Not Sanctified When Converted
It is folly to claim an experience that is unscriptural. Yet, whenever the doctrine of entire sanctification as a second work of grace is proclaimed, we constantly hear people – even preachers — say, they were sanctified when converted. We insist that such a claim is wholly unscriptural and, therefore, untrue. God never does things contrary to His Word.
That some persons may be sincere in their claims, we do not deny; but if they will look into the Scriptures and walk in the light, they will soon discover their mistake, for not only is the claim unscriptural, but contrary to their own heart experience, and the facts in their own lives. We are persuaded that no Christian has lived in the experience of regeneration any considerable length of time without finding that there was yet a something within that was contrary to their new life; that when they would do good, this evil thing was yet present and gave them battle; that since they were converted they still have felt the stirrings of carnality, in the form of anger, pride, fear, self-will, envy, peevishness, doubts, etc., etc. Frequently we have helped persons to see they were not sanctified when converted by simply asking one question with reference; to this fact: “Have you not felt any of those things stirring in your heart since you were converted?” They may not manifest themselves violently, or gain the mastery as they once did, but they nevertheless exist, and frequently bother and badger and hinder in the experience of the justified. This alone proves that the soul was not sanctified when converted.
As Mr. Wesley has 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.” (Wesley’s Journal, June 24, 1740.)
Aside from the fact that not one single command, or call, or promise of sanctification in the Scripture is ever given to a sinner, but in every instance to God’s own people, there are a number of reasons why the soul should not be sanctified when converted.
First, the sinner knows nothing about sanctification, and has never felt any need of sanctification. The thing that troubles every sinner is the guilt and condemnation he feels for sins committed; and what he wants and must have is mercy, and the forgiveness of the many sins he has committed. The one cry of a truly penitent soul is, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” And though preachers insist they were sanctified when converted. and deny the teaching of a second experience, they themselves could not be persuaded to give an invitation to sinners to come forward and seek sanctification. It occurs to us, that if sanctification was for sinners, they should be told about it, and urged to seek it. If God were to sanctify a sinner he could have no appreciation of the same, as he had never felt any need of it, and consequently had not sought it.
A second reason why God does not sanctify a soul in regeneration is because a sinner cannot meet the conditions for sanctification. The conditions upon which a soul is regenerated are repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; but those are not the conditions of sanctification at all. The requirements for sanctification are an unconditional consecration – the presenting of one’s self as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” A sinner, being dead in trespasses and in sins could not possibly present himself a “living sacrifice;” only such as have previously been quickened into newness of life, and so have been made alive unto God can present themselves a living sacrifice.” Every sinner is a rebel against God; a rebel can only surrender. The call to consecration in the Scriptures is not given to sinners. The apostle said, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.” There is a vast difference between the surrender of a conquered rebel and the glad, free-will consecration of a person who has the love of God in his heart.
A third reason why God does not sanctify us when He converts us is because, in some respects at least, the work wrought in justification and sanctification are antipodal — are direct opposites. In justification there is a quickening and making alive process, while in sanctification there is a crucifixion, which means, put to death. In justification the spiritual and moral sensibilities are quickened and made alive unto God; in sanctification “our old man” — our carnal sensibilities, are crucified and put to death. The one is putting on the new man; the other is putting off the old man. These two experiences deal with two different hemispheres of our nature; the one with sin as an act; the other with sin as a nature; the one with sins committed; the other with the sin principle inherited.
The very metaphors employed in the Scripture setting forth the experience of sanctification all indicate that it must take place subsequent to the new birth. Such terms as “circumcision,” “married,” “baptize” with the Holy Ghost, etc., all teach the second work of grace. In the nature of the case the child must be “born” before it can be “circumcised,” “married,” or “baptized;” this is just as true in the spiritual as in the natural realm.
There is absolutely no method of interpretation that can make the birth of the spirit and the baptism with the Spirit identical. A birth is not a baptism; and a baptism is not a birth. They are two distinct and separate things, and mark different epochs of Christian experience. Concerning the gift of the Spirit, Jesus said, “Whom the world cannot receive ” John 14:17. No man is eligible to the gift of the Spirit until after he is adopted into God’s family, and so ceases to be of the world.
Occasionally we meet those who will admit that others have received sanctification as a second experience, but they themselves were more fortunate and were sanctified at the time of their conversion. This is frequently the attitude of ministers who have members in their churches who profess the second work of grace; they do not want to antagonize them, nor seem to be arrayed against the work of sanctification, but they do not believe in being a “stickler for terms;” they believe in being “liberal” and “broad” and “believe in sanctification;” but they themselves “got it all” when they were converted. Thus they hope to carry favor with the holiness people, and yet not give offense to any who might not believe in sanctification as a second work of grace. It is well to remember in this connection that God does not have two or three ways of converting people; that He has method and system, and is governed by law in the spiritual world just as in the natural world. It is, therefore, not a question of what he could do, but what He does do. While we admit that the manner of approach, and the subsequent manifestations of the experience vary, we would insist that so far as the work divinely inwrought in the soul at the time of conversion is concerned, it is precisely the same in every case. He does not forgive all the sins of one, and just forgive half the sins of another; or partially quicken one and fully quicken another; or partially adopt one and fully adopt another, etc. Exactly what He does for one in justification He does for all; no more and no less. With Him there can be no partiality; hence if one could truly lay claim to being sanctified at the time of conversion, all converted souls would have the same experience. But, as we have shown, such a claim and such teaching is wholly unscriptural, unreasonable and contrary to universal Christian experience. What it has done for them, and who are laboring to bring others into the experience of sanctification are the persons who themselves sought and obtained the experience subsequent to regeneration. The people who say they were sanctified at the time of their conversion never confess it, only when cornered in a second blessing holiness meeting, and then frequently become irritated and disturbed when others seek the experience who feel they did not have the good fortune of being sanctified at the time of their conversion. Why should it be thus with them if they themselves are in the experience?
“Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it.” “Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.”