Perfect Love – By John Wood

Chapter 23


197. What was the distinguishing characteristic of the great Wesleyan reformation?

“The Wesleyan reformation was eminently a movement in favor of holiness. The true doctrine of Christian perfection was, perhaps, more clearly taught and powerfully enforced than at any former time since the days of primitive purity. And while the great mass of converts made it their aim, large numbers passed on to the actual experience and living demonstration of the power of Christ to cleanse from all sin. And mark the result: ‘No weapon formed against them could prevail.’ From the feeblest beginnings, without wealth, without power, in the midst of the most violent persecutions, they have moved on in a career of usefulness unparalleled since the days of the apostles.” — Bishop Peck: Central Idea, p. 26.

198. Is not the church subject to many and great dangers?

She is; and in view of it needs holiness as a coat of mail and a strong tower, to secure her safety. She has frightful dangers in her outward prosperity. She has dangers in her accumulation of wealth and numbers, and in her increasing popular and secular power and unless her purity and moral power are kept clear and strong, she will inevitably meet with sad and deplorable reverses.

The Methodist Church is in great danger of drifting away from her primitive simplicity, spirituality, and healthful discipline. It is believed by many that while she is increasing in numbers and becoming wealthy and popular, there are sad and unmistakable evidences that in many places she is losing her original zeal, sacrificing spirit, and spiritual power.

When the Methodist Church, or any other church, relies for her success upon any thing but deep, vital, and practical godliness, she will inevitably fail in accomplishing her great mission. Numbers, wealth, learning, position, or popularity, can never supply the place of piety. This is indispensable, and it must be first, last, and always.

Were Mr. Wesley to leave his mansion near the throne, and visit the Methodist churches of America, we fear he would have occasion to cry out, in many places, in the language of the venerable Asbury, who, just before he died, preached in Baltimore, at the Eutaw-Street Church with great plainness of speech; and after expressing his fears that the Baltimorians were departing from the simplicity of Methodism, he raised his voice and cried aloud, “Come back! COME BACK!! COME BACK!!!

These are times of peril and danger to Christians. “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” It is not as easy now to serve God faithfully as many appear to suppose. the path of duty is being obscured in many ways. Efforts to popularize Christianity, by driving Christian morality to the very bounds of evil, are constantly put forth. Worldly compromise is on the increase. The great problem of the age appears to be, not how to be Christ-like; not how to bring the human heart into complete conformity with the heart and life of Christ; but how may we conform to the world, and not lose our hope nor our Christian reputation? How much like the world may we live, and still maintain a profession of friendship for Christ and a hope of heaven?

Efforts to work out this problem are having a terrible influence upon the practical and experimental Christianity of this age. Such is its moulding power upon the sentiments and practice of a large portion of professing Christians, that they bear only a slight resemblance to the sentiments, practices, and experience of the apostolic church. Hence the way to heaven, instead of becoming more plain and easy, as men have sought to make it, has been rendered vastly more perilous. The difficulties in the way of a truly godly life are not less than formerly, but in some respects are on the increase. This, to the really wise and deeply spiritual, is becoming more and more apparent. We live in an age of deep, insidious, satanic operation.

Many of the most spiritual duties and exercises of true religion, such as closet devotion, self-examination, self-abasement, and penitential sorrow before God, have, with many, become old-fashioned and obsolete; while precisely those parts of worship and items of truth are retained which serve to excite and amuse the sensibilities and play upon the surface of the emotions without stirring up the muddy, putrid depths of the heart’s corruption. We have plenty of sentimental music and sentimental preaching. We have a brilliant display of rhetoric, descanting upon whatever is magnificent, and entertaining; while there is a scarcity of fearless, uncompromising, honest-souled men, who “cry aloud and spare not,” and lift up their voice like a trumpet to “show Jacob their transgressions and Israel their sins.”

There is a want of men who fearlessly apply the great law of God, and the law of love, to all the vices of the age, and the time-serving, worldly tendencies of the church. These are not the dreams of a morbid fancy, or the suggestions of an uncharitable judgment; would they were either, rather than the painful truth. We are aware there are many precious exceptions — many thousands who are true to God, and are ready to meet and bear a baptism of blood, if need be, for the cause of Christ; but still facts enough are before our eyes to prompt, press, and push the questions: How many professed Christians participate with the ungodly in vain amusements? How many follow, and how many even lead in extravagant equipage and worldly follies? How many do business on principles which will not bear the light of Bible morality? “LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF.”

Or, to come to the fountain-head of these streams, how many are utter strangers to real communion with God? How many in all our churches are without the witness of the Spirit to their Divine acceptance? Has not the love of Christ in many — alas! in very many — waxed grievously cold? How many never go to any religious meeting, except to a sermon on the Sabbath, and not even to that if the preacher is a plain, faithful man?

A little further back still: How many will not endure plain dealing in the pulpit, or a faithful rebuke of their sins, and will neither employ nor sit under a preacher whose heart is really set on their repentance and holy life? And farther back still: How many even of the ministry fearfully conform to these demands, and are ready to preach smooth things and palatable things, how ever low the spiritual life of the church may degenerate? These things seen all about us lie with oppressive weight upon our heart. It must be seen the world is yet far from being in sympathy with Christ, or in allegiance to His scepter. Truly, “in the last days perilous times shall come.”

199. Is it wrong to seek the good opinion of our fellowmen?

A modified desire for the good opinions of our fellowmen, within given bounds, is constitutional, and may not wrong, nor displeasing to God: but to seek and receive the honor and favor of men, rather than that of God, indicates spiritual blindness and contempt for God. Pride, vanity, and self-love are the ruin of millions. What was true in the days of Christ and the apostles, is true now: “If I yet pleased (wicked) men, 1 should not be the servant of Christ.” Our Saviour asked: “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which cometh from God only?” The honor which cometh from men is their praise, flattery, and commendation; the honor which cometh from God is His approbation and pleasure toward them who do His will.

Seeking honor of men, impiously, is indicated, —

1. When men are more anxious about their reputation the sight of men, than about their character in the sight of God; as when they wink at, ignore, or modify unpopular truths, and avoid unpleasant duties to please men. Such “love the praise of men, more than the praise of God.”

2. When the principal inquiry is, what is the public mind, or what will please men, rather than what is pleasing to God, caring more for the favor of man than for the will of God.

3. When men are influenced more by the opinions of men than by the will of God; as when men regulate their lives, activities, dress, and habits more to please men than to please God. Many people appear to live on human praise.

4. When men are unduly affected by the applause or the censure of men. St. Paul said: “It is a small thing for me to be judged by man’s judgment.” Oh that all could say as much!

5. When men seek connection with those families, churches, societies, and individuals which will increase their popularity with men, rather than their usefulness and the favor of God. Many popular churches are crowded, while others are decimated, suffering, and dying for want of the very men and women who go away to the rich popular churches. The result is, many churches are deprived of needed help, while a few have consolidated wealth to promote church aristocracy and self-aggrandizement.

6. This impious state is indicated when men allow themselves to practice secret sins, which they would be ashamed of before men; having more fear of the censure of men than the displeasure of God.

The great evil of this state of mind is seen in the declaration of Christ: “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which cometh from God only?” This question of Christ implies the strongest form of negation. Worldly attachments, seeking honors, pride, and ambition exclude faith. They render it impossible. Faith commits the will and whole soul to God, and implies a supreme regard for God’s views, authority, and pleasure. Self-love, ambition, and seeking earthly honors exclude this. Seeking the applause of men, cherishes and gratifies human depravity at the expense of divine displeasure. It is gross idolatry. To seek self-gratification, by allowing our minds to be influenced more by the pleasure and fear of men than by the will and pleasure of God, is a great moral wrong, and as common as it is great. Many seem to regard this as a very little fault, while it is a state of mind excluding Christian character. How can a man be a Christian who has more respect for the esteem of men than of God? “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” The world is no more friendly to God now than it was when the apostle wrote, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.” Turning away from God, and hauling up to the wind of popular favor, indicates apostasy, or no religion at all. Any man who chooses to place God lower in his esteem than his fellow-mortals, has no right to complain of injustice when left to the unbelief and death resulting from such wickedness.

“The fear of man bringeth a snare;” and the desire to please man and escape public odium for godliness has overthrown many a professed Christian. Holy men can no more escape public odium than Christ could. Is the servant above his Lord? Has the carnality of wicked men changed? Can we be more wise and prudent than our Lord? He said: “Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you.”

Oh, then, let us cease from men; cease to regard men before God, and cease to allow human opinions to control our conduct. The Lord deliver us from the fear of men, or of public sentiment in all matters of conscience and duty. Let no odium heaped upon the doctrine of Christian sanctification move us an inch. There should be carefulness, and wisdom, and we should not recklessly or needlessly excite opposition or odium; do the best we can, and there will be plenty of it, without careless provocation on our part. Let us seek the approbation of God first, last, and always, and leave all results with him.

200. How is a worldly, compromising spirit manifested?

In many ways, some of which are the following:–

1. In efforts to popularize Christianity with the world, and seeking to increase her influence in that way.

2. In efforts to lower the Bible standard of piety, in order to make it less repulsive to the minds of carnal men.

3. In efforts to regulate sin, instead of opposing and prohibiting it.

4. In acts which pander to the vices of wicked men, or which countenance, directly or indirectly, the commission of sin.

5. In the abandonment of Bible terms in the relation of religious experience, in order to please men.

6. In the polishing and softening of those truths which God has left rough and hard.

7. In depending for the prosperity of the church upon her wealth and popularity, or upon the learning, talents, and eloquence of her ministers, rather than upon the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and a solid, high tone of piety in her ministry and membership.

201. Are the spirit of holiness and the spirit of the world antagonistic?

They are. Virtue and vice, truth and error, light and darkness, are not more so. The Spirit of God and the spirit of the world can never harmonize. Sin is an offensive, abominable thing, which God hates, and “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” There is no sympathy between sin and holiness, and no medium ground for any one to occupy. Jesus said: “No man can serve two masters.” “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”

The two grand divisions with respect to moral character, the “saint” and the “sinner,” the “believer” and the “unbeliever,” the “righteous” and the “wicked,” the “just” and the “unjust,” the “godly” and the “ungodly,” are as emphatically true to their names and natures now as they ever have been.

God can never compromise with wicked men, and by nature, and of necessity, wicked men have no sympathy for God. God, in infinite mercy, has instituted a way of salvation by which wicked men may be redeemed from sin, but never in sin. Those whom God has saved hate sin and love holiness. A state of salvation involves sympathy with God, and a state of sin involves sympathy with the world.

This is the reason why reform always involves conflict and war. Luther found it so. John Knox was in a constant conflict. Wesley was bitterly opposed not only by outsiders, but by dead, formal church-members. Whitefield, Edwards, Finney, Haven, and all aggressive reformers, have fought their way through opposition. Wicked men want to be let alone. A man freezing to death does not like to be disturbed.

The more fully the children of God are possessed of the Spirit of Christ, the more vigorous is their contest with the world; and vice versa. The opposition between Christians and men of the world can never cease. “Marel not,” said Jesus, “if the world hate you; it hated me before it hated you.” “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

Martin Luther said: “I find it impossible to avoid offending guilty men for there is no way of avoiding it but by our silence, or their patience: and silent we cannot be, because of God’s commands; and patient they cannot be, because of their guilt.”

202. How did the apostle Paul magnify his apostleship in this warfare?

He tells us that he approved himself in all things as a minister of God — in “afflictions,” “distresses,” “stripes,” “imprisonments,” “tumults,” “labors,” “watchings,” “fastings,” “long-sufferings,” “dishonor,” “evil report,” “unknown,” “dying,” “chastened,” “sorrowful,” “possessing nothing,” “in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.”

He received of the Jews, at five different times, “forty stripes save one:” “thrice he was beaten with rods;” “once stoned;” “thrice he suffered shipwreck;” “a night and a day he was in the deep; ” “journeys often; ” “in perils of water,” of robbers” “of his own countrymen,” “of the heathen,” “in the city,” “in the sea,” and “among false brethren.” He was “weary,” “painful,”hungry,” “thirsty,” “cold and naked.”

Reader, here you have a brief epitome of the labor, sufferings, and sacrifices of the chief of the apostles.

203. Is the baptism of the Holy Ghost, or being filled with the Spirit, the blessing of holiness?

It includes it. To be “full of the Holy Ghost,” ” — full of faith and the Holy Ghost,” “full of faith and power” and to be “filled with all the fullness of God,” is to possess full salvation, or perfect love. To be “filled with all the fullness of God,” is, how ever, much more than merely to be sanctified it involves enlargement and growth in love, power, and holiness.

The disciples, before the Pentecost, were Christians. They had been chosen out of the world, they were the servants and companions of Christ; they had preached Jesus and the resurrection; they had cast out devils, and they loved the Saviour and had denied themselves, taken up their cross, and had followed him.

But they were not entirely sanctified. The Saviour found it necessary at times to reprove them for unbelief, instability, selfishness, a worldly, secular spirit, a retaliating spirit, and a cowardly and vacillating spirit. He saw their unsanctified hearts, and prayed that they might be sanctified through the truth, and become one with himself and the Father. Before his ascension he directed them to return to Jerusalem and hold a prayer-meeting, with the assurance that he would send the “promise of the Father” — the baptism of the Holy Ghost — upon them. He had predicted during his ministry, that some of his hearers should not taste death until the kingdom of God came with power. That kingdom came with power on the morning of Pentecost, and consisted in “righteousness, peace, and joy in the HOLY GHOST.”

The one hundred and twenty gathered in the upper room “were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” That baptism, doubtless, sanctified every one of them. It took all the unbelief out of Thomas. It prepared Stephen for martyrdom. It completely cured Peter, so that he never cowed before the enemies of the Lord, or cursed, or swore, or denied his Lord again. He lived a hero, and died a martyr. He was crucified with his head downward, because he chose not to die like his Lord.

Every one of the one hundred and twenty, was made as firm as an iron pillar strong; and, although the little band found themselves launched forth upon the mightiest enterprise ever undertaken by mortals, and opposed at every step by wicked men and devils, yet we never hear of a single instance of apostasy among them.

The power which fell on them diffused itself on every hand, and Peter’s first sermon was a perfect thunderclap from end to end, and created a general cry for mercy, so that three thousand souls were converted before night.

That the disciples were all sanctified at the day of Pentecost, is taught by nearly all the authorities and standards of Methodism.

Bishop Peck says: “The special outpouring of the Holy Ghost is alone a baptism of holiness; the holiness of the church is defective; therefore the great want of the church is a baptism of the Holy Ghost.”

204. Can those entirely sanctified lose that grace, and still retain a justified relation to God?

Bishop Foster says: “Not everything that would mar a perfectly holy character would destroy the filial relation of the believer as that relation subsisted prior to entire sanctification, so it may remain when that state is marred — ceases. Or the loss of entire sanctification may be attended, or immediately followed, by acts which also utterly destroy the earlier and inferior blessing of justification.” — Christian Purity, p. 171.

A modern writer gives the following on this question: “Perhaps it is possible for one so to lose his hold of faith on the great sanctifying agent and the fullness of the atonement, as to become destitute of the positive fruits of holiness, without falling under condemnation; but when sanctification, both positive and negative, is wholly lost, justification is lost also. That is, when impurity is again admitted into the heart, it is admitted by some act which brings condemnation. As condemnation and justification can not exist at the same time in reference to the same individual, it is plain that all who have fallen under condemnation have lost their justified state, as one of these states necessarily excludes the other.”

205. Why need we seek holiness if we can die safe in a justified state?

An able writer well says: “Those cases in which justified persons would die safe are those in which there has not been time to advance to this higher state, or the subject has not been presented in a way to give a sense of its importance. Those who have had time granted them, and are convinced of the necessity of a clean heart, will not retain their justification, unless, according to their ability, they walk in the light that is given them. And here, let it be understood, is a point of immense importance.

“If any one having the evidence of justification, and yet convinced of his inward corruptions and the divine claim upon him to love God with all the heart, should refuse to meet that claim, though the complete provisions and promises of the gospel were fully set before him, he would forfeit his justification by grieving the Holy Spirit, and neglecting this ‘great salvation.’ ”

Mr. Fletcher says: “So long as a Christian believer sincerely presses after Christian perfection, he is safe, because he is in the way of duty; and, were he to die at midnight, before midnight God would certainly bring him to Christian perfection, or bring Christian perfection to him.” — Last Check, p. 622.

“All who are justified,” says Rev. J. S. Inskip, “and retain their justification, will undoubtedly be saved. It should, however, be remembered, that justification can only be maintained by going on to entire sanctification.” — Methods of Promoting Perfect Love, p. 10.

John Fletcher says, “Philip Doddridge and Archbishop Leighton doubted whether those who do not sincerely aspire after perfection have saving grace.” A justified soul can not be lost if it do not fall; but it is in great danger of falling if holiness is not constantly sought. (See Section XV.)

“Did sin only affect the legal relations of the sinner,” says Bishop D. W. Clarke, “pardon or justification only would be necessary to salvation. But it defiles, pollutes the soul; it perverts all its powers. Therefore sanctification is as essential to salvation as justification.” — Beauty of Holiness, May, 1857.

Rev. Albert Barnes says: “The unceasing and steady aim of every Christian should be perfection.” — “No man can be a Christian who does not sincerely desire it, and who does not constantly aim at it. No man is a friend of God, who can acquiesce in a state of sin, and who is satisfied and contented that he is not as holy as God is holy.” … “If any man is conscious that the idea of being made at once perfectly holy would be unpleasant or painful, he may set it down as certain evidence that he is stranger to religion.” — Notes, 2 Cor. vii. 1.

206. How can a perfect Christian “grieve the Holy Spirit of God”?

1. By such conversation as is not profitable, not to the use of edifying, not apt to minister grace to the hearers.

2. By relapsing into bitterness or want of kindness.

3. “By wrath, lasting displeasure, or want of tender-heartedness.

4. “By anger, however soon it is over; want of instantly forgiving one another.

5. “By clamor or brawling, loud, harsh, rough speaking.

6. “By evil speaking, whispering, tale-bearing; needlessly mentioning the fault of an absent person, though in ever so soft a manner.” — Wesley.

207. Is it not the fact that many persons lose perfect love several times, before they become established therein, against the seeking of it?

It is at least no more so than the same fact in regard to justification is against the seeking of that blessing. It is a common thing for converts to lose the witness of justification many times before they become fully established therein. There is, however, no necessity of losing either; and we think there is much less danger of losing perfect love (other circumstances being equal) than justification.

Doubtless, if the light of justification were more general, and more clear in the church, converts would be less likely to lose their justification during their early experience; and if the blessing of perfect love were more generally sought and obtained by the ministry and membership, and more clearly and faithfully preached and exemplified in the pulpit, those who seek and obtain it, would be less likely to lose it during their early experience.

Is it any wonder if a person lose the witness of perfect love, if he be located where he finds but little sympathy for it, and where he does not hear more than a sermon or two a year on the subject, and those made up of indefinite generalities, such as are usually preached by those who do not enjoy it, or are not earnestly seeking it. Those possessing perfect love need encouragement and the “bread of life” from the pulpit as well as others.

The principal reason why many lose the clear light and experience of purity, is for the want of practical sympathy and wholesome instruction from the pulpit. The best of God’s children have a right to expect encouragement and help from the pulpit in this most precious experience. That there is a vast amount of seriously defective and contradictory teaching on this subject, is beyond question.

The pulpit is the main place for the presentation of gospel truth; but the diluted, confused, and anti-evangelical notions to which many of our congregations are obliged to listen as gospel preaching, is a sickening shame. It is not surprising, in view of the instructions given, that some lose the blessing of perfect love, when whole churches are starving spiritually for want of the bread life. It is a deplorable fact, unwelcome as may be the statement, that many Christian people are withering and sinking under pulpit teaching composed largely of short intellectual essays — scientific, metaphysical, and speculative — full of almost everything except plain gospel truth. It has become a serious question how long the church of God can live on such pulpit matter. It certainly is not the “bread of life,” such as is given to nourish strengthen, and establish the sons and daughters the Lord Almighty.

It is believed by many of the most devoted and thoughtful Christians, that unless there be a change in this regard, more gospel truth preached, the church will suffer deplorable reverses. Unless our bishops, presiding elders, and chief ministers take a more decided stand against the course pursued by some of our over smart young ministers, who lead off in this kind of pulpit instruction, and reject and ignore much of experimental godliness, in a few years this matter will be utterly unmanageable, if it be not already. Instead of petting, dignifying their importance, and hastening these precious young men into city churches; and then transferring their from city to city to gratify worldly, popular churches, who desire any thing preached to them rather than plain gospel truth; they should be sent out into circuits with good, practical preachers, to learn how to get sinners converted and saints sanctified.

These, very largely, are the men who discard the precious doctrine of Christian holiness as taught by the great and good Wesley, the devoted and gifted Fletcher, and the learned and evangelical Clarke and Watson; and who substitute for it culture, development, nobility, and manhood, and leave the whole subject of holiness confused and indefinite, making nothing clear, scriptural, or practical; and we are sorry to add, often ridiculing and making light of perfect love as taught by those great and good men.

Let sympathy in the church become as general in its favor as it is for justification, and let clear witnesses for entire sanctification become as numerous in the ministry and membership as they should be, and you will hear of but few losing the blessing.

205. Does God sometimes afflict his children in order to lead them to seek holiness?

Dr. Stephen Olin writes: I had difficulties respecting our own theoretical views of the doctrine — perfect love. I even joined the Conference with exceptions to it, and stated my objections when a candidate before the whole body. But I was admitted, the Conference expressing the hope that further inquiries would rectify my views.

“Years, however, passed without any modification of my opinions. But it pleased God to lead me into the truth. My health failed, my official employments had to be abandoned, I lost my children, my wife died, and I was wandering over the world alone, with scarcely anything remaining but God. I lost my hold on all things else, and become, as it were, lost myself in God. My affections centered in him. My will became absorbed in his. I sunk, as it were, into the blessing of perfect love, and found in my own consciousness the reality of the doctrine which I had theoretically doubted.” — Guide to Holiness, Oct. 1857.

209. what relation does saving faith sustain to truth? It is inseparably connected with it. Saving faith is a practical reception of saving truth, by submission to its claims. Divine truth demands attention and apprehension, assent and submission, and also trust and confidence. Saving faith involves voluntary attention to truth with its evidence, and submission or obedience to the claims of truth. Saving faith is clearly a proper object of requirement, and is essentially and intrinsically virtuous. It actually embraces and directs all the moral energies of the soul in the path of obedience; hence, it is said, “He that believeth shall be saved.” An intelligent, voluntary rejection of the admitted claim of truth (as we have before stated) constitutes the most terribly damning sin which was ever committed; hence, it is said again and again, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” Submission to the claims of truth constitutes the vital point in saving faith; and rebellion gainst the claims of truth is the deadly point of unbelief; upon this point hinges our eternal all. It constitutes the very axle of obedience or disobedience, on which all the happiness or misery of the universe revolves. All virtue or vice begins at this point.

210. Is it vitally important that men have correct views of truth? It is; as saving truth is inseparable from salvation. Religious truth sustains the same relation to the soul that food does to the body. Truth received becomes “the power of God unto salvation;” rejected, it becomes “a savor of death unto death.” The doctrines of revelation are the life of the soul; the foundation of all experimental and practical religion. “As a man thinketh so is he.” Opinions influence conduct, they are the seeds of actions. In the nature of things, religious doctrine must be the base of religion, and a correct Christian creed the foundation of a vigorous and intelligent piety.

All the great truths of the Bible, revealed for our reception constitute the reasons and the source of every trait of character and course of life which God requires; any one of them rejected or perverted affects human character and destiny. A building without a foundation would not be a greater anomaly than a religious life without doctrinal knowledge as its base. The duties of religion are inseparable from religious truth, and all its experimental realities are through the “belief of the truth.” The Holy Spirit employs divine truth in the work of personal salvation. “Sanctify them through thy truth.”

The assertion, “It makes no difference what a man believes if he is only sincere,” is about as absurd as to say it makes no difference what a man eats, if he only likes it. The former is as ruinous to the human soul as the latter would be to the human body. Error is as ruinous and deadly to the soul as poison is to the body. The difference is one is a moral, and the other a physical poison.

We may know the truth, and are responsible for knowing it, and are not only responsible for what we do know, but for what we may know and ought to know.

Willful, voluntary ignorance, being avoidable and not necessary, is inexcusable, and imposes guilt upon its subjects. Those “who refuse to come to the knowledge of the truth,” and “choose darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil,” are answerable to God. There never was a proposition more contrary to fact, than that mankind can not but believe as they do. If ignorance were involuntary and necessary, and if volition had nothing to do with the conditions of knowledge and belief, then it might be true. Every man is voluntary in giving, or in refusing his attention to truth and its evidences; and this is the main condition of either knowing or of being ignorant of the truth.

Rev. John Fletcher says: “Truth is spiritual substance, and a lie is spiritual shadow. Truth is spiritual light, and a lie spiritual darkness. Truth is the root of all virtue, and a lie is the root of all vice. Truth is the celestial tincture that makes spirits good, and a lie is the infernal tincture that makes them evil.” Checks, vol. i. p. 529.

211. What class of people most commonly believe in, and seek full salvation? The great mass of Christian people have always been more from the humble walks of life, than from the higher classes, the elevated ranks of life. This is true regarding those who seek and possess full salvation. Divine grace has been most displayed in reforming and purifying the lives of the common people. True virtue excellence, sincerity and amiability, honesty and purity, are usually found most in humble life.

God is no respecter of persons, and there is no royal way to his favor, or to heaven. Human distinctions are mainly confined to man and to this world, and human depravity has much to do with them. Some people judge of religion by those who embrace it, and are ever asking, “Have any of the rulers believed on him?” forgetting that the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, to a great extent, has always been rejected by the rulers of is world, by rich, popular, and worldly people.

A life of mortification, self-denial, and humility does not comport with the notions and inclinations of those who have their portion in this life. Godliness conflicts with pride, dignity, self-importance, and love of applause. People in high life find it difficult to avoid placing too high an estimate upon their noble birth, rank, or wealth, so as not to over-estimate themselves, and under-estimate others. St. Paul says: “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.” Such find salvation very difficult; they are so inclined to self-importance, and so impatient under restraint. Because they are great in some things, and usually those things the least important, they imagine they are great and wise in all things. This is a very common mistake. Most great men are only so in some things, while in other things they are on a level with, or even below mediocrity.

It has been no uncommon thing for the proud and haughty to oppose Christian holiness, and ridicule its friends and advocates as poor and ignorant, weak and credulous. Pride and contempt, standing in the way of candor, argument, and truth, have kept many a man from salvation. Many look down with contempt upon the deluded friends of holiness, and overlook the fact that God has great regard for the common people, the teachable, and the humble, and out of this class has always selected most of his chosen instruments and favored people. “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the Kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? ” It is very natural that the blessed doctrine and experience of perfect love should have its full share of opposition and cold indifference from those occupying positions of prominence and influence, or from those who wallow in wealth and forget God. This has always been so, and in the nature of the case is not strange.

No Christian truth or experience depends for its success on human wisdom or greatness, and the work and influence of Christian sanctification is not dependent on any class of men, high or low, great or small, rich or poor. Any religious system built upon human power, wisdom, or wealth, will be confounded and brought to naught. It is only safe to trust in God.

The foolish toadyism developing in some of our churches over some supposed great ones, is sickening to all sensible people. This foolishness appears to be growing among us, affording amusement and disgust to some of our more sensible neighbors. The truth of God is adapted to all classes, and entire sanctification, correctly understood, commends itself to the most profound intellects as well as to the common mass of ordinary people.

While it is no virtue to be poor and despised, nor a sin be rich and honored, yet very few of those honored the most, and worth the most, are the most worthy. Those possessed of rank, wealth, and honor, are usually satisfied with rank, wealth, and honor, and do not feel their need of Christ and holiness. They are surrounded with objects which flatter their vanity, which minister to their pride, and which throw them into the circle of worldly pleasure. Well might the Saviour declare: “A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

212. Is it proper for Christians to be governed by the laws of fashion?

Certainly not; it is very improper. Fashion is a godless tyrant, and is blighting to everything religious. There is scarcely anything that retards the progress of Christianity more than the fashionable folly and pride fostered in many churches. This withering curse, with its desolating and paralyzing influence, is seen in almost every portion of the Church not merely in the ranks of the membership, but also in the ministry and their families its blight is very perceptible.

The whole drift of fashion is away from godliness and the simplicity of the Bible. One has only to open his eyes to see how the votaries of fashion are steadily veering from the path of the Scriptures. A fashionable congregation is almost invariably cold, formal, and irreligious, and drifting farther and further from evangelical faith and holiness. And any minister who refuses to drift in with the sympathies and practices of such congregations will he filed off with the “fogies,” and his place filled with “young America.” To escape this calamity, it is to be feared, many who call themselves ministers of Christ have pandered to the caprice of fashionable, worldly churches; and have married worldly, fashionable women, decked in the height of fashion. When the minister swings a gold ring on his finger in the pulpit, and his wife sits before him in the height of flowers, flummery, and jewelry, of course things move on gayly, and all the fashionables are delighted.

1. That the law of fashion is in many respects wrong, and in others an outrageous tyrant, we presume most good people will admit. Fashion lords it over reason, common sense, and good taste, with the most reckless tramp and iron sway. Some of the fashions are perfectly outlandish monstrosities.

2. The law of fashion is a fruitful source of fraud and vice in people desirous of conforming to the fashions without the means of doing it. These artificial wants press men tenfold more than all the legitimate necessaries of life.

3. The law of fashion is a great evil, in that it consumes a vast amount of time, labor, and money, which ought to be devoted to the salvation of our race. Man is a steward and carries most tremendous responsibilities. What right has any Christian, with the vows of God and the claims of a godly life upon him, to spend his time, his money, or his talents following the changing fashions? It is impossible to follow the fashions of this world, and at the same time fully obey God. Is it not time for the church to awake to her duty, and assert her freedom from her impious bondage to the goddess of fashion?

213. Are worldly amusements sinful?

All those amusements that cannot be sought or used in the name of the Lord, or to the glory of God, are sinful, and are insipid and corrupting to devout minds. Amusements are usually corrupting. No Christian needs them, or desires them; he has more important things to engage his time and attention. No reasonable man sacrifices the more important thing for the less; and amusements are the least important, and are generally injurious to morals and spirituality. They bring religion into unworthy and debasing alliances, and cripple the aggressive power of the Church. The late Archbishop Spaulding, of the Roman Catholic Church, told Dr. J. M. King, of New York, that “the confessional revealed the fact that nineteen women out of twenty who had fallen from virtue, dated the first step in the downward career to dancing parties.”

The Lord has made ample provision for the healthful happiness of his children, in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, and therefore they do not need amusements, such as dancing, games, theaters, and the like, which worldly people seek.

“Let worldly minds the world pursue, It has no charms for me; Once I admired its trifles too, But grace has set me free.”

It is a fearfully ominous fact, that multitudes of professing Christians appear to be entirely destitute of religious joy forgetting that “the joy of the Lord “is inseparable from a truly religious life. Pardon, reconciliation, life, love, purity, peace, and hope constitute the very essence of godliness. They are also elements of religious joy, and their absence negatives a positively religious life. Thousands of people who claim to be Christians are scrambling after dress, money, and pleasure, running to concerts, shows, theaters, and parties of pleasure while the closet, the prayer service, and God are neglected. From all such pleasure-loving, wretched muttering, grumbling professors, who disparage and misrepresent religion, we feel like saying in the manner of the Episcopal Prayer Book — “Good Lord deliver us.” On this question see Eph. v. 15,16; 1 Cor. x. 31; Col. iii. 17; Titus ii. 12; 1 Pet. v. 8.

214. Are Fairs, Festivals, Tableaux, or Theatricals proper means of raising money for church purposes?

No. They are decidedly wrong, and a disgrace to Christianity. Modern religious theaters, fairs, and festivals, with their whole programme of garb-bags, post-offices, fish-ponds, lotteries, games, and dancing, under church sanction, are a shame and a curse, and should be abandoned by the whole Church as belonging to the world, the flesh, and the devil. It may be said of many churches, in this regard, “Ye are cursed with a curse.” God wants no money raised by such means to carry on his work. The finances of the Christian Church should be conducted on Christian principles, with common sense, purity, and honor. A careful observation during a ministry of thirty years, has convinced us that these modes of raising money are fruitful of evil, and should be abandoned.

Among the things enumerated by Dr. J. P. Brooks, as a hindrance to the work of sanctification, he says:– “Church parties, festivals, lotteries, raffles, Sabbath concerts, tableau representations, pantomimic actings, dramatic personations, &c., might head the catalogue of these more devilish than doubtful devices.” — Address at Holiness Conference.

215. How are entirely sanctified souls to be distinguished from those not entirely sanctified? In the outward life there is no marked difference, as the distinction is not so much in the outer life as in the inner life and experience. The distinction being one of moral condition and not so much in outward life and acts, we are not to look for too much in that respect. The justified and regenerate should live just as correctly in outward conduct as those entirely sanctified. Purity of heart is manifested by being more deeply humble; by greater simplicity and sweetness of spirit; by greater strength of faith, and by living more “soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; in short, by being more like Christ.

216. What has become of indwelling sin, in those entirely sanctified?

It has not only been conquered, as is the case with all regenerate souls, but has been exterminated. In the entirely sanctified soul inbred sin is not merely suppressed, or conquered, but is cast out. The soul is cleansed, and when the devil comes he finds nothing in it but what is in harmony with God — the “evil treasure” having been expelled. The Saviour said, “Satan cometh and hath nothing in me; and, “As he is, so are we in this world.”

217. What is it to be made “partakers of the divine nature”?

It is to be made partakers of his holiness, and to become morally like God. It is being created anew in Christ Jesus, in righteousness and true holiness, so as to bear the divine image and possess the Holy Spirit.

“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”

This is the only sense in which any intelligent being can be a partaker of the divine nature. “But he,” says the apostle, “for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” To be “partakers of’ his holiness,” is the same as to be “partakers of’ the divine nature.”

218. If we are made partakers of the divine nature and become like God, do we not become gods?

No more than one ray of light makes the sun. A ray of light is like the sun, and yet it is not the sun. One drop of water is not the ocean, and yet it is like the ocean. The quality is the same. The Christian may be like God, and not God, as a drop is like the ocean, and yet not the ocean.

219. What are the fruits of conviction for the need of pardon?

A renunciation of sin; a confession of sin; an honest regret for sin; a turning from the vanities of the world a resolute seeking of God; a strong anxiety to do his will, and prayer for pardon and salvation.

220. What are the fruits of conviction for the need of purity?

Deep self-abasement and humility of spirit; self-renunciation and submission to God; self-loathings, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness; and a willingness to suffer anything, be anything, or do anything to please God, and obtain a pure heart.

221. Should the regeneration of sinners and the sanctification of believers go on together?

Such we believe to be the true order of God. Salvation must come out of Zion. The church is to obtain and impart life. The sanctification of believers in the church and the conversion of sinners out of it, should go on simultaneously. Mr. Wesley said, for each believer sanctified ten sinners would be converted. Nothing adds such power to a revival as to have believers sanctified while sinners are being converted. The best, easiest, and the most extensive and lasting revivals are those which commence with the “perfecting ‘the saints.” Such reformations move easily and powerfully, and go deep and thorough in saving souls. This as true of the powerful and extensive revivals under the labors of Wesley, Bramwell, Hunter, Carvosso, Stoner, Abbott, Hibbard, Garrettson, Caughey, Finney, and Mrs. Phoebe Palmer. The sanctification of believers constitutes the best possible preparation the church can possess for the reception of converts to her bosom. It is to be feared many, very many, genuine converts have been ruined by uniting with cold, worldly, and unsanctified churches. The church of God carries a fearful responsibility in this matter.

222. Should the sanctification of believers be a prominent item in our grove and camp-meeting services? It should; for the following among other reasons:–

1. Labor for the “perfecting of the saints” is proper anywhere, and especially where there is a general convocation of them.

2. It is one of the two grand objects of such meetings. They are appointed for the special benefit of the church and the impenitent — the sanctification of believers and the conversion of sinners. The two works should go on simultaneously.

3. Such meetings afford a very favorable opportunity for seeking perfect love. The absence of worldly care, the consecutive and protracted religious services, the powerful and pointed preaching, the rehearsal of rich and varied religious experience, the heavenly and gracious influences, and all the delightful exercises of a good camp-meeting, are peculiarly favorable to the seeking of holiness.

4. The sanctification of believers furnishes the best possible preparation to labor for the conversion of sinners. One of the first and great objects of all believers is to obtain a thorough preparation for efficient labor for God. Believers should be always ready to labor for God; and if they are not, they should get ready before going to camp-meeting, but this is very far from being the case. So long as it remains manifestly true that the majority of believers who attend our feast of tabernacles are but partially sanctified, and but ill prepared to work efficiently for God, it will be proper and important to give the subject of perfect love due prominence.

To commence the labors of a meeting of this kind directly and principally for the conversion of a few scattered sinners, who may be on the ground during preaching hours, while there are hundreds of unsanctified believers present, who ought to be led into the Canaan of perfect love, is to go aside from the order of God, grieve the Holy Spirit, and block the car of salvation.

The results of a good camp-meeting are to be looked for more in our various fields of labor after the meeting than in the conversion of a few sinners during the meeting. The conversion of a hundred souls on the ground we admit, is a great and desirable work; but we maintain: to have the foundation laid deep and solid (in the sanctification of believers by the baptism of the Holy Ghost) for revivals all over the surrounding country, resulting in the conversion of hundreds of souls, is a much greater work: and likely to be much more permanent.

The very way to secure the conversion of sinners on the camp-ground, or anywhere else, is for believers to humble themselves at the feet of Jesus, and seek the perfect love of God, which always secures the convicting regenerating power of the HOLY GHOST.

223. How much ought I to fast?

Your body is the “temple of the Holy Ghost,” and you are to govern it, but not to injure it. You should fast enough to make it a means of grace, but not so much as to make it an instrument of temptation. The state of your health will help you to decide this question.

224. Does the Lord ever heal the body supernaturally in answer to prayer?

He does. While “the age of miracles is past,” in so far as attesting the divinity of the gospel, it is not past as it respects Divine interposition and supernatural power in answer to prayer. The rationalist and skeptic may doubt and cavil, while the devoted Christian believes and knows that God answers prayer. We believe in special interpositions of providence and prayer cures.

1. The Scripture warrant for prayer is as boundless as human necessity, and the limits of prayer are only the Divine wisdom and will. (See Exod. xv. 26; Exod. xxiii. 25; Matt. xxi. 22; John xv. 7; Ps. ciii. 3; James v. 15; 1 John v. 14; Matt. vii. 11; Luke xi. 9. )

2. Healing the body is nothing new or novel in the Christian church. In all ages, thousands of believers have been cured in answer to prayer, and multitudes now, all through the church, can testify to what they know in this regard; though but a small part of these cases are ever made public.

3. If the Lord can cure the soul, he can heal the body — the greater implies the less. To heal and save a sin-ruined soul is a much greater work than to heal a diseased body. In thousands and thousands of instances God has destroyed vicious appetites, broken vicious habits, and saved the licentious, the drunkard, the tobacco eater, and those addicted to the use of opium, morphine, and other ruinous narcotics. If God can wrench these powerful appetites out of a man, as he has done in millions, he can heal the sick when it is his good pleasure to do so. Praise the Lord! We know in regard to this question.

Safety against fanaticism is found in the nature of true prayer. Prayer is “the offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to his will, in the name and through the mediation of Jesus Christ, by the help of the Holy Spirit, with a confession of our sins and a thankful acknowledgment of our mercies.”

“Have faith in God.” “All things are possible to him that believeth.” Our greatest danger is not from superstition or fanaticism, but from skepticism.

Rev. B. T. Roberts gives the following important items of caution on this subject:–

“1. Do not make a hobby of healing. Anything in a religious meeting is an injury that diverts the attention of the people from salvation.

“2. If God gives you light on this subject, walk in it yourself, but do not feel impatient with others who do not see it as you do.

“3. If God is pleased to answer prayer in the healing of any that are diseased, and they, in the fullness of their gratitude, feel constrained to speak of it to his glory, do not feel alarmed, as though the cause of religion had received a terrible shock.” — Earnest Christian, July, 1862.

225. What evidences indicate the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

1. A clearer view of the truth. The Holy Spirit is to teach men, and lead them into the truth.

2. An increased quickness and power of conscience, and an increasing activity of the moral sense. No man who has a sleepy conscience, or a dull moral sense, is guided by the Spirit.

3. An increasing calmness and peace in all the natural sensibilities, producing quietness of mind.

4. An increasing light in the providential dealings of God. This will be seen daily and increasingly.

5. An increasing sentiment of propriety, decency, and good sense, such as modesty, courteousness, and gentleness of manner. The Holy Ghost makes a gentleman.

6. An increasing tendency to glorify God. The end of all things is to glorify God, and especially so in religious things.

7. An increasing gentleness and sweetness of disposition and conversation.

8. An increasing desire to please God, and that desire less mixed with other desires.

We most not throw away the doctrine of the leading of God’s Spirit,” says Rev. B. T. Roberts, — “because it is abused. But let us seek to understand it. God will give us wisdom if we humbly implore it. Let us come to him for it. Let us follow the Lord fully. ‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.’ ” — Editorial in Earnest Christian.

226. What evidences indicate advancement in holiness?

1. An increasing comfort and delight in the holy Scriptures.

2. An increasing interest in prayer, and an increasing spirit of prayer.

3. An increasing desire for the holiness of others.

4. A more heart-searching sense of the value of time.

5. Less desire to hear, see, and know for mere curiosity.

6. A growing inclination against magnifying the faults and weaknesses of others, when obliged to speak of their characters.

7. A greater readiness to speak freely to those who do not enjoy religion, and to backward professors or religion.

8. More disposition to glory in reproach for Christ’s sake, and suffer, if need be, for him.

9. An increasing tenderness of conscience, and being more scrupulously conscientious.

10. Less affected by changes of place and circumstances.

11. A sweeter enjoyment of the holy Sabbath, and the services of the sanctuary.

12. An increasing love for the searching means of grace.

227. What is the grand secret of holy living?

It is to obtain and retain the perpetual presence, fullness, and illumination of the Holy Ghost “He shall abide with you for ever.”

1. He will subdue your lusts and propensities. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”

2. He will impart liberty. “Where the Spirit. of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

3. He reveals the things of Christ. “He shall receive of mine and show it unto you.” “He shall testify of me.”

4. He presents the truth of God and the things of God to the mind. “The sword of the Spirit is the word of God,” “Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.”

5. He imparts light and wisdom. “He will guide you into all truth.”

6. He sustains in the hour of affliction. “I will not leave you comfortless.” “I will send the Comforter.”

7. He imparts the virtues of a holy character. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

8. He gives the witness of adoption and salvation. “The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

9. He imparts the divine image — the heavenly signet — to the soul. “Ye are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

10. He is the source and author of all love to God. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

11. He is the source of strength and success. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”

12. His presence and work make the soul a temple, sacred to the service of God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

Be careful, my dear reader, and not grieve the Spirit, but “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is GOD which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.”

Come, Holy Ghost, all-quickening fire, Come, and in me delight to rest; Drawn by the lure of strong desire, Oh, come, and consecrate my breast. The temple of my soul prepare, And fix thy sacred presence there.” — Chas. Wesley —

Will the reader examine his heart by the following interrogations, and see whether he can respond affirmatively to them?

1. Do I find that I love God, constantly and increasingly, and desire to love him more and more?

2. Am I conscious of nothing in my heart that is opposed to God?

3. Is my heart inclined towards God, and am I looking up to God to know more and more of him, and to see more and more of him in all things?

4. Do I find in my heart a desire to return good for evil to everybody?

5. Do I find a secret pleasure and willingness in my heart to do all the known will of God?

6. Have I a greater fear of displeasing God than all others?

7. Have I a love to all Christians, and especially to those the most devoted and Christlike?

8. Is my heart grieved when I see any of the commands of God broken?

9. Do I find a willingness to give God all the glory for any good that is in me, and for any good I do?

10. Have I a constant love for secret duties and communion with God?

11. Am I kept by the power of God from all sinful lusts of the flesh, and from knowingly offending against the law of love?

If, dear reader, you can conscientiously respond in the affirmative to these interrogations, you have cause to rejoice in God, your Saviour, and magnify his holy name. If you can not, you should give immediate attention to your submission to God and to faith in the cleansing blood of the Redeemer.

“Jesus, full of love divine, I am thine and thou art mine; Never shall the altar-fire, Kindled on my heart, expire.”