Progress In Quantity, Not In Quality
“Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shalt have more abundance.”
“If one is holy, how can he be more holy? If perfectly holy, how can he increase in holiness?
A thing may be perfect in nature, yet not in degree. An oak when it first rises above the ground, is so small that it may be trodden under foot; yet as truly an oak as when it stands in the strength of years. A child is in nature as much a human being in infancy as in manhood It is so with any intellectual power or appetite or affection. A reasoner understands reasoning, and may be able to apply the principles perfectly in a given case; yet, by habit, he may increase the promptness, facility and perfection of the mental faculty. An intemperate man may become perfectly temperate; yet one entirely reformed is less likely to be overcome when the temperate principle has acquired strength.
The most perfect thing, if susceptible of growth, will have the most sure and rapid growth. Which grows best the perfect flower, or that which has canker or is defective in some part, the perfect child or the one afflicted or malformed? Such facts show that the state called holiness, assurance of faith, perfect love, and sanctification may increase. There is no physical impossibility in it, but perfection in nature is requisite to perfection in degree. One partially holy may grow in holiness, but one entirely holy, although assailed by unfavorable influences outwardly, will grow more. Obstacles to growth in holiness will be much less in the latter than in the former, and that inward vitality necessary to the greatest expansion will possess a power unknown under other circumstances.
These views commend themselves to common observation, human reason, and accord with Scripture. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost from his birth; he was sanctified from that early period. But in after life, in his temptations and labors, in his faithful preaching, in his stern rebuke of wickedness, in high and low places, in his imprisonment, and in the general growth of his matured and consecrated powers there can be no difficulty in ascribing to him growth in holiness. It is said of him, “The child grew and waxed strong in spirit.” The Savior was holy from the beginning. Every power of body or mind was fully sanctified. But “the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.” Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man,” What is the meaning of this increase of strength in spirit? How could He increase in the favor of His heavenly Father, if, with the increase of His expanding powers, there was not also a corresponding growth in holy love? The Scriptures do not recognize standing still; all passages which require growth in grace and religious knowledge are as applicable after sanctification as before. “Let as many as be perfect, be thus minded,” in that we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect,” implies that we be perfect in our sphere, in our perceptions, feelings and purposes, to the full extent of our capability, and also that we should continually expand (in accordance with the law of increase which is part of the nature of every rational being) our capacity of feeling and of knowledge. In doing this we fulfill the command absolutely, so far as the nature of our mental exercises is concerned; and fulfill it by approximation, or continual growth, so far as relates to their degree. The angels in heaven are holy, but are always growing in holiness. In their exercises they are like their heavenly Father, and perfect as He is perfect; but in relation to the degree of their exercises, they can be said to be perfect only in availing themselves of every possible means of approximation and growth. Growth, therefore — continual advancement — is the unalterable law of all created holy beings. “Whoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.”
Hence growth in holiness, when the heart is sanctified, is reasonable. The growth of a sanctified soul in holiness would be more rapid than that of the partially sanctified. The testimony of those who have arrived at this state is, that their growth is more rapid and sure. They are conscious of increased power against temptation, and of increased union with the Divine will, to an extent unknown in previous experience. What growth, then, must there . be in angel minds, which are neither obstructed by inward nor by outward evils in their progress! What expansion! What increased intensity of desire! What higher and more triumphant energies of love.” — Thomas C. Upham
“So many look upon holiness as a finality and make no proper effort to advance in the grace and consequently it parts with its sweetness and power. Holiness is a Progressive Principle and cannot live in an atmosphere of stagnation. Whosoever, therefore, would enjoy and retain holiness after it has been obtained must ‘forget those things which are behind and reach forth to those things which are before, and press toward the mark; he must continue with open face to behold the glory of the Lord,’ and thereby change into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” — Sheridan Baker.
Manifestly the crying need of the holiness movement is the developing of a ministry which will lead the fully sanctified on and on into the deeper degrees in the Divine life to “all the fullness of God.”
Joseph H. Smith, in his pamphlet on “Holiness Work,” said, “We have the great task of developing sainthood and the maturing of a wholesome saintliness in those who are truly sanctified. None are more susceptible to the advancing ministries of a progressive piety than those who are made free from sin. And none are in any more need of being ministered unto than those who (rid of the appetite for worldly things) cannot thrive without the strong meat of God’s word. Yet there are few who know how to ‘feed sheep.’ For these cannot fatten, mark you! either upon the barbwire of cautions which is frequently rolled out to them from many ministries, nor, yet, from the mere rehearsal of the truths whereby they were sanctified. How few there are of us who are skilled in the art of culturing their graces, developing their gifts, perfecting their conduct, and maturing their influence and their service!
“True, they are in the school of providence, and ate the subjects of fostering and chastening grace. True, too, they as none others, are capacitated to work out their own salvation. But it is also true that the gospel contemplates a nursing mother and an admonishing father — ministry for all saints to the very end of probation. And we are called to be such. For lack here, many may be developed farther as holiness people than as holy people.”
“Peter may be denominated the great apostle of growth. To him all the advocates of a growth into holiness appeal in the advocacy of their theory. But they fail to correctly interpret this apostle. In the orders which he gives the churches to gradually advance in religious life he assumes that purity is an antecedent necessity. In his second epistle, Chap. 1, verses 5 and 6, he says: ‘And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge, and to knowledge, temperance, and to temperance, patience,’ and so on. This has been interpreted to mean a gradual advance in the religious life until a state of perfected purity be reached. But a little care will discover that the apostle is urging a spiritual development which succeeds to, or follows after, entire purification. ‘Besides this,’ he says, ‘giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge,’ etc. Now let it be inquired, besides what? The answer comes in the preceding verse: ‘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.’ Hence, ‘besides this’ means besides having the Divine nature, and besides being freed from the carnal nature, ‘add to your faith virtue,’ and so on — that is, develop and mature the state of purity.”
“In the famous order of this apostle by which he closes his second epistle, ‘But grow in grace, and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,’ he assumes that the persons addressed were ‘steadfast,’ or already in a favorable condition for vigorous growth, as appears from the preceding verse. Before he gave this order he gave another, which he viewed as an antecedent in the order of grace: ‘Be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless.’ Peace, spotlessness and blamelessness first, then Christian growth and development.” — D. S. Baker.
“How can holiness be perfect and yet progressive?”
J. A. Wood in “Perfect Love” answers this question:
“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 yet more and more. Holiness in the entirely sanctified 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.
“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.”