By Aaron Hills
There is another work of grace, subsequent to justification and regeneration, and as distinct to consciousness. It is called sanctification, or holiness.
I. God commands us to have this experience, and the reason is plain. A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament gives the first three definitions of hamartia, the most common word for sin, as follows: "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 first set of definitions refer to actual transgressions, willful acts of disobedience to a known law of God. "Sin is the transgression of the law." It is very frequently used in the plural, "sins," "iniquities," "transgressions." It is for this kind of sin that every man's conscience holds him directly responsible. Man is cured of his sins and sinning by regeneration. "Whosoever is born of God sinneth not." "He cannot sin because He is begotten of God." "We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not" (1 John 3: 9, 5: 18).
But the second set of definitions of hamartia, refer 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 divine nature. It was to this which St. Paul referred, when he wrote of "the sin which dwelleth in me." In this sense, the word "sin" is always in the singular number. It means the depravity or corruption of our moral being. It may be a misfortune that the word sin is used in this double sense, and some theologians may not like it. But we cannot help it. We were all born too late to alter the use of words in the Greek Testament, and the theological literature of the world. That the word is used in these two senses in the New Testament is undeniable.
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, And though a gracious God does not hold us responsible primarily, for this corruption of nature, yet He cannot be pleased with the fact that His children, designed to be perfected images of Himself, are thus infested with indwelling sin, "the body of sin," "the old man of corruption," "the law of sin and death," "the lusts which war in the members." These striking expressions all mean the same thing, -depravity, or inbred sin. It makes us unlovely in the eyes of a pure and holy God.
This inbred sin produces a sad harvest of 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 purposes of his soul. The feelings and appetites and cravings are abnormal and displeasing to God.
Now regeneration does not cure this depravity of our being. That is why there is a need of a second work of grace. And right here we touch the meaning of sanctification. It is the work of the Holy Spirit-the act of God's grace in the heart of one already regenerated, by which the "old man is crucified" and the moral nature is "cleansed from all unrighteousness,"-unrightness, proneness to sin, sinful propensity.
It has been called by different names-"Perfect Love," "The full assurance of Faith," "The Rest of Faith," "The Baptism with the Holy Spirit," "Holiness," "Entire Sanctification." The work, called by whatever name, is essentially the same. It is God's act of cleansing the soul (Acts 15: 8, 9). Others have defined thus:
Isaiah Reid: "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 relates to our depravity."
President Mahan: "Sanctification means 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."
Dr. W. McDonald: "It is to be cleansed from all actual sin, and original depravity."
Dr. Steele: "Sanctification is the act of God removing impurity existing in the nature of one already born of the Spirit the deliverance from sin as a tendency born with us."
We thus see the meaning and scope of sanctification, and how it differs from the other works of grace that precede it in time.
1. Justification is the governmental act of God by which the sinner, on condition of repentance of sin and faith in an atoning Savior is forgiven his past transgressions, and freed from their penalty.
Regeneration, on the Divine side, is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, graciously inclining the sinner to repentance of sin and faith in an atoning Savior, and so renewing the voluntary nature, that the power of sin is broken, and the spirit of obedience is quickened in the soul.
Sanctification is the cleansing of the entire nature from its depraved propensity to sin.
1. Justification is God's work done for us, making us at peace with His law and government. Regeneration is God's work done in us, renewing the attitude of the will toward Him and holiness. Sanctification is the act of God, purging the whole being.
2. Justification removes the guilt of sin (liability to penalty). Regeneration removes the love of sin. Sanctification removes the inclination to sin in the future.
3. Justification secures the pardon of actual sins. Regeneration changes the attitude of the will toward sin. Sanctification removes inbred sin, and by purifying the entire nature, confirms the will in obedience.
4. Justification remits the penalty of broken law. Regeneration brings love for the law. Sanctification removes the hindrances to keeping the law.
5. Justification brings the smile and favor of God. Regeneration creates a longing for the image of God. Sanctification transforms us into that image, "from glory to glory." And we are made partakers of the Divine nature.
6. In short, Justification brings forgiveness. Regeneration brings renewing. Sanctification brings cleansing.
7. In justification and regeneration sin does not reign. In Sanctification, it does not exist.
8. In justification and regeneration, sin is suspended. In Sanctification, sin is destroyed.
9. In justification and regeneration, irregular desires are subdued}. In Sanctification they are removed.
10. Justification and regeneration save from the commission of sin. Sanctification saves from the being of sin.
11. Justification and regeneration bring us out of the world. Sanctification takes the love of the world out of us.
12. In justification and regeneration, a babe is born. In sanctification an "old man" dies.
To remove all misapprehensions from the subject we will further define negatively:
1. Sanctification does not bring us absolute perfection. God only has essential absolute perfection.
2. It does not bring 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 us 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. 3: 12, while he did claim the perfection of a sanctified man in 3: 15.
4. It does not bring a sinless perfection in the sense that it makes it impossible for us 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. Even Christ was tempted; but He said: "Satan cometh and findeth nothing in me." There was no evil propensity in Christ for Satan to appeal to.
7. Sanctification does not end Christian growth; but cleansing the heart of its vileness, it makes all best growth in Christian graces more possible and certain.
8. This blessing 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, or so live in Him moment by moment. The atonement secures for us even all our temporal blessings. Especially does it secure the privilege of abiding in Christ, and being kept by Him from all sin.
II. Evidences that Holiness is Attainable.
Let us notice the evidences that such a blessing as sanctification is attainable, and that God has provided humanity with healing for the hurt of sin.
1. There is the Argument from Probability. All God's dealings with the race prove that He hates sin with an infinite hatred, and loves His sin-cursed children with an infinite love. With infinite remedial agencies at His disposal, what will He be likely to do for us? What would an earthly father do, a skillful physician, whose son had been fatally poisoned? Would he use every possible antidote to drive out all the poison, and that immediately, or would he leave a portion of the virus in his system, to be fought gradually, and to leave him a suffering invalid for life? There is but one answer to such a question. How much more probable is it that our compassionate Heavenly Father would provide an instantaneous and complete salvation for His "grievously tormented" children? Reasoning from God's nature and His hatred of sin, it is not probable that we must be infested with "the sin that dwelleth in us" until death. Yea, it is more than probable that He "would provide some better things for us," and enable us to "serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days" (Luke 1: 74, 75).
2. The Bible as a whole is a witness for the possibility of holiness. The most careless reader cannot fail to see that it is a Book against sin in every kind and degree. As a grand whole it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17). It plies the heart with the most cogent and winning motives, drawing hearts to holiness by the sweetness of communion with God, and the blessedness of His service, while it drives from sin by the revelations of Divine displeasure, and the interminable horrors of the damned. This makes it plain why Jesus prayed that His disciples might be sanctified (John 17: 17), and why the Bible so frequently urges believers to seek the second work of grace. The Scriptures explain the blessing, and tell us how to obtain it, and describe its blessed fruits. They are wonderfully calculated to promote the sanctification of heart and life.
3. We may infer the possibility of the sanctification of believers, from the Bible description of the possible experience of Christians.
(1) They may have a clean heart. "Create in me a clean heart" (Ps. 51: 10). "Blessed are the pure in heart" (Matt. 5: 8).
(2) They may be blameless. "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the children of God without blemish" (Phil. 2: 15). "Give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot, and blameless in His sight (2 Pet. 3: 14). The same Greek words are used of Christ in 1 Pet. 1: 19. "But with precious blood as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ," This suggests the solemn, as well as most comforting thought that we may, by the sanctifying power of Jesus, live such a spotless, blameless life as He lived. Again, the same word is used in James 1: 27, which urges us to "keep ourselves unspotted from the world," as one of the essential elements of salvation. The sanctified heart can so live.
(3) We are taught to be wholly given up to God, to be possessed and used by Him, and made holy and acceptable to God. (Rom. 12: 1) "I beseech you, therefore, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God." These "brethren" were Christians already. God was pleading with them for a more intelligent, all-including sacrifice or consecration of themselves, the body and all it contained, their whole being, to be holy and acceptable to God, Christ, and the altar sanctifying the gift.
(4) The Bible speaks of love as the fulfilling of the law (Matt. 22:37-40; Rom. 13: 10; Luke 10: 27). We are not required to love God with an angel's powers, but only with our own mind and strength. Such holiness implies that abnormal passions no longer exist.
(5) The Bible teaches that it is possible to be "dead to sin" having "the old man crucified" "the body of sin destroyed" and the soul "freed from the sin." "Our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed (done away), that so we should be no longer in 'bondage to sin." Cremer says in his Greek Lexicon: "Paul uses the verb translated 'destroy' in the sense of 'to annihilate' 'to put an end to,' 'to bring to naught.' Hence the apostle declares that he is 'made free from the law of (uniform tendency to) sin and death (spiritual death)." Wonderful salvation! which so sanctifies the soul, that it is "crucified to the world," and "freed from" the tendency to sin, and "dead" to all the solicitations to evil!
(6) The Bible holds up to believers the possibility of being "filled with the Spirit." ""That ye might be filled unto all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3: 19)."Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5: 18). "The possession of the Spirit," says Dr. A. J. Gordon "commits us irrevocably to separation from sin." "The fullness of the Spirit cannot be realized by a corrupt, defiled heart."
4. We infer the possibility of sanctification from the revealed purpose of the life and death of Christ. The Scriptures declare that Christ came "to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness" (Dan. 9:24). "That He would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days" (Luke 1: 74, 75). Here is sanctification, not at death, nor after death, but "all the days of our life." Again, "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it ... that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5: 25-27).
Again, "Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate" (Heb. 13: 12). "Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous of good works" (Titus 2: 14). "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that ye should follow His steps, who did no sin" (1 Pet. 2: 21, 22). "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness" (1 Pet. 2: 24). Manifestly God designed the great plan of salvation, and Jesus died on the cross, that He might restore fallen man to holiness.
5. We can make an unanswerable argument for sanctification, from the continuous mediatorial work of Christ. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Heb. 7:25). "He is made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness (justification), and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor. 1: 30). We have a specimen of Christ's mediatorial work in His intercessory prayer, in which He prayed to the Father: "Sanctify them through thy truth" (John 17: 17). "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). That is sanctification.
6. Another unanswerable argument for the possibility of full salvation can be made from the revealed work of the Spirit as a Sanctifier.
(1) He anoints us. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel" (Luke 4: 18). "Ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things." This is the spiritual discernment and the divine insight into Gospel truth which the Spirit alone can give, and which makes the deep theologian. He holds the key to the knowledge of divine mysteries, and fills the heart with the understanding of truth that sanctifies the soul (1 Cor. 12:38).
(2) The Spirit fills us. "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5: 18). The passive verb here is suggestive. The surrendered will, the yielded body, the emptied heart are the great requisites to His incoming. Then He fills us, possesses us, and makes us what He will. Clean and holy!
(3) He gives us sanctification. "God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit" (2 Thess, 2: 13). "Elect in sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience" (1 Pet.1:2). "Sanctification is that act of divine grace whereby we are made holy."
(4) This sanctifying Spirit imparts power. "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you" (Acts 1:8). "Strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inward man" (Eph. 3: 16). "This is what enables weak, ineffective Christians to become giants, having glorious victory over the powers of darkness. This is the blessing that enables ordinary people to do exploits, and bring things to pass for God. This Pentecostal Blessing makes Christians, and churches, victorious over the world, and mighty to the pulling down of the strongholds of Satan.
7. God commands His people to be holy. God said to Abraham. "I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect" (Gen. 17: 1). The story of Abraham's justification is in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, where we are told that he believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. Several years afterward he receives God's call to the second blessing of sanctification. God gave him the rite of circumcision, typifying that spiritual circumcision or entire sanctification which consists in the instantaneous removal of inbred sin (see Col. 2:11).
Again, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deut. 6: 4, 5). But how can depraved man live such a life? Deut. 30: 6 lets us into the secret. "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."
Jesus taught the same command in stronger terms in Matt, 22: 37-39, and Luke 10: 27,-a command which no man will keep, until God prepares him to do it by sanctifying his soul. "Ye therefore, shall be perfect," says Jesus, "as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Rom. 6: 11, "Even so, also, reckon ye yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus." Sin,-indwelling sin, will not go dead at our bidding; but we can reckon it dead by faith, and God, by His sanctifying Spirit, will make the reckoning of faith a reality in our experience. Rom. 6: 13, "Present yourselves unto God as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." This means consecration for the blessing of holiness. God only cleanses a fully consecrated lift*. "Follow peace with all men and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord." Only holy beings can rise to the beatific vision, After the Holy Spirit has sanctified the heart, to the exclusion of the sinward trend, one may behold God, Eph, 4: 22-24, "Put away the old man which waxeth corrupt after the lust of deceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth."
1 Pet. 1: 15, 16, "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 be holy we put two other passages: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love" (Eph. 1:4). Also Col. 1:22, "In the body of His flesh through death to present you holy and without blemish, and unreprovable before Him."
Now what shall we say of all these thrilling passages? Does God command the impossible? To say it is to cast a wicked reflection on His holiness. "His commandments are not grievous." What He commands He furnishes ability to perform. "Our sufficiency is from God" (2 Cor. 3:51).
8. Another argument for the possibility of holiness is drawn from the promises of God. Take Ezek. 36:25-27 and 29, "I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and give you an heart of 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," "and I will save you from all your uncleannesses." Here is a perfect cleansing from all sinful disposition, tendencies and habits, and a perfect renewal, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, for perfect obedience. And it is all God's work.
Mal. 3: 3, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver and they shall offer unto Jehovah, offerings in righteousness." Mal. 4: 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 God promises to give the refining and the healing, or sanctification; and then the life of righteousness and growth in grace. This is God's order.
Matt. 5: 6, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled" Righteousness in this passage means, actual righteousness, being right. Personal holiness is naturally the object of a true Christian's hunger and thirst; and this passage is a promise of personal holiness.
Luke 1: 73-75, "The oath which He sware unto our Father Abraham that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, should serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days." This proves that sin is not a necessity, and we can live without it. 1 Cor. 1: 8, "Who shall also comfort you unto the end that ye be unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Phil. 4: 19, "And my God shall supply every need of yours, according to His riches in glory." Now what do we all need so much as to be cleansed from the corruption of sin, and to be enabled to walk with God with a holy heart? And God has promised to supply the need.
2 Cor. 7: 1, "Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilements of the flesh and spirit perfecting holiness in the fear of God." All filthiness of body and soul is to be cleansed away, in the act of perfecting holiness. What a blessing! All the base appetites of the body removed! All the promptings to mental and spiritual sins, such as pride, unbelief, rebellion, hatred, and the like, all taken away!
2 Peter 1: 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 this is precisely the work of the sanctifying Spirit of God to cleanse our hearts of corruption, and make us in nature like Christ and all these commands and promises are correlated to each other. They are in the present tense, on demand now for immediate realization. They authorize us to ask of God, and expect now salvation to the uttermost from every kind of sin.
9. Christ and inspired writers pray that believers may be sanctified. What is prayer? Is it a kind of spiritual gymnastic, whose only benefit is the development of soul muscle by reflex influence? Or is it the voice of a child, asking of a Father what that Father has encouraged him to ask, and promised to grant? This is the only rational, and it is the well-nigh universal, conception of prayer. Any other theory is fatal to prayer itself. Let us now turn our attention to some of the Bible prayers.
(1) The prayers of Jesus. He taught us to pray: "Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth" (Matt. 6: 10). No one can deny that the saints and angels in heaven are holy, and sanctified He therefore taught us to pray that we may be sanctified on earth here can be no possible doubt of the correctness of our reasoning here, for He saith: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification (1 Thess. 4; 3), Again: "Deliver us from evil" (Matt 6- 13) There is no evil but sin, and sin's consequences. When delivered from that, we shall be sanctified. Again, Jesus prayed in John 17: 17, "Sanctify them through the truth." "I pray that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (v. 15). "I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfect in one" (v. 23). Now who can deny that these prayers are for the sanctification of God's people?
Now notice St. Paul's prayers. 2 Cor. 13: 9, "This we also prayed for, even your perfecting." This was the burden of the apostle's prayers for these Corinthians; and he had too good sense to be praying for what was impracticable in this life, or for what would certainly come at death, to all believers. Eph. 3: 14-21, "That Christ may take up His lasting abode in your hearts by faith . . . that ye may be strong to apprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length and depth and height.... That ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God." Bishop Ellicott says: "The aorist tense in this passage denotes instantaneous perfecting in love." 1 Thess. 5: 23, "And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul, and body be preserved blameless." Here again it is the aorist tense,-instantaneous sanctification in this life,-wow while in the body, not at, or after death. 1 Thess. 3: 13, "To the end He may establish your hearts, unblameable in holiness." Heb. 13: 19, 20, "Now the God of peace make you perfect in every good thing to do His will." In the same chapter also, he says: "Wherefore Jesus, also, that He might sanctify the people, suffered without the gate (Heb. 13: 12). Col. 4: 12, "Epaphras a servant of Jesus Christ saluteth you, always striving for you in his prayers that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Finney said: "What language could more fully describe a state of entire sanctification?" All these inspired prayers ask for "salvation to the uttermost," and "standing perfect and complete in all the will of God," in this life.
10. What Christ is able to do for us. He said, "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth." Therefore, if He cannot sanctify us now, how can He do it anywhere, at any time? He hates sin with an infinite hatred. If we give our consent, can He not destroy it in us? Let us see:
(1) Heb, 2: 18, "He is able to succor them that are tempted." The Greek verb means, "To run to the aid of those who cry for help." When, in a mighty struggle for holiness, if we cry to Him, will He not give us adequate help?
(2) Jude 24, "Now unto Him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of His glory without blemish, in exceeding joy," It is the office work of the Holy Spirit to complete our characters in this life, so that we shall be satisfactory to God.
(3) Rom. 4: 21, "Being fully assured that what He had promised He was able to perform." Now what are some of these promises? "From all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you ... I will put my Spirit within you . . . and I will save you from all your uncleannesses." (Ezek. 36: 25-29) "He will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver, that they may offer the Lord an offering in righteousness" (Mal. 3:3). "The God of peace Himself, sanctify you wholly." "Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it" (1 Thess. 5: 23, 24). Wonderful promises! And they are all made by One who is able to keep them. The Holy Spirit is the sanctifying fire; and Jesus is the Refiner, to sanctify His people.
(4) Rom. 4: 14, "Yea he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand." The omnipotent Savior is not only able to sanctify us but also to give us the keeping, standing grace.
(5) 2 Tim, 1: 12, "I am persuaded that He is able to guard that which I have committed unto Him against that day." We all know how we fail when we try to keep ourselves. We watch against besetting sins. But in spite of ourselves, there are weak hours, or moments, when "the old man" rises up to cast us down. But sanctifying grace can destroy "the old man," and Jesus can guard us from every assault of Satan from without.
(6) Acts 20: 32; "Jesus is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified." St. Paul is about to leave these dear Ephesian Christians. He knows that he will be followed by teachers who will pervert the truth. In his parting address, he commends them to a mighty Savior who is "able to give them an inheritance among the sanctified."
(7) Heb. 7: 25, "Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost." This verse alone might prove the obtainability of sanctification. Olshausen and Lange say the Greek words for "uttermost," mean "completely; perfectly." Delitzsch says: "perfectly, completely; to the very end; in all respects; so that every want and need is utterly done away." It can mean nothing less than being saved from every kind and degree of sin. He can save us from the "old man" of indwelling sin, and from all actual sin. To deny this is to charge God with mocking our misery; leading us to hope for a blessing which we greatly need, and which He can but will not give.
(8) 2 Cor. 9: 8, "God is able to make all grace abound toward us; that ye, having always all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work." It seems as if Paul were taxing the resources of language, piling up "Alps upon Appenines," as he heaped up superlatives in this verse to express his conception of the abounding grace of God, Here is "sufficiency," "all sufficiency," "always all sufficiency," "in everything," "all grace abound," "abound unto every good work." Could stronger words be used to magnify the sufficiency of sanctifying grace? Well does Dr. Steele observe that the mass of believers are mere babes in spiritual development. They see days of great weakness, and are often on the verge of surrender to the foe. Some, alas, throw away their arms, and run away from the fight, and never renew the battle. Others fight all their lives with foes in their own hearts, and never overcome and cast them out. They have been told by their preachers that this war in the members is the normal Christian life. They believe them instead of the Word of God, and never become "conquerors and more than conquerors through Him who loves them" (Rom. 8: 37).
(9) Eph. 3:20, "Able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." Here is another verse in which language itself is strained to contain one of God's infinite truths. If we were only told that Jesus was able "to do "all that we ask," it would seem to be ample. How quickly we could drop on our knees and cry from the depths of our loving hearts, "O blessed Savior, take away these evil propensities, this indwelling sin? Crucify this "old man" this "carnal mind" in me, and let me be dead to sin, and alive to righteousness forever more! That would indeed be a great thing for us. But He is "able to do all that we ask"; yea, "above all that we ask"; yea, "abundantly above all that we ask"; yea, "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask." And, as if that were not enough to inspire faith to ask for sanctification. He assures us that He is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us!" O God, give us enlargement of heart to take in this mighty truth.
And for what has this revelation been made but to inspire in us faith to claim this great uttermost salvation? To deny that such a salvation is available is to deny God's ability or to impeach Hit veracity and love. It is to say that He cannot or will not sanctify us. But He says: "This is the will of God even your sanctification"
11. The various assurances and exhortations, of the Scriptures prove that sanctification is possible, These confirm the doctrine of an instantaneous deliverance from all sin, Heb, 12: 10, "For they verily for a few days chastened us as seemeth good to them; but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness" "This," says Steele, "is the recovery of the lost image of God, a glorious possibility to every believer." And the verse declares that this is the aim and end of God's chastenings and providences. If we are God's children, He allots to us our experiences, not so much primarily to make us happy as to make us holy. He chastens us because He loves us, and wishes us to "bear the peaceable fruits of righteousness," and become "partakers of His holiness."
Col. 2: 9-11, "In whom ye were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ." Paul is explaining how we become full in Christ by sanctification. Dr. Steele says: "We call the attention of every Greek scholar to the strength of the original noun, "putting off." It is a word invented by Paul, and found nowhere else in the Bible, nor in all Greek literature. To show the thoroughness of the cleansing by the complete stripping off, and laying aside of the propensity to evil, the Apostle prefixes one preposition, apo, denoting separateness, to another denoting outness, ek, and then constructs the strongest conceivable term for the entire removal of depravity, apekdusei.
The great Greek exegete, Meyer, comments thus: "Whereas the spiritual circumcision, divinely performed, consisted in a complete parting and doing away with this body (of sin) in so far as God, by means of this ethical circumcision, has taken off and removed this sinful body from man, like a garment, drawn off and laid aside," Dr, Steele adds, "If this does not mean the complete and eternal separation of depravity, then it is impossible to express the idea of cleansing in any language."
Col. 3: 14, 15, "Put on love which is the bond of perfectness." Meyer translates: "Put on love by which Christian perfection is knit." Thus Meyer, whom Dr. Schaff pronounced the greatest exegete of his age, used the very phrase, "Christian perfection," for which John Wesley was almost snowed under by hostile pamphlets," The world moves.
Heb. 6: 1, "Wherefore, let us cease to speak of the first principles, and press on unto perfection," Here again we meet this same word for "perfection," which, in this passage, refers to fullness of spiritual knowledge. The commentator, Dr, Whedon, says: "When Heb. 6: 1 is adduced as an exhortation to advance to a perfected Christian character, it is no misquotation, Dr, Clark says: "The verb teaches the idea of our being borne on immediately into the experience," And indeed this is the true translation, "Let us be borne on unto perfection." Bishop Taylor said: "The Holy Spirit meant something by this language of vast importance. You may readily perceive that Christian perfection is not that misty, incomprehensible, unattainable something that Satan and poor dwarfish doubters would have us believe, but a simple, appropriate, necessary, practical attainment."
Now look at these double sentences: Now the first member of no one of these sentences means the same as the second member. "Remission of sins" is different from the baptism with the Holy Spirit. "Remission of sins" is different from being "sanctified." "Forgiving our sins" does not mean "cleansing from all unrighteousness!' Justification has to do with voluntary sins which must be forgiven; sanctification has to do with a state of moral nature which has to be cleansed.
Eph. 5: 25-27, "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it." That it is a momentary act is seen by the aorist tenses in which the verbs appear. An unsanctified church dishonors the Lord by its incongruity. A self-indulgent church disfigures Christ. A worldly church betrays Christ.
12. This is drawn from the words of Jesus and the Apostle Paid to believers, Jesus said His disciples were regenerated men, hated by the world because they did not belong to it. Their names were written in heaven, and He was going to heaven to prepare a place for them. Yet He prayed that they might be sanctified, and He charged them to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which would sanctify them (Acts 15: 8, 9). See John 14th to 17th chapter.
St. Paul wrote in the same way to Christians. He wrote to the Christians at Rome, in the fifth chapter about "the sin"; twenty of the world's great commentators tell us that the noun for sin (Hamartia) in the singular number with the article "the" before it means "the sin-principle." It so occurs twenty-nine times between Rom. 5: 12 and 8: 10. Paul is there telling us how to get rid of depravity. In the sixth chapter he urges them to get sanctified and be "freed from the sin principle." In the seventh chapter, he tells them that they cannot get freed from "the sin" by law. In the eighth chapter he tells them that they get the deliverance from the sin principle, or sanctification by the Spirit through faith. In the twelfth chapter he pleads with them to present themselves to God for the blessing.
He wrote to the Thessalonians, and spent the first chapter of the first epistle telling them what good Christians they were. But in the third and fourth chapters, he expresses great concern for their sanctification. He tells them that it is God's will, and that he calls them to the blessing; and in the fifth chapter he prays: "And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless." He writes to the Hebrews, and has in the Epistle fourteen passages referring to sanctification. He tells them that Jesus died that they might have the blessing (Heb. 13: 12) and tells them that without it they cannot see God (Heb. 12: 14).
It is the same through all the Epistles. There are seventy-five passages in Paul's writings urging on Christians this blessing. The words "holy" and "holiness," "sanctify," and "sanctification/' and "without spot," and "perfect," and "perfection," move through his writings like a flock of birds. Mahan says: "If such terms do not mean salvation from all sin, and entire sanctification, then no man living or dead can tell us what they do mean.
13. The possibility of sanctification is proved by the testimony of God's Word concerning His children. If the doctrine is true we shall find some persons in the Bible who had the blessing, we are not disappointed. We have the witness of the Spirit to God's holy ones.
1. Abel . . . had witness home to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness (Heb. 11:4).
2. Enoch "walked with God" three hundred years, until he walked straight into heaven, without passing through the gateway of death (Heb, 11:5).
3. Moses walked with God in such intimacy of Holy communion "that his face did shine," until even his own brother Aaron and all the people were afraid to come near unto him. He had to wear a veil to hide from the people the indwelling glory. "But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he took the veil off, and spoke to God 'face to face.'"
When the jealous Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rose up against Moses, and said: "Ye take too much on you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them," Moses meekly replied: "Tomorrow the Lord will show who are His, and who are holy." And God settled the question for all time, whether all are holy.
4. Job was, in his day, and with his light, such a man as God required. God declared that he was "a perfect and an upright man," and permitted the Devil to test him. Job 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 1: 8-22).
5. Isaiah was a prophet of God whose bosom glowed with the fervor of piety; He was certainly neither an unregenerated man nor a backslider. But one day, when at worship, he got a vision of a holy God, and a holy heaven, and it put him under conviction for holiness. He cried: "Woe is me!" etc. An angel came with fire, which is an emblem of the Holy Spirit, and laid it upon his mouth, and said: "Lo, this hath touched thy lips and thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin purged" (Isa. 6: 1-8). Notice. 1, This blessing was brought from God. 2. The holiness was induced instantly. It was not developed within by a long growth in grace.
6. The great Hezekiah, Isaiah's contemporary, when told that he must die, 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" (2 Kings 20: 3). God did not contradict him, but answered his prayer.
7. "Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord all his days" (1 Kings IS: 15).
8. 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 1:6)."And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1: 41). "And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke 1: 67). "This fullness of the Spirit," says Dr. Steele, "is a synonym of entire sanctification." (Acts 15: 8, 9) "To be filled with the Spirit is to be completely emancipated from the flesh, or inherent depravity."
9. St. Paul said so much about entire sanctification, that we might expect to find him an illustration of his own doctrine. We are not disappointed. There is abundance of both negative and positive evidence that he was a sanctified man. He often asks for prayers for himself, but never that he may be delivered from "a besetting sin," or "from an evil habit," or "that he may be forgiven," or "made holy." He wrote to the Thessalonians: "Ye are witnesses and God also how holily and righteously and unblameably we have behaved ourselves toward you that believe." Here is direct testimony to his own sanctification, which only the rash will venture to dispute. The secret of his wonderful life 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 liveth in me." Surely Christ did not live in him and through him an un-sanctified life. St. Paul unceasingly urged upon others the experience of sanctification, and mentioned it seventeen times in his writings, and we may be sure he had the experience himself.
14. 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. Acts 15: 8, 9, reads: "And God, who knoweth the heart bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, 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: "For by one offering, He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. And the Holy Ghost also beareth witness to us."
The men who deny the possibility of sanctification, may argue their case to a conclusion, not with the author of this book, but with the Holy Spirit,-the Infinite God Himself. He bears witness to His own work.
Let us now listen to the testimony of modern witnesses: 1. Carvosso, that wonderful man of early Methodism, says, when seeking sanctification one year after conversion, "I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus had cleansed me from all sin." 2. Rev. William Bramwell testifies: "The Lord for whom I had waited, came suddenly to my heart, and I had immediate evidence, that this was the blessing I had for sometime been seeking. My soul was all wonder, love and praise." 3. 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." 4. Bishop Hamline says: "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 it a holy, sin-consuming energy." 5. Mrs. Jonathan Edwards describes 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." 6. Mrs. Phoebe Palmer, the blessed evangelist, wrote: "While thus exulting, the voice of the Spirit again appealingly appealed to my understanding."Is not this sanctification?" I could no longer hesitate; reason as well as grace, forbade; but I rejoiced in the assurance that I was wholly sanctified, throughout body, soul and Spirit." 7. Dr. Carradine writes: "I knew I was sanctified, just as I knew fifteen years before that I was converted. The Holy Ghost bore witness clearly, unmistakably and powerfully to His own work."
We could fill a volume with such testimony, that God still gives the witness of the Spirit to sanctification. It is satisfactory proof to those who are willing to accept the consenting testimony of God's ripest saints.
Now what conclusion shall we draw from these fourteen arguments for the possibility of sanctification. We have drawn them. (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; (6) From the revealed work of the Spirit as our Sanctifier; (7) From God's commands to be holy; (8) From God's promise of holiness to those who seek it; (9) From the inspired prayers that believers may become sanctified; (10) From what Christ is declared to be able to do for us; (11) From the exhortations to holiness; (12) From Christ's words to the disciples and Paul's instructions to the churches; (13) From the testimony of God concerning His own children; (14) From the witness of the Holy Spirit Himself to the sanctification of those who obtain the blessing.
If a hundred proof texts of unmistakable bearing can prove a doctrine; if the revealed work of Christ and the Spirit and the commands and prayers, and promises and assurances, and the witness of the Holy Spirit can teach a truth, then the obtainability of sanctification, and the duty to be sanctified are among the revealed truths of God,
We conclude therefore,
1. That there is a second work of grace distinct from regeneration, and subsequent to it, which God would have wrought in every believer by the Holy Ghost.
2. It is cleansing, purifying act of God Himself, that sanctifies the heart. "The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly." It is not therefore reached by gradual growth or development. Such a notion is a grave and calamitous error that keeps Christians from seeking immediate sanctification.
3. It is like justification, or anything else, performed by an act of God, instantaneous. It is as sudden as Pentecost. President Mahan said: "Forty-seven years ago ... in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye ... I stood face to face with the Son of Righteousness, feeling His divine healings through every department of my being."
4. This blessing, like justification, is obtained by faith. "Purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts 15: 9). "Sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26: 18). Like all other spiritual blessings, sanctification comes by faith.
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 honor, that one of His children should be defiled or unholy for a single hour. "Sanctified 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 in me" (Acts 26: 18).
All this is the blessed truth of God, or He has deceived, has grossly deceived us, in a matter most vital to our soul. He has told us that He is "able," and "willing" to sanctify us; He "calls" us to be sanctified," and "commands" us to be sanctified, and promises the blessing, and prays that we may have it, and baptizes with the Holy Spirit for that purpose. And the Spirit witnesses to the blessing.
Has God deceived us? Is it all untrue? It cannot be. The Savior is longing to purify our hearts and "fill us with the Holy Ghost, and all the fullness of God."