Advancement After Entire Sanctification
“Advance in the love and knowledge of our Lord Jesus.” 2nd Peter 3:18. 20th Cent. Test.
“From one point of view the development of Character is never complete because experience is constantly presenting new aspects of life to us; and in consequence of this fact, we are always engaged in slight reconstructions of our modes of conduct, and our attitudes toward life.” — Angell’s Psychology.
The Principal Progress in the Divine Life Comes After Entire Sanctification
Listen in vain for statements to fall from the lips of any of the accredited teachers of entire sanctification to substantiate this charge. On the contrary we aver our belief in growth in grace, both before entire sanctification, after, especially after, and throughout the endless cycles of eternity. The command, ‘Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ applies to the entirely sanctified as to no other class. ‘It was originally given to those who were steadfast, which regenerated souls are not.’ Sanctification endows with a spiritual life which has the highest capabilities of development. To suppose sanctification is all, brings stagnation. The principal progress in the Divine life comes after heart cleansing. ‘Holiness is not the end; it is a good beginning. There is no end to it. Paul says, “Ye have your fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life.’
The absurdity of that supposition, “If the heart is pure there is no use to endeavor to advance,” is seen from the following:
Disease and Deformity Obstruct Physical Growth Sin Principle Retards Spiritual Progress
“If evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, shall it be thought a thing incredible that the purified shall grow from strength to strength, from grace to grace, and from glory to glory? If wealth and health enable a man to accumulate property easier and more rapidly than a state of poverty or sickness, will not purity, which is the soul’s wealth and health, prepare it to grow with increasing vigor, beauty and symmetry? Vegetables in a garden cleansed from weeds and grass will grow more thriftily than otherwise, nor will they cease to grow when every noxious thing is exterminated; a tree, pruned, and all worms and insects cleansed from it, will not cease to grow, but will grow all the faster; a healthy child will grow in strength and stature more rapidly than a sickly one. All disease or deformity obstructs growth, while health is its most essential condition. Thus when the .carnal mind is destroyed, the soul will grow with increasing thriftiness and uniformity. Sin degenerates, cripples and enervates; while holiness quickens and invigorates, and secures the best possible foundation for the development of all our powers and faculties.” — J A. Wood
In lieu of the foregoing, how erroneous, fallacious, and misleading to suppose a state of heart purity derogatory to development! Rather it is indispensably necessary to satisfactory growth.
Greater to “Retain” Sanctification and Progress Therein Than to “Gain” It
Mr. Wesley’s mature judgment was that it is a greater thing to “retain” than to “gain” sanctification; and his observation was, that hardly one in three retained the grace of holiness. To retain this grace requires progress — like riding a bicycle, we must go on or fall off. The housewife will testify the work of cleaning house is a small thing compared to keeping it clean. So likewise, being cleansed from all sin, in entire sanctification, is a small part of the holy life the greatest part, “Keeping ourselves unspotted from the world,” is before us.
Sanctification not Finality
Because a garden with young growing vegetables is cleansed of all poisonous and hurtful weeds which would retard the progress of their growth, is no evidence whatever the vegetables are mature; so, also, a heart cleansed is not a mature heart. Sanctification is not “finality,” but, “beginning” — commencement. Looking on sanctification as the summit of attainment accounts for the many disappointed and unvictorious professors of sanctifying grace.
The Goal for the Sanctified Does not Consist in an Increase of Purity:
“Beyond sanctification there is no increase in purity, but increasing increase in expansion.” — Dr. Dempster.
“Purity is to be distinguished from maturity. When inbred sin is destroyed there can be no increase of purity, but an eternal increase in love and all the fruits of the Spirit.” — Amos Binney
Maturity the Goal
“We understand simple purity, as not a high state of grace when compared with the privileges of the divine life. Purity is only the base, the substratum of a grand Christian life.
Maturity, by which we understand an ever increasing increase of love and all the fruits of the Spirit, is not a condition of salvation. Purity is. Maturity is gradual and indefinite — a gradual and progressive process involving years of growth, cultivation and enlargement. Were maturity a condition of salvation many sanctified but immature Christians would be lost; thousands die in immaturity and are saved.” — J. A. Wood
The sanctified progress towards maturity and are blameless before God at every stage; their progress will not cease with this life; they shall, “throughout the countless cycles of eternity, ever be advancing towards and approximating God’s infinite perfection.”
Degrees in the Development of the Sanctified
The Bible reveals stages in the development of the Christian life; and this surely applies to the sanctified. John writes of some who were “little children,” others, who were “young men;” and still another class whom he calls “fathers” in Christ. Paul notes the same distinctions in his epistles. To the Corinthians he wrote as unto, “babes in Christ;” in another place of “children” — “That we should be no more children.” And yet again, that we should attain unto a “full-grown man” in Christ. There are similar degrees noticed in the development of the entirely sanctified. We have seen the wobbling, vacillating, babe in sanctification; the stalwart, young man, and also the established father and mother in holiness. God does not fault the babe in the sanctified life for not being as mature as the young man or father. The babe in the sanctified life is just as pure as the young man or father, but simply not as mature; because maturity does not come instantaneously like cleansing; maturity is the result of years of growth, experience and development.
A Source of Discouragement
S. A. Keen suggests the not observing distinctions similar to those just enumerated in the development of the sanctified life is the cause of much discouragement to zealous young professors of sanctifying grace. They have looked on the development and maturity of such characters as Fletcher, when his spiritual life had reached its zenith, and have thought they might obtain in a moment, that which, with him, was reached, by virtue of long years of obedience, growth, discipline and development.
“The maturing of a Christian experience cannot be reached in a moment, but is the result of the work of God’s Holy Spirit, who, by His energizing, and transforming power, causes us to grow up into Christ in all things — and we cannot hope to reach this maturity in any other way, than by yielding ourselves up utterly and willingly to His mighty working.” — H. W. Smith.
We mistake to look for perfection proximating faultlessness, infallibility, or absolute perfection. A zealous, consecrated, and intelligent worker whom the writer had been instrumental in leading into the sanctified life divulged in a conversation on “Progressive Holiness” that her ambition was to be so perfect (absolutely) that she would never make a mistake. (As might be expected, pursuing such an irrational ideal she drifted into fanaticism.) Such perfection is nowhere promised in the word of God to mortals during probation. The holiest of men have erred and will err until the end of time. Errors, however, may be reduced to the minimum by care and watchfulness. God uses errors to prod us and remind us we are still in the flesh; and whilst we do not believe the worldly Christian’s (?) favorite maxim, — “A little sin is necessary to keep the soul humble,” yet we can conceive how an occasional error and unwitting mistake may serve to humble the sanctified and incite to greater watchfulness.
What are we to Expect after the Crisis of Entire Sanctification?
The greatest danger to the sanctified lies in not apprehending wherein true, rational, progress consists. Ignorance here results in fanaticism.
We are manifestly not to seek another crisis of experience which will preclude the necessity of constantly seeking new and deeper degrees of love for God and man. Neither are we to expect such an experience as will lift us above temptation and Satanic conflict; nor trials and sorrows, contingent on our earthly pilgrimage.
Mr. Wesley has pointed out the very desire of advancement may become a snare to the wholly sanctified:
John Wesley’s Advice to the Wholly Sanctified
“The very desire of growing in grace may sometimes be an inlet to enthusiasm. As it continually leads us to seek new grace, it may lead us to seek something else new, besides new degrees of love for God and man. So it has led some to seek, and fancy they had received, gifts of a new kind after a new heart, as (1) The loving God with all our mind. (2) With all our soul. (3) With all our strength. (4) Oneness with God. (5) Oneness with Christ. (6) Having our life hid with Christ in God. (7) Being dead with Christ. (8) Rising with Him. (9) The sitting with Him in heavenly places. (10) Being taken up into His throne. (ii) The being in the New Jerusalem. (12) The seeing the tabernacle of God come down among men. (13) The being dead to all works. (14) The not being liable to death, pain, or grief or temptation.
One ground of these and a thousand mistakes is the taking every fresh, strong application of any of these Scriptures to the heart, to be a gift of a new kind; not knowing that several of these Scriptures are not fulfilled yet; that most of the others are fulfilled when we are justified; the rest, the moment we are sanctified. It remains only to experience them in higher degrees. This is all we have to expect.
Another ground of these mistakes is the not considering deeply that LOVE IS THE HIGHEST GIFT OF GOD, — humble, gentle, patient love; that all visions, revelations, manifestations whatever, are little things compared to love. It were well you should be thoroughly sensible of this — the heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others have you received this or that blessing; if you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way and putting them on a false scent. Settle it, then, in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from all sin, (“Sanctified you wholly”) you are to aim at nothing but more of that love described in the thirteenth of First Corinthians. You can go no higher than this until you are carried, into Abraham’s bosom.
“What I have seen in London occasioned the first caution I gave you. George Bell, Wm. Green, and many others, then full of love, were favored with extraordinary manifestations from God. But by this very thing Satan beguiled them from the simplicity that is in Christ. By insensible degrees they were led to value these extraordinary gifts more than the ordinary grace of God; and I could not convince them that a grain of humble love was better than all these gifts put together.”
O desire nothing different in nature from love! There is nothing higher in earth or heaven. Whatever he speaks of, which seems to be higher, is either natural or preter-natural enthusiasm. Desire none of these extraordinaries. Such a desire might be an inlet to a thousand delusions.
The cry of the sanctified should be:
“O grant that nothing in my soul may dwell,
But Thy pure love alone;
O may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown;
Strange flames far from my heart remove
My every act, thought, word be love.”
Clamoring for the supernatural gifts of the Spirit above His graces, has shipwrecked many a hitherto useful sanctified life. The writer knows of holiness people, caught by the power-heresy wave which has recently swept over certain organizations, who have spent months seeking the gift of tongues, under the false impression that all might have that gift; others there are who are seeking power to walk on waves, or through closed doors and walls as Jesus did. Paul, after writing of the nine supernatural gifts of the Spirit, which God bestows, sovereignly, on whom He wills, closes the chapter by saying (free translation of Greek), “Yet show I unto you a way beyond all comparison the best.” Then follows that matchless thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, describing the way of God’s kind of love — the more excellent way. Oh, that holiness professors would spend their time seeking deeper degrees of that love which abides forever! To be swallowed up in love, to be “stripped of all but love,” and have “our hearts aflame with love, “hot with love,” is the crying need of the hour.
“Had I the gift of tongues
Great God, without Thy grace,
My loudest words, my loftiest songs
Would be but sounding brass.
Had I such faith in God
As mountains to remove,
No faith could effectual prove
That did not work by love.
Grant then this one request
Whatever be denied,
That love divine may rule my breast
And all my actions guide.”