Purity and Maturity – By John Wood

Chapter 10

Results Of Purity, Or Of Its Neglect

The remains of pride, unbelief, and all the various lusts existing in the merely regenerate, struggle fearfully at times to regain their lost dominion over the heart, and these inward conflicts with carnal nature, render it exceedingly difficult to retain the constant witness of our justification.

With a pure heart, it is vastly more easy to live a Christian life, and retain the continuous witness of a justified state.

Purity is spiritual freedom. “Whom the Son maketh free is free indeed.” The intellect and spiritual vision are freed from darkness, vain imaginations, and high things which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God; the affections are freed from all forbidden or sordid objects; the conscience is freed from condemnation and dead works — the guilt and power of sin, and the will is freed from all perversity and evil inclination. Thus, while grace does not necessitate the soul’s action, it emancipates it from bondage, and makes obedience to God natural, delightful, and easy.

The soul is brought into complete harmony with itself, and with God. The reason, the conscience, the will, the affections and emotions are no longer antagonized against each other, but with a harmonious concurrence move together in delightful obedience to Christ. God possessing all, and giving energy to all, the whole soul acts in accordance with his will. This is Gospel freedom in the fullest and highest sense.

In the partially purified heart, in addition to all outside foes to the Christian life, there are deep-rooted inward evils, real, stirring, bosom foes. These are more troublesome and dangerous than all outward enemies. They often strive for the ascendancy. They interrupt the soul’s peace. They obscure its spiritual vision. They are the instruments of sore temptation. They mar the Christian character. They obstruct communion with God. They cripple the soul’s efforts to do good. They belong to Satan, and invariably side with him. They occupy a place in the heart which should be possessed by the Holy Spirit. They are the greatest hindrance to growth in grace, and render our service to God but partial: and thus they militate against the evidence of justification. Dear reader, these things ought not to be so! Help has been laid upon one who is mighty, and who “is able to save them to the UTTERMOST, who come unto the Father by him.”

Inbred sin is the fruitful source of more internal conflict, darkness, doubts, and uncertainty than all others combined. If purification resulted in nothing more than the removal of all these, by a greatly intensified state of all the great facts and essential items of justification and regeneration, it must be seen to be of great importance.

God commands and requires us to be holy. He expects us to be really and positively holy — strictly and universally holy. “BE YE HOLY; FOR I AM HOLY.”

He has opened the fountain for sin and for uncleanness, but we ourselves must wash therein. It can never be done by proxy. All may not be able to attain a high degree of knowledge and wisdom. All may not be polished, or equally cultivated, but all may wash and be clean: the poor and the rich, the learned and the illiterate, the ignorant and the intelligent, the weak and the strong, can alike, by simply trusting Christ, know that his blood cleanseth them from all sin. The means and conditions of purity are within the reach of all; but they will never remove a single stain from any soul, unless applied to, or complied with. If we do not seek holiness, and are not made pure and God-like, we disobey him. How can we be disobedient, and grieve the Holy Spirit, without displeasing God, forfeiting the witness of the Spirit, and the light of justification? Mr. Wesley says, “The witness of the Spirit is inevitably destroyed, not only by the commission of outward sin, or the omission of known duty, but by giving way to any inward sin; in a word, by whatever grieves the Holy Spirit of God.” — Sermons, vol. i. p. 94.

Not to be, what we can, and ought to be, is an offence against God. “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

Living in a partially purified state in the light of Gospel provision, must be displeasing to God. Alas! what sad work this course is producing upon multitudes in all our churches! what coldness! what darkness! what weakness! and what death!

Bishop Foster says, “The believer is under obligation to possess all, to the last degree, of that which he may possess in Christ. Present possibility of holiness determines present duty of holiness.” — Christian Purity, p. 21.

Dr. D. W. C. Huntington says, — “Thousands among us have fallen below their early covenant with God, and have really no more expectation of ceasing to sin than they have of being transfigured. The turning point with the mass of these, was when they gave up the expectation of being made perfect in this life.”

Dr. John Dempster says — “While it is true that no believer is lost, and that none with impurity is saved, it is equally true that no one retains his justification, and dies without sanctification. Apostasy or purity is the only possible alternative after regeneration. This is the germ and pledge of that.” — Sermon before Biblical Institute.

No man can fully obey God, without seeking holiness, or without being “cleansed from all sin.” Mr. Fletcher says, — “So long as your heart continues partly unrenewed, your life will be partly unholy.” “To voluntarily omit holiness, (says Bishop Peck) in desire, in prayer, in the strivings of the heart, would be disobedience, and hence real apostasy.” Reconciliation with the existence of inbred sin in our hearts, is the very way to forfeit our justification.

Dr. Stephen Olin says, — “Doubtless God’s will is even our sanctification, and we offend no less against our own highest interests than against his most gracious designs when we rest below the best attainable position in religion.” — Letter to J. R. Olin.

This impurity, tolerated and harbored, has brought many a man into bondage who had run well for a season. Hence it should be preached as clearly and faithfully as the wickedness and guilt of human actions. The uncleanness — the pollution of sin, is to be seen as clearly as the guilt of sin. Both demand clear presentation in ministerial instruction; and salvation from each sought by divine pardon, and by cleansing.

Multitudes are hindered by the mistaken idea that purity is difficult to retain and easily lost. Just as if the difficulty of retaining religion increases with the measure of it we obtain. It would be just as sensible to caution people against becoming rich, lest it should lead them to bankruptcy; or to caution people against seeking health, lest it should make them sick. The truth is, the more religion we possess, the easier to get more, and to keep what we get. THE GREATEST DANGER TO PIETY IS A LOW STATE OF PIETY.

The objection, so often heard against this doctrine and experience, — the misconduct of some who have proclaimed it, we regard as unworthy of any Christian man; possessing neither argument nor piety to commend it. Its spirit and animus are fearfully like Satan, whose most sophistical and continuous assaults against Christianity have always been the wicked conduct of many of its professed friends. Surely this is the devil’s work, as no sensible man will either refuse to embrace, nor abandon a good cause because of the failings of its advocates. Such a course would result in the rejection of everything noble and excellent, to say nothing of Christianity.

A pure heart differs vitally from an impure one. In purification there is a positive refining wrought by the cleansing energy of the Holy Ghost, and without this refining, there is a serious deficiency in our holiness.

There is a kind of holiness, (so-called) in these times, which may be suspected, as very much a human affair: a kind of intellectual assent to certain propositions, which fail to reach the necessities of human depravity, on the one side, or the Bible description of true holiness on the other. The work is superficial, and has manifestly too much of earthly origin. It bears more the impress of the human, than of the divine; while true holiness is of divine origin, and bears the impress of heaven. To be “cleansed from sin,” — “crucified with Christ,” — “dead to the world,” and “pure in heart,” involves more than a mere sickly sentimentalism. ANYTHING ELSE RATHER THAN A SUPERFICIAL SANCTIFICATION.

Human activities respond to, and correspond with the state of the soul, and all defects of character originate there. A man can bear fruit only according to the moral quality of his heart, — the governing principle of his soul. We make a fair and safe estimate of a man when we judge him according to the uniform temper and action of his life. We know ourselves by consciousness. We know others by their fruits. In the realm of nature, phenomena reveal to us substances. In the same manner mind is known, and moral phenomena proclaim our moral state.

If our heart is not wholly purified, its corrupt streams will flow through our lives. All pride, vanity, and evil tempers proceed from the undestroyed carnality of the heart.

The expressions of virtue from a cleansed heart, are the fruit of a pure nature, and not the unnatural and forced results of other causes. In purification the soul is relieved of its inherent bias — a propensity to sin, which hinders obedience to God, and wars against a holy life. This remaining carnality must exist in opposition to the will of God; he having made such ample provision for its destruction. It must be displeasing to him, as its existence involves distrust of the power of Christ, mars our Christian character, and weakens our spiritual life.

Dr. L. T. Townsend says of sanctification, “It is one for which the regenerated should constantly pray and ceaselessly strive, and is, from its nature, attainable at any point in the regenerated man’s experience.” — Outline Series.

Bishop Hedding says, “It is as important that you should experience this holy work as it is that the sinner to whom you preach should be converted.”

“Should it be objected (says Rev. John Fletcher), that, at this rate, no Christian is safe till he has obtained Christian perfection; we reply, that all Christian believers are safe, who either stand in it, or press after it. And IF THEY DO NEITHER, we are prepared to prove that they rank among FALLEN BELIEVERS.

Purity tends greatly to establish our Christian character, and root and ground us on the Rock of Ages. It will save from the avoidable faults and sins of which we have so often to mourn, and from a halting, vacillating course so common. It will enlarge our spiritual apprehension of the presence of God. It will secure such an experimental realization of the grand saving power of the Gospel, as will greatly magnify the grace of God, and make our religious life a constant luxury. How rich! and how blessed this unmixed, and powerfully intensified experience! How glorious to realize the great cardinal truths, facts and blessed verities of our holy Christianity, as solid, precious, heart-felt realities!

There is a vast difference between the dim, dreamy, visionary, unfelt, and imperfect spiritual apprehensions of multitudes; and the clear, evangelical, spiritual vision of the fully sanctified soul. O this “walking in the light,” (in the light of truth and spiritual things) “as God is in the light,” how delightful! how inspiring! how blessed!

Purity will give weight and spiritual power to our words, invitations, and pious efforts. It will make Christian work natural and easy; indeed, the purified heart can feel at home in nothing else, it being more than its meat and drink to do the will of God. Purity wrought in the heart rectifies the constitution and character of man, as a moral being; which is precisely what the Gospel designs to accomplish, and what, in hundreds of thousands of instances, it has proved itself capable of effecting — restoring man’s nature to its pristine purity and love.

Purity is the normal condition of the soul. It is a state in exact adjustment to the divine plans, so that His influence and Spirit may pour through it, and pervade it in every part. This position will secure the maximum of the best possible efforts in every man and woman possessing it, and the greatest success possible in the nature of things; and is the power which is sooner or later to conquer this world to God.

Bishop Simpson said at Round Lake, — “We are put here in this world to work for God, and for this work we need preparation. Take an iron tool that has become rusty and is unfit for use. You must remove the rust before it is fit for use. So God would take us and burn up the dross of sin, and cleanse us by the blood of Jesus, and then we are ready to work for him.”

Purification will remove all our inclined alienation from God, all aversion to a holy life. It will secure the subjugation and right use of human passions, so that they become ”instruments of righteousness.” While the passions are not destroyed, they may be cleansed from the dross of sin, and regulated and held within the bounds of their legitimate functions, under the reign of grace.

Purity will secure the abiding residence of the Holy Spirit in the heart, without a rival, and will make our growth in grace universal, uniform, and constant. In outward life and morality the regenerate and the wholly purified are the same; but, in the depth of their devotion, in the steadiness of their zeal, in the cheerfulness of their resignation, in the sweetness of their spirit, in the perfection of their love, and in the completeness of their devotion and purity, they widely differ.

A pure heart will sanctify the tongue, and nothing else can. As long as Christians live in a partially purified state, we shall see the inconsistency of “proceeding out of the same mouth blessing and cursing.” “My brethren, these things ought not so to be: doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” The heart governs the tongue by a law of necessity. Jesus said, — “How can ye being evil speak good things?” The way, and only way, to cure an unruly tongue is to have the heart cleansed. The tongue was made to give utterance to the heart’s abundance, and it will. The conversation will harmonize with that which has the chief place in our thoughts, affections, hopes and sympathies. If the heart be in a peaceful, trustful, charitable frame, the conversation will be pure and sweet. The Saviour only affirmed a natural law, when he declared, that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” If the heart be pure, charitable and good, the conversation cannot be worldly, uncharitable and wicked.

When all impurity is washed from the soul, there is an end of “blessing and cursing,” of “sweet water and bitter” flowing from the same heart.

Unto the pure, all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is NOTHING PURE, but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” Titus i. 15. The doctrine of this scripture is, that the streams must be pure, or polluted; according as the fountain is pure or corrupt. An unsanctified, selfish, unbelieving heart, will pervade the life and conversation. Human life, in — respect to virtue or vice, is always in harmony with the moral state of the heart; and in God’s view, is neither better nor worse than that.

Our actions are sometimes performed with so little thought, as to resemble action from instinct. They are not less responsible on that account. Habit, unlike instinct, is subject to the control of the will, graciously assisted of God; and no unconscious volition by its power is free from virtue or vice. Obedience is not less virtuous because it springs from sanctified habit, or from being “rooted and grounded in love.” Sin is not less offensive to God because it springs from wicked habits, or uniformity of vicious action.

There are many in all our churches, who as Christians merely exist, in whose hearts the fire of God’s love burns but dimly. These need purity. There are many, very many who give no signs of religious progress or growth in grace, who have been for years members of the Church, and are seriously dwarfed in their religious life. These need purity. There are thousands of converts, who realize a great moral deficiency; who are conscious of the want of something more, and are in a dissatisfied, doubtful state of mind. These all need purity.

There are great multitudes, who feel the need of spiritual evangelical power to work for God; and we have thousands and thousands of church members who are doing comparatively nothing to build up the Church of God and save wicked men from hell. These need both pardon and purity.

There are hundreds of ministers, who are fearfully inefficient and lacking in pulpit power. These all need purity. Many of our sixty thousand class leaders are cold, formal, and inefficient, and it is not too strong to say, — the one great pressing necessity of the Church is purity.

With many, the great problem appears to be, not how holy I can be; not how I can best exemplify the life of Christ; not how I can bring my own heart and all other hearts into the most complete conformity to the will of God: but how much may I conform to the world, and not lose my hope, or Christian reputation? How much like the world may I live, and still be a respectable church member, and not forfeit my heirship to heaven?

Effort to work out this problem, is having an unhappy influence upon the practical Christianity of this age. It is so modifying and moulding the sentiments and practices of many, very many professed Christians, that they bear only a remote resemblance to the sentiments and practices of the Apostolic Church.

Hence, the way to heaven, instead of becoming more easy, as men have sought to make it, has been rendered vastly more perilous. This to the really wise, and deeply spiritual, is becoming more and more apparent.

Ours is an age of deep, insidious, Satanic operation. Some of the most spiritual duties and exercises of true religion, such as closet devotion, searching one’s heart, self-denial, self-abasing penitence before God, and abstinence and fasting, have become old-fashioned, not to say obsolete; and precisely those parts of worship, and items of truth are retained which serve to excite and amuse the sensibilities, without stirring up the foul depths of the heart’s corruption.

We have plenty of sentimental music, and sentimental preaching. We have a brilliant display of rhetoric and taste in descanting upon everything magnificent, or in any way entertaining. But how many occupying the sacred place, “cry aloud and spare not,” and lift up their voice like a trumpet to “show Jacob their transgressions, and Israel their sins”? There are many such, we know, and God be praised! — but are there not far too many who pursue a different course? Reader, these are not the dreamings of a morbid fancy, or the suggestions of an uncharitable judgment. Would they were either, rather than the painful truth.

We are joyfully aware that many precious exceptions do exist; that there are many thousands, true and faithful, and the number increasing, who do not bow the knee to Baal; who love the Church, and who would bear a baptism of blood for her, if need be. Still, there are facts before our minds, to prompt, and press, and push the questions — How many professed Christians participate with the ungodly in vain amusements? How many follow, and how many even lead in extravagant worldly display in fashions of dress and equipage? How many do business on principles which could not stand a moment in the light of Bible morality? — “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

How many are utter strangers to communion with God? Has not the love of Christ in many — alas! in very many — waxed grievously cold? How many in all our churches are without the witness of the Spirit to their Divine acceptance? How many will not endure plain dealing in the pulpit, or a faithful rebuke of their sins; and would not employ or sit under a preacher, whose heart is really set on their repentance and holy life? And further, how many even of the ministry, have fearfully conformed to these demands, and appear ready to preach smooth things, and avoid those unpalatable — however low the faith and spiritual life in the churches they serve? These items lie with painfully oppressive weight upon many hearts, as they are seen, more or less, in every direction.

The rising tide of worldliness sweeping round our churches demands purity. O, for pure ministers! pure principles! pure sermons! pure tempers! pure habits! and pure lives! “The time has come (says Bishop Foster) when we need to ascend, to pass up to a higher, healthier, and purer experience.”

How strange that purity of heart should be neglected and even disclaimed, while purity in other respects is insisted on. All are in favor of pure water, pure air, pure food, and pure friendship. While it is demanded physically, socially, and politically, shall it be disclaimed or neglected in moral and spiritual things? — in things of chief importance?

It is needed to cure vacillation, and establish believers in their Christian life: every inward foe being destroyed by the great power of God, they may walk steadily in the way of God’s commandments, and be “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”

How can faith increase in strength and volume when we are doubting much of the time? How can humility acquire a greater depth and permanency while we are the subjects of more or less pride? How can patience have her “perfect work” while we are restless and fretful under opposition and trial? How can love be perfect, or increase in intensity and power while the “carnal mind” is undestroyed?

“No virtue can grow to perfection, (says Dr. F. G. Hibbard) side by side with its opposite vice. How can humility grow with pride? How can holy affections grow in the heart with cherished covetousness, love of human praise, love of worldly pleasures? How far will a Christian advance in twenty years towards perfect resignation to all the will of God, and perfect love for that divine will, while every day he gratifies self, by refusing unconditional submission, and in some matters cherishes self-will? … There is only one way, brethren, one only way, be whole-hearted, be cleansed from sin, and let the plants of righteousness have room to grow in your heart.” — N. C. Advocate.

Any degree of the carnal mind, which “is enmity against God,” is a hindrance to our doing the will of God perfectly, hence the necessity of its destruction. And this is the lowest point to which any Christian should aim. When this is gained, there is enough for us still to do, and to gain, growing in grace, and in the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord.