By Aaron Hills
Arguments For The Attainability Of Sanctification Continued
We have seen in the previous chapter that an argument for the possibility of entire sanctification can be drawn from probability, from the general teaching of the Bible, from the Scriptural descriptions of believers, from the purpose of the life and death of Christ, also from his continuous mediatorial work, and from the revealed work of the Spirit.
We now approach another argument equally unanswerable.
VII. God commands his people to be holy. We begin with Abraham and read in Gen. xvii. I: "I am the Almighty God: walk before me and be thou perfect." I abbreviate a comment by Dr. Steele on this passage: "Twenty-four years after Abraham's first call, and several years after his justification, when he 'believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,' he passed the third and final transition in his religious career, which in modern parlance would be called his spiritual perfection. When he was ninety-nine years old, Jehovah disclosed to him His Almightiness, under the name of El-Shaddai, Almighty God, as the ground of a new commandment, 'Be thou perfect.' With this injunction was the institution of circumcision, demonstrating typically that spiritual circumcision, or entire sanctification, is the gateway into Christian perfection. Here we find a striking type of original or birth sin, put away by 'the circumcision of Christ,' through the agency of the sanctifying Spirit, not by a gradual outgoing of native depravity, but by the heroic treatment of instantaneous excision. Hence the doctrine of spiritual circumcision is a two-edged sword, cutting away Pelagianism -- the denial of inbred sin -- with one edge, and gradualism -- the denial of its instantaneous extinction -- with the other. God found Abraham perfect in loyalty and love in after years, and in the supreme test of his faith in obeying the command to offer up Isaac, he demonstrated the fact to all the coming generations" (Half Hours, pp. 166, 167).
Again, Deut. vi. 4, 5: "Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." How is such a life to be lived by depraved men? Dent. xxx. 6 lets us into the secret: "And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." That is, when the "Almighty God" of Abraham lays his sanctifying hand on the soul in the instantaneous act of spiritual circumcision, then it can live the life of perfect love.
Jesus taught this same command in still stronger terms in Matt. xxii. 37-39, and Luke x. 27 -- a command which no man ever kept till God prepared him to do it, by sanctifying his soul.
Jesus again commanded (Matt. V. 48): "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."
Rom. vi. 11: "Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus." Dr. Dugan Clark, Professor of Systematic Theology in Earlham College, has the following on this passage: "We are wholly unable to destroy or do away with the body of sin by any resolution or will power of our own. Sin will not go dead at our bidding, nor can we become dead to sin by wishing or striving to be so. Again, we are brought face to face with our helplessness, but the apostle solves the problem for us by directing us to resort to the process of reckoning. 'Likewise reckon ye, also, yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.' Ah! now our help is laid upon One that is mighty. ' The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.' What we reckon, with the sublime reckoning of faith, Christ can make real and true. We have only, therefore, to reckon ourselves to be dead, indeed, unto sin and leave to Him to make the reckoning good. But we must not fail to reckon ourselves alive as well as dead. And to be alive to God means to be responsive to every intimation of his will, to love him perfectly, to be, to do, to suffer all he may determine concerning us, in short, to be sanctified wholly. O beloved, what a blessed reckoning is the reckoning of faith! How vastly does it transcend all the reckonings of logic or mathematics. For by it we experience a continual deadness to sin, and a continual holiness of heart and life" (Theol. of Holiness, p. 97).
Rom. vi. 13: "Present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." On this verse Dr. Clark also makes this striking comment: "The command is to 'yield yourselves,' not a certain portion of your money, nor a certain portion of your effort, nor your sins, nor your forbidden indulgences. . . Consecration means yielding yourselves unto God. When you yield yourself you yield everything else. All the details are included in the one surrender of yourselves" (pp. 43, 44).
It is a personal transaction of a heart already regenerated -- "alive from the dead" -- with a personal God, for the sake of complete holiness and the greater glory of a sanctifying Saviour.
Heb. xii. 14: "Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord." ''Only holy beings can rise to the sight of the Holy One. Whenever the Scriptures speak of the divine vision as the prerogative of the sanctified, it is a blissful, spiritual perception of God here and now. Spiritual perception comes from love; love comes from the Spirit, who fills the sanctified heart to the exclusion of the sin-ward trend. Hence sanctification gives clear spiritual eye sight" (Half Hours, pp. 107, 108).
Eph. iv. 22-24: "That ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, which waxes corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which is after God, created in righteousness and holiness, of truth " (R. V., Am. Com.).
I. Peter i. 15, 16, reads: "Like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy."
With these commands to holiness, we put two other passages, indicating God's desire and efforts to produce holiness in believers.
Eph. i. 4: "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love." Col. i. 22: "In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before him." These words "perfect" and "holy" and ''holiness" point unmistakably to sanctification which enters into the very essence of the moral nature. The holiness of angels is inherent and natural; in man it is a divinely inwrought and gracious state. " Holy and without blemish before him in love." Love is the element in which holiness exists. "Hence," as Steele observes, "a tart holiness, a bitter holiness, a sour holiness, an envious holiness, is a contradiction and an impossibility."
But what shall we say of these commands as a whole? Is God a heartless tyrant issuing commands to a race of moral beings that none are able to keep? These commands are as authoritative as any in the Bible; and if holiness is not attainable, then God commands what is impossible. To affirm it is a wicked reflection on his holiness. Some one has observed that all God's commands are enablings. Whatever he commands he furnishes a gracious ability to perform. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves; ... but our sufficiency is from God" (II. Cor. iii. 5). But a sanctifying Spirit, an indwelling Christ, can live in us a holy life, "which is our reasonable service." "His commandments are not grievous" (I. John v. 3).
VIII. Another conclusive argument is drawn from the promises of God. He promises holiness to those who seek it. Take Ez. xxxvi. 25-27: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." Verse 29: "I will also save you from all your uncleannesses."
Mahan observes on this passage: "Three great blessings, in all fullness, are here specifically promised; namely, full and perfect cleansing from all sinful dispositions, tendencies, and habits; an equally full and perfect renewal, 'the gift of a new Spirit,' and 'a heart of flesh,' in the place of the 'heart of stone which had been taken out of the flesh; and the gift of Holy Ghost,' by whose indwelling the believer is 'endued with power,' for every good word and work, and perfected in his obedience to God's statutes and judgments" (Autobiog., p. 293).
The reader will notice that every item of this promise stands before us as the exclusive work of God. "I will sprinkle," etc. We are not sanctified gradually by our own poor, fitful and life-long strivings, but by God's instantaneous act of cleansing. Our part is revealed in the thirty-seventh verse: "Thus saith the Lord God I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them." It is God's part to keep his covenant with us and accomplish the work.
Mal. iv. 2: "Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings: and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall." "First the healing or sanctification -- as sudden as the sunrise of the morning; then growth. This is God's order. If we neglect the sanctifying healing of the Sun of Righteousness, our growth will be very intermittent and feeble instead of 'going from strength to strength' " (Autobiog., p. 294).
Matt. v. 6: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Prof. Henry Cowles, the Bible commentator, says: 'Righteousness here means being right. It is questionable whether our Saviour ever uses the word righteousness in the sense of justification by faith. Personal holiness is naturally the object of hunger and thirst. If, then, as we suppose, the passage speaks of personal holiness, it is exceedingly rich in promise. What is the measure of the promised blessing? Is it a stinted morsel, now and then a scanty taste, just enough to prevent starvation? Is this the manner and the measure in which God feeds his hungry children with the bread of life? No; 'they shall be filled.' But it will be said that this promise is fulfilled only in heaven. I answer: I am hungry and thirsty now for the bread and the water of life; sin within me grieves my heart and sinks down my soul unutterably, and how can I live so? Let me look at some other promises for further light. Christ said: 'I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.' And I remember it is said, 'This is the will of God, even your sanctification.' 'And the very God of peace himself sanctify you wholly.' 'Faithful is he that calls you who also will do it.' What could have been plainer? God has made provision for the attainment in the present life of all the holiness which he requires" (Holiness, pp. 80-86).
Luke i. 74, 75: "To grant us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, should serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."
I. Cor. i. 8: "Who shall also confirm you unto the end that ye be unreproveable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Phil. iv. 19: "And my God shall fulfil every need of yours, according to his riches in glory."
On this verse the saintly Frances Ridley Havergal wrote: "One arrives at the same thing [the possibility of sanctification] starting from almost anywhere. Take Phil. iv. 19: 'Your need.' Well, what is my great need and craving of soul? Surely it is now (having been justified by faith and having the assurance or salvation) to be made holy by the continual sanctifying power of God's Spirit; to be kept from grieving the Lord Jesus; to be kept from thinking or doing whatever is not accordant with his holy will.
"Oh, what a need is this! And it is said, 'He shall supply all need.' Now shall we turn around and say 'all' does not mean quite all? Both as to the commands and the promises, it seems to me that anything short of believing them as they stand is but another form of the serpent's 'Yea, hath God said?' " (Forty Witnesses, p. 42).
This blessed woman laid hold of Jesus in faith for all she needed -- entire sanctification -- on December 2, 1873, and was immediately granted such an experience that to use her own words, it "lifted her whole life into sunshine, of which all she had previously experienced was but as pale and passing April gleams, compared with the fullness of summer glory." Two months later she wrote her immortal consecration hymn:
"Take my life, and let it be."
II. Cor. vii. 1: "Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
Dr. Steele says: "All filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit is to be cleansed in the act of perfecting holiness. Paul leaves no room for sin continuing until death. Having these promises, as adopted sons and daughters, the work of entire sanctification is to be perfected in so thorough a manner as to exclude every 'filthiness of the flesh,' -- all tendencies to those sins which find expression through the body, -- 'and of the spirit,' every taint of the spirit prompting to sins independent of the material organism, as pride, unbelief, rebellion, hatred, etc. The doctrine taught by St. Paul is that spiritual circumcision follows spiritual sonship in order to the perfecting of holiness. Impenitent sinners are nowhere in the Holy Scriptures exhorted to holiness, to perfection, to fullness of the Spirit, but rather to repentance and the new birth. only they who 'have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost,' can be filled with the Spirit, only they who have become believers can mount up to the altitude of perfect faith, and only they that have life are capable of having the more abundant life" (Half Hours, pp. 91 and 162).
II. Pet. i. 4: "Whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." Now we reach the conclusion of the whole matter, the two things that human beings universally need: first, ''escape " from the universal corruption of human nature that is in the world; second, we need to become "partakers of the divine nature." This is precisely the work of the sanctifying Spirit of God, -- to cleanse our hearts, and to made us in nature holy like Christ. And it is to this very end that all these promises tend.
"All these commands and promises are correlated to each other." What God commands he promises aid to perform. They are all in the present tense, "on demand," for immediate realization in the present life. President Mahan said of them: "Nothing but salvation from all sin in its entireness, and sanctification in full completeness, is here expressed, and salvation and sanctification in this one specific and exclusive form are here set forth in terms the meaning of which can not be misunderstood. If they authorize and require us to 'inquire of God to do' anything for us, they authorize and require us to ask and expect 'salvation to the uttermost,' and nothing less than this. A denial of the doctrine of entire sanctification is nothing less, and can be nothing else, than a visible staggering at God's most sacred promises, all of which inspiration affirms to be yea and amen in Christ Jesus'" (Autobiog., p. 340).