Directions For Obtaining Holiness
64. Is this doctrine and experience susceptible of experimental demonstration?
It is. The essential facts of personal salvation are knowable — they may be known by experience. The fallen condition of man with all his deplorable convictions, sufferings, and degradation, is not more a matter of assurance, and positive consciousness, than their counterpart in the redemption of Christ, –pardon, adoption, regeneration, and sanctification. The latter come as clearly and fully within the purview of experimental knowledge as the former. We believe with Lord Bacon, that “experience should be the test of truth;” and with Dr. C. H. Fowler, “Entire sanctification will, sooner or later, afford the best solution of any difficulties we may have on this subject.”
There is philosophy as well as inspired truth in the declaration of Christ, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” Here is common ground, on which all may prove the power of Christ to save, and obtain freedom from doubts and uncertainty, in a conscious realization of personal salvation.
Christian holiness theoretically and experimentally, is no greater mystery than regeneration, neither is it removed any further from the laws of human thought, but is as plain as any other fact of consciousness. The provisions and the possibilities of grace in this regard are alike adapted to all, needed by all, and free to all. Christ, “By the grace of God tasted death for every man,” and every man may taste the joys and sweet delight of full salvation. There are three things that are distinct in this experience:
1. There is a consciousness of inbred sin and moral deficiency after conversion, and the more devoted and faithful the justified soul, the clearer and stronger this conviction.
2. There is conviction, in the light of gospel provisions, of the duty and privilege of being “cleansed from all sin,” and made “pure in heart.”
3. It is prayerfully sought and experienced as an instantaneous cleansing by faith in the blood of Christ.
These three items of experimental knowledge will be found in every clear case of entire sanctification.
65. What is the first direction you would give to a person seeking holiness?
Endeavor to obtain a correct and distinct view of the blessing promised and needed. What is it? The extermination of indwelling sin — carnal nature from the soul. It is such a destruction or removal of inbred sin, as to make the heart — the fountain of thought, affection, desire, and impulse — pure.
66. What is the second direction you would give?
Come to a firm and decided resolution to seek until you obtain a pure heart. It will require a resolution which will not cower when the knife is put to the heart to amputate its idols. Your purpose must be settled, decided, uncompromising and unconquerable. None but an invincible resolution will answer. “The day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”
67. What is the third direction you would give?
Humble yourself under the hand of the Almighty. Spiritual poverty is the prelude to spiritual enlargement. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Do not seek too easy a way. Be willing to die to sin. Endeavor to feel the deep, malignant, hateful nature of your depravity, and your need of purity.
If you have but little sense of need, you will make little progress. The feeling that is required is represented by the sensations of hunger and thirst. Our Saviour says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Your efforts in seeking holiness will be likely to harmonize with the strength of your desires. The necessary feelings of penitence, self-abasement and of strong desire for holiness, may be secured by prayer, searching the Scriptures, meditation, and self-examination.
68. What is the fourth direction you would give?
Make an entire consecration of yourself to God — your soul, body, time, talents, influence, and your all — a complete assignment of all to Christ. Search and surrender, and research and surrender again, until you get every vestige of self upon the altar of consecration. There is no sanctification without entire consecration.
You must consecrate yourself in detail, and get every item upon the altar. In order to grasp the whole, you must take in the items. The consecration must be perfect before the offering will be received. God will have a thorough work, and purity will never be given or retained but on condition of entire, universal, unconditional abandonment of all sin, and acceptance and approval of all the will of God.
69. What is the proximate condition of sanctification?
Faith. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Faith is the immediate condition of sanctification, and God always saves the moment true faith is exercised. You ask, “Believe what?”
1. Believe that God has promised it in the Holy Scriptures.
2. Believe what God hath promised he is able to perform.
3. Believe that he is able and willing to do it now.
4. Believe that he doth it.
If you are earnestly seeking holiness, will you examine yourself thoroughly by the following interrogations?
1. Do I clearly see my inbred sin, and consequent need of holiness?
2. Am I willing, anxious, and resolved to obtain it?
3. Am I willing to give up all to God — self, family, property, reputation, time, talents, every thing — to be his, used for him, trusted with him, and never withheld or taken from him?
4. Do I believe he is able to sanctify me?
5. Do I believe he is willing to sanctify me?
6. Do I believe he has promised to sanctify me?
7. Do I believe that having promised, he is able and willing to do it now, on condition of my faith?
8. Do I then, seeing all this, believe that he now will do it — now, this moment?
9. Am I now committing all, and trusting in Christ! If you are, it is done. O that God may aid your trembling faith, and give you purity this moment!
Mr. Wesley says: “The voice of God to your soul is, Believe and be saved. Faith is the condition, and the only condition, of sanctification, exactly as it is in justification. No man is sanctified till he believes; every man when he believes is sanctified.” — Vol. ii. p. 224; vol. i. p. 388.
70. What degree of faith is necessary to entire sanctification?
No degree. Faith is necessary. Sanctification is by faith. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Sanctification requires no greater degree of faith than justification. Faith, in the two instances, does not necessarily differ in degree, but in the object for which it is exercised.
The idea that faith for entire sanctification, and faith for pardon, differ in degree, has no foundation in either Scripture or reason. The question of faith, for full salvation, is not how strongly you believe, but in what you believe and do you believe, or, have you real faith for the object desired? The important item being real faith, for entire sanctification, rather than any particular degree of faith for it.
In the light of the Scriptures, faith for entire sanctification is just as practicable as faith for pardon and regeneration; the efficacy of faith being in the truth, or thing believed, and the actual belief of it, rather than some imaginary degree of faith. We believe in an increase of faith, and in degrees of faith, but not as the condition of either pardon or purity. All genuine faith, without regard to its degree, exercised in the promise and power of God, to pardon or to purify, is honored by Him.
In the gracious order of God, real faith in convicting truth, produces conviction; real faith in justifying converting truth, secures pardon and regeneration; and real faith in sanctifying truth, instrumentally secures sanctification.
“In regard to the nature of the faith necessary to obtain perfect purity,” says Rev. J. S. Inskip, “it will be found to be essentially the same as that which we exercised when we sought and found pardon.” — Methods of Promoting Perfect Love, p. 13.
71. Is saving faith conditional?
It is. Faith, or confidence in God, cannot coexist with voluntary transgression; the one will destroy the other. “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” The condition is that of heart approval. “If our heart condemn us not.” Our heart approves us when we wholly submit to God. At this point we can have “confidence toward God.” “Confidence in God” is a necessary sequence of heart approval. “Then,” says the Apostle, “have we confidence toward God;” not may have it, not it is possible to have it, not it is easy to have it, but “then have we confidence toward God.” At the point of complete renunciation of sin and entire submission to God, faith comes naturally, according to the laws of mind and the divine adjustment and grace of God. When the heart wholly yields to God, it can rest nowhere else but in God.
To repose confidence (faith) in God, while the heart is in rebellion against him, is impossible, as it excludes the proximate condition of trust. So long as our heart reproaches us with rebellion, faith is impossible. Christ said, “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another?” That is, seeking the applause of men and not the honor of God, prevents “confidence (trust) in God.” Hence, an approving conscience, and a heart that does not condemn us for its voluntary attitude toward God, is indispensable to faith in God. Thus it is that faith for full salvation can be exercised only in connection with full submission. There must be in every case an honest purpose to do all his will. Submission is the proximate condition of saving faith, just as certainly as faith is the proximate condition of salvation.
Bishop Foster answers this question as follows: Faith, in order to its exercise, presupposes a certain state of the mind and affections, and without these it cannot exist — its very existence includes them namely, in the briefest terms, it supposes the knowledge of sin, and sorrow for it: the knowledge that there is a Saviour, and a readiness to embrace him.” — Christian Purity, p. 121.
Bishop Hedding says: “That faith which is the condition of this entire sanctification is exercised only by a penitent heart a heart willing to part with all sin forever, and determined to do the will of God in all things.” — Sermon at N. J. Conference.
72. What is the chief hindrance to the exercise of saving faith, when the heart has submitted to God?
Being governed by our feelings, or a desire to possess the fruits of faith before we believe. We want to go by sense and feel first. Many are more solicitous about feeling than faith. We want to see signs and wonders before we believe. We have no right to expect feeling, the fruit of faith, before we believe. We might just as well want to taste our food before we eat it.
It will never do to make a Saviour of our feelings. Many persons spend their time in vain efforts to force themselves into a right state of feeling. Feelings do not result from a direct effort to feel, but from true faith. If we would be saved, we must stop quarreling with our feelings, and trust all now and forever upon the immutable word of God, and we shall have just the right kind and the right amount of feeling. The purest faith is exercised in the absence of all feeling, and we are to take God at his word, and rely upon his truth, and give it the same confidence as though it were proclaimed from heaven by God himself in a voice of thunder.
The soul must repose on the fullness and efficacy of the atoning blood. It is leaning there, singly, exclusively there, that brings the cleansing power. True faith takes the promise, and rests on the infinite merit upon which the promise is based.
Rev. B. V. Gorham well says “The man who remembers how he sought the blessing of pardon, knows how to seek the blessing of purity namely, to look for it as something to be received at once by simple faith.” — God’s Method with Man, p. 188.
73. Why is it that many who desire holiness, and read, and pray, and resolve, and weep, and struggle, yet make but little progress?
It is mainly because they refuse to comply with the conditions on which the blessing is suspended. One man sees that if he would be holy he must adopt a new system of benevolence. Another sees, as he approaches the clear light of perfect love, a probable call to the ministry, should he go forward. Another sees a large class of duties, hitherto neglected, which must be performed. A sister sees, if holiness is obtained and retained, she will have to conform to the simplicity of the gospel of Christ, and undergo a material change in her equipage and costume. Many cease to seek holiness when the knife of excision is put to the heart to amputate its idols. There is much physical depravity standing in the way as a hindrance. Entire sanctification includes a radical and universal purification of the entire man, soul and body. Chastity of body is an important part of entire sanctification. Sin is “filthiness;” it may be of the flesh, or of the spirit, as there are defilements of the body and of the mind. Many stumble in seeking Christian holiness, because of habits of uncleanness — physical indulgences, which are not put away. No man can be entirely sanctified while his body is an “instrument of unrighteousness ” in any sense, privately or publicly. God never does for any one what he can do for himself. The putting away of all “filthiness of the flesh” is a part of entire sanctification which every one must perform for himself.
God requires a pure soul in a chaste body. The Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and it is not to be profaned by prostitution to wicked uses, or filthy lusts. “If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy.” Having made both body and soul, and redeemed both, he requires them kept pure and devoted to his use. “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Many fail in seeking entire sanctification, because they do not sanctify their bodies, but touch, taste, and handle things unclean. A man who would be right with God, must be right with his body. Convictions, resolutions, and good desires are not enough, there must be actual abandonment of all physical, as well as moral iniquity. Then our whole nature, “spirit, soul, and body,” will be “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”
74. In what sense is faith the gift of God?
Faith is the gift of God in nearly the same sense in which seeing, walking, and eating are the gift of God. These are the gift of God in such a sense that neither of them can be done without him. and yet he does neither of them for us. The objects of sight and the power to see, the foundation on which to walk and the power to walk, the food we eat and the power to eat, are all, in an important sense, from God. But the acts of seeing, of eating, and of walking, are our own. He neither sees, walks, nor eats for us; and yet we can do neither without him. Thus with faith. God gives truth, the object of faith, and the ground of faith, and the power to believe; but he believes for no one. “While he helps the believer, the act of believing is purely the believer’s, and is voluntary.
75. In what sense does faith involve a voluntary exercise of the mind?
In attention, assent, and submission. First, we are voluntary in giving proper attention to the truth, with its evidences; secondly, we are, in a measure, voluntary in giving assent and credence to apprehended truth; thirdly, we are voluntary in the practical reception of the truth, and in submission to its claims, which involve trust and reliance.
The pivot upon which the salvation of the soul turns is its submission to the claims of truth. We are saved by the belief of the truth. Truth demands attention and submission. An intelligent, voluntary rejection of the perceived and admitted claims of truth, constitutes the most terribly damning sin which was ever committed. Unbelief is a voluntary rejection of truth. Faith is a voluntary submission to its claims. Faith and unbelief are the axles on which all real happiness or wretchedness revolves.
76. Will you give Mr. Wesley’s views of the faith that sanctifies?
“But what is that faith whereby we are sanctified, saved from sin and perfected in love? This faith is a divine evidence or conviction —
1. That God hath promised this sanctification in the Holy Scriptures.
“2. It is a divine evidence or conviction that what God hath promised he is able to perform.
“3. It is a divine evidence or conviction that he is able and willing to do it now.
“4. To this confidence that God is able and willing to sanctify us now, there needs to be added one thing more — a divine evidence or conviction that he doth it.” — Sermons, vol. i. p. 390.
77. What is meant by simple, naked faith?
By a simple faith is meant, taking God at his word without doubting or REASONING; and by naked faith is meant, faith independent of all feeling, and stripped of every other dependence but CHRIST ALONE. The Holy Fletcher says, a naked faith is “a faith, independent of all feelings,” in a naked promise; bringing nothing with you but a careless, distracted, tossed, hardened heart, just such a heart as you have got now.” Lady Maxwell describes it thus: “I have often acted faith for sanctification, in the absence of all feeling; and it has always diffused an indescribable sweetness through my soul.”
Mr. Fletcher illustrates it in the following way:
“As when you reckon with your creditor or with your host, and as, when you have paid all, you reckon yourselves free, so now reckon with God. Jesus has paid all and he hath paid for thee — hath purchased thy pardon and holiness. Therefore it is now God’s command, ‘Reckon thyself dead unto sin’ and thou art alive unto God from this hour. Oh, begin, begin to reckon now; fear not believe, BELIEVE, BELIEVE and continue to believe every moment. So shalt thou continue free for it is retained, as it is received, by faith alone.” — Journal of H. A. Rogers, p. 137.
78. May I come to Christ now, just as I am?
Yes, precious soul, this very moment. May the Lord help you! You can make yourself no better. We can not save ourselves in part before coming to Christ. Tears, groanings, resolutions, and lamentations will make us no better, nor more worthy. “Now is the day of salvation ” now is the time you should believe. It is wrong not to believe. Say, Here, Lord, I will, I do believe thou hast said now; now let it be. And now rest your soul on the all atoning merit of Jesus.
Oh, happy state! who would not give up all to obtain it? What folly to be satisfied with the commencement of Christ’s work, when an experience so sweet, so rich and full is our privilege! Oh that with a longing heart you may exclaim, —
My soul breaks out in strong desire, The perfect bliss to prove; My longing heart is all on fire
To be dissolved in love.” — Chas. Wesley —
79. How may we know that our consecration is unreserved or entire?
We may be as certain that we have devoted every thing to God of which we have present knowledge. as we are of any mental operation. A knowledge of what we possess is all we can give, as it is all our will commands, or over which it has power. We must know something of a thing before we can will anything in reference to it. If we consecrate everything of which we have knowledge, we meet the gracious requirements of God’s law, and reach the full measure of our obligation.
If increasing light shall reveal more, the consecration already made covers it, and we have only to lay it on God’s altar. If we give our wills to God to be governed by his will and the light he gives, we do by this act give all that free will controls. This is all that any finite spirit has to give, and is all that infinite love demands. We may know whether we do this or not. A child may know whether he is determined to obey his father in all things. Our inward consciousness may assure us, just as clearly as our eyes reveal the starry heavens, that our surrender is complete. The soul knows when it fully submits. The Holy Spirit that assists the soul in its full surrender, floods it with light, so that it cries out:
“Take my soul and body’s powers; Take my memory. mind, and will: All my goods, and all my hours; All I know, and all I feel; All I think, or speak, or do; Take my heart, and make it new.”
80. How may we know our consecration is accepted?
This my be known by the positive word of God, by the witness of the Spirit, by the divine response to faith, and by self-evident intuition.
1. What God says we know. His word of promise is, “I will receive you.” Can anything be more positive?
2. In the light of the “witness of the Spirit,” we know it, just as we know that the sun shines when he is pouring his mid-day beams upon the world. “We have not received the spirit of the world, but that which is of God, that we may know the things freely given to us of God.” Grace to fully submit to God is one of his free gifts, and a knowledge that he accepts our offering is another of his gifts.
3. Some of the results, and some items of the divine response to entire consecration, are immediately and consciously realized. In his lecture on ” Conscience as the Foundation of the Religion of Science,” Rev. Joseph Cook says:
“I assert that it is a fixed natural law that when you yield utterly to God, He streams into you, gives a new sense of His presence, and imparts a strength unknown before. Will you try such self-surrender, and then will you repeat the experiment as opportunity offers? I care not how often, I affirm that in these billions of opportunities for experiments, in these ten thousand times ten thousand chances to test whether I am right or wrong, you will not find one chance failing to give you this verdict, that if you yield utterly to God, He will stream through you.”
4. We may know it as we know the whole of a thing is greater than any of its parts, or that the whole of a thing is equal to the sum of all its parts. To be wholly given to God, in the divine order, is to be accepted of God. Do we need evidence that God is true? that he accepts that which is right and condemns that which is wrong? Can God do otherwise than accept the right and reject the wrong? “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted of him?” The order of God, or laws of grace in spiritual things are as certain and reliable as in nature, and the certitude of religious things is just as strong as in physical things. Christ himself says, “Every one that asketh receiveth.” He does not merely say, he shall receive, but he receiveth. It is asserted as a fact, a universal fact, from which there can be no exception.
Rev. Dr. Lowry says: “To ask, then, is to receive. To seek is to find. Asking and receiving, seeking and finding, are coetaneous and inseparable events. It is like breathing and living, and living and breathing.” — Divine Life, June, 1878.
It must be self-evident that God accepts that which is according to his will, (the divine order, or laws of grace are the practical expression of his will,) and that which is in harmony with infinite rectitude. “HAVE FAITH IN GOD.”
Well might Rev. John Fletcher say:
“Be it I myself deceive, Yet I must, I must believe.”
There is a positive, divinely ordained connection between consecration, evangelical faith, and actual salvation. This is no imaginary phantom or dream, but a living fact, to which millions have given testimony after experimental demonstration.
81. In what attitude towards God does entire consecration place the soul?
In the attitude of an obedient spirit. In personal consecration to God, there is the vital principle, or germ of all obedience. Obedience is not so much in the outward act as in the state of the will. This is reasonable and scriptural. Submission, or consecration, has respect to the will, and is manifested in exterior action, and external action is the outcome of the interior principle of obedience. Hence all true obedience has prior existence in the human heart, in an obedient spirit. By self-abandonment to God, we come to the attitude of obedience, in which the soul asks, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” — “Speak. Lord: thy servant heareth.” This submission implies a sweet complacency in God, and a desire and delight to do his will. This obedient spirit, or attitude of the will, with faith in Christ for purity, carries the whole train of the affections toward God, as, “with the heart, man believeth unto righteousness.” Hence the whole soul is brought under the saving virtue of Christ’s blood.
While there is a distinction between consecration and faith, it must not be forgotten that they sustain a mutual and natural relation to each other. Submission is a fruit of faith. A belief in certain truths lies at the foundation of all consecration. Salvation from a disobedient attitude toward God, through submission, or the committal of all to God, is by faith; and very much of the faith which actually saves a man is called into exercise by a full surrender to God. How can man evince a fuller trust in God than by a solemn surrender of himself and all he has to him?
The acceptance of God’s will, and the committal of the heart to Christ and to the admitted claims of truth, is the very essence of love, and is the substance and fulfilment of the law. Christ said, “This is the love of God, that ye keep his commandments;” and, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Love to God is not a mere transient emotion, but a state of will and affection, and is inseparable from genuine faith. “Faith which works by love and purifies the heart.” Let it ever be remembered, that love to God is an abiding, general preference of the will, or a state of will underlying our whole moral activity, and determines all its particular acts to the one end of obeying and pleasing God. Love in the entirely sanctified soul becomes a disposition, or character.
82. Is there a distinction between entire consecration and entire sanctification?
There is; and the act of entire consecration should not be confounded with the fact of entire sanctification. Submission to God, or entire consecration, is our act, with assisting grace. Entire sanctification is God’s work, wrought in the soul. Sanctification follows consecration in point of time, as the offering is made before the sin consuming power is received. Sanctification always includes consecration; but entire consecration does not necessarily include entire sanctification, — it precedes and accompanies it.
A Congregationalist, Rev. Dr. Upham, states this distinction thus: “I do not consider consecration and sanctification the same thing. Consecration is the incipient, the prerequisite act. It is the laying ourselves upon the altar; but it is not until God has accepted the sacrifice, and wrought upon us by the consuming and restoring work of the Holy Spirit, that we can be said to be sanctified. It is true the one may immediately and almost instantaneously follow the other and this will be the case when faith in God is perfect.” To this Bishop Janes responds “Amen, Never did uninspired man state the point more scripturally or with more clearness and force.” — Introduction to Pioneer Experiences.
Dr. Fowler says “There are two postulates taught by the advocates of the ‘higher life,’ as the essential conditions of it.” attainment, namely, entire consecration, and absolute faith in God’s acceptance of the consecration. ” — Editorial in Advocate.
83. What is the difference between the consecration previous to conversion and that previous to entire sanctification?
They are essentially the same, each involving submission to God and the true spirit of obedience. But, while in principle they are the same, that which precedes entire sanctification is made with a fuller and deeper sense of the import of full submission to God. The penitent seeking pardon, consecrates himself to the full extent of his discovery of truth and duty but only with the light of a convicted sinner. The believer, seeking purity, renews this consecration, in view of the revelations which increasing light, time, and the word of God have made of his duty and moral deficiency.
84. Is any particular standard of conviction necessary in seeking holiness?
To believe in the doctrine of sanctification, and at the same time to know that you have not experienced it, and need it, is all that is necessary. Certainly, this is all that is necessary to commence seeking it; then, if deeper convictions are needful, they will be given in the improvement of present convictions. The object of conviction is to lead to action. “Knowledge is conviction;” and a clear perception of duty is all that a rational being should ask.
85. Is the process of receiving full salvation the same in all cases?
It is essentially the same: submission and faith. All is consecrated, and faith in Christ is exercised. In all cases there must be a practical recognition of divine authority, by unreserved submission to God, and appropriating faith in the merit and power of Christ. These are absolutely necessary to being sanctified wholly, body, soul, and spirit.
The links in the chain of God’s order in human salvation are: 1st, conviction; 2d, submission; 3d, faith; 4th, the work of the Spirit.
The order must be seen to be natural, reasonable, and scriptural. If one of these links be wanting, the work must be defective. We may not always note these different steps, yet they are taken in every genuine sanctification. Their connection is so intimate, and the transition is so natural, and may be so rapid as not always to be noticeable by us; and we do not say that we must always note these steps and distinguish one from another. The rapidity with which the mind may pass from conviction to the act of consecration, and to faith, and then realize that the blood cleanses, is probably the cause of the confusion which some minds experience in distinguishing between these several steps.
“The conditions on which God will do this work are fixed and unalterable,” says Rev. Benjamin T. Roberts. “God is not like some merchants, who will sell their goods to a reluctant customer at a lower price than to one who must have them; but, like the laws of nature, ‘without variableness or shadow of turning.’ ” Earnest Christian, 1861.
86. Is any certain amount of feeling or emotion necessary in seeking purity?
The Bible presents no particular standard of feeling to which all must come. Our temperaments will have much to do with our feelings. It is not necessary that all should have the same amount of feeling, in order to seek either justification or sanctification. All must be brought, not to the same degree of emotion, but to entire submission to God, to the terms of salvation, and the consequences that may follow. We should never place too much dependence upon the mere matter of feeling. All the feelings which God requires are such as naturally and necessarily exist in connection with constant and entire consecration of every power to his service. Those mistake exceedingly who make direct efforts to produce feelings or emotions otherwise than those which naturally arise in the faithful discharge of duty.
87. Do deep convictions for holiness sometimes obscure for the time, the light of present justification?
Doubtless this is often the case. It commonly happens that a Christian earnestly seeking fill salvation, comes to the conclusion that he really has much less grace than he thought he had. Sometimes the person seeking holiness will cast his confidence away altogether, and conclude he was deceived, and had never been born again. This is an error, and should be carefully guarded against. It is often the case that such find so much sin remaining in them, and the corruptions of their hearts, by being restrained and opposed, become so chaffed and apparent, that they do not perceive the evidence of the grace they have received.
88. Are the convictions of the sinner seeking pardon, and of the believer seeking entire holiness, the same?
They materially differ. The penitent sinner is convicted of guilt, of condemnation, of the divine displeasure, and his need of pardon. Those of the believer seeking purity, are convictions of inward depravity, unlikeness to God, and his need of cleansing. They produce pain and shame, but not condemnation.
Mr. Wesley says: “The repentance consequent upon justification is widely different from that which is antecedent to it. This implies no guilt, no sense of condemnation, no consciousness of the wrath of God. It does not suppose any doubt of the favor of God, or any ‘fear that hath torment.’ It is properly a conviction, wrought by the Holy Ghost, of the sin which still remains in our heart; of the carnal mind, which ‘does still remain (as our church speaks) even in them that are regenerate,’ although it does no longer reign; it has not now dominion over them.” — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 389.
89. What are the fruits of conviction for the blessing of regeneration?
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.
90. What are the fruits of conviction for the blessing of perfect love?
Deep self-abasement and humility of spirit; self-renunciation and submission to God; self loathings, and hungerings and thirstings after righteousness; and a willingness to suffer any thing, be any thing, or do any thing to please God and obtain a pure heart.
Bishop Hedding says “Though the Christian does not feel guilty for this depravity, as he would do if he had voluntarily broken the law of God, yet he is often grieved, and afflicted, and reproved at a sight of this sinfulness of his nature.” — Sermon, before N. J. Con.
91. What are the usual exercises of mind in seeking holiness?
They are directly the reverse of what many suppose. The process is a humbling, sifting, searching, crucifying one. When the believer begins to pray for holiness, instead of receiving at once a baptism of sweet heavenly fire and glory, the soul begins to see more and more of its own vileness, deformity, and inward corruption. God makes to the soul a more clear and painful discovery of remaining impurity. The soul has no more depravity now than it had before, but is becoming more thoroughly acquainted with itself. It has now a clearer view of the tendency in itself to evil, and of the fact that it is shut up to the grace of God for help. Hence it is that, when a believer begins to pray for purity, he appears to himself to grow worse and worse. This spiritual poverty and crucifixion is sometimes very distressing, but in the nature of the case, is a necessary process. At this point there is much danger of getting discouraged, and giving up; here many fail at the very threshold of success. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” — “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
92. In seeking holiness, is it important that prayer should be definite and discriminating?
All indefiniteness is in the way of seeking purity. We seldom get special blessings by indefinite prayers.
We have ample authority for definiteness in prayer. David, who longed for inward purity, prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” The Saviour prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth.” The Apostle prays, ‘The very God of peace sanctify you wholly,” &c. These are specific prayers for the blessing of entire sanctification. Why should you not ask for the very blessing you need and desire? Why pray at random? When you want one thing of your fellow-men, you do not ask for another, nor for every thing. The very thing asked for is what you may expect to obtain. “If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him.”
Dr. George Peck says “We must fix our attention upon this one object. This must be every thing to us. For the time, the hell we would be delivered from must be the hell of inbred sin; and the heaven we would obtain, the heaven of loving God alone.” — Christian Perfection, p. 414.
93. Should a clear evidence of justification precede the seeking of entire sanctification?
This should usually be the case; but there may be exceptions, as in those persons who have lost their justification by refusing to seek holiness. We think such persons, in some instances, may regain the light of justification in connection with their entire sanctification. But God’s usual order is, first the light justification, and then the work of entire sanctification.
Many, we fear, who commence seeking entire sanctification in a backslidden state, on being blessed, conclude they are in the possession of perfect love, when in fact they are only reclaimed backsliders. Such often bring reproach upon the cause of holiness. It is very desirable to start in the clear light of regeneration and justification to seek for the Canaan of perfect love.
94. Will you give your views of Mark xi. 24? “What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
There has been some difference of opinion in regard to the meaning of this passage.
1. We do not presume this passage to teach that any blessing can be received independently of the established conditions of its bestowment.
2. No one believes it to teach that faith in the fact of receiving a blessing, is the condition of receiving it. Such faith would involve the absurdity of believing it is done and it will be done. The effort of faith is not to embrace the fact of receiving a blessing, so as to make the belief that we receive, the condition on which we receive.
3. This passage does not teach that any are to believe they receive without a present, appropriating faith in the merits of Christ.
4. It does not teach that any are to believe they receive without reasonable and proper cause for so doing. When a soul is clearly conscious of having complied with the terms of salvation, God’s promise and warrant render safe and proper the belief that he NOW accepts and saves.
5. “Believe that ye receive them.” When? Just when you comply with the conditions; not before you comply with them, and not after you have complied with them. You are not to believe that you receive them after you have got them, on the one hand, or before you obtain them, on the other.
6. “And ye shall receive them.” When? Not before you believe, but just when you believe. “Believe that ye receive; ” not shall receive, not have received; but that ye receive just now, while you are believing. “According to your faith be it unto you” is the established order of God and evangelically believing and receiving are inseparably joined together, and can not be put asunder. As when the lungs breathe, the air is received, so believing is tantamount to receiving.
7. “Must I believe I receive the blessing just now without evidence that I now do receive it?” You are by no means to believe without evidence; but the evidences upon which your faith is to rest for the blessing now are the promise, faithfulness, and certainty of God’s word, and not your feelings or imaginations, which may deceive you. You are to believe that you receive on the authority of Jesus Christ, you, on your part, having complied with the divinely appointed conditions.
8. The faith that saves, that claims the promise, that relies on God’s word, must precede the consciousness or interior witness of possession. There can be no room for saving faith after visible or tangible manifestations, or after the blessing is received. It is a matter of knowledge then.
Mr. Fletcher says: “Beware of looking for any peace or joy previous to your believing; and let this be uppermost in your mind.”
You say, “I do not see any evidence, I do not feel any evidence, that I receive the blessing.” If you have completely submitted to God, you are to believe, and have no right to doubt God’s word because of any absence of feeling. Your faith for salvation is not to rest upon sight or feeling. The Bible says faith is the evidence of things not seen. Faith in feeling, or in seeing, or in the witness of the Spirit, does not save; but faith, simple, naked faith in the word of God, does.
9. Seeing, feeling, and possessing the evidences of salvation must be subsequent to its reception. The blessing is conditioned on faith, and this faith must rest on the truth of God, as the evidences of possessing the blessing can not exist before the blessing is received.
10. Men are prone to live by sense rather than by faith, and are inclined to trust every thing and everybody but God. This passage teaches the great and important duty of entirely trusting and believing God.
Rev. W. McDonald says:–
“If I can not believe for entire sanctification until the evidence of its possession is clear, I can never believe for it; for the evidence of its possession must be subsequent to its possession, unless we receive the evidence first and the blessing afterward. The scriptural order is, faith first, the blessing next, and the evidence last. But with many it is the evidence first, the blessing next, and the faith last.
“This difficulty arises from confounding faith and evidence. That which assures us that the blessing is ours, is the evidence which God gives, the witness of the Spirit. And if we do not believe until this evidence is received, we shall never believe for this evidence which we so much desire is conditioned on faith, which faith must be exercised before the blessing is received.” — New Testament Standard, p. 195.
Dr. True says “You need not be afraid to believe that you receive while you pray; for according to the testimony of thousands, you will thereupon receive the direct witness of the Spirit. This is what you have hoped to receive first in order to believe but it comes, if it comes at all, as the confirmation of your faith.” — Article in the “Guide.” Dean Alford’s rendering is: “All things that ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received, and ye shall have them.”