Ø 1 Peter 1, 15 – 16: But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’
Ø 2 Corinthians 7, 1: Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
Ø 1 John 4, 18: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I shall try to be exceedingly plain and practical in trying to meet the difficulties of those anxious enquirers who have written or spoken to us on this subject.
If those who have carefully read the word of God will think for a moment, they will remember having found two distinct classes of passages depicting, or bearing on, different stages of Christian experience. One class, referring more particularly to an imperfect initiatory or backslidden stage of experience; the other class, and far the most numerous, referring to a rejoicing, triumphing, progressive experience, giving to its possessors victory over the world, the flesh and the devil, and fitting them for the inheritance of the saints in light.
With respect to those texts which recognise or depict the lower grade of experience, I want to remark that they are exceedingly few in number, and either in themselves or by their immediate context show that they are by no means to be taken as denoting a state either safe for the believer or satisfactory to God. Persons in this state of soul are spoken of as “Partially carnal”, as “Babes in Christ” (1 Cori 3:1), as “Foolish, having begun in the spirit expecting to be made perfect by the flesh” (Galatians 3:3), as having again “Made themselves transgressors” (Galatians 2:18), as “having left their first love” (Revel 2:4), as being “Lukewarm” (Revel 3:16). Such terms can only be applied, either to those who are in the first stages of Christian life, or to those who have lost much of what they once possessed. They doubtless apply in many instances to those who have been converted, but who through want of light or of obedience to the light they had, are only partially sanctified and who are conscious in themselves of certain dispositions, purposes, motives and feelings, spring up within them which they know to be incompatible with the law and will of God, and with the mind of Christ. In many cases such souls deplore and bewail these roots of bitterness, for in spite of all the sophisticated reasoning in the world, an enlightened soul can never feel contented or happy or satisfied while conscious of anything contrary to the will of God.
I often thank God that people’s religious instincts are too strong for their beliefs, and batter to pieces their false creeds. People demonstrate this in their letters from all parts of the kingdom. They talk of it to us when we converse with them. They come to us poor Salvation Army people, and I take it as a great compliment – no I take it as a grand proof that we are the right track - that these hungering, thirsting souls, including ministers, and leading friends in churches, after coming to our meetings or reading our books say, “Your have something that we have not.” They don’t mind about stooping to enquire of such lowly people. They say, “I want to get into this secret. If there is anything I can learn I am willing to sit at the feet of any sweep or tinker in order to learn it.” These souls are longing after deliverance, and, in spite of what false theologians or creeds teach them, their intuitions tell them that it must be the will of God that they should be delivered from that which is hateful to God, and that they should be wholly conformed to His will, therefore they go searching after the light, and, thank God, many find and rejoice in it.
Others try to find rest on the lower level of experience by continually dwelling on those portions of the word of God which depict or recognise it; but I would have you note that there is scarcely a single text in which the experience of a partial sanctification is recognised with which there is not coupled injunctions, commands or exhortations to go on further to realise the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ, such as “Leaving the first principles, let us to on the perfection” (Heb 6:1). “When for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” (Heb 5:12) Again, “Following after holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14), and “Following on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves form all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness out of the fear of God” (2 Cori 7:1) and so on. I repeat that, as a rule, where you find the recognition of an infantile and lower stage of experience, you will find coupled with it exhortations, commands and promises to go on to the fuller and more complete experience of sanctification.
Another point for you to bear in mind is, that in this as in everything else, the Bible fits the human soul, and as the word exhorts us to holiness without, the Holy Spirit exhorts us to it within; and wherever you find a true child of God, you find him aspiring to this full conformity to the will and mind of Christ, whether his creed endorses it or not.
But, further, I find the second class of passages to which I referred far more numerous, in fact, occupying the main portion of the New Testament. Recognising and holding up a far higher and more glorious state of experience, such as “Being more that conquerors through Him who hath loved us” (Rom 8:37), “Being able to do all things through Christ, who strengthened us” (Phili 4:13), being “complete in Him” (Col 2:10), which when it is a practical reality, is a grand reality indeed. “Being reckoned dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Rom 6:2), “Dwelling in God and God in us” (John 14:20). In fact almost the whole of the two epistles of St. John have to be ignored or frittered away to meet the experience of the great mass of professing Christians of this day, as well as great portions of the word of God in other places – they are literally inapplicable to the majority of modern Christians. Everybody feels it, and the awful part of it is that instead of these Christians saying, “This is the standard, here is the glorious privilege, here is the grand truth, I do not come up to it. My experience does not match it, I have no faith to stretch myself to this measure, but I will never pull down the standard, though it damns me.” They say “Oh! It can’t mean what is says;” and so they begin to cut away at the very foundation of God, and take off the most glorious top stone which He has put on the temple of grace – sanctification, holiness complete, and unreserved consecration to God. Now, I say, when you find that class of passages which refers to the lower walks of experience quoted, held up, exhibited, and enforced, as though they covered the whole realm of Christian experience, to the utter neglect and rejection of the other class, what becomes your duty as an individual wanting to know the will of God in order that you may do it? I say it becomes your duty to examine carefully this word for yourselves, and not to take this person’s or the other person’s opinions, but to ask God, by His Holy Spirit, to teach you the meaning of this higher class of passages, determining that whatever it costs you, though it should be friends, church associations, reputation, money, ease, comfort, all you have in this world, if He will show to you that this salvation is for you, you will have it.
When you come to that you will not be able to read a page of the New Testament without SEEING holiness in almost every sentence. The Holy Spirit will show it to you and if you miss it, it won’t be for want of light; it will be because you are too idle to seek it.
The Lord showed me this early in my Christian experience, and I resolved to seek it for myself. My innate perceptions told me that God must delight in holiness, that the gospel scheme was not merely a scheme for atonement, but a scheme for restoration, and I knew that the chief difficulty in my way was in my heart, therefore I felt it must be God’s plan to restore my heart, for that is the spring and inspiration of my moral being and I searched the Word of God carefully, and besought Him to show me, saying, “If You have provided this salvation, if there never was another person entered into it on earth, I will try, and I will follow if You will lead.” If you will come to that, God will reveal it unto you.
This is just the condition you must come to. “The whole Bible,” as a gentleman said to me the other day, “beams with light now.” Of course it does, because you have got hold of the key. You know it is easy to unlock a difficult lock when you have got the key, and the man who gets hold of this central truth of Christianity gets hold of the key and, of course, he can unlock all its mysteries and walk in and out.
Now, first, I want to note that we do not contend for any mere names or terms by which this experience is expressed.
I suppose that persons have selected or coined names to express this blessing which would be most compatible with their theological views, seeing that this experience has been recognised and professed by Christians of almost every shade of opinion, and they have adopted that mode of expression which has best coincided with their different views, but this makes no difference.
This is no new doctrine, I may just remark. Some people not familiar with the history of the Church seem to regard it as a doctrine lately invented. It is as old as Enoch, and from his day down to the present, God has taken care to keep alive in His church, even in the days of Papal darkness, the most thorough-going professors and exemplifies of this doctrine. Those who believed in this blessing and exemplified it in their lives in the dark ages, people went thousands of miles to converse with, and to get the inner light which God had given to them, and numbers of such enquirers were brought into this blessed experience. It has been called “The second conversion,” “The higher life,” “The full assurance of faith”, “Christian Perfection”- to distinguish it from Adamic and angelic – “Perfect Love”, “Inner Sanctification”, “The rest of faith.” We do not contend for names. The main point is this, that the experience designated by most of these terms amounts practically to the same thing, which is
BEING SAVED FROM SIN.
[ie, saved from the power of sinning, in this life, in addition to salvation from the penalty of sin in the next life].
We care not what you call it so that you understand the blessing to mean that. I prefer to use God’s terms in everything, and so I select His designations. I think that the Holy Ghost understood best the ideas He wished to convey, and therefore I like the terms He has used, such as sanctification, holiness, perfect love. However, we simply take what we like best and do not contend about them.
And now I want to define the blessing as we believe it and as I believe God will show it to those who really and honestly want to understand or rather experience it, because it was one of those mysteries of Divine love and grace that you will never understand until you experience. Then I want to guard my definition by noting two or three things which are often mistaken for it.
Only the other day a gentleman wrote me on one of these points, and another was conversing with me, which make it appear how very far both had mistaken the teaching of the word of God on this matter.
First, it is not FREEDOM FROM INFIRMITY either in mind or body. How anyone can come to imagine such a thing in our present physically, fallen and depraved condition I cannot think. It was not necessary for the accomplishment of His redeeming purpose that we should be made perfect again, in the way of our apprehension, memory or capacity. This was not necessary for our redemption, or He would have provided for it; but He left us still physically imperfect. He can save us from sin in our present crippled state of body and mind, and it magnifies His grace the more. If people choose to call infirmity sin the controversy comes simply to a definition in terms. If a lapse of memory, a mistake in judgement, a surprise or aberration of feeling is sin, I do not contend that we are saved from these, but I do not gather from the law of Christ that any such things are accounted sins, neither do I believe the common sense of a little child would so account them. I leave everybody, however, to form their own conclusion, only that when we speak of entire sanctification, or holiness, we do not mean that a man is saved from simple infirmity. He is saved from allowing his infirmities to degenerate into sin or leading him into sin. He is enabled to make the same use of his infirmities as Paul did who said, “I glory in my infirmities also THAT THE POWER OF Christ MAY REST UPON ME” (2 Cori 12:9); that is, through my poor weak body and imperfect mind I may the more mightily magnify the grace and power of His salvation.
Secondly, neither do we mean deliverance from temptation. There are some sincere souls here this afternoon who I think are in bondage on this point. I tried to illustrate this on a previous occasion by showing how Christ transcended the law, when I went rather fully into the temptation of the Saviour, showing that was not sin, and that while you stand firm and resist, the greater the temptation the greater sympathy Christ has with you, “for he was tempted in all points” (Heb 4:15). I will never let that go. “Like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). There are no difficulties which apply on this point to the sanctified soul which did not apply to Jesus Christ. A man’s sensibilities can be excited to the highest degree: he can be as hungry as Jesus was when he came out of that forty day’s fast, when no doubt His whole being was prostrate, for he was perfect man as well as perfect God. The devil took that occasion to present an unlawful means of satisfying His hunger; but He said “No!” and did not sin. Suppose He had said “Yes,” then the second Adam would have fallen like the first, and all would have been lost. He resisted even unto blood and did not sin. You do so and you will not sin. “RESIST the devil and he will FLEE FROM you” (James 4:7).
SAYING “YES” TO TEMPTATION IS SIN,
- not temptation itself. You may be tried to the very extremity, but if you will hang on to the power of God He will save you to the uttermost of your needs. There is no necessity to sin. “I write unto you, little children, and you, fathers and young men, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:12). There is no necessity if you do but yield yourselves up unto God and not to the devil - “unto whom you yield yourselves servants to obey his servants you are, whether of sin unto death or of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:16), so that you may be severely tempted and yet not sin.
Neither is sanctification final growth. It does not imply final attainment. You must discriminate between purity and maturity. You may have the most perfect baby but he is not a man yet. He has to grow and develop and increase; but people really and truly do not begin to grow in grace until they are sanctified. It is more frequently a falling down and a getting up again than an even onward progress in grace and salvation. Hence if you really want to grow in grace, if you want to rise to the possibilities of your nature in the salvation of God, you must be delivered from sin, for sin undoes you, knocks you down into the mud, as it were, and you have to be, as the apostle says, “always laying the foundation for repentance from dead works” (Heb 6:1). How can such people grow? Instead of growing on, and on, and on, until they attain the stature of the perfect man in Christ Jesus, they stop short in perpetual babyhood.
II. If sanctification is not these things, what is it?
We believe it is to be DELIVERANCE FROM SIN – full conformity of heart, and mind and will, to the law and mind of God – having the heart circumcised to keep His law, having His Spirit in us causing us to walk in his statues and ordinances blamelessly, an inward transformation into the very likeness of Christ, a purifying of the motives, purposes, desires, affections of the soul, and thorough committal on the side of God and right at all costs. That is what we understand by holiness, and will anybody dare to say this is more than God calls us to? Will any Christian? No, no one who has the Spirit of God dare look me in the face and say that with less than that God is satisfied. What! You want to keep a little of the image of the devil? What! You desire to be mostly saint and a little bit sinner? What! You desire to fall short of that perfect reflection of the image of Christ? Then, as good old Doddridge said, “If you are not aiming after the highest attainments in Christ, you are not in a state of grace at all.” The very least measure of the Spirit of God sets a soul longing after the fullness. He can no more rest without it than the angels of Heaven could. He is hungering and thirsting from the time he gets saved until he is filled and satisfied with the righteousness which Jesus Christ promised.
I argue that holiness is attainable in this life from two or three considerations.
First, I argue that holiness is attainable because it is expressly, emphatically and repeatedly commanded. Jesus Christ, whose teachings were all, or nearly all, prospective, concludes one of His addresses on the Mount with saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). What does He mean? It must at least mean, that in our measure and according to our capacity we are perfectly to fulfil the law of benevolence as God does with his capacity.
But some people think to get out of the difficulty by saying that the context shows that our Lord here refers to forgiving and loving our enemies. I say you don’t get out of the difficulty that way, for if a man can in his heart forgive his enemies and pray for them that despitefully use him, he is a sanctified man, and I defy any other man to do it. This is the highest test of sanctification.
Then again the first great command was never abrogated, and never will be. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God will ALL THY MIND, and soul, and strength. And the second is like unto it, Thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:30 – 31). The scribe, in answer to whose question this was spoken was better instructed than many modern Christians, for he replied, “Well, Master, Thou hast SAID THE TRUTH”, And Jesus answered, “Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34) Jesus saw that the man was sincere, and ready to receive the whole truth without quibbling.
The first and greatest commandment remains in force today as much as it ever was, and must continue in force throughout eternity. It must ever remain the duty of the creature to love the Creator with all his heart, and the duty of the creature to love his fellow as himself. Must it not? But let anyone try to do that without having his heart full of the love of God, as some of you have been trying. You say, “Yes, that is just where I fail; I know I don’t love God with all my heart, and I don’t love my neighbour as myself.”
As a dear lady once said, “When I come to prove my heart I find I don’t love my own brothers and sisters as myself, much less my neighbour.” I said, “No you will find you need to be sanctified before you can do this.” This is the law that Paul says, “Jesus Christ came to give me power to fulfil, the great moral law of love.”
And again, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). Holiness, in this place, means sanctification of the whole nature – a renewal of the very essence and spirit of the soul. Search out these and kindred passages if you want to know the will of God, for they are far too numerous to quote.
Then, there can be no controversy that these texts require holiness in us, and not merely right doing by us, though that is included but these passages refer to the renewal of our hearts, I challenge any believer to tell me that he is thoroughly satisfied and happy without the realisation and confident knowledge of the fact that he does thus love God and his neighbour. No sooner does a believer begin to pour out his soul in prayer than he cries, “Bring me into conformity with Your will. Give me all the mind that was in Christ, destroy these roots of bitterness, save me from this anger, pride, envy, jealousy, love of the world”, or whatever may be his besetting sin. The urgings of the Spirit in him tally with the commands to him; the two go together, which is a blessed and wonderful proof that the Spirit teaches all believers that God requires of them to be holy.
Now, as God never requires anything which He does not give us power to perform, He has included this experience in the provisions of His grace.
I argue the attainability of holiness, secondly from the provisions of the gospel.
Christ has undertaken this work. What has He undertaken?
You say he has undertaken the mediatorial work to bring us back to God. Yes, but the mediatorial work was twofold; it was Godward, and it was manward. Christ, as it were, put one hand on the justice of God, and the other on the sinfulness of man, and He undertook to satisfy the one by removing the other. He made atonement, glorious, full, complete, wanting nothing to be added to it – a perfect everlasting sacrifice for our sins, but it was restorative as well as atoning. The manward aspect of the atonement was to bring us back to complete and eternal harmony with God. He never contemplated leaving our hearts a cage of unclean birds – leaving rampant in us the essence of sin, the very sin of the devil himself – rebellion against God. Impossible! He came to restore as well as to atone; to bring us back to our lost integrity and purity, and this was what made the atonement necessary. Hence, “The Son of Man was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
“If,” says Paul, “the blood of bulls and goats sanctified to the purifying of the flesh; How much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb 9:13 – 14). How much more? Who can answer that, and who dare limit it?
Again, “Christ also loved the church” – composed, of course of, individuals – and “gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and CLEANSE it, and present it to Himself a glorious church” – or body of believers – “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5: 25 – 27). If that is not entire sanctification, what is it? And there are numerous other passages teaching quite as emphatically the purpose and ability of Jesus to bring the hearts of His chosen into complete harmony with Himself.
Now, what is the chief work of the devil? What work of his does God care about most? His work in man’s heart! God cares very little about his work anywhere else. It is the heart of man that the Divine Being covets for His dwelling-place. It is in man’s heart the devil has circumvented God and done Him most despite. Now then, God says, “I will win man back again; I will atone for his sin, and renew him in the spirit of his mind and yet have him for Myself, and he shall fulfil My ideal of righteousness and holiness just as he would have done had he never fallen.” This was necessary in the nature of the case. Sin is rebellion against God, transgression of the law either inwardly or outwardly. You may transgress the law in your thoughts and never move a muscle. All unrighteousness, all unrightness is sin. You will see it is not from any low estimate of holiness, or low perceptions of the far-reaching grasp of the law of God that I believe in this blessing, for I believe man’s depravity is equal with his being, and that nothing less than the mighty power of God is equal to cure it; but I believe that it is. I believe Jesus Christ’s plaster is as big as the wound, and that when He professes to cure He can make a perfect cure as He did of the leper, if we will let Him, and honour Him by our faith. He came to destroy the works of the devil. Where? In the heart of man. What constitutes the essence of sin? Rebellion. Ah! Some of the greatest sinners on earth never swore an oath, never told a lie, perhaps, never did an outwardly immoral thing; but they have been monstrous rebels against God all their lives. They have been sinning against light. These, the Saviour said, were the great sinners, he judged not after the outward appearance but after the heart. Now what is necessary in the nature of the case for God to win completely back again such a rebel at heart? That He shall renew the heart and take the rebellion out. It is of no use subduing me merely; He must renew me.
You have a rebellious son. He has run away from your home, spent your money, and trampled your influence in the dust. You love him, and weep over him and entreat him to return, and you have no selfish motive in your heart. You only want him to come back and be reinstated as a son in all his relations and privileges. What is necessary? To win his heart. Some gentleman comes along and says, “I will go after him and bring him back. I will put a halter round his neck and bring him back and compel him to live in your house and be subject to your rule”. Or the Queen might pass a law to do it if that were possible. Would that satisfy you, father? “Oh, no,” you say, “that is all very well, but I want the lad’s heart. I want him to see that I love him and to accept me again as his father and reinstate me on the throne of his affections. It’s no use unless you do that.” And do you think the great God wants or will be satisfied with anything less than that? Can it ever satisfy you to be less than perfectly restored – brought back into perfect harmony with your Father? Your father wants you back so that you will take your stand by Him and as Job did if need be, alone on the dung-hill and say, “Yes, though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. I love Him. I am on His side. He has my heart. I love him with all my heart and soul and strength.”
This is the end of the commandment, “Love out of a pure heart” (1 Tim 1:5). This is the centre of the scheme of redemption. If God could have saved you short of that He could have saved you without Christ at all, and might have spared His Son His agony and blood, but He must have you back cured of your sin, pure in heart.
Thirdly, I argue the attainability of holiness because it is repeatedly made the object of inspired prayer.
Jesus prayed for his disciples, “Sanctify them through Your truth” (John 17:17), and also, “As You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they may also be one in Us” (John 17:21). Paul prays for the Thessalonians, “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 Thess. 5:23).
There are many other texts of similar import, but these are sufficient; for surely neither Christ nor Paul could possibly have prayed for an experience in believers which they knew to be impossible. Such prayers would be utterly incompatible with manly sincerity, much less Godly sincerity. All that is needed for us to experience an answer to these and such like prayers, is that we second them by an earnest and determined desire to have them fulfilled in our experience.
Do you go with what I have stated thus far? If so, I want to make it plain to you that the Lord in calling you to this experience is not setting you a task which you are unable to perform. Some people say we are to aim at the standard of holiness, but that we must not expect to ever attain to it. This seems to me trifling with the most solemn of obligations, and judging God to be less wise and reasonable than man.
Think of any parent here setting his child to work out a sum or a problem, and telling him before he begins that he certainly cannot do it! Would not the child most reasonably answer, “What is the use of setting me to do what you tell me I can never accomplish?” And would not all the sinews of effort be cut at a stroke? We think that just so by the absurd notion to which I have referred, that stimulus which the Holy Spirit has sought to create in the souls of tens of thousands of believers to seek after holiness has been damped and extinguished.
If there needed any further proof of the attainability of this experience it seems to me a most convincing proof that, in almost every instance where our reception into heaven is referred to, there is the recognition of antecedent purity of character. Search out these references for yourselves; but let us take two or three as specimens. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord – they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them” (Revel 14:13). Their works, that is their antecedent character, follows them. “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revel 22:14). They that do His will, which must mean being holy. Again speaking of the Lamb’s wife, “To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints” (Revel 19:8). Mark, not of the lamb, but of saints, wrought out in them through faith in the blood of the lamb, but theirs, nevertheless. Again, referring to the multitude arrayed in white, the angel said, “These are thy which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revel 17:14). Washed them, of course, while here on earth and made them white, which signifies holiness.
I often hear people talking about the righteousness of the saints as “filthy rags”. They confound things that differ. When Paul said his own righteousness was as filthy rags, he was referring to his Pharisaical righteousness, before his conversion, not the righteousness of God, which is wrought in the soul by faith. People might see the folly of this interpretation by just transposing all the passages that refer to it, and seeing how ridiculous it sounds: “And there was given unto them white robes,” “filthy rags.” “Blessed are the dead which dies in the Lord, for their ‘filthy rags’ do follow them.” And, “Who are these arrayed in ‘filthy rags’?” If you are a saint, your righteousness is not filthy rags. Your righteousness is the most precious and valuable thing in the universe in the sight of God, and something that He will glory in for ever and ever!
I fear thousands of people are expecting to enter Heaven who are not pure, and do not want to be pure. Friends, do not deceive yourselves, you will never enter Heaven without holiness. “Nothing that defiles or is unclean can in anywise enter therein” (Revel 21:27). Thank God untrue and impure people will be shut out there. We have had enough of them here, with their hypocrisy, cheating, lying, slandering, and evil deeds. God will not allow impurity to enter and damn another world as it has done this. All the liars and slanderers, and sorcerers, and whoremongers and unbelievers will be left outside. We can’t keep them out of our very houses down here, but He will keep them out of that city forever. All will be clean and white, washed inside and out, who walk the golden streets of the New Jerusalem (Won’t it be beautiful? Haste, happy day, when we shall get there!)
But I promised to say a few words on the way by which this blessing must be obtained.
First. Have a definite idea of the blessing.
Indefiniteness, in spiritual things, is often of the devil. You don’t like indefiniteness, in your own temporal affairs. You know it betrays something wrong. When a man comes to you with a great deal of palaver, and makes a sort of general proclamation of his good intentions towards you and yet refuses to come to any definite point, you feel that his protestations don’t count for much.
Now, I ask, is it possible that the great God has dealt with me indefinitely in that which most concerns my eternal destiny? Impossible!
Then be definite with God. Know what you want, and seek that. Separate this blessing from all its accidental surroundings. Don’t confound it with abounding joy. This sometimes accompanies it, and sometimes not. Don’t confound it with any particular means or modes, for the ways by which God brings souls into this experience are quite as diversified as the ways by which He brings them into pardon and peace at first.
Realize what it is you want. Salvation from that which has been your bane, your torment, from that which has tripped you up many a time and sent you on your face before God with bitter crying and tears - salvation FROM SIN. Go to God, wait on him and comply with the conditions he has laid down and you will get what you seek.
Then secondly, you must allow the Spirit to work in you a godly sorrow for all sins of backsliding and unfaithfulness of the past. I fear many Christians fly off here - as soon as the Spirit begins to deal with them by revealing the hidden depths of their hearts, they give up. As one said, not long ago “I feel as if I had never been converted at all. He has opened up such depths of depravity in my heart, I seem worse than ever.” I said that is just what God does for all souls previous to cleansing. He shows you the depth of the disease that you may take hold of the Physician with that degree of faith which is necessary for perfect healing. When God begins to deal with Christians like this they get anxious and sorrowful. They say, “This must be wrong. I am so miserable. I have lost the little peace and joy I had. This can never be right,” and so they apply some untempered mortar, give up and go back, alas! Whereas if they had held on they would have found that God was dealing with them as He did with those who thought they were rich and increased in goods and had need of nothing, and did not perceive that they were poor, naked, blind and miserable (Revel 3:17). The Spirit will convince you of the depravity of your hearts. He will show up your hidden tombs of pride, hypocrisy, envy, jealousy, frivolity and unclean thoughts and desires.
He will show it all to you and make you loathe yourself in dust and ashes. In fact the conviction and sorrow that a soul often goes through in this state is far greater than at conversion, because its perceptions are so deepened, that God is better able to deal with it; and if you will only abide the process and say, “Yes Lord, search me, it is hard, but I want the evil all out; cut away Lord, cut away!” The Lord will search you and when he has revealed the extent of the disease – when you have gone down low enough in self-despair, when you come down right to the depths and cry, “Unclean, unclean; I can do nothing to cure myself, heal me”, He will make a perfect cure and put a song of thanksgiving in your mouth, and give you the sunlight of His smile continually. Many people are not allowed to wait long enough for these probings of the Spirit. They are hurried too quickly into a profession of the blessing, then when they fall away, they say it was not what they believed it to be, but this does not make the faith of God of none effect. This experience is a blessed reality, no matter what man has missed it, no matter what man has fallen from it. The truth remains the same, though every professor of it should fall from it. I will never give it up because Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So lost it.
Further, there are two indispensable conditions of attaining this blessing – entire consecration and faith in His promises.
Consecration is generally the defective point. When people come to this, they have but little trouble about faith, but oh the subtlety of the human heart, how it will go round one particular spot. How it will argue, “Well but this is such a little thing, God can’t require this.” Now, dear friends, remember that while you have respect to consequences your consecration is not entire.
While your mind is arguing about what would happen or what people would say, or what would become of your property, or your children, or your husband, or your circumstances, your consecration is not complete, and you will never get the blessing till you get beyond all that. That is a general principle which will guide every seeker because you can apply it to your own individual case. There was a volume of philosophy in those words of the Saviour, “How can you believe who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that comes from God only?” (John 5:44) How can you? You cannot anymore than the devil can! You see what consecration means - it means don’t care. “I don’t care for consequences. I don’t care what all the world thinks of me or says of me. I don’t care if I lose all my property and die in the workhouse. I don’t care if my husband, or wife, and every friend turns against me. I don’t care if I lose my position in the Ministry – if my Church turns against me. I don’t care if I have to sacrifice my business, because I can’t do the devilish cheating things that other people do. I don’t care if I can’t educate my children, they will be educated as well as God wants them to be. I don’t care if I die before my time. “Don’t care what happens. I will have this salvation if it is to be had.” When you come to that you will get it; that is the point. If I were asked where I believe thousands of believers stand today, I would say – “Just there.” They are standing where Abraham stood when the Lord called him from his father’s house and his native land into a land which he knew not and which he was only afterwards to receive for an inheritance. They are standing there, but they are not doing as Abraham did – coming out and obeying – they are standing there arguing, hesitating and halting. And there they have been for years. You will have to get over that bar and say, “Here goes Lord, if I lose all I’m going all lengths with You, and I’ll prove You, and test You, whether You can save to the uttermost, and whether You can take care of Your own.”
That is consecration. I solemnly protest unto you that I know of no other that is worth anything in the sight of God.
The second condition is FAITH.
When you have come thus far then you must believe – trust. I have talked with hundreds of souls, and as a rule, have not found much difficulty about faith, when the consecration is thorough. Still, there are exceptions, because there are two mistakes made on this point. There are some morbidly anxious souls whom Satan gets to be always consecrating, but never trusting. They remind me of what a friend of mine once said of a certain person, referring to the offering of the Temple, she said, “You are always scraping the inwards and never getting any further.” So these souls go on scraping the inwards day after day, year after year, but they never bring the offering to the Lord and leave it with Him – that is, trust that He receives it.
The other mistake is that people try to trust without scraping the inwards. They won’t let the knife go too far because it hurts. They won’t examine. When we bring the flaming torchlight of God’s truth and hold it before their consciences, they say it is too strong. “I don’t want to see that corner or the other.” They are not honest. They don’t truly consecrate, and so they get no further.
Now, what God hath put together let us not be as foolish as to put asunder. We are to consecrate – that is our part. We are to be thorough and sincere and allow the Holy Spirit to have His way – let Him reveal to us as He did to Ezekiel the hidden corruption of the Temple. Let Him show it up in His own all-glorious light, and don’t let us flinch because it burns. Let us draw our shrinking, shrivelled hearts up to the light and say, “Yes, Lord it hurts, but go on Lord until there is nothing else to reveal or to burn.” Let us be sincere, but when we have the testimony of His Spirit that He has thus searched and revealed us, and that we do thus consecrate ourselves, and are willing to go to Golgotha, to Gethsemane, or the cross – them let us CLAIM THE BLESSING. Let us believe then that His cleansing blood does flow over our souls, that He is as good as His word, and that now we have faced and confessed our sins, He does forgive us all these sins of our believing state, our backsliding and unfaithfulness, that he does now forgive our sins and cleanse us from all this unrighteousness, and that having cleansed the temple He now comes in and takes possession. Sanctification does not mean that Christ comes and works a work in me, and then departs to heaven to look on and see how I maintain it. No, He truly does a Divine work in me, but He cleanses the temple for Himself, for His own use. He lights up the Shekinah of His presence in the believer’s soul, and then is fulfilled the promise, “I will come unto him, and make My abode with him, I will sup with him and he with Me” (Revel 3:20).
And is He not able to keep clean that which He has cleansed? If He could do the greater work is He not able to do the lesser? If He can cast out His enemies is He not able to keep them out? Yes, He can, bless His Holy Name, and all you have to do is to let Him do so, walking by faith in humble submissive obedience to the light He gives you. The great question of the day is, Do you want to be saved from sin? Are you sick of sin, do you choose to be set free, is this the one great burden of your soul’s desire? Is it the one thing you desire of the Lord, and for which you are willing to forego all that hinders? If so I declare unto you that He can do it for you. Yes! That He will do it for you, if you will only come and trust Him. Come along and kneel at His feet, be a little child in spirit, and He will lead you into this kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. “He will give you power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matt 17:20). Will you let Him? If so, come along just now, “The Spirit and the bride say come, and whosoever will let him come and take of the water of life FREELY!” (Revel 22:17) Amen.
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