The Nature Of Christian Perfection
19. What is entire sanctification or Christian perfection?
Negatively, it is that state of grace which excludes all sin from the heart. Positively, it is the possession of pure love to God. “Blessed are the pure in heart.” “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” “The end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart.” In the grace of justification, sins, as acts of transgression, are pardoned. In the grace of sanctification, sin, as a malady, is removed, so that the heart is pure. In the nature of the case, the eradication of sin in principle from the human heart completes the Christian character. When guilt is forgiven in justification, and all pollution is removed in entire sanctification, so that grace possesses the heart and nothing contrary to grace, then the moral condition is reached to which the Scriptures give the name of perfection, or entire sanctification. Though the leading writers of our Church define this gracious state in different phraseology, there is an essential agreement among them; their disagreements are more in infelicities of expression than in real differences, and more speculative than fundamental. Their essential agreement will be seen in the following quotations:
1. Mr. Wesley says: “Both my brother [Charles Wesley] and I maintain, that Christian perfection is that love of God and our neighbor which implies Deliverance From All Sin.”
“It is the loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This implies that no wrong temper, none contrary to love, remains in the soul; and that all the thoughts, words, and actions are governed by pure love.” — Vol. vi. p. 500.
“It is nothing higher, and nothing lower than this — the pure love of God and man. It is love governing the heart and life, running through all our tempers, words, and actions.” — Vol. vi p. 502. — “Certainly, sanctification (in the proper sense) is an instantaneous deliverance from all sin.” — Vol. vii. p. 717.
2. Ray. John Fletcher says: “It is the pure love of God and man shed abroad in a faithful believer’s heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him. to cleanse him, and to keep him clean, ‘from all the filthiness of the flesh and spirit,’ and to enable him to ‘fulfill the law of Christ,’ according to the talents he is intrusted with, and the circumstances in which he is placed in this world.” Last Check, p. 567.
3. Dr. A. Clarke: “What, then, is this complete sanctification? It is the cleansing of the blood, that has not been cleansed; it is washing the soul of a true believer from the remains of sin.” — Clarke’s Theology, p. 206.
4. Rev. Richard Watson says: “We have already spoken of justification, adoption, regeneration, and the witness of the Holy Spirit, and we proceed to another AS DISTINCTLY MARKED, and as graciously promised in the Holy Scriptures. This is the entire sanctification, or the perfected holiness of believers. “Happily for us, a subject of so great importance is not involved in obscurity.”
The reader will note the declaration of Mr. Watson, that this subject “is not involved in obscurity.” Of the nature and extent of Christian purity, Mr. Watson says: “By which can only be meant our complete deliverance from all spiritual pollution, all inward depravation of the heart, as well as that which, expressing itself outwardly by the indulgence of the senses, is called ‘filthiness of the flesh.’ ” — Institutes, vol. ii. p. 450.
5. Rev. Joseph Benson: “To sanctify you wholly is to complete the work of purification and renovation begun in your regeneration.” — Com. I Thess. v. 23.
6. Bishop Hedding says: “The degree of original sin which remains in some believers, though not a transgression of a known law, is nevertheless sin, and must be removed before one goes to heaven, and the removal of this evil is what we mean by full sanctification.” “Regeneration is the beginning of purification. Entire sanctification is finishing that work.” — Sermon.
7. Dr. George Peck says: “By being saved from all sin in the present life, we mean being saved, first, from all outward sin all violations of the requirements of the law of love which relate to our outward conduct; and, secondly, from all inward sin all violations of the law of love which relate to the intellect, the sensibilities, and the will.” — Christian Perfection, p. 65.
8. Rev. Luther Lee says: “Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement has power to cleanse from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, which is justification, but are washed entirely from it’s pollution, freed from its power, and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts, and to walk in his holy commandments blameless.” — Theology, p. 211.
9. Bishop Foster says of the person entirely sanctified, that he is in a state in which he will be entirely free from sin, properly so called, both inward and outward.” “The process of this work is in this order: beginning with pardon, by which one aspect of sin, that is actual guilt, is wholly removed, and proceeding in regeneration, by which another kind of sin, that is depravity, is in part removed, terminating with entire sanctification, by which the remainder of the second kind, or depravity, Is Entirely Removed.” — Christian Purity, p. 122.
This statement of Bishop Foster is most admirably expressed, and presents the truth with much clearness. Regeneration removes some sin or pollution, and entire sanctification removes the corruption which remains after regeneration. This will be seen, from the authorities given, to be the Wesleyan idea of entire sanctification.
10. Bishop J. T. Peck: “In the merely justified state we are not entirely pure. … But in the work of entire sanctification, these impurities are all cleansed away, so that we are wholly saved from sin, from its inward pollution.” — Central Idea, p. 52.
11. Dr. John Dempster, in an admirable sermon on Christian Perfection, before the Biblical Institute, said: “Do you then demand an exact expression of the difference? It is this: the one (regeneration) admits of controlled tendencies to sin, the other (entire sanctification) extirpates those tendencies. ‘That is, the merely regenerate has remaining impurity the fully sanctified has none.”
12. Bishop D. W. Clarke: “Entire sanctification implies an entire cleansing of the soul from its moral defilement, and the plenary endowment of it with all the graces of the Spirit of — Beauty of Holiness, May, 1857.
13. Binney’s Theological Compend defines holiness as — “That participation of the Divine Nature, which excludes all original depravity, or inbred Sin, from the heart.” … “Entire sanctification is that act of the Holy Ghost whereby the justified soul is made holy.”
14. Bishop Simpson says: “Christian Perfection is a term used by Methodists to denote a state of grace implying purity of heart, or a heart cleansed from all sin.” … “Sanctification is that act of the Holy Ghost whereby the justified man is made holy.” — Encyclopedia of Methodism.
15. Rev. B. W. Gorham: “Entire sanctification is the complete purification of the heart, resulting, through the blood of Jesus Christ, from the pervading presence and governing power the Holy Spirit, continually possessing and occupying the nature, and subduing all things therein unto himself.” — God’s Method with Man, p. 170.
16. The German United Brethren Church say: “By perfect holiness we understand the separation and purification from all inhering sin, after regeneration, by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and the filling of the heart with the love of God the Holy Ghost.”
17. Rev. Wm. McDonald says: “It is the removal from our moral natures, through faith in Christ, all sinful desires and tempers, — all pride, anger, envy, unbelief, and love of the world; and the possession in these purified natures of the unmixed graces of faith, humility, resignation, patience, meekness, self-denial, and love.” — Scriptural Views, p. 23.
18. Noah Webster defines sanctification — “The act of making holy, ….. the state of being thus purified or sanctified.’ “To sanctify, its a general sense, is to cleanse, purify, or make holy, … to cleanse from corruption, to purify from sin.”
19. The Methodist Catechism says: “Sanctification is that act of divine grace whereby we are made holy.” This definition follows that of regeneration. Catechism No. 111. is more explicit:– “What is entire sanctification?” ” The state of being entirely cleansed from sin, so as to love God with all our heart and mind and strength.”
It has been asserted that there is much disagreement and confusion in the teaching of the Church in this regard, and that a new formula of this doctrine is needed. The foregoing quotations from our chief writers show how completely they agree with each other. If desired, this list might be greatly extended, and an equal accord shown respecting the essential particulars of the doctrine.
It cannot be shown that there is more disagreement among our ministers concerning sanctification, if as much, as in regard to the atonement, the resurrection, and other items of doctrine.
That there are a few ministers in the Methodist Church who teach anti-Wesleyan and unscriptural views, we admit, and that many neglect to seek the experience, and therefore are not prepared to teach it as they ought, is both admitted and deplored.
Methodist authorities are agreed in teaching:–
1. That justification and regeneration are not identical with entire sanctification.
2. That entire sanctification is subsequent to regeneration, and in an important sense is an instantaneous work.
3. That it is a supernatural, divine work, and is by faith.
4. That negatively, it is freedom from all sin; and, positively, it is loving God with all the heart.
5. That it is attested by the Holy Spirit, by conscience, and by its fruits.
6. That it is both the privilege and duty of all believers to be entirely sanctified.
Alike, they all discard absolute, angelic, or Adamic perfection, in the entirely sanctified believer. They alike denounce all perfection of degree or of maturity, of judgment or of knowledge, or any other perfection except that of love and moral purity.
In these important items there is agreement among nearly all our chief ministers, and their disagreements are almost entirely in things more speculative than fundamental.
20. What is the distinction between regeneration and entire sanctification?
It is that of partial, and of complete purity. The Christian who is but regenerated, is not cleansed from all dwelling sin, while the Christian who is entirely sanctified is entirely purified. Though regeneration and entire sanctification are of one nature, there is a distinction. There is both a doctrinal and an experimental difference; the first preceding and falling below the other, and there is a transition from one to the other.
The first includes, in addition to imparted spiritual life, the commencement of purification; the other is the possession of the same spiritual life with complete purification.
The regenerate state and the fully sanctified state differ in moral quality; grace and life in one case have antagonisms in the heart, — in the other they have none. The “new life,” or “new man,” exists in an uncleansed soul in the former case, and in a purified soul in the latter. In the regenerate there is the new life unto righteousness, but not the complete death unto sin. In the entirely sanctified, the new life with all the graces of the Spirit exist in a pure heart.
1. Mr. Wesley says: “That believers are delivered from the guilt and power of sin we allow; that they are delivered from the being of it we deny. . . Christ, indeed, can no reign where sin reigns; neither will he dwell where sin is allowed. But he is and dwells in the heart of every believer who is fighting against all sin, although it be not yet purified. … Indeed this grand point, that there are two contrary principles in unsanctified believers — nature and grace, the flesh and the spirit, — runs through all the Epistles of St. Paul, yea, through all the Holy Scriptures almost all the directions and exhortations therein are founded on this supposition, pointing at wrong tempers or practices in those who are notwithstanding acknowledged by the inspired writers to be believers.” — Sermon on Sin in Believers.
2. Bishop Hedding says: “The difference between a justified soul who is not fully sanctified and one fully sanctified, I understand to be this: the first (if he does not backslide) is kept from voluntarily committing known sin, which is what is commonly meant in the New Testament by committing sin. But he yet finds in himself the remains of inbred corruption, or original sin, such as pride, anger, envy, a feeling of hatred to an enemy, a rejoicing at a calamity which has fallen upon an enemy, &c. The second, or the person fully sanctified, is cleansed from all these inward involuntary sins.” — Sermon before N.J. Con.
3. Dr. Dempster says: “Do you, then, demand an exact expression of the difference? It is this the one admits of controlled tendencies to sin, the other extirpates those tendencies. That is, the merely regenerate has remaining Impurity; the fully sanctified has None.” — Sermon at Bible Institute.
4. Rev. Richard Watson says: “In this regenerate state, the former corruptions of the heart may remain and strive for the mastery, but that which characterizes and distinguishes it from the state of a penitent before justification, before he is in Christ, is, that they are not even his inward habit, and that they have no dominion.” — Institutes , vol. ii. p. 450.
5. Rev. Luther Lee says: The power of sin is broken, the tyrant is dethroned, and his reign ceases in the soul at the moment of regeneration; yet sin is not so destroyed as not to leave is mark upon the soul, and even yet struggle for the mastery.”
There is still a warfare within; — there will be found an opposing element in the sensibility of the soul, which, though it no longer controls the will, often rebels against it and refuses to obey it.” — “The will can and does resist them in a regenerate state; but it cannot silence them, renew, or change their direction by an act of volition.” … “These [propensities, passions, appetites] belong to the soul, and must be brought into harmony with right and the sanctified will before the whole soul can be said to be sanctified or to be entirely consecrated to God. When this work is wrought, then the war within will cease.” — Theology, pp. 212, 213.
6. Rev. William McDonald says:
1. “In regeneration, sin does not reign; in sanctification it does not exist.
2. “In regeneration, sin is suspended; in sanctification it is destroyed.
3. “In regeneration, irregular desires — anger, pride, unbelief, envy, &c. — are subdued; in sanctification they are removed.
4. “Regeneration is salvation from the voluntary commission of sin; sanctification is salvation from the being of sin.
5. “Regeneration is the old man bound; sanctification is the old man cast out and spoiled of his goods.
6. “Regeneration is sanctification begun; entire sanctification is the work completed.” — N. Testament Standard, p. 123
21. Is there a difference between sin and depravity?
There is, a very important difference.
1. Sin is “the transgression of the law,” and involves moral action, either by voluntary omission, or willful commission, and it always incurs guilt.
2. Depravity is a state or condition, a defilement or perversity of spirit. It is developed in the soul, in inclinations to sin, or in sinward tendencies.
3. Sin, strictly speaking, is voluntary, and involves responsible action, and is a thing to be pardoned.
4. Depravity is inborn, inherited, and inbred. It is derived from fallen Adam, and is augmented by actual sin.
5. All sin involves guilt, depravity does not, unless it be assented to, yielded to, cherished, or its cure willfully neglected.
6. Depravity is one of the results of sin, and it may have somewhat of the nature of sin, in the sense of being a disconformity or unlikeness to God; and it is in this sense that “all unrighteousness is sin.” Depravity lacks the voluntary element of sin, hence it is not a thing to be pardoned, like sin proper, but is to be removed from the soul by cleansing or purgation.
Regarding sin and depravity as the same, occasions much confusion on the subject of entire sanctification. Let it be borne in mind, the terms “inbred sin,” “indwelling sin,” and all others significant of inward pollution, are not used by us as significant of sin in its proper sense, but as an inward corruption or defilement.
“These [sin and depravity] are coupled together as though they were the same; but they are not the same thing. The guilt is one thing, the power another, and the being yet another. That believers are delivered from the guilt and power of sin we allow; that they are delivered from the being of it we deny.” — Wesley’s Sermons, vol. i. p. 113.
Bishop Foster says, sin and depravity “are distinct the one from the other: since the depravity may exist without the act, and may be increased by the act, and the carnality may exist without the separate transgression to which it prompts, and is alleged to exist prior to the transgression.” — “Sin committed, and depravity felt, are very different; the one is an action, the other a state of the affections. The regenerate believer is saved from the one, and he has grace to enable him to have the victory over the other; but the disposition itself, to some extent, remains, under the control of a stronger, gracious power implanted, but still making resistance, and indicating actual presence, and needing to be entirely sanctified.” — Christian Purity, pp. 111, 121.
“Moral depravity,” says Bishop Hamline, “is not in action or deed, but lies FARTHER BACK and DEEPER DOWN in our nature, at the fountainhead of all activity and character. It is enmity to God, and like the fatal worm at the root of the vine, withers every green leaf.” — Sermon on Depravity.
Rev. Dr. Steele, in “Love Enthroned,” says: “The spirit of sin, or inbred sin, technically called original sin, because it is inherited from Adam, is the state of heart out of which acts of sin either actually flow or tend to flow. Until this state is changed, the conquest of love over the soul is incomplete. Regeneration introduces a power which checks the outbreaking of original into actual sin, except occasional and almost involuntary “allies in moments of weakness or unwatchfulness.” — p. 37.
22. Do those merely regenerated often think indwelling in is destroyed?
They do; and this is frequently the case when the soul is first converted. Not infrequent, the transition from nature to grace, from death to life, and from darkness to light, is so marked, and the love and gladness of the newborn soul is so overflowing, as for the time to make the impression the whole heart is cleansed.
“How naturally do those who experience such a change [regeneration] imagine that all sin is gone, that it is entirely rooted out of their hearts, and has no more place therein! How easily do they draw that inference, ‘I feel no sin, therefore I have none; it does not stir, therefore it does not exist; it has no motion, therefore it has no being! But it is seldom long before they are undeceived, finding sin was only suspended not destroyed.” — Wesley’s Sermons, vol. i. p. 385.
23. What is the cause of so much prejudice against the doctrine of entire sanctification, and even of hostility to it?
1. The doctrine is misunderstood. Multitudes misapprehend its true nature. It is often taken to mean more than is intended, and more than is taught by the Church. There are thousands within the bosom of our church who are astonishingly ignorant of the doctrine as taught by our standards. In these days of newspapers and light literature which are flooding the land, everything else is read but the excellent works written on this subject.
We think it a serious matter that our grand old religious biographies, which formerly educated our people, such as Fletcher, Clark, Bramwell, Stoner, Carvosso, &c., are being very largely supplanted in our Sabbath schools by light and questionable literature. The valuable books published on this doctrine and experience are read by only a small part of the membership of the church.
2. The doctrine and experience of entire sanctification has been prejudiced among common people by being frequently identified with culture, social refinement, and the highest finish; then of course it can be possessed only by the few who have the time, the means, and the opportunity to obtain the highest development and brightest polish, and cultivation. This is an egregious blunder, contrary to the very genius of the gospel. The highest style of gospel salvation is adapted to the mass of humanity, the common people. A plowman may be entirely sanctified without becoming a polished scholar; and a plain, godly mother may be free from all sin, though she may know nothing of social refinement or literary cultivation.
3. Many of our ministers are at fault in this matter, in not seeking this blessed experience themselves; for not studying and mastering the subject; and for not preaching it more clearly, strongly, and explicitly to the people.
4. Much of the prejudice and opposition to this doctrine comes from remaining depravity in unsanctified believers. Indwelling sin is an antagonism to holiness and, in so far as any Christian has inbred sin, he has it within him opposition to holiness. Many, most, do not yield to it, but resist it, pray against it, and keep it under; others, we are sorry to know, both in the ministry and laity, yield to their depravity, and stand in opposition to God’s work.
24. Is Christian Perfection absolute perfection?
It is not. We know of no writer who has ever taught any such perfection in man. God’s moral perfections are like an infinite ocean, as boundless and fathomless as immensity. Up to this perfection neither man, nor angel, nor seraph can ever come. Between the highest degree of human perfection, and the perfection of God, there is the difference between the finite and the infinite. Absolute perfection belongs to God alone. In this sense, there is none good but one, that is God.” The lightest, sweetest, and most lovely angel in Paradise is infinitely below absolute perfection.
25. Is Christian perfection the same as Angelic perfection? It is not. Angels are a higher order of intelligences; they are innocent and sinlessly pure. The fire of their love burns with an intensity, and their services are performed with a precision and rectitude not possible to mortals. In this world we must be content with Christian perfection; when we reach heaven we shall be equal unto the angels.” Christian perfection or holiness is a perfection according to the capacity of a man, and not according to the capacity of an angel, or a glorified saint.
26. Is Christian perfection synonymous with Adamic perfection?
It is not. There is a wide difference between a pure-hearted Christian saved by grace, and unfallen Adam in his Paradisiacal glory; a difference in range of powers, innocency, and grounds of justification. Adam was justified by works, and was free from the broken powers, and infirmities of fallen human nature.
Every creature of God may be perfect after its kind, and according to its degree. Angels, cherubim, and seraphim are all perfect, but their perfection falls infinitely below the absolute perfection of God. There is a gradation which belongs to all the works of God, and hence there are various sorts and degrees of perfection. Angels are perfect in their order and place; they are perfect as angels, but imperfect in comparison with God. Each sphere of being has its normal limits; God alone has absolute, infinite perfection; the angels have a perfection of their own, above that of humanity; fallen but regenerate and sanctified man has also his peculiar sphere in the mediatorial economy; and the highest practicable rectitude, whatever it may be, is his perfection, and is Christian perfection.
Christian perfection is a perfection of love, pure love in a fallen but purified soul.
In the very nature of things, the term perfection is used in various senses, and must be limited and qualified when applied to any being but God; and yet those who reject the doctrine, of Christian perfection seem to affix to the term but one single idea, and that the idea of absoluteness — implying absolute perfection.
To apply absolute perfection, or angelic, or Adamic perfection, to the terms given in the Bible, significant of Christian perfection, which is a modified, relative perfection, such as may be asserted of an entirely sanctified Christian, is as illogical as it is common among the opponents of this doctrine.
Mr. Wesley adopted the term perfection because he found it in the Scriptures; (see question 1;) he deemed St. Paul and St. John sufficient authorities for its use. The Christian world has also largely recognized the term in the writings of Clement, Macarius, Kempis, Fenelon, Lucus, and many other writers both Papal and Protestant.
27. Do you teach a sinless perfection?
Our answer must be according to what is meant by “sinless perfection;” which is a term we never use in teaching Christian perfection.
1. If by sinless perfection be meant infallibility, or a state in which the soul cannot sin, we answer, No. We believe in no such perfection in this life; and further, we know of no one who teaches any such thing, although has been asserted over and over, thousands of times, by the opposers of Christian perfection.
2. If by this term be meant, a perfect fulfillment of the Paradisiacal law of innocence, and freedom from all voluntary transgressions of the law of love, we answer, No. Mr. Wesley says: “Therefore sinless perfection is phrase I never use, lest I should seem to contradict myself. I believe a person filled with the love of God still liable to these involuntary transgressions. Such transgressions you may call sins, if you please; I do not.” Plain Account, p. 67
3. If by this phrase be meant, a perfect observance of the evangelical law of love, so as to love God with all the heart, soul, and strength, we answer, by the grace of God, Yes. See Deut. xxx. 6.
4. If it be meant a moral condition, in which the soul has no disposition to sin, and will not sin, and by the grace of God is kept from sinning, we answer Yes, to the glory and praise of God.
5. If this question means, does God fully pardon all our sinful acts and absolve us from all guilt, and does He entirely cleanse the soul from a sinful state, so that it becomes pure, or entirely free from sinful proclivities we answer, Yes.
28. Does Christian Perfection exclude a need of the atonement?
No; not for a moment. All Christian life is in Christ, and is dependent upon Him, as the branch upon the vine. “I am the vine, ye are the branches. — Without me ye can do nothing.” The pure in heart abide it Christ, by a continuous faith, which is the vital bond of union with him. Sever this connection, and the spiritual life of the soul ceases at once. Christ does not give life to the soul separate from, but in and with himself.
Purity of heart sharpens the spiritual vision and secures steady and unbroken reliance upon the atonement; hence, those cleansed from all sin, in the fullest sense “live by faith on the Son of God.” None see their need of the atonement so clearly, or feel their need of its merits so deeply, as the entirely sanctified. He, more than any other man, feels, —
“Every moment, Lord, I need The merit of thy death.”
It requires the same power to sustain creation, it did to produce it; so, it requires the same Jesus who cleansed the soul, to keep it clean. Cleansing grace is keeping grace, and is retained, as it was obtained, by faith. In Christ they are, and in Christ they must abide. Their only danger is in apostasy. “According to your faith be it unto you,” is the divine order in keeping as well as in receiving grace. “Who are kept by the power God through faith unto salvation.”
Dr. Clarke observes: “What is it that cleanseth the soul and destroys sin? Is it not the mighty power of the grace of God? What is it that keeps the soul clean? Is it not the same power dwelling in us? No more can an effect subsist without its use, than a sanctified soul abide in holiness without the indwelling Sanctifier.” — Clarke’s Theology, p. 187.
Mr. Fletcher says: “To say that the doctrine of Christian perfection supersedes the need of Christ’s blood, is not less absurd than to assert that the perfection of navigation renders the great deep a useless reservoir of water.” — Last Check, p. 574.
29. What does the highest evangelical perfection include?
Under the economy of grace, the measure of man’s responsibility and obedience is his actual ability, as a fallen and infirm being, and not the ability of an unfallen being. The commands, — “To love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” and to “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” are to be interpreted in harmony with this view; the Father being the human standard only in purity or holiness, and not in range of powers or natural perfections. The highest evangelical perfection embraces two things:
1st. A perfection of love, proportioned to the power of each individual.
2d. A steady progress in love harmonizing with our circumstances and increasing capacity and ability. Hence Christian perfection must be a relative and modified perfection, proportioned to the individual capacity and strength of the Christian.
To love the Lord with all our heart, is to love him to the extent of the powers and capacity we actually possess, no more, no less. To love him more than with all our heart — beyond our power and capacity — would be an absurdity; and to love him less than to the extent of our capacity and powers, our actual ability, would be short of the divine requirement.
Our Heavenly Father requires us to love him (with his assisting grace) as much as we can, to the extent of our actual ability. Perfect love is pure love filling the heart. That is all!
“What doth the Lord thy God require of thee but to fear the Lord thy God, and to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.” Man, by the grace of God, can do as well as he can. “He that does as well as he can does well; angels can do no better, and God requires no more.”
In many things, the whole is easier of accomplishment than a part. Total abstinence is easier to an inebriate than partial reformation. Walking uprightly is easier than walking bent over. Normal and full action is easier than abnormal and restrained action. To love God with all the heart, is easier than to love him with a divided heart. A divided service, as well as a halfhearted service, is always a difficult service.
Let it be remembered, God does not require any more than we can actually do through grace. As we can give no more than our all, he requires no more. The divine requirement to love him with all our heart, is adapted to all periods and all intelligences; it is a claim of both Testaments, and binding under all dispensations.
If God requires according to what we have, and not according to what we have not, then all his requirements involve the practicability of their enjoined duties; and whatever lies beyond our assisted powers, can not become the contents of his command. That which we can not do, we cannot be under obligation to do, nor can we be blamed for not doing. It is an affirmation of reason, that responsibility is proportioned to ability, hence, the limit of duty is the limit of ability. To show that this is the correct view of this subject, we give a few learned authorities.
1. The learned Limborch: “For as much as God requires that we should love, not above, but with all our strength, it is evident that nothing exceeding our abilities is required at our hands.” — Limborch’s Theologia, Book v. chap. 25.
2. The eloquent Episcopus, the successor of Arminius in the university of Leyden: “Whether a man, assisted by divine grace, can keep all the commands of God, even to a perfect fulfillment, I indeed have no doubt. My reasons are these:
(1) “God commands no other love than is rendered by the whole mind, the whole heart, and all the strength.
(2) “God promises that he will circumcise the heart of his people, that they may love him with their whole heart and mind.
(3) God himself testifies, that there have been those who have kept all his commands all the days of their life with their whole mind and heart and strength, and this in the sight of God — as we read of Asa, 1 Kings xv. 14.” — Peck’s Christian Perfection, p. 134.
3. Bishop Burnet on the thirty-nine articles says: “Christian perfection consists in this, that we love and fear God with all our heart. It is in this that true perfection consists.”
4. Bishop Jeremy Taylor: “That it is possible to love God with all the heart, is folly to deny. For he that saith he cannot do a thing with all his strength, that is that he cannot do what he can do, knows not what he saith; and yet to do this is the highest measure and sublimity of perfection, and of keeping the commandments.”
These authorities might be greatly extended, to show that Christian perfection is a perfection of love to God; in measure corresponding to the capacity of the soul.
30. If the law is uncompromising in its claims, and the best Christian is defective, because of powers enfeebled by the fall, how can men be perfect?
Legal perfection is one thing, and evangelical Christian perfection is another.
1. Under the evangelical law of grace, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Although our powers are impaired by the fall, St. Paul says: What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.”
The fulfillment of the law was epitomized by our Saviour, — “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with al thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself;” and, “On these two hang all the law and the prophets.” Grace to observe this is provided, and promised in the Old Testament, — “The Lord thy God will circumcise (purify) thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deut. xxx. 6.)
2. No one is responsible for a deficiency of capacity, or for enfeebled powers which his own agency had no part in bringing about. God is just, and never inflicts penalty on any one for deficiency of capacity or power for which they are not responsible; nor does he require of any one services above what he can render by natural or graciously acquired ability. “If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.”
3. God’s plan of saving man is not by the law, not upon condition of faultless obedience to the law. We are saved “by grace through faith.” The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ our Redeemer. Although the powers of the entirely sanctified are less than those of primitive man, having been impaired by the fall of Adam, and of necessity less than the law requires, yet he is accepted for Christ’s sake; he always needing and always having, the merit of his death. He, the second Adam, is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” The entirely sanctified Christian is “complete in him,” not only in respect inward purity, but also in his relations to the law. His merit pardons, his blood cleanses, and his atonement and intercession magnify the law, and answer as an equivalent to our unavoidable defects and deficiencies.
31. Is personal holiness imparted or imputed by Christ?
We know of no imputed holiness. Christ imparts never imputes holiness. His righteousness never covers up a corrupt heart. He never apologizes for sin, nor throws a mantle over it. It is to be feared, many who are living in sin are cherishing the delusion that they “are complete to in Christ,” through an imaginary imputed holiness, while they fail to seek personal righteousness in His cleansing blood. It is a pernicious Antinomian heresy to trust in Christ’s imputed righteousness instead of seeking and receiving personal redemption through his blood. We must be made “partakers of his holiness.” No man is saved by the credit of Christ’s holiness, without personal holiness begotten in him by Christ; and Christ never accounts his people holy in law before he makes them holy in fact.
Holiness in man, wrought by the grace and power of Christ, is precisely the same as holiness in God. The same in kind — the one is original, and the other is derived and inwrought by the Holy Ghost. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” God is both the model and source of all holiness.
Our perfection is in Christ, as the perfection of the branch is in the vine. Grace is derived from Christ only by a union with him, as the branch to the vine. “Christ in you the hope of glory,” — dwelling in us by the Holy Spirit, and sanctifying us by his blood. Christ atones, intercedes, and procures blessings for us, and of God is made unto us “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” Our holiness is no more confined to the person of Christ, than a sick person’s health is to the physician who cures him; or than a starving beggar is full fed in the benefactor who supplies his wants. Through the blood, merit, and work of Christ the fully saved soul has personal sanctification, and is made holy.
Rev. Albert Barnes says: “By him we are sanctified, or made holy. This does not mean, that his personal holiness is reckoned to us, but that by his work applied to our hearts, we become personally sanctified or holy.” — Notes I Car. i. 30.
32. Is repression entire sanctification?
It is not. Inward repression is not inward purity.
1. The justified and regenerate state holds in subjection remaining depravity, so that it does not reign. Of the justified believer Mr. Wesley says: “He has power, both over outward and inward sin, even from the moment he is justified.” — Vol. i. p. 109.
2. Choking down and repressing indwelling sin, is not the process of cleansing the heart. “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Repression is not washing. The inward impurities repressed in regeneration are removed by entire sanctification.
3. Repressive power is nowhere ascribed to the blood of Christ, but purgative, cleansing efficacy. Entire sanctification is carnal nature eradicated, destroyed, exterminated, and not repressed. The Divine method of dealing with sin is by extermination, and not by repression. All must see that the extirpation of spiritual pollution, and not its repression, is scriptural, is Wesleyan, and is a matter of experience.
Dr. George Peck says: “Sanctification, in its earliest stages in regeneration, implies the subjugation of the body of sin; and complete sanctification implies its entire destruction.” — Christian Perfection, p. 35.
4. Holiness is the same in kind in man that it is in God; and certainly there is nothing morally wrong repressed in God. Holiness is unmingled purity. Entire sanctification is the cleansing of the soul, from all those things repressed in the partially purified heart, so that there is nothing wrong within to be repressed.
33. Does Christian Perfection exclude growth in grace?
By no means. The pure in heart grow faster than any others. We believe in no state of grace excluding progression, either in this world or in heaven, but expect to grow with increasing rapidity forever. It is the same with the soul wholly sanctified as with the merely regenerate: it must progress in order to retain the favor of God and the grace possessed. Here many of both classes have fallen.
There is no standing still in a religious life, nor in a sinful life. We must either progress or regress. If living according to our light and duty, we are growing, no matter what our gracious state may be, or however largely we may have partaken of the Holy Spirit, — if neglecting present duty, we are backsliding, whatever our attainments may have been.
34. Can holiness be retained without growing in grace? It can only be retained by a steady progress in the divine life. The conditions of obtaining holiness and of retaining it are the same; and the conditions of obtaining and retaining it are those by which the soul is to grow and mature in holiness. Hence a violation of the conditions of increase and growth in holiness forfeit the state of holiness itself.
Again, our capacities and powers are improvable and expansive, and we must proportionately grow in holiness or incur guilt and fall from grace.
35. How can holiness be perfect and yet progressive?
Perfection in quality does not exclude increase in quantity. Beyond entire sanctification there is no increase in purity, as that which is pure cannot be more than pure; but there may be unlimited increase in expansion and quantity.
After love is made perfect, it may abound more and yet more. Holiness in the entirely sanctified soul is exclusive, and is perfect in kind or in quality, but is limited in degree or quantity. The capacities of the soul are expansive and progressive, and holiness in measure can increase corresponding to increasing capacity. Faith, love, humility, and patience, may be perfect in kind, and yet increase in volume and power, or in measure harmonizing with increasing capacity. A tree may be perfectly sound, healthy, and vigorous in its branches, leaves, and fruit, and yet year by year increase perpetually its capacity and fruitfulness. Analogous to this is a wicked life. The Church has always held the doctrine of total depravity, and yet believed in acquired depravity, and in aggressive depravity.
36. Where is growth in grace to be chiefly?
Subsequent to entire sanctification. A vast majority of church-members appear to think, between regeneration and entire sanctification must be a lifetime of growth in grace. This is a serious mistake, and we fear has overthrown millions. It is unscriptural to teach growth as a substitute for cleansing. Entire sanctification is the divine preparation of heart for the growth or development of all the fruit and graces of the Holy Spirit. (Eph. iv. 12, 16. See question: 37.)
Mr. Wesley says: “One perfected in love may grow in grace far swifter than he did before.” — Plain Account, p. 167.
37. Why can a soul entirely sanctified grow in grace more rapidly than others?
Holiness does not put a finality to anything within us, except to the existence and practice of sin; and the soul, perfect in love, can grow faster than others:
1. Because all the internal antagonisms of growth are excluded from the heart. Indwelling sin is the greatest hindrance to growth in grace. When this evil principle is destroyed, with all its real, living, stirring, inward evils, the chief hindrance to our growth is removed. When the weeds in a garden are exterminated, the vegetables will grow the more rapidly.
2. Because the purified heart has stronger faith, clearer light, is nearer the fountain, and dwells in a purer atmosphere than before it was cleansed.
3. Because after the Holy Ghost has cleansed the heart, He has a better chance than before to enlighten, enrich, adorn, and renew it, with more and more of love and power. The cleansing blood having removed all the interior obstructions to the Holy Spirit’s most gracious operations, affords more room for the Christian graces to grow and flourish.
4. Because the death of sin gives free scope to the life of righteousness. The purified heart is a pure moral soil, where the plants of righteousness, the graces of the Spirit, have an unobstructed growth. In the very nature of the case, in the pure heart, the Christian virtues are less impeded, and their growth more rapid, uniform, and solid. It should be borne in mind that growth in grace appertains to the positive in Christian life, to the graces of the Spirit, and is not a process of separating sin from the soul either before or after entire sanctification. There is no growing out of sin from the vicious to the virtuous, or from defilement to purity. Growth in a Christian has respect to the expansion and development of the moral features or virtues of the life in Christ.
5. Because the powers and capacities of the entirely sanctified soul increase and expand more rapidly than before, and with this increasing capacity there is a corresponding increase in the volume and power of the graces of the Spirit. Indwelling sin degenerates, blinds, cripples, and enervates the soul, while holiness quickens, invigorates, and secures the best possible foundation for its expansion and development.
6. Because it perfects the conditions of the most thrifty and symmetrical growth possible in this life. Holiness is spiritual health. “By his stripes we are healed.” All disease and deformity obstruct growth, while health is its most essential condition. A child in perfect health will grow in stature and strength more rapidly than if possessed of some constitutional disease.
Grace has the best possible chance in an entirely sanctified soul to achieve its grandest results. The very conditions of retaining purity are the precise conditions of the most rapid, healthful, and beautiful growth in love, knowledge, and holiness.
1. “When the embarrassments are thus removed out of the soul itself,” says Dr. Luther Lee, “progress will be more rapid, every virtue may increase in strength and brightness.” — Lee’s Theology, p. 25.
2. The holy Fletcher says: “A perfect Christian grows far more than a feeble believer, whose growth is still obstructed by the shady thorns of sin, and by the draining suckers of iniquity — Last Check, p. 499.
3. “It is only when all sin is cleansed from the heart,” says Dr. F. G. Hibbard, when the whole desire centers on God, and the whole consent of the will embraces each and every command of God — that the virtues of Christ or the graces of the Spirit can grow with unimpeded progress. — N. C. Advocate.
4. “When inbred sin is destroyed there can be no increase in purity, but there may be an eternal increase in love, and in the fruits of the Spirit.” — Binney’s Theological Compend.
5. Bishop Hamline says: The heart may be cleansed from all sin, while our graces are immature, and the cleansing is a preparation for the unembarrassed and rapid growth.” — Sermon, Beauty of Holiness, 1862.
38. Do the graces of the Spirit exist in the entirely sanctified soul without alloy?
They do. In the entirely sanctified they are perfect in quality, but are limited in degree. In the merely regenerate all the graces of the Spirit numerically exist, but they have more or less
antagonism in the soul, in the risings, and perverse inclination of carnal nature. After the heart is cleansed these virtues are exclusive, and exist in simplicity, and are perfect in quality.
In the coal regions of Wyoming Valley there are two principal veins of anthracite coal, which happily illustrate this subject. These veins of coal lie one above the other, extending under that far-famed valley from mountain to mountain. The coal is exactly the same in each of these veins, yet in one vein it is mixed with slate, and in the other it is all pure coal. In the first and upper vein, while there is a great preponderance of coal, there are little seams of slate running all through the coal.
Thus in the merely regenerate heart, while there is preponderance of grace and a controlling force of love, there are the remains of carnal nature (the little seams of slate), or the rudiments of sin.
Deeper down (please note the direction) in that beautiful valley, below the upper vein, is the big Baltimore vein the second vein; this is twenty-eight feet thick, all pure, solid coal, without a single seam of slate.
In like manner, in Christian experience, under the cleansing power of Christ, and deeper down than regeneration, is the pure love of God reigning alone in the heart.
Bishop Foster says: “These graces will exist in the sanctified soul without alloy, without mixture, in simplicity. There is nothing therein contrary to them, and they exist in measure corresponding to the present capacity of the soul possessing them.” Christian Purity, p. 57.
39. Are there two kinds of religious life?
There are not. There is but one kind of spiritual life, strictly speaking. That life, though divinely imparted, may exist in a partially purified heart, or in one entirely purified. The merely regenerate is possessed of both grace and inbred sin. Please note, however, these have existence in the same heart without forming a combination or composition, being opposed to each other, and possessed of no affiliation. There is no such commingling of grace and indwelling sin as to make an adulterated holiness. An adulterated holiness is an absurdity, a contradiction. Holiness is holiness.
Partly holy, and partly unholy, as, in a sense, is the case with the merely regenerate, does by no means imply a homogeneous character combining and assimilating into a common nature the elements of both holiness and inbred sin.
The mixed moral state of the partially purified heart is very different from this. Their existence in the human soul at the same time implies no friendship or partnership in any sense. They are distinct in nature and tendency, and are at war with each other. They “are contrary the one to the other,” — eternal antagonisms, and irreconcilable enemies. The apostle refers to his contrariety and antagonism in Galatians: “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh,and these are contrary the one to the other.”
40. Does Christian perfection exclude a liability to temptation? It does not. Adam and Eve were tempted in Eden. Our Saviour was tempted. Temptation does not imply any necessity to sin, nor necessarily any tendency in the mind to sin. The fact that a man is tempted is no proof that he is sinful or inclined to sin. An unfelt trial is no trial, and pain of mind, in itself, is no more sin than pain of body. Even Jesus “suffered being tempted,” Heb. ii. 18). If temptation is incompatible with holiness, then He was unholy. He had a long and bitter siege of temptation during forty days in the wilderness. He was tempted even to kneel down and worship the devil. He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” If temptation is inconsistent with holiness, then Adam and Eve were unholy before their fall. Liability to temptation is an unchangeable condition of probation. So long as we are in the world, so long as satan goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, so long as we have five senses which come in contact with a world abounding with evil, we may expect to be tempted. It is no sin to be tempted, provided proper caution has been used to avoid the occasions of temptation.
41. Are the temptations of the entirely sanctified soul the same as those of persons merely regenerated?
While they are essentially the same, yet the temptations of each are peculiar to themselves. The temptations of the entirely sanctified are usually sharper and shorter than others. They are also entirely from without, there being no foes within a sanctified heart; all is peaceful, friendly, and right there. The temptations of a sanctified soul find no favorable response from within, while those of the unsanctified do, more or less. In the one case, temptations find corrupt inclinations in the heart in their favor; in the other they find none. An entirely sanctified soul is tempted just as others are from without, and while his temptations tend in common with the temptations of those not entirely sanctified, to the excitement of desires, he does not allow them to take hold of the desires. His heart is in a moral condition where he arrests them at this point, and successfully repels them. He may be tempted as much intellectually, but certainly not so much sensitively, as his passions and appetites are pervaded and purified by the presence and power of the divine spirit, and the inward tendency is towards God. In the one case temptation finds no inward sympathy, or tendency to evil; in the other it may find more or less of desire or inclination to side with it. An inclination to side with temptation, if known to be an evil, or temptation is evidence of indwelling sin, as that is the principal way depravity is manifest — in wrong leanings or sin-ward inclinations.
Wrong tendencies are the expression of a back-lying corrupt state, and when this corruption is cleansed away, the tendency ceases.
Dr. G. Peck says: “The great difference between the temptations of those who are entirely sanctified and those who are not, is, that the temptation coming into contact with the latter, often stirs the sediment of corruption; while assaulting with equal violence the former, it meets with uniform resistance, and leaves no trace behind but an increase of moral power and the fruits of a new triumph.” — Christian Perfection, p. 433.
42. When does temptation end and sin begin?
The object of temptation must exist intellectually, or here could be no temptation. The temptation may exist to this extent without sin, and hence evil suggestions presented to our minds, which have no effect upon our desires or will, are only temptations.
1. No temptation or evil suggestion to the mind becomes sin till it is cherished or tolerated. Sin consists in yielding to temptation. So long as the soul maintains his integrity, so that temptation finds no sympathy within, no sin is committed and the soul remains unharmed, no matter how protracted or severe the fiery trial may prove.
2. Bishop Foster says ” To this most difficult question we answer, Sin begins whenever the temptation begins to find inward sympathy, if known to be a solicitation to sin. So long as it is promptly, and with the full and hearty concurrence of the soul, repelled, there is no indication of inward sympathy, there no sin.” — Christian Purity, p. 55.
3. Dr. G. Peck says: “First. I suppose all will admit that when the temptation gains the concurrence of the will, the subject contracts guilt. There can be no doubt here. Secondly. It is equally clear that when the temptation begets in the mind a desire for the forbidden object, the subject enters into temptation, and so sins against God. Thirdly. It is also clear that temptation cannot be invited or unnecessarily protracted without an indication of a sinful tendency toward the forbidden object, and, consequently, such a course not only implies the absence of entire sanctification, but involves the subject in actual guilt.” — Christian Perfection, p. 435.
43. Does Christian holiness exclude a liability to apostasy? It does not; but it renders apostasy much less probable. Perfect love makes a strong fortress of the heart: this fortress will be attacked, but is not as likely to be taken as without holiness. Holiness makes no one impeccable, although it possesses all the elements of strength and stability.
A liability to sin and fall is an essential condition of probation. Holiness secures the safest possible condition on earth. Absolute security does not belong to this world. Perfect and sinless Adam fell, and we all always find it necessary to watch and pray, and keep our hearts with all diligence, and our bodies under. We are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Perfect love does not cast out the fear of caution or of prudence. In this sense, “the righteous feareth always.” Grace never induces presumption. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
44. Does Christian perfection secure perfect knowledge?
It does not. We cannot know all things, either in this world, nor in the world to come. Nor do angels, nor the highest orders in heaven, know all things.
There is an infinity of things we shall never know in this life. Here we see through a glass, darkly. Now we are children in knowledge; now we know only in part. But, while Christian perfection makes no one perfect in knowledge, it does secure a more extended knowledge of God than can be otherwise attained. Of those sanctified wholly, it may be said, they “walk in the light as he is in the light;” and again, “Now are ye light in the Lord.” The perfect in love have a clearer apprehension of God, of his presence, and of spiritual things (other circumstances being equal) than any others.
It will be admitted that a penitent, convicted sinner has more light than an impenitent, unconvicted one. It will also be admitted that a converted, justified soul has still more light than a convicted penitent. We claim that a soul entirely sanctified and filled with perfect love has still greater light than the soul merely regenerated. Such can sing
“Blest are the pure in heart, For they shall see our God; The secret of the Lord is theirs; Their soul is His abode.”
45. Does Christian perfection exclude the infirmities of human nature?
It does not. Freedom from these is not to be expected in this world. We must wait for deliverance from these until this mortal puts on immortality. These infirmities, so numerous and various, are the common inheritance of humanity. They are not sins; they are innocent; and although they may be our misfortune, they are included in the “all things” which, by the grace and blessing of God, shall work together for our good. Although Christian perfection does not admit of any outward or inward sin, properly so called, yet it does admit of strong convictions of numberless infirmities and imperfections, such as slowness of understanding, errors of judgment, mistakes in practice, erratic imaginations, a treacherous memory, &c. If it be claimed that these innocent infirmities need the blood of atonement, praise the Lord, the blood of Jesus meets every demand.
46. Is it important to distinguish between inbred sin and the innocent infirmities of fallen human nature?
It is; otherwise we may on the one hand blame and afflict ourselves needlessly; or, on the other, excuse ourselves from blame when we are really culpable. An intelligent, faithful Christian will wisely discriminate between them, and seek the extirpation of the one, and patiently endure the burdens of the other. Mr. Wesley says: ” Let those who do call them sins beware how they confound these defects with sins, properly so called.” — Plain Account, p. 67.
Inbred sin is a carnal principle or root remaining in the unsanctified heart, sending up sprouts of bitterness which cling to the desires and appetites. It is the source moral evils, such as envy, pride, stubbornness, malice, anger, jealousy, unbelief, fretfulness, impatience, revenge, covetousness, and everything in opposition to the will of God.
Human infirmities are various and numerous, such as mental aberrations, sophistical reasonings, treacherous memory, erratic imaginations, involuntary ignorance, and all those frailties and defects which may co-exist with the very best intentions.
St. Paul recognizes this distinction; he writes to Timothy, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others may also fear;” and yet he writes to the Romans, “We that are strong should bear with the infirmities of the weak.” Here are two plain commands; the first not to bear with sins, and the
second to bear with infirmities. Many who reject the doctrine of Christian perfection confound infirmities and sins. Infirmities may entail regret and humiliation, but not guilt. Sin always produces guilt.
47. What are the distinguishing characteristics of perfect love?
1. Perfect love is perfect in quality. It is pure love, it has no alloy.
2. Perfect love is perfect in quantity, filling the heart “Be ye filled with the Spirit.”
3. Perfect love is constant love. If not constant, it is not perfect. There may not always be ecstatic joy, but there must always be a supreme preference for God.
4. Perfect love is progressive love. We may not always see we are progressing, but this does not disprove the fact.
5. Perfect love casts out fear — all slavish, harmful fear, such as the guilty feel. It excludes all those warring elements from the unsanctified heart which excite distressing and slavish fear. It casts out the fear of man, of want, of death, of hell, and all slavish fear of God. “He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” It does not cast out the fear of caution, or a loving, filial fear of God. It induces this kind of fear. It guards against presumption on the one hand, and against despondency on the other.
6. Perfect love brings out more fully and clearly the evidences of our regeneration, justification, and salvation. It enables the soul to realize more nearly and fully the presence and blessedness of Christ. It gives the great, vital, comforting truths of God more direct access and power upon the heart than they can otherwise have.
7. Perfect love detaches the affections from all forbidden objects, and destroys all relish for carnal and worldly things. It imparts holy impulses, excites heavenly aspirations, and draws the soul into intense hungerings and thirstings after God. It destroys sin, the sting of death, and gives the departing soul triumph in the hour of dissolving nature.
8. Perfect love is distinguished by the character of its enjoyments. It craves the spiritual, the holy, and the divine. Its enjoyments are purely religious; they are sought by prayer, reading the Scriptures, pious meditations, and by acts of Christian duty and usefulness. The enjoyments of a pure heart are sweet, rational, and unwasting.
48. Is perfect love or purity a very high state of grace?
It is not. Though a blessed and glorious state, yet, when compared to “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height,” to which the soul may attain through the rich and abundant grace of God, it is not a very high state of grace. To be cleansed from all sin is but a low state of grace compared to being “filled with all the fullness of God.”
The regenerated state is a blessed one, and includes great and precious work in the soul. An entirely sanctified state is a still greater and more glorious one but even this may be regarded as comparatively not a very high state of religious attainment.
A mistake of millions in the church has been, considering holiness a very high state of grace, and growth in grace to be mainly between regeneration and entire sanctification, when it should be principally subsequent to being cleansed from all sin.
The greater part of our advancement in knowledge, love, and holiness should be subsequent to the purification of our hearts. This was true of Wesley, Fletcher, Clarke, Bramwell, Stoner, Carvosso, Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers, Mrs. Fletcher, Lady Maxwell; and it ought to be true of every enlightened Christian.
49. Is there not danger of putting the standard of holiness too high?
Not if we keep to the Scriptures. The Bible standard of duty and privilege is given so plainly and in such a variety of ways, he that runneth may read, and none need mistake it. See 2 Cor. vii. 1; 1 John i. 7, and in. 3; 1 Pet. i. 15; Eph. i. 4; 1 Thess. v. 23. The apostle says, “Love is the fulfilling of the law;” hence, The end (the substance and fulfillment) of the commandment is love out of a pure heart.” The Saviour gave the standard very plainly as follows: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength., and thy neighbor as thyself.” There is more danger of putting it lower, than higher than this.