By Aaron Hills
Final Arguments For The Attainability Of Sanctification -- Difficulties Removed And General Statement Of Conclusions
XIII. The possibility of immediate sanctification can be proved by the testimony of God's own Word concerning his children. We might suppose that, if such a doctrine were true, we should find in the Bible some examples of men who had attained to such holiness as God requires, and such as the Word terms sanctification or perfection. We are not in the least disappointed. We have the witness of the Spirit to God's own holy ones,
"Abel . . had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness,"
"Enoch walked with God three hundred years," until he walked straight into heaven without passing through the gateway of death.
Moses so walked with God in intimacy of holy communion, that "the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend," He came down from the Mount of Vision with so much of God in him that his "face did shine." And Aaron, his brother, and all the people, were "afraid to come nigh him." But in the modesty of his sanctified soul "he wist not that his face did shine." When he talked with the people he had to veil the divine glory that was in him from their eyes. "But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off," and spoke with God "face to face." And when jealous Korah, Dothan and Abiram rose up against Moses and Aaron and said unto them, "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them," Moses meekly responded, "Tomorrow the Lord will show who are his and who are holy." Wonderful man, shining with the glory of indwelling deity! We see but one touch of sin on him in forty years! We make two remarks in passing: First , God himself bears witness to them that they are holy. Second, it is quite an old theory, after all, that "the whole congregation are holy, every one of them"!!
Job lived in the dim twilight of the world's morning. For one in his circumstances and conditions he was what God required, "a perfect and an upright man', one that fears God and eschews evil." For the world's benefit and to teach spiritual lessons to a suffering humanity, he was permitted to suffer in body and mind and heart all that man may endure. "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly" (Job i. 8-22).
Of Caleb it is five times declared that "he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel" (Josh. xiv. 14).
Isaiah was a prophet of God whose bosom glowed with the fervour of piety. He was certainly neither an unregenerated man nor a backslider. But he had a marvellous second experience, amply described for our purpose in the sixth chapter of Isaiah, The great prophet had an exalted spiritual revelation -- some vision of God that made him painfully conscious of uncleanness. This is the state of heart that invariably precedes sanctification, He cried out, "Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips!" Then flew one of the seraphims unto him "having a live coal in his hand," and he laid it upon his mouth and said: "Lo, this has touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." Amidst this wonderful imagery, describing this profound spiritual experience, some things are perfectly plain. Fire is repeatedly the Scriptural emblem of the Holy Spirit; and the effect of fire in purifying metals is made to represent the work of the Holy Ghost in cleansing the heart.
This was the thought of Malachi: "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi and purge them ..... that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness" (Mal. iii. 3). John the Baptist repeated the prediction: "He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire" (Matt. iii. 11). At Pentecost "tongues, like as of fire, sat upon each one of them," "and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts ii. 3, 4). All this shows the nature of that which befell Isaiah. It was not the pardon of transgressions which he received or a restoration from a spiritual lapse, but a sanctifying act of God "purging" away his indwelling sin. This may explain why, ever after, he was emphatically "the evangelical prophet," proclaiming in loftiest strains the deepest, divinest things of the kingdom of God. Dr. Carradine on this transaction writes: "Notice also that this blessing of holiness was brought, came from God, and was not developed within by a long growth i n grace. And, furthermore, notice the alacrity, the gladness, and the fearlessness of sanctification, as shown in the experience of Isaiah. 'Then said I, here am I; send me' " (Sanctification, p. 111).
The great Hezekiah, Isaiah's contemporary, said to the Lord in prayer: "I beseech thee, O Lord, remember how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart" (II. Kings xx. 3).
Of Zacharias and Elizabeth -- the father and mother of John the Baptist -- it is recorded: "They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke i. 6). "And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke i. 41). "And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke i. 67).
"This fullness of the Spirit," says Dr. Steele, "is a synonym for entire sanctification. (Proved by Peter's incidental remark in Acts xv. 9,) Since there are but two forces that can sway the soul, the flesh and the Spirit; to be completely filled with either is to exclude the other. To be filled with the Spirit is to be completely emancipated from the flesh, or inherent depravity. To be but partially swayed by the Spirit is to afford a foothold in the soul for a contest between these antagonistic powers. -- Gal. v. 17" (Love Enthroned, p. 96).
Both Jeremiah and John the Baptist were sanctified by a special miracle of grace in earliest infancy. "I sanctified thee, and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jer. i. 5). "He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke i. 15). We have no comment to make upon these extraordinary cases of sanctification, except to call attention to the fact that it was, as ever, in each of these persons the cleansing act of the infinite God, and no gradual work of man. And the after lives of these mighty prophets support fully our theory of sanctification.
St, Paul said so much about sanctification that we certainly might expect to find him an illustration of his own doctrine. And we are not disappointed. There is abundance of both negative and positive evidence that he was a sanctified man, There are his frequent requests for prayer on his own behalf -- never that he may be "forgiven sin" or "delivered from an easily besetting sin," or that ''he may hold out faithful," or that he "may be delivered from a bad habit " -- never anything of this kind. He asks the Roman Christians to pray 'that he may be delivered from them which do not believe in Judea, and that his service to the saints may be accepted" (Rom. xv. 30-32). He asks the Ephesians to "pray that utterance may be given him to make known the mystery of the gospel" (Eph. vi. 18, 19). He asks the Colossians to "pray God would open a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ" (Col. iv. 3). He asks the Thessalonians to pray "that the Word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified." And it is thus to the end -- never any confession of sins, or prayers for forgiveness or spiritual cleansing. "Hence we infer," says Dr, Steele,--
"1. That Paul enjoyed the grace of Christian perfection, being delivered both from sinning and from sin having been saved from the first by regeneration and from the second by entire sanctification.
"2. That he had a clear, satisfactory, and joyful knowledge of his sonship to God, through faith in Christ, by the abiding witness of the Holy Spirit.
"3. That the self-condemning, self-loathing style of piety is not the highest style. St. Paul says nothing depreciative of the self on which the image of Christ is clearly enstamped. He is a stranger to a spiritual crucifixion in which he is forever dying on the cross and never dead" (Half Hours, p. 40).
Once he told the Philippians and twice the Corinthians, "Be ye imitators of me even as I am also of Christ," and to the Thessalonians be wrote: ''Ye are witnesses and God also how holily and righteously and unblameably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe" (I. Thess. ii. 10). Here is direct testimony to his sanctification, which only the rash will venture to dispute. He showed a perfect love for his enemies who were following him about from city to city and banding themselves together by an awful curse to take his life. "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Ghost, that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart, for I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. ix, 1-3). Such a spirit, like that of Jesus on the cross, could only be found in a sanctified heart. There is no taint of selfishness or sin in a love that truthfully affirms: "I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls" (II. Cor. xii. 15). He spoke "not as pleasing men, but God, who proves our hearts" (I. Thess. ii. 4). For "if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ" (Gal. i. 10). He had an unworldliness of heart which enabled him to say: "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. iii. 20), and our "life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. iii. 3). The secret of it all was given in his own words: "I have been crucified with Christ [that is, the "old man" of sin in me] yet I live: and yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me," Surely Christ did not live in him and through him an unsanctified life. (See Half Hours, Chaps. VII, to XI )
XIV, The witness of the Holy Spirit is unanswerable proof of the attainability of sanctification. Of course, this argument has weight only with those who have the witness of the Spirit, and those who will believe testimony. To indicate our meaning, let us read over again that remarkable passage, Acts xv. 8: "And God, who knows the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith." Turn also to that companion Scripture. Heb. x. 14: 'For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. And the Holy Ghost also bears witness to us."
The men who deny the possibility of sanctification may argue their case to a conclusion, not with the obscure author of this book, but with the Holy Ghost -- the infinite God himself, He "bears witness" to his own divine work of cleansing and sanctifying; if anybody denies it and cares to "make God a liar," they may settle it with Him. It is our aim simply to unfold what He teaches, -- what are the blessed possibilities of grace to those who believe.
Remember, the Holy Ghost is a witness bearer to all humanity of their spiritual condition. He is sent to the sinner to bear witness to him and convict him of sin, in rejecting Jesus (John xvi. 9). He bears witness to the believing convert that he is a child of God. "Ye received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God" (Rom. viii. 15, 16). And, as we have seen above in Acts xv. 8 and Heb. x, 14, he is a witness to "them that are sanctified."
That doubtless was why St. Paul was so "persuaded," and so marvellously serene in all the inconceivable evils that beset him. He had the witness within him, and knew that his "life was hid with Christ in God," and that a sanctifying Saviour was living in him (Gal. ii. 20). This was what enabled the Apostle John, another instance of sanctification, to say: "And hereby we know that he abides in us by the Spirit which he gave us." "It is the Spirit that bears witness because the Spirit is the truth" (I. John iii. 24 and v. 7).
Sinners are ever ready to question the witness of the Spirit to believers of their justification, And it is a very sad fact that believers, in the same way, turn around and question the witness of the Spirit to the sanctification of the sanctified. Dr. Carradine justly observes that "the scoff and denial of the experience and witness of sanctification comes with a poor grace from one who confesses that he has never sought or obtained the blessing. This is on a par with saying that he does not believe in the existence of London because he has never been there, or he has doubts that Jenny Lind had a voice because he never heard her sing; or, closer still, that he heard her sing one song, but does not believe that she ever sang another song in a different key, The denial of the witness of sanctification when sifted down, merely means, that the brother who denies it has simply never had the witness himself. He thinks that the Spirit has but one song for the soul (forgiveness), and speaks in only one key ( regeneration), and testifies to but one fact (justification)" (Sanctification, p. 85).
Hear that wonderful man of early Methodist annals, Carvosso, say, when seeking sanctification a year after conversion: "I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus had cleansed me from all sin" (Life of Carvosso, p. 33).
Rev. William Bramwell testifies: "The Lord, for whom I had waited, came suddenly to the temple of my heart, and I had an immediate evidence that this was the blessing I had been for some time seeking. My soul was all wonder, love and praise" (Perfect Love, p. 124).
Rev. Benjamin Abbott wrote: "In three days God gave me a full assurance that he had sanctified me soul and body. I found it day by day manifested to my soul by the witness of the Spirit" (p. 126).
Bishop Hamline says of his experience: "All at once I felt as though a hand, not feeble, but omnipotent, not of wrath, but of love, were laid on my brow. I felt it not only outwardly but inwardly. It seemed to press upon my whole body, and diffuse all through and through it a holy, sin-consuming energy" (p. 127).
Mrs. Jonathan Edwards gives her experience in these glowing words: "So conscious was I of the joyful presence of the Holy Spirit that I could scarcely refrain from leaping with transports of joy. My soul was filled and overwhelmed with light and love and joy in the Holy Ghost, and seemed just ready to go away from the body" (p. 133).
Mrs. Phoebe Palmer, the blessed evangelist, wrote: "While thus exulting, the voice of the Spirit again appealingly applied to my understanding: 'Is not this sanctification?' I could no longer hesitate, reason as well as grace forbade; but I rejoice in the assurance that I was wholly sanctified throughout body, soul, and spirit" (p. 129).
Dr. Daniel Steele, relating his experience, writes: "Very suddenly, after about three weeks' diligent search, the Comforter came with power and great joy to my heart. He took my feet out of the realm of doubt and weakness, and planted them forever on the Rock of assurance and strength..... In the language of Dr. Payson I daily exclaim, 'O that I had known this twenty years ago! ' But I thank God that after a struggle of more than a score of years
Dr. Carradine, after writing his experience, adds: "Can not God witness to purity of heart as he does to pardon of sin? Are not his blessings self-interpreting? He that impresses a man to preach, that testifies to a man that he is converted, can he not let a man know when he is sanctified? I knew I was sanctified, just as I knew fifteen years before that I was converted. I knew it not only because of the work itself in my soul, but through the Worker. He, the Holy Ghost, bore witness clearly, unmistakably and powerfully to his own work; and, although months have passed away since that blessed morning, yet the witness of the Holy Spirit to the work has never left me for a moment" (Sanctification, p. 22).
Bishop Foster writes of his experience thus: "The Spirit seemed to lead me into the inmost sanctuary of my soul -- into those chambers where I had before discovered such defilement -- and showed me that all was cleansed, that the corruptions which had given me such distress were dead -- taken away -- that not one of them remained. I felt the truth of the witness, it was so; I was conscious of it; as conscious of it as I had ever been of my conversion" (Defense of Christian Perfection, p. 63).
Prof. T. C. Upham, D. D., a Congregationalist, testifies: "There is calm sunshine upon the soul. I have continually what seems to me to be the witness of the Holy Spirit -- that is to say, I have a firm and abiding conviction that I am wholly the Lord's, which does not seem to be introduced into the mind by reasoning nor by any methods whatever of forced and self-made reflection, and which I can ascribe only to the Spirit of God. It is a sort of interior voice which speaks silently, but effectually, to the soul, and bids me be of good cheer. I can not help saying, with the apostle, 'God hath also sealed us and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts ' -- II. Cor. i. 22" (Forty Witnesses, p. 280).
We could fill a volume (larger than we propose to make this book) with similar testimony. But we have presented enough to show that God verifies his word, and still gives the witness of his Spirit to the sanctification of men. To those who receive it, this is absolute proof of the doctrine of sanctification; and it is satisfactory proof to those who are willing to accept the consentaneous testimony of a multitude of God's ripest saints. Those who are committed against the doctrine, no amount of argument or testimony of Scripture or of living souls will persuade. Precisely that same state of mind rejected the Son of God, and sent him to the cross. Blessed are they whose hearts and minds are open to the truth.
What conclusions, now, may be safely drawn front these fourteen arguments? We have, as the reader observed, defended the doctrine of entire sanctification as an attainable experience, (1) from probability; (2) from the Bible as a whole; (3) from Bible descriptions of what is possible to believers; (4) from the revealed purpose of the life and death of Christ; (5) from his continuous mediatorial work, as our Sanctifier; (6) from the revealed work of the Spirit as our Sanctifier; (7) from God's commands to be holy; (8) from God's promises of holiness to those who seek it; (9) from the inspired prayers that believers may become holy; (10) from what Christ is declared to be able to do for us; (11) from the assurances of, and exhortations to, holiness; (12) from Christ's words to the disciples and Paul's instruction to the churches; (13) from the testimony of God's Word concerning his own children; (14) from the witness of the Holy Spirit himself to sanctification.
If a hundred proof-texts of unmistakable bearing, confirmed by the exegesis of the ablest Greek scholars, can support a doctrine; if the revealed work of Christ and the Spirit, and the inspired commands, and exhortations, and promises, and prayers, and assurances, and encouragements of the Bible, and the witness of the Holy Spirit, can teach a truth -- then the attainability of sanctification and the duty to be sanctified are among the revealed truths of God. They stand impregnable against all the assaults of infidelity, in the church or out of it. There are five times as many proof-texts, fairly interpreted, for the support of this doctrine as there are for the doctrine of conversion and regeneration. There are ten times as many as there are for the divinity of Christ. If these texts, teaching sanctification and holiness as an attainable experience, by nouns, adjectives and verbs, in every possible form of expression, do not confirm and establish this doctrine, then no doctrine can be taught by Bible language.
As rational beings, then, we must accept this doctrine of entire sanctification as a revealed truth of God, and hold that "Jesus is able to save all to the uttermost, or we must hold to the following absurdities:
1. That God of choice induces imperfect, when he might just as well induce perfect, moral and spiritual purity.
2. That Jesus "abides" in believers who are filled with ''warring lusts" and constantly "sinning in thought, word, and deed," when he might render their hearts and beings clean temples of the Holy Ghost.
3. That Jesus, though "able to save to the uttermost" and "sanctify wholly" his seeking, willing children, yet prefers to "dwell in them" and "walk with them," while they do not "separate themselves nor "cleanse themselves from all defilement of flesh and Spirit perfecting holiness in the fear of God,"
4. That Jesus came to be not only our righteousness (justification) but our "sanctification," and he has "all power," to do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think," yet when we come with agonizing hearts pleading to be "sanctified wholly," he will not do it, preferring to have us remain in sin,
5. That Jesus taught that our heavenly Father was more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him than are earthly parents to give bread to hungry children -- that Spirit that can ''purify our hearts," and "cause us to keep his commandments and do them," yet when we plead for the baptism with the Spirit, our Father in heaven will not send him, preferring to have us remain uncleansed and disobedient,
6. That God commands us to be holy, a command which he knows, with all possible grace to help, we never can keep -- thus making himself an unjust tyrant.
7. That God declares that "he is able to make all grace to abound," and "my grace is sufficient," when it is not sufficient, and we are under the painful necessity of sinning "daily, in thought, word, and deed " -- thus making himself a liar before the universe.
8. That Jesus prayed for our sanctification, and Paul prayed, "Now the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly " -- prayers that never were or can be answered.
9. That all the promises that we may be "sanctified" and "partakers of the Divine nature" are mock promises.
10. That the "witness of the Holy Ghost" to the sanctification of believers is all untrue.
11. But I forbear. There is absolutely no end to these absurdities to which a man is driven who rejects this truth. As for myself, I prefer to reject all these absurdities, and open my whole being to the joyful truth that we have a Saviour both able and willing to "save to the uttermost," and a "Holy Spirit waiting and longing to purify our hearts" and "fill us with all the fullness of God,"
We come, therefore, to these conclusions:
1. That there is a second work of grace, which God would have wrought in us all by the Holy Ghost, entirely distinct from? regeneration, and subsequent to it.
2. It is a cleansing, purifying ACT of God himself that sanctifies the heart. "The God of peace himself sanctify you wholly." Sanctification is not, therefore, reached by a gradual development or growth. Such a notion is a grave and even calamitous error. "So long as the Church supposes that sanctification is a gradual growth in grace, so long will God's people be kept out of the blessing of a holy heart. How Satan smiles when he sees the Church seeking holiness in a direction and a plane where it can never be found! He is not the least alarmed so long as God's people look to themselves, or to time, or to growth, or to anything but the blood of Christ for holiness."
3. It is like justification, or anything else performed by an act of God, instantaneous. It is as sudden as Pentecost. Such a work seems great to us and impossible, but not to God. He speaks, and it is done. "If God can take a perfect giant of sin and make him a babe in Christ in a moment, can he not take a babe in Christ and make him a perfect man in Christ Jesus in a moment? If God can instantaneously make a spiritual man out of a sinner, he can, with even greater ease, make a holy man out of a Christian" (Sanctification, p. 75).
President Mahan says: "Forty-seven years ago, when my desire for the open vision had become almost insupportably intense, in a moment, in the twinkling of all eye, I stood face to face with the Sun of Righteousness, feeling his divine healings through every department of my being" (Autobiog., p. vi.).
Moody says: "This blessing came upon me suddenly, like a flash of lightning" (Forty Witnesses, p. 269).
Such an instantaneous sanctification is the only kind that will answer our purpose. Any one Christian living may be dead tomorrow and at the bar of God. Living or dying, we want the blessing, and want it now. Such a sanctification, instantaneously received and accessible to all, the Scripture reveals and promises to those who seek. This is the will of God, even your sanctification: it is not his will, nor for his honour, that one of his children should be defiled or unholy a single hour.
4. This blessing, like justification, is obtained by faith. "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith" (Gal. iii. 2) "We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. iii. 14). "Giving them the Holy Ghost -- purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts xv. 8, 9). "Sanctified by faith in me" (Acts xxvi. 18). Sanctification, like all other spiritual blessings, comes by faith. Jesus does not regenerate you by faith, and then leave you to make yourself holy by your own struggles of soul "sanctified by faith!"