The Second Crisis in Christian Experience – By Christian Ruth

Chapter 3

The Second Work Of Grace

There was a time when we were rather partial to the term “Second Blessing;” and we still have no objections to that term, seeing it is, as Mr. Wesley expressed it, “the second blessing, properly so-called.” And yet, in later years, we have come to feel a preference for the term, “THE SECOND WORK OF GRACE;” for while the experience of entire sanctification is an unspeakable blessing, it is more than a blessing; it is a definite work of grace divinely inwrought, by which the heart is cleansed from all sin and made holy: hence, the term, “A Second Work of Grace” seems more significant, and expressive of the fact, and leaves less room for quibbling on the part of those who do not agree with this Wesleyan teaching.

When speaking of the “Second Blessing,” it is quite common to hear men say, they had not only received the “Second Blessing” but hundreds of blessings. To such we invariably reply, that if they have received ”hundreds of blessings,” it would seem in bad taste for them to object to someone else receiving the “Second Blessing.” It then becomes necessary to ask where they begin to enumerate their blessings. The truth is, a sinner might say he had received “hundreds of blessings;” and so he has, such as life, health, food, raiment, Christian parentage, the open Bible, etc., etc.; but none of these changed his heart condition, nor his relationship toward God. In the sense that the experience of Justification is the first blessing that does effect an inward change, and bring him into a new attitude and relationship toward God, in exactly the same sense it may be said Sanctification is the second blessing.

But as before suggested, Sanctification is more than a blessing; it is an inward work of grace that again changes our moral condition and our relationship toward God. As the Standard Dictionary says, it is “the gracious work of the Holy Spirit whereby the believer is freed from sin and exalted to holiness of heart and life.” It is not an experience that comes into the heart of a sinner, but into the heart of “the believer,” and, therefore, is necessarily subsequent to regeneration and received as a second work of grace.

To speak of a “second work of grace,” of course, necessarily implies that a person has previously received a first work of grace; this is commonly known as the experience of Justification. But no one would be heard to say they had received a hundred works of grace.

The use of this term — the second work of grace– would not only suggest that sanctification is an experience received subsequent to Justification, but would at once indicate that men could not attain the same by growth, seeing it is a “work of grace” — a divine act– wrought in the heart of a believer. No one can grow into an act. Just as no one can grow into the experience of Justification, or regeneration, because it is a something God must do for us, and in us, so it is with the experience of Sanctification, seeing it is a “second work of grace” divinely inwrought.

As in Justification the sinner is pardoned of all   his sins, and delivered from all guilt and condemnation and made alive unto God, being born of the Spirit, so in Sanctification the believer is cleansed from inbred sin and made free from unholy tempers and unholy appetites by the baptism with the Spirit. In the very nature of things the   birth of the Spirit must precede the  baptism with the Spirit; and there is no method of interpretation  that can make a birth and baptism identical, and signify the same thing.

While we admit that this particular phrase, “The Second Work of Grace,” is not used in the Scripture, we would, nevertheless, insist that we have the equivalent, and that which could mean nothing else, in frequent use all through the Scriptures. As well object to the term, “the new birth,” seeing that exact phrase cannot be found in the Scripture; but no one would think of objecting to the using of this term, seeing we have the equivalent– “being born again,” etc.

Paul, in writing his second letter to the Corinthians, said, “In this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit;” or, as the marginal rendering gives it, “a second grace.” And, seeing that sanctification is never promised to sinners but in the language of the Encyclopaedic Dictionary, is “An operation of the Spirit of God on those who are already in Jesus,” it must necessarily be an experience– a work divinely inwrought — subsequent to regeneration, which indicates that it is a second work of grace as compared with the first work of grace.

If the reader will but remember that sin is two-fold, and that all men in their natural estate have a two-fold difficulty, namely, sin as an act in the outward life, and sin inborn, as a corruption of the nature, there should be no difficulty in seeing why we advocate a second work of grace. Sins committed may be repented of and pardoned, but original sin, which was inherited, and is a moral uncleanness, cannot be pardoned, but must be cleansed away. Pardon is a judicial act, whereas, cleansing is a priestly function. Hence Toplady was right when he sang, “Be of sin the double cure.” Double does not mean one or three, but two.

We know of no Christian denomination that teaches in their creedal statements, that a person is freed from all sin and made holy at the moment of his regeneration. Mr. Wesley said, “Sin does remain in one that is justified, though it has not dominion over him. For he has not a clean heart at first,” and went on to say, the “doctrine that there is no sin in believers, is quite new in the church of Christ; that it was never heard of for seventeen hundred years; never till it was discovered by Count Zinzendorf. I do not remember to have seen the least intimation of it, either in any ancient or modern writers unless, perhaps, in some of the wild, ranting Antinomians.” Dr. Pendleton, who is regarded as one of the most orthodox of Baptists, and accepted as an authority both in England and America, says in his “Christian Doctrines,” which is a compendium of Baptist theology, (page 300): “Regeneration breaks the power of sin and destroys the love of sin, so that whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin in the sense of being the slave thereof; but it does not free the soul from the presence and pollution of sin. Alas, the regenerate know full well that sin is in their hearts. This accounts for the Christian warfare.” The Presbyterian church teaches in the Confession of Faith (Chap. 9, Sec. 4) “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into a state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, — yet by reason of his remaining corruption he doth not perfectly nor only, will that which is good; but also will that which is evil.” In Chap. 13, sections 2 and 3, they make this additional statement: “There abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war.”

Such is in substance the teaching of all the denominations; hence the necessity for a second work of grace in order to remove this “remaining corruption” and make clean the heart of the regenerate. Some would teach that we cannot be entirely cleansed and made free from this “remaining corruption,” until death; but even if it were received at death it would be a second work of grace. However, there is absolutely not one promise of cleansing from sin at death, in all the Bible; but there is promise of a present tense cleansing. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” I. John 1:7.