By Aaron Hills
Sanctification A Christian Obligation
What I wish to say in this chapter, in a general way, as an introduction to the reception of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, is suggested by the following passages of Scripture: "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. v. 18). "Though it tarry wait for it, because it will surely come; it will not tarry" (Hab. ii. 3). "The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple" (Mal. iii. 1). "Ye are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you " (I. Cor. iii. 16).
These passages suggest to me these great facts:
I. It is the universal obligation of all Christians to become sanctified. This is not supposed to be the case. I have no doubt these words will be a surprise to many readers. But there can be no question whatever about it. The ringing exhortation of the Bible is, "Let us cease to speak of the first principles of Christ and press on unto perfection" (Heb. vi. 1). Who shall say that this command, "Be filled with the Spirit," is not as imperative as the command not to steal? Bishop Taylor, one of the most effective Christian workers of the century, who has girdled the world with his undying influence and has personally laboured in America, Australia, India and Africa, says: "It is not optional with a believer to 'go on to perfection' or not. It is his imperative duty, just as fast as the Holy Ghost gives him light and applies the command to his conscience. After the soul is somewhat established in the grace of pardon wherein it stands, then the Holy Sanctifier sheds increasing light into the heart of the young believer, and reveals its inherent depravity to an alarming degree. This is an occasion of great temptation. Our only safety is to obey God, walk after the Spirit and 'go on to perfection.' The neglect to obey God's positive command, 'Be ye holy,' involves a risk of forfeiture of the justified relation, and soul distraction that no person should take.
"But this is not merely a question involving the personal salvation of the Christian professor, but one on which hangs conditionally the salvation of the world. Whatever may be the organic strength of the church, the number and grandeur of her institutions and appliances, her real spiritual effectiveness in the prosecution of her great mission of preaching 'the gospel to every creature.' will be proportionate to the holiness of her individual members. A church composed of spiritual dwarfs, instead of perfect men,' must be a dwarfish, ineffective church. When we remember that the provision of salvation in Christ embraces every sinner on the globe, and that God the Holy Ghost hath been sent down to 'abide with us,' and administer this provision to the salvation of the whole human family, we see at once the appalling fact that there is a dreadful miscarriage somewhere.
"Why is it that we grapple so feebly and ineffectively with Mohammedanism and the various forms of heathenism? Why is it that, even in Christian countries, comparatively so few even profess to be loyal to God? Why is it that the large majority of our children, brought up at our family altars, and trained in the nursery of our churches -- the Sunday-school -- go out into the world unblushing rebels against God? Why is it that the Christian Church, instead of pushing a bold, aggressive warfare, under the leadership of her divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit, for the conquest of the world, is in the main quietly reposing in her trenches, barracks, and spiritual hospitals, maintaining a feeble defensive, unable to resist the innovating forces of worldliness and sin, and the corrupting tide of infidelity itself? In searching for the grounds of this dreadful deficiency, involving the loss of millions of souls, we will find them not so much in organizations and ordinances, and institutions, as in want of entire hear t purity in her individual members" (Infancy and Manhood, pp. 7-13). "We have a sickly, dwarfish type of Christianity, which is proving itself to a demonstration quite inadequate to meet the demands of her great mission of mercy in saving the whole world" (p. 14).
Rev. F. B. Meyer, of London, says in the same strain: "How little power average Christians have. They wave the censer between the living and the dead, but the plague is not stayed. Like Gehazi, they lay the staff on the face of the dead child, but life does not return. Like the disciples at the foot of the mount, they speak the healing words, but the devil-possessed are not relieved. They pray; but prayers are unanswered. The life-giving power must be in us, or we shall not see dead sinners come to life through our words." Just here is the weakness of the church of our time. There are many members; but too many of them are Gehazis and faithless disciples. Until more believers are filled with the sanctifying and power-giving Holy Spirit, even the children of the church households will remain dead and devil-possessed. Mrs. E. M. Whittemore, of the Door of Hope Mission for fallen women in New York, said in an address in Boston: "Of two hundred girls taken into the mission, one hundred and ninety-nine w ere from Christian homes (so called). I rarely if ever meet a grown up girl born in the slums in sin, down there still; and I mean, too, those whom we have reached." It is safe to say those girls had parents who were easy-going, indifferent, worldly church members, but strangers to the Baptism with the Holy Ghost. They did not have religion enough to make their children respect it and want it. Their Sabbath-school teachers probably had the same kind of piety, and perhaps their pastors preached to them without a touch of Spirit power. And all these representatives of lukewarm piety, all unfilled with the Spirit, simply conspired to send these girls to the street, and sent five times as many young men to be their companions.
Hear Mrs. Catherine Booth, in one of her magnificent addresses on The Holy Ghost: "What a tide of lamentation and mourning reaches us all round the land as to the deadness, coldness and dearth of Christian churches! We can not help feeling that there is a great want somewhere! This is not only my opinion, but it is almost universally admitted, that with the enormous expenditure of means, the great amount of human effort, the multiplication of human instrumentalities during the past century, there has not been a corresponding result. People say to me, on every hand, we have meetings without number, services, societies, conventions, conferences, but what comes of them all, comparatively? And I may just say here that numbers of ministers and clergymen in private conversation admit the same thing. When talking behind the scenes, they say: 'Yes, it is a sad fact; I think I preach the truth, I pray about it, I am anxious for results, but alas! alas! the conversions are but few and far between, and even those few are superficial.' Now I say this is universally admitted, and it behoves us to ask before God, Where is the lack? Now note, this want is not the truth. O, what a great deal of talk about the truth, and not any too much. But there will be thousands of sermons preached today -- the truth and nothing but the truth. Nobody will pretend to say they were not in perfect keeping with the Word of God; and yet they will be perfect failures, and nobody will know it better than they who preach them. These are facts.
"I was talking on this point a while ago with a good man who said: 'Ah, yes; I have not seen a conversion in my church these two years.' Now what was the reason? There was a reason, and I am afraid many might say the same. Yet there are the unconverted. They come to be operated on. They are not lifted into salvation. What is the matter? There must be something wrong. God is not changed. Human hearts are not changed; they are depraved, vile, devilish, just the same as ever. The gospel is the same power that it ever was -- the power of God unto salvation. Where is the lack? I say most unhesitatingly that the great want is the Power of the Holy Ghost. The masses come to the churches Sunday after Sunday, come and go, like a door on its hinges, neither better nor worse? -- nay, God grant it might be so, but they are worse. They get enough light to light them down to damnation, but they do not get enough power to lift them into salvation. This power is as distinct, and definite, and separate a gift of God, as was this Book, or God's Son, or any other gift which he has given us! We can not explain this gift, but it is the power of the Holy Spirit of God in the soul of the speaker, accompanying his word, making it cut and pierce to the dividing of soul and spirit.
"Oh, what numbers of ministers, elders, deacons, leaders, Sabbath-school teachers and the like have come to me confessing that they have been working with little results. They want the Holy Ghost to accompany their testimony. This is how I account for the want of results -- the want of the direct, pungent, enlightening, convicting, restoring. transforming power of the Holy Ghost. And I care not how gigantic the intellect of the agent, or how equipped from the school of human learning. I would rather have a hallelujah lass, a little child with the power of the Holy Ghost, hardly able to put two sentences of the Queen's English together, to come to help, bless, and benefit my soul, than to have the most learned divine in the kingdom come without it; for 'it is not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.' Oh, that you would learn it! When you have learned that you will be made. When you experience it you will lay hold on God. It is not by might of intellect or learning or eloquence or position or influence -- man's power of any sort, but by my Spirit. That is as true as it ever was. Here is the secret of the Church's failure. She is like Israel of old: 'She hath multiplied her defenced cities, and her palaces, but she hath forgotten the God of Israel, in whom her strength is' " (Aggressive Christianity; Address, The Holy Ghost). In view of these solemn facts that individual Christians are weak and worldly and joyless, and churches are barrer and lifeless without this filling of the Spirit, is it any wonder that God commands all believers to obtain this blessing.
Furthermore, reflect on the account we must meet if we do not seek and obtain the Baptism with the Spirit. Finney said: "If we are not filled with the Spirit our guilt amounts to disobedience of God. It amounts to all the good we might do if we had the Spirit of God in as great measure as possible -- but good which is now all undone because we are without this power. Our guilt is farther measured by all the evil you do in consequence of not having the Spirit." I read this awful thought something more than a year ago, and it made a profound impression on my soul. Prior to that time I reviewed my ministry with great satisfaction, because I had been blessed with the privilege of leading perhaps twenty-five hundred souls to Christ. But I had consciously worked with a very limited enduement of spiritual power, compared with what God was willing to give. And when I thought what I might have done for God and his cause had I sought with all my soul and obtained the divine anointing for service twenty years ago, my heart sank within me. I look upon my past ministry now with sadness, and plead that the tears and blood of Christ may wash out the stains and guilt of my imperfect service.
In the same feeling Mrs. Booth said: "Let me remind you -- and it makes my own soul almost reel when I think of it -- that God holds us responsible for all the good we might do if we had this Holy Spirit power. Do not deceive yourself. He will have the five talents with their increase. He will not have an excuse for one, and you will not dare to go up to the throne and say: 'Thou wast a hard Master. Thou bid me to save souls when thou know I had not the power.' What will he say to you? 'Wicked and slothful servant, out of thine own mouth will I judge thee. You knew where you could have got the power. You knew the condition. You might have had it. Where are the souls you might have saved? Where are the children that I would have given you? Where are the fruit? ' Oh, friends, these are solemn and awful realities. If I did not believe them I should not stand here. Oh, what you might do! Who can tell? Who would ever have thought, twenty years ago, when I first raised my voice, a feeble, trembling woman, one of the most timid and bashful the Lord ever saved, the hundreds of precious souls that would be given me? Let me ask you, supposing I had held back and been disobedient to the Heavenly Vision, what would God have said to me for the loss of all this fruit? Thank God, much of it is already gathered into heaven. My brother, my sister, he holds you responsible."
II. I observe, because God has commanded us all to have this blessing, and it is so infinitely important, it is reasonable to conclude that each true Christian may seek this blessing with full assurance that he may obtain it. Whatever is obligatory upon believers each believer may realize in his own life. Only be sure at the outset that you are a son or daughter of God in a justified state. Have the witness of the Spirit that you are born again as an absolutely essential preliminary condition to all seeking of sanctification. Then after that never entertain a doubt that you are an heir of all the covenant blessings and promised grace of God. Only keep your sonship clear as a truly regenerate man, then cling to your title to all the revealed privileges of the sons of God, the best of which is the Baptism with the Holy Ghost, and go on to the conquest of the blessing. Be fully persuaded that this blessing is for you, on the simple ground that you are a child of God, and that he commands you personally t o obtain it, and says "the promise is unto you." He has told each one of you that "this is the will of God, even your sanctification." "For God hath called you unto sanctification " (I. Thess. iv. 3, 7). It is no vain presumption, therefore, to plead your claim and title with all boldness at the throne of grace.
III. It would logically follow from the above that Christians of any age or degree of Christian experience may hopefully seek the blessing. This is literally true. It is not a question of education or culture. Christians scarcely able to read the Bible readily have had a marvellous anointing of the Spirit, while profound scholars and theologians utterly miss the way. Again, it is not at all a question of years in Christian service. I have known a child just entering the teens to receive the filling of the Spirit unto sanctification, while church members of two score years' standing, and grey in honours and service, were as far from the great prize as when they themselves were beginners in the Christian life.
Hear John Wesley: "I have been lately thinking a good deal on one point wherein, perhaps, we have all been wanting. We have not made it a rule as soon as ever persons are justified, to remind them of going on to perfection. Whereas this is the very time preferable to all others. They have then the simplicity of little children; and they are fervent in spirit, ready to cut off a right hand or pluck out the right eye. But if we once suffer this fervour to subside, we shall find it hard enough to bring them again even to this point. Every one, though born of God in an instant, yea and sanctified in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows, by slow degrees, both after the former and the latter change. But it does not follow from thence that there may be a considerable tract of time between the one and the other. A year or a month is the same with God as a thousand. It is therefore our duty to pray and look for full salvation every day, every hour, every moment, without waiting until we have either done or suffered more" (Perfect Love, pp. 50, 55). Wesley's Journal, August 4, 1762, records: "The next morning I spoke severally with those who believed they were sanctified. There were fifty-one in all -- twenty-one men, twenty-one widows or married women, and nine young women or children. In one, the change was wrought three weeks after she was justified; in three, seven days after it; in one, five days, and in S. L., aged fourteen, two days only."
Two days afterwards, he records: "Many believed that the blood of Jesus had cleansed them from all sin. I spoke to these, -- forty in all one by one. Some received the blessing in ten days, some seven, some four, some three days after they found peace with God, and two the next day" (Love Enthroned, p. 103). He also gives a remarkable instance of Grace Paddy, who was ''convinced of sin, converted to God, and renewed in love, with in twelve hours. Yet it is by no means incredible, seeing one day is with God as a thousand years."
"Although, therefore, it usually pleases God interpose some time between justification and sanctification, yet we must not fancy this to be an invariable rule. All who think this must think we are sanctified by works, or which comes to the same, by suffering; for otherwise, what is time necessary for? It must be either to do or to suffer. Whereas if nothing be required but simple faith, a moment is as good as an age" (Christian Perfection, pp. 49-52).
Any one who has read thoughtfully the Autobiography of Charles Finney must have noticed that within twenty-four hours of the time that he went into the woods to give his heart to God, he was converted, baptised with the Holy Ghost, sanctified and endued with such matchless power that he was then, and has been ever since, in that respect, the marvel of the century.
Dr. Steele exclaims: "What a revolution would be wrought in the Church -- what a resurrection to spiritual life -- what a girding with power if preachers insisted on the duty of all believers imitating their Master in the Spirit baptism as in the water-baptism, in the reality as in the shadow, in the thing signified as in the symbol! O blessed Jesus, hasten that day -- the day of power in thy Church, as it was when it was the first inquiry of the preacher, ' Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?' Then would he who writes these words for thy glory, O adorable Saviour, joyfully drop his pen, and exclaim with good old Simeon: 'Nunc dimitts.' ' Now let thou thy servant depart in peace!' " (Love Enthroned, p. 106).
IV. We draw another inference from the passages of Scripture at the head of this chapter: None should be discouraged at the time occupied in the preparatory process. We have seen that the process may be cut short and lessened to hours only. It may take days or weeks or months or years, according as we are apt pupils of the Master -- as we are in earnest, as we yield to the Spirit in absolute submission, and are quick or slow in receptive faith. Brother Torrey, at the head of Moody's Institute in Chicago, tells us in some one of his addresses that he got weary of blustering about in most zealous inefficiency, and he stopped short and vowed that he would not, God helping him, enter his pulpit again until he knew he was baptised with the Spirit. He shut himself up with God, and sought with full purpose of soul the great prize; and kept his vow -- for the Spirit came.
Dear Dr. Keen and his wife sought together the enduement of "power from on high" for seven days, and that great outpouring came that never left him until he was glorified after a quarter of a century of triumphant service.
The disciples at Pentecost shut themselves up in the Jerusalem chamber for ten days, and sought with "strong crying and tears" for the "Promise of the Father." The Spirit's memorable coming introduced a new era in the visible kingdom of God.
Dr. Daniel Steele says: "Six months ago I made the discovery that I was living in the pre-Pentecostal state of religious experience -- admiring Christ's character, obeying his law, and in a degree loving his person, but without the conscious blessing of the Comforter. I settled the question of privilege by a study of St. John's Gospel and St. Paul's Epistles, and earnestly sought for the Comforter. I prayed, consecrated, confessed my state, and believed Christ's word. Very suddenly, after about three weeks' diligent search, the Comforter came with power and great joy to my heart" (Half Hours, p. 306).
Moody sought for three months with great longings of soul for the enduement of power. "Then the blessing came upon me suddenly, like a flash of lightning." According to the dates in A. B Earle's Rest of Faith nearly five years elapsed between the date of the solemn consecration for the blessing and the witness of the Spirit to his purifying. It was a needless delay, all caused by the tardiness of his soul to die to self and surrender to the filling of the Spirit.
Remember, God will wait no longer than you make it necessary for him to wait by your own failures in surrender or consecration or faith. Only seek him with "all your heart" and all your soul, and with all "patience and perseverance." "If the blessing tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come; it will not tarry."
V. Avoid forming any preconceived opinion or plan as to what your experience shall be when the blessing comes upon you. Some souls have a marvellously thrilling, overwhelming experience when the Sanctifier comes. These are the experiences that are most likely to find their way into print, and they sometimes produce discouragement to other seekers, to whom God is not pleased to send such an emotional experience. When Paul was converted he was given a vision of Christ and heard his Voice and was knocked off from his horse and made blind. But most men have no such conversion. John Wesley writes: "It was not long after conversion before the enemy suggested: This can not be faith, for where is thy joy? Then I was taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in Christ; but that as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes gives, sometimes withholds them, according to the counsels of his own will." It is precisely so in the experience of sanctification. Mrs. Jonathan Edwards and Finney and Moody and Carradine and others have had an excess of glory pour through their beings that overwhelmed them. Moody had to cry to God to stay his hand. He was receiving more than he thought his physical nature could endure. Some have a prostration, some laughter, some tears, some a heavenly calm, like the hush of the sea when Jesus said, "Peace, be still."
Dr. Carradine says this of his wonderful blessing "In another minute I was literally prostrated by the power of God. I called out again and again, 'O, my God! my God! Glory to God!' while billows of fire and glory rolled in upon my soul, with steady, increasing force. The experience was one of fire. I recognized it all the time as the baptism of fire. I felt that I was being consumed. For several minutes I thought I would certainly die. I knew it was sanctification" (Sanctification, p. 21). Yet he sweetly writes, lest such an experience should stumble others: "It is not a necessary feature of sanctification that a person should be overwhelmed. Some may be; but the majority are not. It is a purifying and filling rather than an overwhelming, a filling of the soul rather than a falling of the body. I grant that some have been perfectly prostrated for minutes; but many have not this torrent-like baptism, and yet are as soundly sanctified as the other class" (p. 39).
Dr. Thomas C. Upham, describing his experience, said: "I was then redeemed by a mighty power, and filled with the blessing of perfect love. There was no intellectual excitement, no marked joys when I reached this great rock of practical salvation; but I was distinctly conscious when I reached it." Banish, then, all plans as to how the Spirit shall be given, and what shall be the effects. Banish philosophy and conjecture from your mind, and give yourself to searching of heart and prayer, and consecration and faith, and the Spirit will come.
VI. "The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple." As early as 1749, John Wesley had reached these correct principles on this great subject:
I. Christian Perfection implies deliverance from all sin.
2. It is received merely by faith.
3. It is given instantaneously, in one moment.
4. We are not to expect it at death, but every moment.
"Inquiring (in 1761) how it was that in all these parts we have so few witnesses of full salvation, I constantly receive one and the same answer: We see now, we sought it by our works; we thought it was to come gradually; we never expected it to come in a moment, by simple faith, in the very same manner as we received justification. What wonder is it, then, that you have been fighting all these years as one that beats the air?"
Again Wesley said: "You may obtain a growing victory over sin from the moment you are justified. But this is not enough. The body of sin, the carnal mind must be destroyed; the old man must be slain, or we can not put on the new man, which is created after God (or which is the image of God) in righteousness and true holiness; and this is done in a moment. To talk of this work being gradual would be nonsense, as much as if we talked of gradual justification" (Christian Perfection, pp. 54, 55).
The truth seems to be this, -- that the conditional preparatory work done in the soul under the guidance of the Spirit may be a process more or less lengthy, according as the seeker after sanctification is more or less receptive and yielding to the Spirit's influence. But when that preparatory work is all completed, and the soul is submissive and open to God, "suddenly the Lord whom ye seek will come to his temple " -- your heart, your whole being, and fill you with himself and reign there without a rival.