The Evidences Of Perfect Love
95. What is the character of the evidence of a state of entire sanctification?
It is just as strong, positive and reliable as can be given to substantiate any fact. Indeed it is the very strongest of all evidence.
1. The testimony of consciousness. This testimony we can no more doubt than we can doubt our existence. No testimony is more certain than this. By it we know we live and breathe, love or hate, sit or stand, or walk, and that we are joyful or sorrowful, happy or wretched. The sanctified soul may be as clearly and fully conscious of purity as the unsanctified is of impurity. While on the one hand pride, anger, unbelief, love of the world, are matters of positive consciousness, on the other hand love, peace, humility, patience, faith, are equally so. Indeed, conscience usually speaks louder and clearer in the latter case than in the former, because it has received more gracious energy. Sin paralyzes; grace quickens.
2. The testimony of God — “The witness of the Spirit.” This testimony is divine, direct, and positive. The Holy Ghost is the witnessing Spirit.
(1) He speaks first to the sinner’s heart. Every convicted sinner has the witness of the Spirit, testifying to his guilt, condemnation, and exposure to the displeasure of God.
(2) He speaks to every justified soul. Every truly regenerated soul has, or may have, the witness of the Spirit, testifying that he is born of God, and in a state of justification.
(3) He speaks to every sanctified soul. Every truly sanctified soul has, or may have, the witness of the Spirit, testifying that the blood of Jesus Christ hath cleansed him from all sin. Now, while all this testimony is given by the infallible Spirit, the latter testimony is given under more favorable circumstances, and, consequently, is quite as clear and strong, if not more so, than either of the others.
We sum up this testimony as follows:
1. The convicted penitent sinner may know by the testimony of his spirit, and the witness of the Holy Spirit, that he is guilty and unsaved. This testimony is stronger and clearer than in the impenitent.
2. The justified soul may know, and be equally certain, by the testimony of his spirit and the witness of the Holy Spirit, that God has regenerated his nature, and pardoned his sins. This testimony is stronger and clearer than that of the convicted sinner.
3. The sanctified soul may know with equal certainty by his spirit, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit, that God has cleansed his heart from all sin. This testimony is still clearer and stronger than that of the merely regenerated. The inferential and corroborating evidences are equally as strong for the fully sanctified as in either of the other cases.
96. Did Mr. Wesley teach that we may have the same evidence that we are sanctified that we have that we are justified?
To the question, “But how do you know that you are sanctified, saved from your inbred corruption? ” Mr. Wesley replies: “I can know it no otherwise than I know that I am justified. ‘Hereby know we that we are of God,’ in either sense, ‘by the Spirit that he hath given us.” We know it by the witness and by the fruit of the Spirit.” — Plain Account, p. 118.
Bishop O. C. Baker says: “We have been accustomed to believe that our standard authors have presented the doctrine of Christian holiness is a very perspicuous light; and if they have never declared that it is the privilege of the sanctified believer to enjoy the direct witness of the Spirit, so far as their influence goes, it would check the panting soul from seeking after the direct evidence of internal purity. May God grant that we may know by happy experience that the doctrine is true, and that the pure in heart enjoy the comforting indwelling of the Holy Spirit, assuring us that sin in us is all destroyed.” Letter in “Guide,” 1844.
97. Ought any one to believe that he is sanctified wholly before he has the witness of the Spirit?
Mr. Wesley says: “None, therefore, ought to believe that the work is done till there is added the testimony of the Spirit witnessing his entire sanctification as clearly as his justification..” — Plain Account, p. 79.
This position of Mr. Wesley is safe, and applicable as a general rule; and yet, perhaps, there may be some exceptions to it, as in those cases where God may be pleased to hold the soul for a season, after the work is done, to a naked faith in his word, before the Spirit’s witness is given. If we do not mistake, this has been the experience of some of the clearest witnesses of perfect love. Perhaps the same may be true in some cases of justification.
98. What is the witness of the Spirit?
It is a sweet, inward persuasion of the Spirit, that God, for Christ’s sake, has either pardoned my sins and regenerated my soul, or that the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed it from all sin.
Mr. Wesley gives the following answer: “By the testimony of the Spirit I mean an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God immediately and directly witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God: that Jesus Christ hath loved me and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I even I, am reconciled to God.” — Sermons, vol. i. p. 94.
99. Is the witness of the Spirit to regeneration and to entire sanctification different?
They differ only in the facts to which the Spirit give his testimony in the two cases. In the one case, it is a delightful and decisive persuasion that God has pardoned our sins and converted our souls. In the other, it is a delightful and decisive persuasion that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.
Bishop Foster says: “the difference of the Spirit’s witness in the work of justification and entire sanctification is not in the manner so much as the thing which is witnessed to. It is given in which the same way; it is the same Spirit the phenomena are much the same but the testimony itself differs. — Christian Purity. p.148
100. Is the evidence of sanctification, or the witness of the Spirit, always clear at first?
“Indeed, the witness of Sanctification is not always clear at first, (as neither is that of justification:) neither is it afterward always the same, but, like that of justification, sometimes stronger and sometimes fainter. Yea, and sometimes it is withdrawn. Yet, in general, the latter testimony of the Spirit is both clear and as steady as the former.” Plain Account. p. 119.
101. Is it our privilege to possess the witness of the Spirit without any intermission?
“Some have the testimony both of their justification and sanctif