HOLINESS -- WHAT IT IS NOT AND
WHAT IT IS
First of all. Holiness is not necessarily a state in which there
is perpetual rapturous joy. Isaiah liii. 3 tells us that Jesus was
'a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,' and Paul tells us of
himself that he had continual sorrow and great heaviness because of
the rejection of Jesus by his kinsmen after the flesh. Joy is the
normal state of a holy man, but it may be mingled with sorrow and
grief and perplexities and heaviness on account of manifold
temptations. The low water mark, however, in the experience of a
holy person is one of perfect peace -- the high water mark is up in
the third heaven somewhere; however, this third heaven experience is
not likely to be constantly maintained. Jesus and the disciples had
to come down off the Mount of Transfiguration and go to casting out
devils, and Paul returned from the third heaven to be buffeted of
Satan, and stoned and whipped, and imprisoned of men.
II. Holiness is not a state of freedom from temptation. This is a
world of trial, and conflict with principalities and powers,
darknesses and terrible evils, and the holy soul who is in the
forefront of the conflict may expect the fiercest assaults of the
devil, and the heaviest and most perplexing and prolonged
temptations. Our Blessed Lord was tried and tempted for forty days
and forty nights of the devil, and the servant must not be surprised
if he is as his Master.
Paul tells us that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, and
that He is able to succor us when we are tempted. It is no sin to be
tempted; in fact, the Apostle James tells us to rejoice when we are
subjected to all manner of temptations for the resulting trial of
our faith will produce in us strength and force of holy character,
so that we shall be lacking in nothing (Jas. i. 2-4).
III. Holiness is not a state of freedom from infirmities. It does
not produce a perfect head, but rather a perfect heart! The saints
have always been compassed about with infirmities that have proved a
source of great trial, but when patiently endured for His dear sake
have also proved a source of great blessing. Paul had a thorn in the
flesh, an infirmity, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. Possibly it
was weak eyes, for he was once stoned and dragged out of the city
and left for dead, and in writing to the Galatians, he tells them
they would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him had it
been possible. Or it may have been a stammering tongue, for he tells
us he was accounted rude of speech. Anyway, it was an infirmity
which he longed to be rid of; doubtless feeling that it interfered
with his usefulness, and three times he prayed to the Lord for
deliverance, but instead of getting the prayed-for deliverance, the
Lord said to him, 'My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength
is made perfect in weakness' (2 Cor. xii. 9).
Then Paul cried out, 'Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in
my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore
I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in
persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak,
then am I strong' (2 Cor. xii. 9-10)
In the Epistle to the Hebrew iv, 15 we are told that Jesus was
'touched of our infirmities.' We may be faulty in memory, in
judgment, in understanding; we may have manifold infirmities of body
and mind; but God looks upon the purity of the heart, the singleness
of the eye, and the loyalty of our affection, and if He does not
find us faulty there, He counts us perfect men. It is not in the
mere natural perfection that the power and glory of God are
manifested, but rather in goodness and purity and patience and love
and meekness and long-suffering shining forth through infirmities of
flesh and imperfections of mind.
IV. Holiness is not a state of freedom from affliction. The saints
of all ages have been chosen 'in the furnace of affliction' (Isa.
xlviii. 10). Job and Jeremiah and Daniel and Paul and the mighty
army of martyrs have, and shall always, come up through great
tribulations. It is not God's purpose to take us to heaven on
flowery beds of ease, clothe us in purple and fine linen, and keep a
sugar plum in our mouths all the time. That would not develop
strength of character, nor cultivate simplicity and purity of heart:
nor in that case could we really know Jesus, and the fellowship of
His sufferings. It is in the furnace of fire, the lion's den, and
the dungeon cell that He most freely reveals Himself to His people.
Other things being equal, the holy man is less liable to afflictions
than the sinner. He does not run into the same excesses that the
sinner does; he is free from the pride, the temper, the jealousies,
the vaulting ambitions, and selfishness, that plunge so many sinners
into terrible affliction and ruin; and yet he must not presume that
he will get through the world without heavy trials, sore temptations
and afflictions. Job was a perfect man, but he lost all his property
and his children, and, in a day was made a childless pauper; but he
proved his perfection by giving God glory. Then when his wife bade
him curse God and die, he said unto her, 'Thou speakest as one of
the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand
of God, and shall we not receive evil?' (Job ii. 10). And when his
three friends were undermining his faith, he looked up from off his
ash heap, and out of his awful sorrow and desolation, and fierce
pain, and cried out, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him '
(Job x iii. 15).
Joseph is one of the few men in the Bible against whom nothing is
recorded, but like Daniel his very holiness and righteousness led to
the terrible trials he endured in Egypt. And so it may be, and is,
with the saints to-day. But while we may be afflicted, yet we can
comfort ourselves with David's assurance, 'Many are the afflictions
of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all' (Ps.
xxxiv. 19). A friend of mine said he would rather have a thousand
afflictions and be delivered out of them all, than to have half a
dozen and get stuck in the midst of them.
V. Holiness is not a state in which there is no further development.
When the heart is purified it develops more rapidly than ever
before. Spiritual development comes through the revelation of Jesus
Christ in the heart, and the holy soul is in a condition to receive
such revelations constantly, and since the finite can never exhaust
the infinite, these revelations will continue for ever and prove an
increasing and never-ending source of development. It would be as
wise to say that a child afflicted with rickets would grow no more
when its blood was purified; or that corn would grow no more when
the weeds were destroyed, as to say that a soul will cease to grow
in grace when it is made holy.
VI. Holiness is not a state from which we cannot fall. Paul tells us
that we stand by faith (Rom. xi. 16-22), and he says, 'Let him that
thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall' (I Cor. x. 12). It is
an unscriptural and dangerous doctrine that there is any state of
grace in this world from which we cannot fall. Probation does not
end the moment we believe on Jesus, but rather the moment we quit
the body. It is only those who endure to the end who shall be saved.
While here, we are in the enemy's country, and must watch and pray
and daily examine ourselves, and keep ourselves in the love of God,
lest we fall from His grace and make shipwreck of our faith. But
while we may fall, thank God holiness is a state from which we need
not fall, in fact it is a state which Paul calls, 'this grace
wherein we stand' (Rom. V.2).
Some have asked the question, 'How can a holy soul be tempted or how
can it fall?' I will ask the question, how could the angels fall?
And how could Adam, just fresh from the hands of his Maker in whose
image he was made, fall? And I will ask the more startling question
still, how could Jesus, the blessed incarnate himself be tempted? We
have our five senses and various bodily appetites, none of which are
in themselves sinful, but each of which may become an avenue by
which the holy soul may be solicited to evil. Each must be regulated
by the word of God and dominated by the love of Jesus, if we wish to
keep a holy heart, and 'stand perfect and complete in all the will
of God' (Col. iv. 12).
Finally holiness is a state of conformity to the divine nature. God
is love and there is a sense in which a holy man can be said to be
love. He is like God, not in God's natural perfection of power and
wisdom and knowledge and omnipresence, but in patience, humility,
self-control, purity of heart and love. As the drop out of the ocean
is like the ocean not in its bigness but in it's essence so is the
holy soul like God. As the branch is like the vine, not in its
self-sufficiency, but in its nature its sap, it's fruitfulness, its
beauty, so is he that is holy like God.
This is unspeakable blessing is provided for us by our compassionate
Heavenly Father through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
is received through a complete renunciation of all sin, an uttermost
consecration to all the known will of God, importunate prayer, and
child-like faith. Fifteen years ago I obtained this crowning
blessing of the gospel through the conscious incoming of the Holy
Spirit when I believed, after weeks of earnest seeking. Bless God!
He still abides with me and my peace and joy increase and abound.
Many have been my afflictions, and fierce and perplexing and
prolonged have been my temptations, but with a daredevil faith I
have pressed on, claiming victory through the Blood, testifying to
what I claimed by faith, and proving day by day this grace to be
sufficient while the path shines more and more unto the perfect day.
Glory be to God for ever!