Growth in Grace
Many opponents of scriptural holiness have unjustly and unfairly made the accusation that such a position denies the possibility of growth in grace. This is not so. In fact, no other possible scriptural premise admits so consistently the teaching of a growth in grace. The one who denies the possibility of the removal of sin from the heart in this present life is confronted with an extremely hazardous chance of consistent spiritual development His time will be largely absorbed with internal struggles and with oft-repeated confessions of failure and repentance. Hannah Whitall Smith, author of that Christian classic, A Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, records the incident of a woman who interrupted her sermon one evening as she was discoursing on this very theme. The woman ejaculated that she had been taught to believe that she must grow into holiness. The speaker replied with the question as to how long she had been saved. Upon the reply to this query she again asked her how much nearer she was to the experience now than when first saved. The woman, honestly chagrined, dropped her head only to reply that she doubted if she were as spiritual as she had been in days past. This pathetic case but emphasizes the unchallenged fact that no one ever yet produced one single case of a soul having reached a state of holiness by growth.
On the other hand, he who accepts that position clearly consistent with revelation is in a happy attitude and frame of mind actually to grow in grace. With his nature renewed and the inward foe to spiritual progress and aptitude removed by a second work of grace, there stretches out before his anticipating vision vistas of growth and possibilities of grace hitherto unknown. Those very things “that eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man,” the Holy Spirit will reveal to that one determined to know the experience of a clean heart.
G. Campbell Morgan said that Christian experience is made up of processes and crises. How well put. It is possible that the Doctor meant differently from the way we choose to interpret his words. Nevertheless his statement is true to form. Many when challenged with the second blessing properly so-called, contend that they believe in many blessings. Such is a fact no doubt, yet the actual truth in this particular is far more specific and definite. There are two epochal crises in every genuine Christian experience of any reasonably long standing. All that precedes these two clearly defined experiences and all that eventually follows them may be consistently termed process experiences.
Somewhere, sometime, God began a process of instruction and providence in the life of the one who now knows the Lord. That process may have been short or stretched over the years. Gently and lovingly God in His sovereign will was bringing that individual to an attitude of mind and heart where he would be most susceptible to the wooings of the Holy Spirit. How matchless is His love! With what divine forethought He anticipated my salvation! Long before a single longing stirred within my breast, God was directing the circumstances of my life to that happy end. Regardless of the time element involved there came an instant when, like a flash, divine power and love broke into my spirit with new life from above. “Old things passed away, and all things became new” as if by magic. Another soul had been born into the kingdom of God with his heart crying by divinely planted instinct, “Abba Father!”
Then followed another process of training and instruction. As before, this period was contingent upon background, training, and native responsiveness to spiritual things. With some it was but a brief period while with others it stretched on through the weary years like the dreary wanderings of Israel of old. We recall that precious white-haired Presbyterian who once bowed at the altar in a camp meeting in Nova Scotia. He arose to his feet, his face bathed in heavenly light and glory, and testified that he had always been taught that he could not be sanctified wholly until the hour and article of death, but now thank God, he actually possessed the experience. The crisis had taken place in a moment of time.
The inevitability of the second crisis is most apparent from God’s dealing with many, many souls. Men who had never heard or known of the theology or philosophy of holiness, prompted by a hunger of heart prayed their way through into a precious experience. Later, proper instruction and intelligence came and they were made aware for the first time of the fact of the need of a clean heart. The God of all grace had led them thus to the utter satisfying of their souls without the slightest intellectual knowledge of theology. Enough specific and authentic cases could easily be recounted to prove beyond all doubt the reality of this glorious work of grace.
This second crisis faced and the victory won, there stretches out before the soul the prospect of the fullness of the stature of the manhood of Christ.
We must ever remember that the grace of God does for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. Had there been a way for man to have saved himself Christ would never have come to this world of woe. But “there was no arm to save nor eye to pity,” therefore His arm brought salvation to mankind. How wonderful the description by Paul in Ephesians the second chapter! What a black picture in the first verses. Then we come upon those marvelous words, “But God.” How wonderfully grace enters upon the scene and conquers for the helpless and lifts the utterly fallen. Even then how helpless the soul with that inward proneness to sin! Truly the carnal mind is enmity — not at enmity, but rather the very personification of enmity and rebellion. It is not subject to the law of God or ever can be made to be. Again the grace of God meets the crucial need. “For I am crucified with Christ: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God!” But now God, by His grace, having delivered us from the present power and dominion of sin throws us upon our own resources plus divine aid. We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We are to keep ourselves in the love of God in order that we may happily finish our course with joy. We are to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord. We are to constantly walk in the light through the power of an indwelling Comforter that the blood of Jesus Christ may continue to cleanse and keep. The school of probation now fully entered, we must train for the heavenly kingdom. The trial of our faith which is much more precious than gold will bring in the end an exceeding gracious reward. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fail: for so an entrance Shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:3-8, 10, 11). True, there hath no temptation taken us but such is common to man, and God in infinite love will never allow us to be pressed beyond endurance. So we will rejoice in manifold temptations and thus, apprehended by grace and adjusted to the divine character and purpose of God by a definite cleansing of the heart, we will open wide the door to the riches of His grace so that we beholding the face of Jesus Christ, may go from grace to grace and from glory to glory. And one of these days after a triump hant life of holy victory has come to a close we can say in the words of Solomon, “There hath not failed one word of all his good promise” (I Kings 8:56).