“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23
The word regenerate means to “beget,” “renew” and “renovate.” It is, in the scriptural sense, to be born again, or born of God. The word sanctify, which is the prominent one in the text, means to “make pure,” “make holy” and “set apart.” You see at once that the words regenerate and sanctify are not synonyms, and that the latter is much stronger than the former. It is also very noticeable that Paul was not speaking of the first, but of the last, and was evidently deeply concerned that the Thessalonians might come into an experience which he calls being wholly sanctified.
This grace must undoubtedly be very important, as we find certain impressive facts and statements made relative to it in the Word of God. One is that Christ prayed for our sanctification. This appears in the seventeenth chapter of John; for, after supplicating thus for the disciples, the Saviour adds, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word.” It is through their word that the Gospel has been sent down to us
Again, Christ died for our sanctification. Many people do not seem to know this. They have looked on the death of Christ as a means of escape, from hell, when the Scripture distinctly declares that “He suffered outside the gate that He might sanctify the people.” Remember that sanctify does not mean regenerate.
Still again, Christ’s work is to that end. He has a work. Paul declares it in Ephesians, where he says that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify it. The Revised Version here will make you open your eyes, for it says “that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it with the washing of the water of the Word.” Here are the two works of grace side by side.
Still further, I notice that God wills our sanctification. Having once read that, how can a Christian ever be satisfied and settle down in any state of grace that is less and falls short of what is in the plain word? It seems to me that condemnation is bound to overtake one who refuses to walk in increasing light and will not possess that which God wants him to have.
I once read of a man who claimed to be God’s friend and follower, and yet was neglectful of certain Divine commandments. One evening on coming into his wife’s room he saw her open Bible lying on her work-table. She had been reading it on her knees, and hearing him had hastily retired to hide the emotion that was uppermost in her heart as she thought of his course. The man glanced at the Bible and saw a single tear that had dropped from her eyes upon the page. It was resting on this verse in John’s first epistle and second chapter: “He that saith I know Him and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him.” The tear and the verse together went like an arrow to his heart and did the work that aroused and saved him. It would be well for some today who hear me if they could see the tears of angels on the verse, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification,” and ask themselves how they must appear to God, and the world itself, when saying they love God, and yet heeding not what is t he declared will of God, and neglecting or refusing to obtain that for which Christ prayed and worked, and even died that they might have.
The text I have selected is full of information concerning this great work of grace. And it is remarkable that the very facts it brings out are the very points that are so objectionable and irritating to a large class of people in the church today. Drop these features and they will join hands with us and agree on the doctrine of sanctification. But to discard these same points is to rob it of its distinctiveness, confound it with growth is grace, make it a were elongation of regeneration, and thereby strip the blessing of its real spirit essence and peculiar glory. Let us see what this verse teaches:
1. SANCTIFICATION AS A DIVINE WORK.
This is the direct statement of the text: “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” How can the most expert reasoner escape from this unmistakable declaration that God sanctifies.
I have noticed that there is a disposition in the world to deny every work of God. Herein is seen not only the unbelief of men, but the same spirit that swept Christ from the earth. To deny God’s works is to get rid of God. And we have only to open our eyes and ears to see that every work of God is denied, not by the same class of people, but by different bodies; and the summing up of all these various negations amounts to the total rejection of God.
I find that the Bible attributes, among others, five general works to God, viz., creation, resurrection, regeneration, witness of the Spirit and sanctification. Is it not remarkable that every one of these are disputed and denied by men? Scientists would displace creation as all act of God, by evolution–a mere blind and unintelligent process. A large class of religious people deny the resurrection. Here two Divine works are swept away. A third body laugh at experimental religion, and substitute church membership for regeneration. Three works gone. A fourth class insists that there is and can be no direct testimony of the Spirit of God to our salvation; that we can only arrive at such a conclusion by a system of deductions, and these deductions are drawn from an observation of certain changes in our lives. The fourth work is gone. A fifth party deride the idea of sanctification being a distinct work of grace in the soul, and confound the word with maturity and growth in grace. I have often wondered if the people who do this, and oftentime they are Christians, are aware that they are in ghastly union with an unbelieving world in robbing God of His glory. For so it comes to pass, by open enemies and avowed friends, that every work of God is denied and swept away. Only review the list, creation, resurrection, regeneration, witness of the Spirit and sanctification, and behold every one is jeered at, doubted and denied. How do you like your fellowship, my brother, as you find yourself in league to defraud the Almighty of His honor?
Thank God the Bible is clear in these matters, and the same Book which says that God created the heavens and the earth declares that God sanctifies the soul wholly. It is vain for persons to try to escape this direct statement by saying that the Scripture tells us to “sanctify the Lord God in our heart.” This is true; we are to have high, holy, elevated thoughts of God, and this it is to sanctify Him in our hearts; and until we do this He will never sanctify our souls; but still the verse remains unmoved–“The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.”
It is also vain to say that the Bible tells us to sanctify ourselves; that this was the command to the children of Israel, “Sanctify yourselves.” This is also true. We have never denied that there is a double cleansing or sanctification, one human and the other divine. The human must always precede the divine. A man must cleanse or sanctify himself before God will ever sanctify him wholly. We are to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness” in order to “perfect holiness.” So the text stands like a mighty unconquered fort after all this shelling and crossfiring–it is the God of peace who sanctifies us wholly.
2. SANCTIFICATION AS A SECOND WORK.
Here comes fresh trouble to many. If we would only say that sanctification is a ripening of the Christian graces, a further development of the Christian life, then all would be well with Jacob and the camp of Israel would remain peaceful and contented. But to call it a second work, a work subsequent to and different from regeneration, here is where the excitement is again aroused.
I have often wondered at the irritability manifested by good people toward the teaching of a second work of grace. One would suppose that the first had not been so delightful that they desired another. Whereas in my own case the first blessing was so sweet that I always wanted God to touch me again. Now when in addition to this it is demonstrated both by the heart and the Bible that there is need for a second work, then it certainly seems that every child of God would pant to receive that work. This being the case, the antagonism felt and expressed toward this subsequent grace is quite remarkable. But antagonism or not, the fact remains that such a work is for us.
Moreover, every view taken or theory enunciated of the blessing of entire sanctification makes it a second work. For instance, if purity comes in Purgatory, there the second work is seen; if at death, the fact of subsequency is clear then. If it comes as a result of growth or development, still it is a second blessing. Even the Zinzendorfian teaching, which locates it at conversion, will, if examined, reveal the dual grace. The words “I got it at conversion” are most significant. Do you not see that “it” and “conversion” are different words, and that the man says that when he was regenerated he got something else different from regenerated–that he “got it when he was converted. ”
When you come to the true theory as taught in the Bible and Methodist theology, sanctification is plainly upheld as a second work.
The first proof is seen remarkably in the epistle from which the text is taken. Let any one of you read the first chapter of first Thessalonians and note what Paul says about their religious condition, their faith, their joy in the Holy Ghost, their being an example to believers, etc., and then turn to the text and hear him pray that God would sanctify them wholly to see a second work taught, as clearly as words can make it.
A second proof is in the term “God of peace. ” Who is the God of peace? Romans, fifth chapter and first verse, will answer that, “Being justified by faith we have peace with God.” God is not a God of peace to a sinner, but to a justified man. Now then, says Paul, may the God of peace, your justifying God, sanctify you wholly.
A third proof is seen in the word “sanctify.” This, as previously said, means to “make pure, make holy and to set apart.” Regeneration means to “beget, reproduce, born again,” etc. But common sense tells us that the creature must be born before it can be “set apart.” So the word sanctify itself contains the evidence of a second work. A fourth proof is found in many Bible passages which my time today will not allow me even to quote, much less expound.
A fifth proof is in human witnesses. They are today found all over the land, and are springing up by thousands and tens of thousands. I meet them wherever I go. No matter in what country or city I find them they agree marvelously on these very points which awaken such a stir of resentment, that the work is Divine and that it is wrought subsequent to regeneration!
It is true there are many people in the church who deny the reality of such a blessing, saying, among other things, that they never had it. But what does this prove? Simply that they themselves have not the blessing. Can what they say have weight? Are they true witnesses when we come to look at the matter? A witness in the court is a man who testifies to what he knows, not to what he does not know. Suppose a boy should declare that he saw one man murder another, and a hundred men should swear that it did not occur because they did not see it, do we not all know that the testimony of the lad would outweigh the statements of the one hundred men. He was present, saw and knew of the transaction, while they were not there, and so could not properly testify. In this instance one positive declaration of fact outweighs a thousand denials. So in regard to this experience, we have those who say they have the blessing. What, then, does the adverse testimony of laymen and preachers amount to against the doctrine when all they say, when summed up, is that they have not got it? They, in a word, were not on the ground. We were; and, thank God, saw the “Old Man” killed and buried. In other words, we believed, received, and are today filled and blessed with the joy, liberty and power of the second work of grace.
Some one told a devout old colored woman that a very smart and eloquent lecturer had just said in one of his harangues that there was no Holy Ghost. The person who told her watched her countenance closely as he asked: “Now, Aunt Maria, when such an intellectual and prominent man says there is no Holy Ghost in the world, what are you going to do about it?” The aged head was lifted in answer, the trembling hand was raised, and with earnest tones she said: “He means to say there’s no Holy Ghost as he knows on!” That answer was a Waterloo one and cleared the field. And so in like manner when we hear of people denying the fact of a second work of grace, we say: “Yes, there is none that they ‘knows on’–but there is one just the same.”
The argument is made against us that God does everything in one work; but it is overwhelmingly contradicted by the formation of the world with six different touches of power, the creation of the human family in two distinct works, the two covenants given to men, the blessing of Pentecost coming on saved men and women, and by other instances of divine procedure that I have not time to mention.
According to reason and revelation, and in agreement with other Divine works, and in perfect harmony with human experience, sanctification is a second work.
3. SANCTIFICATION IS AN INSTANTANEOUS WORK.
This third fact likewise arouses the displeasure and opposition of a number of God’s people. Make the blessing a gradual growth or an endless series of developments, and such a teacher will be held in high ecclesiastical favor, and there will be “room in the inn” for him and his teaching. It is the statement of its instantaneousness that seems to exasperate some spirits.
The proof of the immediate nature of the blessing is seen in the aorist tense in which we find the word sanctify in the text. Scholars have told us that the aorist tense will not allow the thought of gradualism or development. It stands for a work accomplished once for all.
Another proof is seen in God’s will. When could He will our sanctification but now, in the present moments To say that He wills it a year, month, or even a day hence, would be to destroy the moral character of God. It would be to say that God did not will us to be holy now and was satisfied with unsanctified lives. We cannot believe this a moment. We say “now” is God’s time, and if He wills us to be sanctified now then He has a way to do it now.
A third proof is seen in God’s commands. Turn to the Bible and see if the word of injunction there does not refer to the present; “Be ye holy!” The call, command and promise throughout the Scriptures agree as to an instantaneous yielding and immediate experience.
If you confound sanctification with growth in grace, the idea of gradualism becomes natural and imperative; but when we see that sanctification is a Divine work and not a soul process, the impossibility of the development theory becomes at once manifest. It is an instantaneous Divine cleansing, and as such we are commanded to seek and possess it.
God’s commands do not provide for procrastination and willful delays. They do not read that way, and if we do so treat them it is at our peril. There is no command for a gradual honesty. Think if you can of a man becoming honest after a gradual fashion; that today he steals a horse, the next day a cow, then a calf, then a hog, then a turkey (oh, how he is improving!), then a chicken, and finally an egg. Would any one call that improvement? Would not a child say that the man was as big a thief when he took the egg as when he stole the horse? God knows of no such honesty, and has no such command. Instead of that are the ringing words, “Let him that stole steal no more.” An instantaneous honesty! So we are not called and commanded to a gradual and graduated holiness, but to an instant and entire destruction of sin and perfect filling of the soul with the Holy Ghost.
A fourth proof is beheld in the power of God. Ask yourselves how long it would take God to sanctify the soul. He who turned ten thousand devils out of a man, changed the water into wine with a word, and stilled the storm and raised the dead in an instant, how long would it take Him to cast out inbred sin, purify the soul and bring in the abiding presence of the Comforter? Look at God’s power and see the answer to the problem. Ask the question if He does not want us to be sanctified now, and get still another answer. Put the supposition before your mind that God can do it and will not do it, or that God wants to do it and cannot do it, and either one will literally drive you to the true conclusion that God wants to do the work, can do it, and is able, willing and ready to do it now.
This is just what thousands and tens of thousands are saying over our broad country. They sought, prayed, believed, expected and received the blessing instantaneously. There is no other way of obtaining it, and so that is the reason they sought it in that way and found it after that manner.
4. SANCTIFICATION IS AN EXPERIENCE.
The statement of this proposition arouses antagonism and denial just as the other points we have made have been seen to do. The desire with many is to regard sanctification as simply a deepening of regeneration. This of course destroys the individuality of the work, and as a consequence would prevent us from saying that we have a secret of the Lord, an experience that is not known and enjoyed by all the rest of God’s people. Such a claim is felt to be boastful and presumptuous. “Master, in saying these things, thou speakest against us.” In other words such a claim is supposed to reflect on other Christians. It is needless to say that this is not intended. It is a natural outcry of joy. It is the thankful testimony to a resident inner cleanliness and happiness.
If sanctification is a Divine work, different from and subsequent to regeneration, then it is bound to bring a peculiar experience. Common sense would tell us that, and the experience of a vast, multitude confirms the fact. The very expressions in the text show that sanctification ushers in a new experience to the soul. For instance the words “sanctify you wholly,” declare a distinct plane or state of religious life, if any dependence is to be placed upon words, and especially God inspired words. All admit that there is a measure of sanctification in regeneration. This is Methodist teaching. All that possess that partial sanctification in converted life insist that they have an experience, and who of us will deny it. But the point I make is, that if partial sanctification brings an experience, then it should follow that when we are sanctified wholly there must be not only an experience as a consequence, but a different experience. Cartwright said that he was sanctified in spots. But suppose that these spot s should run into each other and cover the whole surface, then there must be an experience tallying and agreeing with this changed state of things. Let men reason and worry as they will about the difference existing between “kind” and “degree,” the fact remains that there is a marvellous dissimilarity between love, peace and joy struggling in the soul for foothold and existence, and perfect love, joy and peace abiding unbrokenly in the spirit. This is an experience in itself, and different from the former, as the happy heart and shining face will, and do testify.
The words “preserved blameless” also prove a different religious life and experience. There is no promise in the Bible that we will live such lives that all men will approve and commend. The Saviour Himself did not please many. But there is a spiritual condition obtainable, in which we continually please God, and feel no condemnation. We are preserved blameless and kept by the power of God from day to day, from hour to hour, even unto or against the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is an experience in itself, and when we remember our former Christian life, in which there was so much of stumbling, so much that was to be blamed, and when we did not feel kept but left to struggle on in conscious weakness and solitude, more than ever we see it is an experience.
A lady was seeking this blessing in San Francisco. Just as she was about to receive it, she told me that the Saviour seemed to whisper to her, “How long will you let me keep you?” She said that her unbelief made her shrink back from saying “For all time” and her utmost stretch of faith could only say “For six months.” At once she said the presence of Christ departed, and she was left in horrible darkness. For days she mourned Christ’s absence and begged Him to return. One day she was brought face to face with the same experience and question, “How long will you trust me to keep you?” and with a glad exclamation, she cried “Forever!” and instantly the fire fell and she entered into rest.
He that is thus sweetly strangely kept from moment to moment, and from day to day, is bound to say it is an experience. The utter absence of worry and storm, the elimination of fret and fault-finding, the delicious sense of heart repose in the constant inward presence of Christ is an experience, there is no other name for it.
5. SANCTIFICATION IS WITNESSED TO BY THE HOLY GHOST.
Here is still another fact connected with the blessing that seems productive of agitation, dissension and firm denial with quite a number of good people. It seems that every feature of this beautiful grace of God arouses antagonism somewhere. But we cannot afford to withdraw a single one of them, no matter how objectionable they may be to certain individuals. To do so is to rob the blessing of its glory and destroy its individuality.
So in spite of doubt and denial here and there, we affirm with great gladness, that the Holy Ghost witnesses to the blessing of sanctification. This truth is imbedded in the text, for the reason that the Spirit witnesses to every work of God; here is a work, and there must be and is a witness.
He who can only recognize the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the fact of sonship, has evidently not thought much on the subject, nor even read the Bible as carefully as he should. So far from one testimony, it is clear that the Holy Ghost witnesses to every state in the spiritual life whether the man be good or evil.
The Holy Ghost witnesses to a man that he is a sinner, and it is this divine whisper that makes him go down before God and men, with trembling knees and hand-smitten breast.
The Holy Ghost witnesses to pardon and sonship. No one hears an audible voice, but the testimony is given within somehow, and the forgiven one leaps from his knees or from the altar, laughing, crying, shouting or declaring that he is saved.
The Holy Ghost testifies to a call to the ministry. He witnesses to the heart that God wants you to preach the gospel. No one hears any voice, no one else in the family has the disturbing and vivid impression that is upon you, and that will not let you rest until you say
“Yes.” Then follows a flood of sweetest peace and ecstasy.
The Holy Ghost witnesses to inbred sin. In fact no one can show it to you but the Spirit of God. I may preach about it but it takes the Holy Ghost to show it in all its sickening shape and movements. When He reveals it and bears witness to it, down you go in an agony like Isaiah, feeling or saying “Woe is me–for I am undone.” No more sermons are needed to convince. The fluent speech is over, the soul is found in the dust, for God the Holy Ghost has spoken. What can man do and say when God speaks?
The Holy Ghost testifies to the destruction and eradication of inbred sin, in other words, He witnesses to sanctification. How He does it is not in the province or power of man to say. It cannot be explained. The very thought how a spirit can speak to a spirit and make that spirit know a thing without the use of audible language, fills the mind with a profound bewilderment. Mr. Wesley says, concerning the witness of the Spirit, that it is “an inward impression wrought in the soul.” Does that clear up the matter? How can a spirit make an impression upon a spirit that shall be intelligible and understood where not a word is spoken. The matter simply cannot be explained, but thank God the fact remains and is daily experienced. The Holy Ghost witnesses to sanctification as He does to regeneration, and the instant he does the man quits seeking what he had found and proclaims with tears, smiles and shouts, “I have it.” Now he is like a rock! Nothing can shake or move him. He knows he has the blessing. The Spirit told him so.
Our fraternal messenger to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, said to that body in his address, that there was no direct witness or testimony of the Spirit of God to the state or fact of sanctification. Many of us read this remarkable statement with smiles, when we remembered how St. Paul differed with the brother. In Hebrews, chapter 10, verses 14 and 15, we have the inspired declaration, “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost is also a witness to us”!
So according to experience, and above all according to the Word of God, the Spirit witnesses to the grace and blessing of sanctification. Like the name in the white stone, no one knoweth it saving he that receiveth it. He that has not the divine whisper will continue to speculate, doubt and deny; we are not surprised at his uncertainty. But Oh! how certain we are who have received the blessing and have heard and still hear the voice of God testifying to the work he has done in the soul.
The outward demonstration may have been different; for some shout, some laugh, others weep and still others do nothing but sit down and luxuriate voicelessly in a measureless and indescribable calm. The inward reception of the blessing may differ to the consciousness of those receiving it. To one it is like a tempest of fire, to another like a deluge of honey. One is tossed on billows of glory, while another is brought into port, and anchored so deep in the love and grace of God, that there seems but one word that describes the new life, and that word–stillness stillness stillness.
Yes the Holy Ghost witnesses to the blessing of sanctification. So I say to all, and beg all, do not think of stopping until you receive it; do not dream of resting in anything but the vivid, thrilling testimony of the Holy Ghost Himself that you are sanctified. When that comes it is wonderful how unshaken and unshakable we are. It is delightful to feel how ridicule and opposition alike fall harmless before us. Great waves may be rolled upon us from the world and hell, but with the witness in the soul, we come safely through it all and are left towering Gibralter-like far above the spent and broken forces at our feet.
6. HOW TO OBTAIN THIS BLESSING.
It is blessed to see in so many places in the Bible how the way is laid down for us to sweep into the gracious experience. The Saviour in two places in the gospel marks the route. Paul shows it in Romans and Hebrews, while James in his Epistle also reveals it twice. So again and again I have been thrilled to see the steps laid down by prophet, apostle and evangelist, and to notice that always, in spite of verbal dissimilarity or difference in figure used, how they all agree on consecration and faith. These essentials are never left out, but are always found in every presentation of the way we are to tread, if we would come “into the holiest.”
Glancing upward from the text at the verses immediately preceding, I see that if they are faithfully carried out in their teaching, they will lead us into the blessing, just as they lead directly to the text. Suppose we start with the 17th verse, the 6th from the text.
“Pray without Ceasing.”
If any one should ask me today how to obtain the blessing of sanctification, I would reply, commence praying at once. If you have been talking and arguing, all the greater need to go to praying. Break off talking to men and go to talking with God. He knows all about it, while some men know a little and a great many know nothing about it. Talk with God. Get on your knees and beg for light. Remember that God teaches us through our communings with Him. I would also say, keep on praying; do not stop; let nothing discourage you. If there is no answer from the skies at first, then all the greater need to “pray without ceasing.” It is the importunate prayer that makes such headway here. The little everyday prayer on which you have grown cold and backslidden will not do. The regulation prayer you have used in the pulpit, prayer-meeting, or family circles will not do. You must get up a new prayer, if it is composed entirely of groans, sobs, cries and ejaculations of “Lord, give me light”–“have mercy,” etc.
I knew a young man who got on his knees one morning and prayed steadily on to dinner time. The congregation left him but he remained at the altar. In the afternoon the people returned to have a prayer-meeting, and found him still praying. They remained an hour and left him the second time to the silence and shadows of the church. But he clung to the altar, and stuck to his knees, and kept calling on God, and at five o’clock, after six hours’ prayer, the fire fell and he obtained the blessing.
“Quench not the Spirit.”
Remember that the Holy Spirit wants to lead you into this experience. If you let Him He will do so? He has guided many thousands into it, and is leading many more. He will bring you in if you will not resist His holy motions and quench the blessed light He introduces.
As Mary told the servants at Cana, so I tell you: “Whatsoever he saith unto you do it.” If He brings something up in the mind attend to it. Say “Yes” to Him no matter what He bids you do. If you will thus follow and be led by Him, He will bring you into the blessing.
“Despise not prophesyings.”
This includes preaching, teaching and testifying. God will send you sufficient to give you all the light you need. Listen and reflect on what you hear about sanctification. Do not be faultfinding, critical, and above all hypercritical. Do not despise a testimony because it is simply given, or is uttered by a plain-looking person. Do not make the blunder of thinking that what is said is untrue because it is beyond you and your experience. Whatever you do, do not despise and condemn the prophesyings of God’s people who have swept ahead of you in divine things. It will only harden your heart and you will have to take it all back before you get the blessing. Oh! the light and wisdom I have seen and heard in these fervent utterances of God’s sanctified children.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
You and I are not bound to swallow down and practice all that we hear even from good people. Prove all things. See if it is reasonable. Test it with the word of God. Reject what is foolish, fanatical, nonsensical and nonessential, and hold fast that which is good.
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
This verse alone shows that justified people are being addressed. If sinners were being talked to we would have to say, “Give up evil itself,” but here it is the appearance of evil. The holy life will not allow even the questionable and suspicious condition or circumstance.
In a word we are to live the sanctified life before we get the sanctified blessing. This very thing is to prove to God the fact and measure of our desire for the grace. I am to mortify “The Old Man” on the outside, before God will kill him on the inside. I am to sweep down every spider-web before God will kill the spider. We are to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit if we would perfect holiness. We are to abstain from all appearance of evil if we would see the glory of God.
Some would think such a life of abstaining from the very appearance of sin would be sufficient; that this is holiness itself. Not so. Listen to the word. It is after we have abstained from all appearance of evil that the text is uttered, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” It is when we do the former that God does the latter. We must give up not only all evil, but the appearance of evil and then the God of peace will sanctify us.
There is no other way of obtaining the blessing. It is the way I got it, and the way others got it. I prayed without ceasing, quenched not the Spirit, despised not the prophesying of God’s people, proved all things, held fast to that which was good whether said or done, and abstained from all appearance of evil with the eyes of the soul looking steadfastly to Jesus. It was then! Glory to God! Hallelujah! O happy day! that God sanctified me. The fire fell, the Spirit witnessed, and I laughed, wept, shouted and praised God all over the room. I knew I was sanctified; my neighbors knew it; the devils in hell knew it; the angels of heaven knew it; and an increasing number of people have been knowing it every year, and please God a still greater number shall know it as the days roll on until breath shall fail, heart cease to beat, the tongue moulder in the dust, while the happy soul in some bright, faraway world shall find some new way and method of worshipping, witnessing, adoring and praising the Triune God of my salvation.
We hear a number complaining that they cannot obtain the great blessing. In many of these instances I find mental reservations, a part of the value withheld for the pearl of great price.
Some say they do not know what is the matter with them. But there is something the matter or the Holy fire would fall. He who takes the steps we have laid down is bound to receive the blessing of sanctification. Nothing else can happen, for God is true, and never fails or disappoints the honest wholehearted seeker. Hallelujah!
Be sure of it that the thing which keeps coming up in your mind is the thing God wants you to do, and which if you will not do, will prevent the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire from coming upon you. Do it! Rise up today in God’s name and say I will do it, and He who is called “Faithful” will open the windows of heaven above you and pour you out such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. It will be the blessing you have wanted all your life: The Baptism of Jesus; the sanctification of your soul; the great soul filling, heart-satisfying blessing which God wills us to have, and which we must have in order to see the Lord.
I heard a minister of the gospel once say that he knew a gentleman of wealth who began to lose his health. On consulting with one of the most distinguished physicians in a large city, he was informed that he had a tumor, and that the only hope for his life was to undergo a surgical operation. He was also told that there was not more than one chance in a hundred for his recovery if he submitted to the operation. Here, indeed, was a dreary alternative. Death certain unless the knife was used; and ninety-nine chances to one against his living if it was used. He took a week reflect, and very serious were his reflections. But he was a man of nerve and will force. One day he quietly made his will and divided his estate. He arranged everything in regard to property and home for the comfort of his wife. He wrote letters of business and bade farewell to his friends, overlooked nothing along every line that should have been attended to, secured the services of three superior surgeons, and appointed the day himself f or the operation to take place. The morning arrived and the surgeons with it. Going into the back parlor the husband had his last interview with his wife. It was tender and solemn. They knelt down and prayed together. He arose kissed her good-bye, walked into the front room where he had ordered a table to be brought, stripped himself of his clothing, laid himself on the table, folded his arms and looking into the eyes of the chief surgeon said–“Proceed.” An anesthetic was administered, the man went off, he knew not how long into unconsciousness. It was three hours! At last with gasps he came back, and opening his eyes, he saw the smiling face of the surgeon, who said, “The operation is over, and it is a perfect success.”
Just so some of you feel that you are not well spiritually. It has been a struggle to keep up, and do and be what you would like to do and become. You have felt there is an inward trouble that accounts for you feeble spiritual health and varying religious life. The Bible tells you that the malady is inbred sin. If you do not have it removed you may yet lose your soul. It has already brought you trouble, it may yet bring you a great deal more. I beg you to employ Jesus to take it out. He can do so. Make your will, say good-bye to everything and everybody, stretch yourself on this altar, and looking up to Jesus, the great physician, say, “Proceed. ”
It will seem to you that you have had an anesthetic administered, and you will go off. You may forget everything, see nothing and hear nothing for awhile. You may be down in the straw or sawdust or on the floor for minutes or hours, and know nothing of what is going on. But by and by a great surge of life and joy will rush into you, you will open your eyes and look up, and Lo! the face of Christ will be beaming on you, and He will say to your astonished, thrilled and delighted soul, “The operation is over, and it is a perfect success.” In a word, inbred sin will be gone, and you will be sanctified.