A few months ago a brother came to the writer and asked him for some book treating upon certain phases of the subject of consecration. The writer began to look over the lists of books with which he was familiar. He found a large and rich abundance of works on holiness, but was unable to find any covering some of the vital phases of consecration.
Because many have denied the divine willingness or ability to cleanse the heart from all sin, and because others have glorified consecration as an excuse for not obtaining entire sanctification, most writers have given their especial attention to a discussion and defense of the divine side-holiness.
Therefore the writer has sought to show the human side, in a practical manner, in order to make the way plain to inquiring souls, who long to enter into “the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.”
Others could have done it better, but as they have written little upon these phases of the question, the writer has endeavored to pioneer the way for the elaborate road-builder who ought to follow with greater breadth and length.
What Is Consecration?
Consecration is the duty of man. Sanctification is the work of God. Neither of these two parties can do the work of the other. God, having endowed man with a free will, cannot contradict himself, by compelling human actions. Nor would there be any merit in man’s actions if he were compelled. Hence God cannot consecrate us nor can he consecrate for us.
Consecration is the free act of man. Since man is feeble and sin-tainted and has always failed in his efforts to cleanse himself from sin, since he has not the power to make his heart pure, only his Maker can purify his nature. One who could create such a being as man can certainly make him right again after he has fallen. Therefore God can sanctify the nature of man. These two facts kept before the mind will simplify and clear up much of the confusion that has been thrown around this subject. Man consecrates. God sanctifies. Most of the misunderstanding and false teaching on this subject originate right here. Some are expecting God to do their part, and others are endeavoring to do the divine part themselves. Some think God will consecrate them. Hence they are singing the language of a well-known hymn,
“Consecrate me now to thy service,
Lord, By the power of grace divine.”
But God will do nothing of the kind. He will neither repent for the sinner, nor consecrate for the saint. He never does for us what we can do for ourselves. Wherever consecration is spoken of in the word of God, it is always declared to be the act of man — not the work of God. There are others who try to take the work of God out of his hands. As the result we have a great many people who are trying to sanctify themselves. This gives rise to the theory of sanctification by culture, growth, etc. God says, “present your bodies a living sacrifice,” “yield your members as instruments of righteousness as those that are alive from the dead.” But he never indicates that he will present our bodies or yield our members for us. We must do that. It is true that a struggling soul, seeking to get the consent of his will, may ask God to assist him, and give him strength not to falter until the work is done, but he – not God – must perform the act of consecration. When man has done his part and consecrated himself to God entirely, then God does his part and entirely sanctifies the entirely consecrated man.
The Bible employs the marriage covenant as a symbol and illustration of consecration. Jesus Christ is represented as the bridegroom and his people are the bride. In this and all true marriage covenants the parties give themselves entirely to each other. All attachments that in anyway hinder the affection or duty of each to the other are forever sundered. All other suitors are forever discarded. The bride covenants to become the property of the groom. This is precisely the case in entire consecration. The believer separates himself entirely from every thing or person that hinders his attachment for and duty to Jesus Christ. And Jesus gave himself up entirely to and for his people: “Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it.” When this covenant is truly made by the believer, God keeps his part of the covenant and cleanses the soul from all sin. We are met by the objection that it is impossible to consecrate ourselves entirely to God. But such an objection is absurd. If a bridegroom and bride can give themselves up to each other to be loyal and true, we can as really and truly give ourselves to God. If a soldier can take the oath of allegiance to the government, promising to be strictly obedient, to bear and suffer and endure whatever his superiors command, and rush into danger at the command of an officer who is liable to make mistakes and needlessly expose him to peril, and all because he has implicit confidence in the government, much more can we give ourselves into the hands of Him who never makes mistakes and who always knows what is best for us. We can do this if we believe in the divine government as truly as the soldier believes in his country. And if we love our God as truly as a patriot loves his country we will devote ourselves entirely to Him. What we can do for men, we can more easily do for God, because he promises us divine power to enable us to do it.
The government furnishes arms, ammunition, clothing, food, etc., in order to make the consecration of the soldier effective. And God furnishes the spiritual equipment to make our consecration not only possible but gloriously successful. It is time that consecration be taken out of the realm of the awfully mysterious and shown to be a glorious privilege which a loving child longs to embrace. The subject has been represented as an awful thing even to think of, still more to accomplish. It ought to be just the reverse. We once heard a preacher at the close of an altar service when his people were seeking to be wholly given up to God, say, “You have done a very solemn thing today.” To our minds, it would have been more solemn if they had refused to give themselves entirely to God.
Consecration is what we would do if it were the last day of our lives. If you knew positively that before tomorrow morning you would be in eternity, you would as a true Christian resign yourself wholly to the will of God. The language of your heart if not of your lips would be, “Into thy hands, Lord, I resign my spirit. I let go my grasp upon everything in this world.” All those who get to heaven will have to be thus resigned to the will of God the last day of life. Now what a person ought to be the last day of life, he ought to be every day. Will any one then maintain that we ought to be anything else every day? Who knows that he will live all of any one day? If sudden death would be sudden glory, it will take place only in the experience of those wholly given to God. There is no excuse then for failing to be entirely consecrated to God every moment. Whatever we ought to be we can be. We ought to be wholly the Lord’s every moment, and as we ought to be, we can be. Impossibilities are not required. We had a friend many years ago, who had a clear conversion, but was honestly perplexed over the subjects of consecration and sanctification. She was prostrated on a bed of sickness. The physician declared she must die and advised her husband to inform her of the fact. He entered the chamber and announced the sad intelligence, “The doctor says you cannot get well.” Just then the doorbell rang and he went out of the room to answer the summons. Parties had come on urgent business, detaining him for quite a length of time. This announcement came as a great shock to the sufferer who had expected to recover. She questioned, “Must I give up my husband and my friends? What will become of them when I am gone?” Then the thought arose, “God is taking care of them now and can take care of them just as well when I am gone.” There was a great struggle of soul for a few minutes and then she yielded herself and all she possessed entirely to God. “Instantly,” as she afterwards testified, “I felt as light as a feather.” This was the beginning of a richer experience than she had ever known before. She did not die. The doctor was mistaken. The writer visited her a few months later and she said, “I see now what you mean. We cannot carry the Lord in one hand and the world in the other.” Here was an instance of entire consecration, by doing as if it were the last day of life. This is the secret of the triumphant deathbeds of many of the saints who had never heard the subjects of sanctification or justification definitely treated, yet who really consecrated themselves to God in the dying hour. Many sons and daughters have witnessed these deathbed scenes and asked themselves the question, “Why was not father as much given up to God every day as that last day?” Sure enough! Why not! Make the covenant with God today, reader! Make it regardless of your feelings! make it as you do a contract with any one in whom you have confidence in the business world! Make it whether God blesses you or not! If you will begin to do as you would if you knew it to be the last day of your life you will become entirely consecrated. A little boy once went to a camp meeting. As his mother was putting him to bed, he heard a noise in an adjacent tent. He asked what it was and his mother responded, “It is a man praying, and I judge by the way he prays that he wants to be wholly given up to the Lord.” The little boy replied, “Why don’t he then, mother?” We ask the same question of the many who say they want to be the Lord’s, “Why not?”