By Aaron Hills
Sanctification The Cure Of Depravity
The careful reader has already observed that the author holds, with the many authorities he has quoted, that the word sin is used in the Bible with at least two very distinct meanings. It is also so used in theological literature generally. This may be a misfortune; but if so, we can not help it. We have been born too late in the history of the world to correct the language of St. Paul and St. John, and the theologians of the Christian ages. We do not invent language usually; we use it as we find it ready-made. The word sin designates: 1. Actual transgressions, wilful acts of disobedience to a known law of God. "Sin is the transgression of the law." It is very frequently used in the plural, as "sins," "iniquities," "transgressions." It is for this kind of sin that every man's conscience holds him directly responsible. 2. The word "sin" is often used, without any adjective and, as scholars who have studied the subject most carefully tell us, always in the singular number, to designate a sinful state, not an act. This second use of the word refers to that sinful state of our moral nature brought upon each of us by our connection with a sinful race. It is that natural lack of conformity of our whole being to the moral law. A small Greek lexicon of the New Testament lies before me. The first three definitions of a common Greek word for sin are "error, offence, sin," but the next three definitions are, "A principle or cause of sin; proneness to sin; sinful propensity." These two sets of definitions of a Greek noun in an unbiased dictionary prove that this double use of the word sin in the New Testament is no fanciful notion of the author, but the actual Bible usage. The Apostle John used the word in the first sense when he wrote: "If we confess our sins he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins" (I. John i. 9, R. V.). He used the word in the second sense when he wrote: "All unrighteousness is sin" (I. John v. 17). The same Greek word is used in both passages. St. Paul used the word in t his second sense when he wrote of "the sin that dwells in me" (Rom. vii. 17).
Now this corruption of our moral nature, this disordered state of our faculties, this abnormal condition of our being, needs to be rectified. It is a perpetual source of temptation to acts of sin, which in turn react upon the innate corruption and intensify it. We are not primarily responsible for this diseased condition of our moral nature. It was born in us through no fault of ours. As Dr. Steele writes: "Under the remedial system, it involves no guilt till approved by the free agent and its remedy is rejected" (Love Enthroned, p. 11). A man may not be blamed for taking involuntarily a contagious disease; but he is to blame if he keeps it by wilfully rejecting a known remedy.
Though a gracious God does not hold us responsible primarily for the evils of the fall that have perverted our beings, yet he can not be pleased with the fact that his children, designed to be perfect images of himself, are morally diseased, infested with "sin that dwells in us" "the body of sin," "the old man" of corruption, "the law of sin and death," "the body of this death," "the lusts which war in the members." These striking expressions all mean the same thing, and constitute what is called "depravity" or "indwelling sin" or "inbred sin." It makes us unlovely in the eyes of a pure and holy God. So he has made a provision of grace for us, "that the body of sin might be destroyed," that "our old man might be [is] crucified with Him." He "condemned [to destruction] sin in the flesh," that he might "take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you an heart of flesh."
This inbred sin produces a sad harvest of unlovely fruit -- pride, anger, self-will, jealousy, covetousness, peevishness, impatience, hatred, variance, emulations, strife, envyings, unbelief, and such like. These do not reign in the justified believer, but they keep up an incessant warfare against the holiest purpose of his soul. The thoughts and feelings and cravings and appetites are unclean, and displeasing to God. The conduct and inner life of the disciples grieved Jesus. They were converted men, ordained preachers, with power to work miracles and cast out devils. Jesus said of them in his intercessory prayer: "Thou gave them me," "and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Jesus also said to the disciples: "Rejoice that your names are written in heaven," and "ye [which] have followed me in the regeneration." And yet the Saviour had found it necessary to reprove them for unbelief, instability, selfishness, a worldly, secular spirit, a retaliating spirit, a cowardly and vacillating spirit, and repeated feelings of jealousy. These manifestations of the "indwelling sin" -- the "carnal" nature, -- troubled the Master, and he prayed for them that they might be "sanctified." When the Holy Ghost came upon them that "old man" of sin was crucified, and they were sanctified. He took the cowardice out of Peter, and the unbelief out of Thomas, and the overgrown ambitions out of James and John. The "Son of Thunder" became the "Apostle of Love." And right here we touch the meaning of sanctification. It is the work of the Holy Spirit -- the act of God's grace, by which "our old man is crucified" and the moral nature is "cleansed" of all unrighteousness," -- unrightness, "proneness to sin," "sinful propensity."
Sanctified souls have called this experience by different names. The Apostle Paul, filled with ecstatic rapture, called it "The Fullness of God." John Wesley, following the Apostle John, called it "Perfect love." Mrs. Jonathan Edwards, with doubts forever slain and looking with steadfast gaze upon her Saviour, "whose presence was so near and real" that she "was scarcely conscious of anything else," called it "The Full Assurance of Faith." A. B. Earle, the great Baptist evangelist, was so conscious of a deep, sweet resting in Christ, after his painful struggles for holiness, that he called it "The Rest of Faith." President Mahan, filled and thrilled by "the refining and sin-killing Spirit" chose Pentecostal language and called it "The Baptism of the Holy Ghost." Prof. Henry Cowles, with heart aglow with the conception of a church some day purified and walking with God, called it the "Holiness of Christians." President Finney, with a flood-tide of rapture flowing over his soul, used the language of Christ , and called it "Entire Sanctification."
But the work, by whatever name called, is essentially the same. It is God's act of cleansing the soul.
When he was eighty-two years old, the venerable Mahan wrote: "Facts of experience of the most palpable character, and of every variety of form, absolutely evince that in the renewing of the Holy Ghost believers are fully cleansed from indwelling as well as from actual sin. Tens of thousands of eminent and most trustworthy believers testify to being as conscious of permanent changes and removals of evil appetites, tempers, and dispositions, of the longest standing and dominion, as they are of their own existence. Nothing can be verified by testimony if the fact of such changes can not be. Those who deny that such changes are among the possibilities of faith render impossible, this unbelief continuing, their 'deliverance from the body of this death.' ' If ye will not believe ye shall not be established' " (Autobiography, p. 345).
In another passage he wrote: "My inner life, as I came unto God by Jesus Christ, not only for pardon, but for heart purification, was taking a surprisingly new form. Old habits, evil tempers, and sinward propensities which had been the bane of my impenitent career, and the cause of the groaning servitude of my primal Christian life, had suddenly lost all power and control. I became distinctly conscious to myself of being no longer 'carnal, sold under sin,' but the Lord's free man, emancipated from former enslavement, and now a divinely inaugurated sovereign over those propensities." ... "I seemed to anticipate the great verity thus impressively set before us by Dean Vaughan, Master of the Temple: 'We are to believe, not in the suspension or supersession or down-trampling of what we call the laws of nature, ... but in certain other things which to eyes not spiritually enlightened are at least as difficult; we have to believe in the actual forgiveness of things actually done; we have to believe that that black, hateful thing done or said yesterday -- even though it had, fever in its breath and corruption in its influence -- can be, shall be, obliterated and annihilated in the blood of Jesus Christ; we have to believe that that bad habit formed in boyhood, weakly yielded to in manhood, still strong, still predominant, can, by the grace of God, -- shall, by the grace of God, -- be vanquished in us, eradicated, burned out of us, so that we shall be more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us' " (pp. 326, 327).
We are now ready for some formal definitions of sanctification.
Rev. Luther Lee, President of Leoni Theological Institute, defined sanctification thus: "Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement has power to cleanse from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, which is justification, but are washed entirely from its pollution, freed from its power, and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts, and to walk in his holy commandments blameless" (Elements of Theology, p. 211).
Wesley, in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection, says: "It is the loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This implies that no wrong temper -- none contrary to love -- remains in the soul; and that all the thoughts, words, and actions are governed by pure love." "By one that is perfect, we mean one in whom is 'the mind which was in Christ,' who so 'walks as Christ also walked,' who is cleansed 'from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,' in whom is 'no occasion of stumbling,' who accordingly 'does not commit sin,' one in whom God hath fulfilled his faithful word, 'From all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you; I will also save you from all your uncleannesses.' "
Rev. Isaiah Reid, an exceedingly clear writer on this subject, says, in 'The Holy Way' (pp. 10,11): Doctrinally, holiness may be defined as that secondary work of grace by which the depravity of the soul is remedied ... Holiness or entire sanctification is the application of redemption to the depraved, corrupt nature in which we were born. It is that feature of salvation which lies back of pardon, -- which is for an act and back of justification, which refers to our adjusted relations: it relates to our depravity. For the inheritance of our depravity we are not responsible. We never committed the sin that produced it, and can not repent of being so born, nor seek pardon for it. God's remedy is cleansing, called 'entire sanctification,' 'holiness,' 'perfect love.' On the side of man it is through consecration and faith. On the part of God it is the application of the cleansing blood. Entire sanctification makes us morally pure from our inherited depravity. It destroys the old man of sin, the carnal mind. The subject is perfected as to the kind of his Christianity or religion, yet not in such a way that the measure of it can not be increased. He is holy in the sense that he is morally pure. He is sinless in the sense that his past sinful acts have all been pardoned, and his corrupt nature cleansed. He is blameless in the sense that God sees in his pardoned and cleansed soul nothing condemned by the gospel law. As to his love, it is perfect in the sense that he loves with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength, and in the sense that 'love is the fulfilling of the law.' As to progress, he is growing in it. 'His soul made in kind heavenly, now matures in degree, and ripens for glorification.'
"Holiness is properly the name for the state of a soul sanctified wholly, and denotes (1) the absence of depravity, (2) the possession of perfect love. A heart emptied and a heart refilled."
If such an experience is possible in this life, then there is a blessed privilege offered to every child of God.
President Mahan gives this definition: "Sanctification is exclusively the work, not of the creature but of God, a work wrought in us by the eternal Spirit, on the condition that 'God be inquired of by us to do it for us.' Entire sanctification implies 'salvation to the uttermost' from sin in all its forms as God sees it, and perfect moral purity as he requires it" (Autobiography, p. 375). "By the state under consideration I do not understand mere separation from actual sin, and full actual obedience. I understand more than this, namely: a renewal of the spirit, and temper, and dispositions of the mind, and of the tendencies and habits which impel to sin, and prompt to disobedience to the Divine will. A fully sanctified believer is not only voluntarily separate from sin, and in the will of God, but is in this state with the full assent of every department of his moral and spiritual nature. He not only 'fears God and eschews evil,' but loves righteousness and hates iniquity" (p. 322).
Dr. W. McDonald, of Boston, defines as follows: "It is to be cleansed from all actual sin and original depravity. Sin exists in the soul after two modes or forms, -- actual and original, -- the sins we have committed, and the depraved or sinful nature inherited, which was ours before we were conscious of sinning ... A fully saved heart can look up into the face of Jesus, and without mental reservation say, 'Thy will be done,' while the whole nature responds, 'Amen.' This is entire holiness ... But if depravity remain, it will rebel and refuse to yield. But to have
is to be saved from all sin, and made perfect in love. A soul in possession of such a blessing can sing,
There is no longer a conflict between the inclinations and the judgment. The desires are no longer at war with the will. The seat of war has been mainly changed. Formerly we not only contended with outward foes -- the world and Satan -- but with inward enemies -- our own unholy desires and tempers. Now the citadel is purged, the heart made pure, the enemies are without, and the fort royal is all friendly to the king" (Saved to the Uttermost, pp. 25-32).
The Methodist Catechism says: "Sanctification is that act of divine grace whereby we are made holy."
Dr. Steele says: "The act is that of removing impurity existing in the nature of one already born of the Spirit -- the deliverance from sin as a tendency born with us."
These definitions have been sufficiently extended to make clear to the most careless reader the meaning and scope of sanctification. We are now prepared to see a broad and clear distinction between regeneration and justification -- the primal experiences of the Christian life, and sanctification, about which some writers are strangely confused.
Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, graciously inclining the sinner to repentance and faith in Christ, and so renewing the voluntary nature that the power of sin is broken, and the principle of obedience is planted in the heart. It is accompanied by justification and adoption, which we may treat together.
Justification is the sovereign act of God by which the sinner, on condition of repentance of sin and faith in an atoning Saviour, is forgiven his past transgressions, and restored to the Divine favour, and treated legally as if he had not sinned. The clearest extended picture of justification in the entire Bible is found in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The father takes the repentant boy to his bosom and reinstates him in the home, puts on him the ring of adoption and the robe of charity to cover the shame of his guilty past, and does not twit him of his sinful career, but treats him as if he had never wandered.
But that prodigal was still diseased in body and mind and soul, in passions and appetites and feelings, in thoughts and imaginations and desires -- the vile effects of his riotous living. But if that father had been a mighty physician, as our Saviour is, and had laid his dear hand on the child and said, "My son, be thou clean through all thy being," as Jesus used to do, and does yet, that would have been a picture of sanctification.
Regeneration is God's work done unto us, rectifying the attitude of the
will toward him and holy things.
Regeneration removes the love of sin.
Regeneration changes the state, the character, of the will toward sin and
plants within us the germ of the divine life.
4. Justification remits the penalty of broken law.
Regeneration plants the principle of obedience, and breaks the reigning power of sin and makes us children of God.
But sanctification so "cleanses from filthiness and idols," and puts within the soul such "a new heart and a new spirit," that the whole man reinforces the will, and perfect obedience and a holy heart are secured.
5. Justification brings the favour of God.
Regeneration gives a relish for holiness and a longing for the image of God.
But by sanctification, "we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory," and we are "made partakers of the divine nature." The longings for holiness and the image of God become realized. (See Lee's Theology, p. 200.)
In short, regeneration brings renewing, justification brings forgiveness, and sanctification brings cleansing. I know not how to make it more plain.
Rev. William McDonald adds the following pithy distinctions:
1. "In regeneration, sin does not reign; in sanctification, it does not exist.
2. "In regeneration, sin is suspended; in sanctification, it is destroyed.
3. "In regeneration, irregular desires -- anger, pride, unbelief, envy -- are subdued; in sanctification, they are removed.
4. "Regeneration is salvation from the voluntary commission of sin; sanctification is salvation from the being of sin.
5. "Regeneration is the 'old man' bound; sanctification is the 'old man' cast out and spoiled of his goods.
6. "Regeneration is sanctification begun; entire sanctification is the work completed" (Perfect Love, p. 30).
To make the subject still more clear we will define negatively, and show what sanctification is not, and what it does not do in us and for us.
1. It does not bring us to ideal or absolute perfection. God only is absolute. "God charges his angels with folly; with errors in judgment, but not with sin." In this sense, "there is none good but one, that is God."
2. It does not bring us to angelic perfection. With their freedom from all inherited infirmities, and their superior knowledge, judgment and discernment, they have a degree of perfection which no grace of God makes possible to mortals in this life.
3. It does not bring us to the perfection of our own glorified state, in the after-resurrection life. St. Paul disclaimed that celestial perfection in Phil. iii. 12, while he did claim the perfection of a sanctified man in verse fifteen.
4. It does not bring a "sinless perfection," in the sense that it makes it impossible for one to sin and fall. The angels fell and Adam fell, though they were once holy.
5. Entire sanctification does not imply or involve infallibility of knowledge or judgment or memory. There is still room for innocent mistakes; the heart may be right while the judgment is wrong.
6. It does not secure us from temptation; only the tempters and temptations are not reinforced by traitors within the citadel of the soul. Jesus himself was tempted but he said, "Satan comes and finds nothing in me."
7. Sanctification does not end Christian growth but, cleansing the heart of its vileness, makes the growth of all graces possible and certain. Eleven months after the recorded date of her sanctification, Frances Ridley Havergal wrote:
Thus does the tide of divine life deepen and widen in the soul when the cleansing has come, and the proneness to evil no longer vexes the heart.
8. This blessing of sanctification does not obviate the need of constant dependence upon the atoning work of Christ. No other class of believers so constantly trust in Jesus, or so feel their utter dependence upon him, and so live in him moment by moment. Miss Havergal thus stated the method of holiness: I would distinctly state that it is only as and while a soul is under the full power of the blood of Christ that it can be cleansed from all sin; that one moment's withdrawal from that power, and it is again actively because really sinning; and that it is only as and while kept by the power of God himself that we are not sinning against him. One instant of standing alone is certain fall!" (Forty Witnesses, p. 240).
In this chapter it may be well to observe that in current discussions both the terms regeneration and sanctification are sometimes used in two senses. Dr. Daniel Steele, in an address before the Boston ministers' meeting, following Arminius and the early writings of John Wesley, spoke of regeneration first as "the instantaneous impartation of the divine life; second, as the "perfect recovery of the moral image of God which sin has effaced." In this latter sense, regeneration is not a single act, but "a process implying steps and intervals, and entire sanctification is one of these steps, and the preceding interval was a period of progressive sanctification." ... "After a man is born of the Spirit he needs an interval for a heart knowledge of Christ, through the light of the Holy Spirit, as the basis of that supreme act of faith in him as the Sanctifier."
Bishop Merrill, in "Christian Experience," speaks of sanctification first as initial sanctification which, though entirely distinct from regeneration, is concurrent with it, beginning with the cleansing of the soul. In its fullest signification, sanctification relates to a process of cleansing which goes on and on through all the experience of growth, maturity and perfection" (p. 188). Second, he speaks of it as the act of entire sanctification. "In the primal act of sanctification, at the time of the new birth the heart is washed from the defilements of old sins; but neither Scripture nor experience will justify the assertion that all the impurities of thought and the evil tendencies of nature, which are impurities in God's sight, are entirely purged till the new life has expanded and the indwelling Spirit has revealed to the enlightened conscience the enormity of inbred depravity. The ' filthiness of the flesh and spirit ' must be loathed before it can be washed away. Hence the general experience is that the full cleansing follows a season of deep self-abasement. The provision for this entire sanctification is ample, and the Spirit of God is always ready to respond to a longing desire for it. As soon as the soul feels the need of this great deliverance and takes hold of the atonement as efficacious to this end, the merit of the cleansing blood is applied, and the Spirit reveals the result as suddenly as faith will apprehend the evidence given" (p. 194).
To avoid all confusion of thought the author speaks of regeneration only as the initial, creative act of the religious life, and of sanctification as entire -- the act of God cleansing the heart of the true believer of all its sin.
Another question comes up that may be mentioned here, whether it is possible for a soul to be entirely sanctified at the moment of conversion or regeneration? It is not necessary to deny the possibility of it; but the question is philosophical rather than practical, at this stage of the development of the Christian Church. The practical, urgent, crying question of the hour is how to get all these millions of Christians up to the high spiritual level of entire sanctification. Until the vast mass of church members are lifted to this high level, and the whole Christian public is as thoroughly educated on this subject as it is now thoroughly ignorant, to suppose that one sinner in a hundred thousand will know enough to go to the altar and seek regeneration and entire sanctification at the same moment is a wild supposition. The improbability of it is shown by the fact that John Wesley never found a person who had done it. The world would be sweeping along into its millennium if the Christian Church was so gene rally in this experience that all converts could be hurried along into it in the early days of their fresh first love.
We may close this chapter by meeting an objection raised in some quarters, that those who advocate holiness as a special, second experience belittle justification to make room for sanctification. It is a mistake. I find nothing of the kind in all these forty volumes on the subject of holiness. Three quotations will suffice to show the sentiment of all. Wesley says: "But even babes in Christ are so far perfect as not to commit sin." Luther Lee says: "No man can believe with the heart unto righteousness, or so as to obtain justification, while living in the practice of any known sin, or in the neglect of any known duty.
The moment he does what he knows to be a sin, or neglects what he knows to be a duty, faith, by which he is justified, loses its hold upon God, and he loses his justification" (p. 191). Dr. McDonald writes: "Freedom from sin belongs to the justified believer. No man can retain his justification and commit sin. Entire sanctification is far in advance of mere freedom from the voluntary commission of sin. This is too low a standard for entire sanctification ... Conversion is no inferior work. It is a change so great as to be called a 'new creation.' If it be genuine, it will stop men from committing sin, and free them from the condemning power of the law, and make them obedient to all of God's commands. Do not call this entire sanctification; it is far below that exalted state ... Some place Christian holiness too low and make a profession of sanctification, when, as Mr. Fletcher very justly says, 'they have not so much as attained the mental serenity of a philosopher, or the candour of a good natured, conscientious heathen' " (Saved to the Uttermost, pp. 22-24).
Dr. Carradine sums up the whole matter as follows:
"In justification, which means pardon, my own actual or personal sins are forgiven, but not original sin. How can I be pardoned for what I did not commit? How could I ask God to forgive me for what I did not do? And how could God, in truth and justice, grant me pardon for what I had not done? Justification evidently can not reach original sin, and the conclusion is that I stand a justified man, with inherited depravity within me.
"In regeneration the soul is born again, made new, entered upon a spiritual life. That personal depravity which arises from one's own actual sin is corrected by regeneration; but inherited depravity remains untouched. It is idle to say that this was removed in regeneration. Sound reasoning is against it and a universal Christian experience." ... "My will may be rectified in regeneration; but what if sin be something more than an act of the will? It certainly seems so, when we behold it transmitted from Adam down to us without the consent of our wills, and exhibiting itself in children too young to exercise their judgment and moral powers. When I am born again, I stand a regenerate creature in the presence of wayward tendencies of the flesh, and this dark element, that has been indescribably but certainly sent down from Adam to us, and interwoven in our natures. It is not long before the young convert finds out its presence and power ... The fact to which we are driven is that the regenerated soul is left in the presence of inherited sin or depravity.
"Sanctification has no quarrel with regeneration, either in the Bible or Christian experience, and is not in antagonism with it in any respect whatever, although some would so persuade the people. Regeneration is a perfect work in itself, and needs no improvement. Sanctification aims to do another thing, and accomplishes another work altogether. It removes something from the soul that has been a constant trouble and hindrance to the regenerated man. It kills inbred sin; or, as Dr. Whedon calls it, the 'sinwardness' in us; or, as some would recognize it, the 'prone-to-wander' movement of the heart ... Our hope for a perfect deliverance is in the sanctifying grace of God ... When that work occurs sin dies in the heart. Various propensities of the body, which regeneration subdued, but could not eradicate, are instantly corrected, arrested, or extirpated. The craving of habit is ended, the root of bitterness is extracted, pride is lifeless, self-will is crucified, and anger and irritability are dead. A sweet, holy calm fills the breast, actually effects the body, steals into the face, and rules the life" (Sanctification, pp. 26-31).
Jesus said: "That they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts xxvi. 18). "The great salvation is two-fold: 'Forgiveness of sins, and ... sanctified by faith that is in me.' The forgiveness of sins is a perfect work; but a perfect forgiveness is a very different thing from entire sanctification. Forgiveness refers to one hemisphere of your moral nature, and entire sanctification to another. There is a hemisphere of voluntary wrong-doing and a hemisphere of unintentional evil dispositions; there are things people do that they know are wrong, and there are yearnings that do not come to the surface; they lie beneath and do not come to the will power; it lies behind the will. The hemisphere of what a man is responsible for is covered by pardon. When God forgives your sins he forgives every sin you were ever responsible for; but complete sanctification goes into bed rock in the moral nature. There are evil dispositions way down that we grieve over; sanctification proposes to give us relief in the 'basement story' of our moral nature. And this is 'by faith,' not by growth; grace can grow, but cleansing can't grow. Cleansing prepares the way for grace and puts grace where it can grow" (Love Abounding, p. 28).
The difference between the justified and the sanctified state of the believer is not inaptly set forth in the following lines by Dr. A. B. Simpson: