for restoration to the image of God is complete. There is development and growth, but no specially marked gradations. Heretofore the work of the Spirit has affected the quality of the love; henceforth it increases the quantity. The love is now pure, and future growth gives more and more pure love, — the measure of it will depend upon the soul’s capacity.” — N. C. Advocate, 1862.

Rev. B. W. Gorham says: “Growth in grace is mostly subsequent to the obtainment of purity of heart.” … “Now when grace has cleansed the heart, the salvation of the subject is perfected — completed. And that heart can not be more than simply clean. But can not grace, that performed the work of purifying that heart, still work within to enrich and endow it with new measures of love, light, and power? ” — God’s Method with Man, p. 157.

6. “This doctrine leads to pride.”

That cannot be, as perfect humility is an essential part of it. When it can be shown that health leads to sickness, strength to weakness, light to darkness, wealth to poverty, or virtue to vice, then, in the nature of things, this objection may be true. No Christian (other circumstances being equal) has so clear and correct views of original and acquired depravity, of actual sin, of his dependence on Christ, and of his numberless weaknesses and infirmities as he who is made perfect in love.

These more than any other, sensibly feel their unworthiness, and that salvation is by grace. Pride would sever their union with Christ, plunge them into darkness and doubt at once; hence, they in spirit lie in the dust, at the feet of the Lord Jesus. While Christ has done great things for them whereof they are glad, yet they say, “By the grace of God I am what I am;” and, “What have I that I have not received?”

Can it be that seeking to be humble, and being humble, is the way to become proud? or that spiritual poverty, lowliness, and meekness tend to self-importance? If so, the more religion one has the greater danger of his losing it; hence, the less religion we have, the better.

If Christians are in danger of spiritual pride, that danger is greatest to those who have the least religion, otherwise the less religion we have the safer we are.

The plain truth is, the life will answer to the heart as the streams to the fountain, the fruit to the tree. Make the tree good and the fruit will be good. Cleanse the fountain, and the streams will be sweet. Christ said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things, and the evil man out of the evil treasure, evil things.” Hence, to secure a “clean” or “pure heart,” is not the path to pride or self-importance.

Dr. Steele answers this objection: “As well might you ask whether a man would not lift up his head haughtily when his neck has been broken.” … “When it is demonstrated that men must drink a little whiskey daily in order to be temperate, steal a trifling amount every day in order to be honest, tell a few fibs every twenty-four hours in order to be truthful, and occasionally violate the seventh commandment that they may maintain purity, then we will sit down and soberly answer this objection.” — Love Enthroned, p. 73.

7. “It leads to fanaticism.”

That there have been fanatics who have believed and advocated this doctrine, we admit; but we do not admit that Christian holiness either made them fanatics, or tends to fanaticism.

It is said that one or two persons, among the many thousands who have attended Mr. Moody’s meetings, have become insane but who believes that Mr. Moody’s teachings lead to insanity, and stays from his meetings on that account? A student at Cornell University recently became insane and committed suicide; but what parent believes that education tends to insanity, and refuses to educate his son lest he become insane?

If it be true that entire devotion to God, and a heart full of religion, tend to fanaticism, then Christianity is self-destructive, and the more we have, the worse we are off. If to come out from the world, and lead a self-denying life, striving to obey, love, and please God in all things, be fanaticism, then the Bible requires us all to be fanatics, and the churches ought to be full of them.

The worst and the most common religious fanatics, are those who expect the end without the means, — who expect the blessing of God without seeking it, — who are expecting heaven without securing either a title to it, or a preparation for it. God has joined the end and the means together, and it is fatally fanatical to expect pardon and heaven without repentance, faith, and holiness.

8. “It sets aside repentance.”

No, indeed! Perfect Christians have a deeper abhorrence of sin, more pungent conviction of their former depravity and guilt before God, and greater holy shame and grief over their present defects, than any other class of Christians. They have shortcomings, but not such as the unholy are guilty of — they do not neglect any known duty, or do anything which they believe will be displeasing to God: but short-sightedness, infirmities of body, and defective knowledge, all involve involuntary failures, entirely consistent with pure intentions and perfect love to God. Purity of heart involves a tender conscience, spiritual poverty, and perfect repentance.