Perfect Love – By John Wood

Chapter 4

Regeneration And Entire Sanctification Not Identical

8. Do the Scriptures teach a distinction between regeneration and entire sanctification?

They do. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. For ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” “Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” “Sanctify them through thy truth thy word is truth.” All these passages have reference to Christians in a regenerated state, but not entirely sanctified.

9. Does the Christian Church generally recognize this distinction?

It does. “By a consent almost universal,” says Rev. Dr. Hodge, “the word regeneration is now used to designate, not the whole work of sanctification.” — According to the Scriptures, and the undeniable evidence of history, regeneration does not remove all sin.” — Systematic Theology, vol. iii p. 290.

Prof. Upham says: “The distinction which is made in the Scriptures between the two is regarded so obvious and incontrovertible by most writers, that it has naturally passed as an established truth into treatises on theology.” — Interior Life.

“That there is sin in the incipient believer,” says Dr. John Dempster, “is a scriptural truth, sustained by many kinds of evidence. The denial of it is a position utterly novel. It is less than two centuries old. Till that modern date, no part of the Greek or Latin churches was ever infected with it. And in the Reformed churches it was never heard of only among a few raving Antinomians.” — Sermon at Biblical Institute.

10. Does the Methodist Church teach a distinction?

She does very clearly in her Discipline, Catechism, Hymn Book, and by all her standard authorities.

1. The Discipline recognizes a state of entire sanctification as attainable subsequent to regeneration and previous to death.

Every minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church has affirmed, by his ordination vows, that entire sanctification is a distinct work, subsequent to regeneration. In the Discipline, Part II sec. 11, are the following questions: “Have you faith in Christ? Are you going on unto perfection? Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life? Are you groaning after it?” These questions suppose that “perfection,” or “perfect love,” is distinct from and subsequent to regeneration.

2. The official Catechisms of the Methodist Church were revised by Bishop Hedding, Nathan Bangs. Stephen Olin, and Joseph Holdich, and then examined and indorsed by the General Conference in 1552. These Catechisms define Regeneration — “The new birth of the soul in the image of Christ, whereby we become the children of God;” and Entire Sanctification — “The state of being entirely cleansed from sin, so as to love God with all our heart and mind, and soul and strength.”

3. The Hymn Book teaches a distinction. Every edition from the first, has contained a specific class of hymns on sanctification. These hymns, more numerous than those on any other subject, were written principally by the Wesleys, to define, defend, and promote entire sanctification, in early Methodism when it was greatly controverted. In the changes made in the Hymn Book from time to time during the past century, many sweet and clearly defined hymns on this subject have been left out; still our Hymnal contains a beautiful and choice selection upon it.

Speak the second time, ‘Be clean.’ Take away my inbred sin; Every stumblingblock remove; Cast it out by perfect love.” — Chas. Wesley —

The seed of sin’s disease, Spirit of health, remove, Spirit of finished holiness, Spirit of perfect love.” — Chas. Wesley —

“Refining fire, go through my heart, Illuminate my soul Scatter thy life through every part, And sanctify the whole.” — Chas. Wesley —

4. All the leading writers and standard authorities of Methodism teach a distinction. Mr. Wesley might be quoted very largely; we will insert only a few lines from him. He says: “Sanctification begins in the moment a man is justified. Yet sin remains in him, yea, the seed of all sin, till he is sanctified throughout.” — Works, vol. vi. p. 496. See Plain Account- Sermons, vol. i. p. 124; also vol. i. p. 119.

1. Rev.. Richard Watson says: “That a distinction exists between a regenerate state and a state of entire and perfect holiness, will be generally allowed.” — Institutes, Part II. chap. 29.

2. Rev. John Fletcher says: “We do not deny that the remains of the carnal mind still cleave to imperfect Christians. “This fault, corruption or infection, doth remain in them who are regenerated.” — Last Check, p. 507-541.

3. Dr. Adam Clark said to a friend who had been misinformed in regard to his views of entire sanctification: “As to the words which you quote as mine, I totally disclaim them. I never said, I never intended to say them. I believe Justification and Sanctification to be widely distinct works.” He used the term Justification as including regeneration. — Etheridge’s Life of Dr. A. Clark.

4. “Regeneration also, being the same as the new birth,” says Bishop Hedding “is the beginning of sanctification, though not the completion of it, or not entire sanctification. Regeneration is the beginning of purification; entire sanctification is the finishing of that work.” — Address at N. J. Con.

5. Bishop Hamline says: “That this perfect love, or entire sanctification, is specifically a new state, and not the mere improvement of a former state, or of regeneration, is plainly inferred from the Bible.” — Beauty of Holiness, 1862, p. 264.

6. Bishop Foster says: “Regeneration is not entire sanctification; the merely regenerate are not sanctified; they are not entirely free from sin; they are not perfect in love.” — Christian Purity, p. 69.

7. Dr. George Peck says: “The doctrine of entire sanctification, as a DISTINCT WORK wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost, is the GREAT DISTINGUISHING DOCTRINE OF METHODISM. This given up, and we have little left which we do not told in common with other evangelical denominations.” “The position that justification and entire sanctification take place at one and the same time, and that regeneration and entire sanctification are identical, is clearly contrary to the position taken by our standard theologians.” — Christian Perfection, p. 363.

8. Rev. Wm. McDonald: “Regeneration and entire sanctification are not received at one and the same time, except, perhaps, in a few extraordinary cases, if, indeed, the case ever occurs.” — New Testament Standard, p. 44.

9. Bishop Thomson, at the West Virginia Conference, in his last clerical address a few days before his death, said: “The justified and regenerate discover in themselves the remains of the carnal mind. If you accept the theory that you are sanctified when you are justified, if you find the remains of sin after you experience regeneration, you will be led to a melancholy conclusion. The opposite view, that we cannot be made pure, is equally pernicious.”

10. Dr. Raymond, in his “Systematic Theology,” says: “Entire sanctification is not usually, if ever, contemporary with regeneration. Regeneration is, in most cases of Christian experience, if not in all, initial sanctification, not complete, perfect renewal. The regenerated person is not, at the moment of regeneration, wholly sanctified.” — Article on Sanctification.

11. Rev. Dr. Lowry says: “The position is supportable, on Scripture grounds, that true believers, born of the Spirit, and loving God, may be, and ordinarily are, the subjects of a residuum of inherent sin.” — Positive Theology, p. 234.

12. Bishop M. Simpson says: “Sanctification is not regeneration.” — “Methodism differs from Moravianism in that it does not hold regeneration and entire sanctification to be identical.” — Christian Perfection, in Encyclopedia of Methodism.

These citations might be greatly multiplied; those given are sufficient to indicate the voice of the church on this question.

11. Does this distinction harmonize with Christian experience?

It does. All Christians are regenerated, while but few claim to be sanctified wholly. The penitent sinner seeks for pardon and acceptance, and is not concerned for the blessing of perfect love, or entire justification. After regeneration, the more clearly the light of justification shines, the more the converted soul will see its indwelling sin, and feel the necessity of entire sanctification.

Thousands of intelligent Christians, whose experience in regard to regeneration and sanctification has been clear, can testify to the following:–

1. They have had a clear evidence of justification and regeneration.

2. While in possession of this evidence, they have been convinced of inbred sin, or corruption.

3. They have sought and obtained a sensible purification of heart in which all sin was taken away, and they were enabled to love God with all the heart.

4. They have had as clear and distinct witness of the Spirit, to this “second blessing,” as they ever had of justification and regeneration.

12. Does the Lord ever entirely sanctify the soul at justification and regeneration?

We do not know. Possibly this may be the case in some instances, but, certainly, is not the usual order of God. In all our acquaintance with many thousands of the purest and best Christians in all the various churches, we have yet to find a clear case of entire sanctification at conversion. While multitudes claim that their souls have been cleansed from all sin subsequent to their justification, we do not recollect a single instance of a distinct witness of entire sanctification at conversion.

Mr. Wesley says: “But we do not know a single instance, in any place, of a person’s receiving in one and the same moment remission of sins, the abiding witness of the Spirit, and a new and a clean heart.” — Plain Account, p. 34.

In giving an account of Grace Paddy, who was convicted of sin, converted, and purified within twelve hours, he says: “Such an instance I never knew before; such an instance I never read a person convinced of sin, converted to God, and renewed in love within twelve hours Yet it is by no means incredible, seeing one day is with God as a thousand years.” — Works, vol. iv. p. 219.

Dr. Clarke says: “I have been twenty-three years a traveling preacher, and have been acquainted with some thousands of Christians during that time, who were in different states of grace; and I never, to my knowledge, met with a single instance where God both justified and sanctified at the same time.” — Etheridge’s Life of Dr. A. Clarke.

13. How did Mr. Wesley view the idea that the soul is entirely sanctified at regeneration?

As a dangerous heresy. On its account after several long interviews with Count Zinzendorf a leading Moravian, he separated himself and his societies from all communion and fellowship with the Moravians.

“We may learn” (says Mr. Wesley) “the mischievousness of that opinion, that we are wholly sanctified when we are justified; that our hearts are then cleansed from all sin.” — Works, vol. i. p. 119.

I cannot therefore by any means receive this assertion, that there is no sin in a believer from the moment he is justified; —

“1. Because it is contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture.”

“2. Because it is contrary to the experience of the children of God.”

“3. Because it is absolutely new, never heard of in the world till yesterday.”

“4. Because it is naturally attended with the most fatal consequences; not only grieving those whom God hath not grieved, but, perhaps, dragging them into everlasting perdition.” — Sermons, vol. i. p. 111.

Dr. George Peck says: “Would it not be a sad indication of the degeneracy of Methodism in this country, if what Mr. Wesley, under God our great founder, considered heresy, and opposed With All His Might, should be cherished as the very marrow of the gospel by the ministers and people of the Methodist Episcopal Church?” — Christian, Perfection, p. 364.

Rev.. William Bramwell writes to a friend: “An idea is going forth, that when we are justified we are entirely sanctified,” and “to feel evil nature after justification is to lose pardon,” &c. You may depend upon it, this is the devil’s great gun. We shall have much trouble with this, and I am afraid we cannot suppress it.” — Memoir.

14. What was the Moravian or Zinzendorf doctrine which Mr. Wesley opposed?

That the soul is entirely sanctified when it is justified; that regeneration, which takes place at the time of justification, is identical with entire sanctification.

Mr. Wesley gives Zinzendorf’s statements:– “The moment he,” a believer, “is justified, he is sanctified wholly.” — “Entire sanctification and justification are in the same instant, and neither is increased or diminished.” — “As soon as any one is justified, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwell in his heart; and in that moment his heart is as pure as it ever will be.” — Works, vol. iii. p. 222.

It was this error that occasioned the Writing and publication of his sermon on “Sin in Believers.”

He says in his Journal: “I retired to Lewisham, and wrote the sermon on ‘Sin in Believers,’ in order to remove a mistake, which some were laboring to propagate — that there is no sin in any that are justified.” Works, vol. iv. p. 147.

This theory of entire sanctification is antagonistic to the universal experience of the Church, and to the standard writers of all Christendom for a thousand years.

15. Is the theory that the soul is entirely sanctified at regeneration, attended with serious difficulties?

It is. It involves the whole subject of Christian sanctification in inextricable difficulties. The following are some of them:

1. If sanctification is complete at justification, then every man who enjoys religion is entirely sanctified.

2. If sanctification is complete at conversion, then every Christian, to be truthful, should profess entire sanctification.

3. If all who are converted are entirely sanctified, then all the directions in the word of God, to seek holiness sanctification, or perfect love, are given exclusively to sinners.

4. If sanctification is complete at justification, then converts are not to seek for any further cleansing.

5. If sanctification is complete at justification, ministers have no right to urge Christians to “go on unto perfection,” or to “cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

6. If justification and entire sanctification are inseparable, then all who feel the fruits of the flesh are in a state of condemnation.

7. If a state of entire sanctification is consistent with the struggles of pride, unbelief, impatience, jealousy, and anger (the common experience of newly justified believers), must we not infer that these must go with us to heaven? as it must be admitted that entire sanctification fits the soul for heaven.

8. If sanctification is complete at conversion then every man who is not entirely sanctified is a child of the devil.

9. If entire sanctification is complete at justification, it is so in opposition to the experience of the whole Church of God, and, with slight exceptions, the whole Christian world have been seriously mistaken during two thousand years.

10. If all that are regenerate are wholly sanctified, then, whoever is convicted for full salvation, and groaning after it, is at once to infer that he was never converted, or that he is now backslidden. Thus would this heresy, if received, perplex and harass with perpetual difficulties and discouragements the very members of the church who are most deeply concerned to possess all the mind that was in Christ.

A system involving such difficulties can not be received as the truth of God, and should be regarded as anti-scriptural, and avoided as dangerous heresy.

16. If regeneration is partial and not entire sanctification, where is the limit?

Dr. G. D. Watson answers this question:– “The Scriptures teach that in conversion the believer is always sanctified or purified back to the moral cleanness of infancy. This is the exact limit of partial sanctification, which is fixed by the Saviour himself. “Except ye be converted and become as little children.” Just as pardon removes all guilt resulting from actual transgressions, so ‘the washing of regeneration’ removes all the impurity acquired by actual transgression. The removal of remaining original impurity is the work of entire sanctification.” — Advocate of Holiness, September, 1879.

Rev.. B. W. Gorham: “The infant, and the man in a state of assured justification before God, are alike parties to the covenant of grace, which entitles them to holiness and heaven. Both are alike free from any voluntary antagonism to holiness; and should death come suddenly to both, our covenant-keeping Lord will surely perfect that which is locking in each, even in the very article of death.” — God’s Method with Man, p. 57.

17. Does a state of justification involve a desire to be holy?

It does. If a man is a Christian, and in a justified state, he has the heart of a child of God, and desires to render Him a present, full, and unreserved obedience. This is implied in the very nature of true religion. A desire for holiness is a spontaneity of the regenerate heart, and the Christian who argues against holiness will get down on his knees and pray for a clean heart, — his regenerated heart getting the better of his head.

Bishop Peck says: “Regeneration in its lowest state loves holiness, and pants to be filled with it.”

Mr. Caughey says: “A hearty desire for purity is the brightest gem that sparkles in real justification. If it be genuine, this desire is always attached to it — as weight to lead, as heat to fire, as fragrance to the rose, as greenness to a healthy leaf — inseparable.”