HOLINESS: HOW TO GET IT
Holiness is that state of our moral and spiritual nature, which
makes us like Jesus in His moral and spiritual nature. It does not
consist in perfection of intellect, though the experience will give
much greater clearness to a man's intellect and simplify and
energize his mental operations. Nor does it necessarily consist in
perfection of conduct, though a holy man seeks with all his heart to
make his outward conduct correspond to his inward light and love.
But holiness does consist in complete deliverance from the sinful
nature, and in the perfection of the spiritual graces of love, joy,
peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness truth, meekness and
self-control or temperance.
Righteousness is conformity to the divine law, but holiness is
conformity to the divine nature. That there is such an experience is
revealed to us in three ways:
1. By the Scriptures. The Bible tells us that God chastens us 'for
our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness' (Heb.
xii.10) And He has 'given unto us exceeding great and precious
promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust' (2
Pet. i. 4) in the Bible God makes us very precious promises of
holiness. He gives us very solemn and imperative commands to be
holy. He earnestly exhorts us and graciously encourages us to be
holy, and teaches us to pray for holiness.
2. That there is such an experience is revealed to us by the
testimony of holy men and women, who declare that God has brought
them into this glorious experience.
3. It is revealed by the hunger and thirst of our own regenerate
hearts: for if these desires to be like God, and to have His love
and holiness so fill our hearts as to cast out every sinful thought
and desire are begotten in us by the Spirit of God, then may they
well be consider as proof that holiness is possible. For the Spirit
of God will not beget desires in the hearts of His trusting children
only to mock them.
Nearly all Christians expect to be made holy either before they die,
or at the moment of death. And everybody agrees that we must be holy
before we can enter Heaven.
Some other Christians maintain that we are sanctified at the moment
of death by some mysterious operation of the Spirit of God; while
others again insist that we grow into the experience. But we of The
Salvation Army believe that it is the gift of God, and is the
heritage of every soul that is born again, an inheritance into which
we can enter at once by hearty consecration and childlike faith.
How then shall this holiness be obtained? Not by purgatorial fires,
but by Holy Ghost fire. Not by works; that would make man his own
savior and sanctifier. A great trick of the devil is to lead people
to think they will get it by doing something, but a man might as
well try to lift himself over the fence by his own bootstraps as to
transform himself into the divine nature by works. He can get it no
more by works than he can change the color of his eyes by works. He
can no more rid himself of an inherited temper, or get lust out of
his heart, or hatred, or pride, by getting baptized, by going to
church, by joining the Army, by putting on the uniform, by reading
the Bible, by doing any or every religious work, than he can get
scrofula out of his blood by doing these things or add one cubit to
his stature. 'Not of works, lest any man should boast' (Eph. ii. 9).
However, a holy man is abundant in good works, and so is one who is
truly seeking the blessing. But more of this further on.
Not by growth. Growth adds to us, but takes nothing from us, neither
does it change the nature and disposition. Holiness consists in
having something taken from us and in having our spiritual nature
made over into the image of Jesus. In order to be holy we must have
every unclean desire and temper and passion of the soul removed. We
must 'put off . . . the old man, which is corrupt according to the
deceitful lusts,' (Eph. iv. 22), as really as a man puts off his old
coat, 'and put on the new man, which after God is created in
righteousness and true holiness' (Eph. iv. 24), as really as a man
puts on his new coat. This is the way God told Paul to tell us to do
it. It would be nonsense to talk of growing out of an old coat into
a new one. Put off the old coat, put on a new one! Put off the old
Adam, put on the new Adam!
It is not by death. I used to think it was, because I was taught so.
But I dreaded the thought of being killed by lightning, or shot by a
stray bullet. I did not want to die suddenly; I wanted time to get
ready. But, glory to God, I learned that it is not by death, and now
I am ready to meet that old enemy. Hallelujah for ever!
Well, how can you get it? From Jesus, the very same Jesus that saved
you and spoke peace to your troubled conscience, when you feared you
were going to sink into hell. The very same Jesus that died for you.
But how? By asking. By giving yourself freely and for ever to Him,
to be not only your Savior, but also your Lord and Master; to do and
suffer all His blessed, wise, tender will. By believing and
If you knew you had to die at sunset to-night, what would you do?
You would give yourself to God. If you had any grudges against any
of your neighbors, you would give them up, and if you had the
opportunity you would ask them to forgive you for hating them, even
though they had wronged you or some of your friends. You would not
stop to think how they would treat you. You would not care. You
would feel it your business to get right, and you would leave them
with God. If you had robbed any man, you would try to restore to him
what was his. If you had any selfish plans, or ambitions, they would
sink into mole hills before the mighty mountains of eternity, and
you would give them up quickly. If you had been unfaithful in the
discharge of any duty, you would confess it, mourn over it, and do
all in the limited time left you to make the matter right. You would
prepare the way of the Lord, and make His paths straight. Then, you
would throw up your hands in helplessness, and ask God to forgive
you for Jesus' sake, and not because there was any merit in
yourself. And if you really trusted, you would receive forgiveness,
and be at peace. You would feel Jesus to be your Savior, and you
would rejoice in Him.
Now you would be a candidate for holiness. If the Holy Spirit should
now reveal to you the hidden corruption of the human heart, and show
you that it was out of this bad soil that grew the bad weeds of
hatred and pride, selfish ambitions and envy, lies, adulteries,
murders, drunkenness, thefts, and such like, you would cry to God to
rid you not only of the weeds, but to entirely change the condition
of your heart out of which such unholy things grew. And there would
be only one way to get this done, and that would be to ask God to do
it for Jesus' sake; trust Him to do it, and wait with full
expectation till He did do it.
And He would do it. He would purge your heart of all unholy
conditions by the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, as surely as
fire purges gold of dross. Glory to God! This is just what He wants
to do. He wants all His children to be like His well-beloved Son,
Jesus. It was for this that He sent Jesus into the world, and it is
for this that He baptizes with the Holy Ghost and fire.
Some time ago a lady came to the Penitent-form for sanctification in
one of my meetings. After I had questioned her and explained the
subject as fully as I could to her and we had prayed, she claimed
the blessing though she did not get any special witness that the
work was done. But soon she came again to one of my meetings and
testified, and her testimony threw light on the difficulty with many
She said that for several days after she left that first meeting she
did not feel any different, but while about her housework a thought
came to her mind. No doubt the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier Himself;
suggested it to her, that her sanctification was a part of her
Father's will for her and that He offered it to her on the simple
conditions of full consecration and Childlike faith in Him. Then it
dawned upon her that she had met these conditions and that now
instead of waiting for any unusual feelings she must just act as
though it were done.
She then added that when she began to count it done and to act as
though it were done, then she began to realize that God was doing
His part. She began to feel the mighty workings of the Spirit in her
Now it is just at this point that many people fail. They wait for
feeling, and hesitate and doubt and wonder and go with their heads
down and repine, and maybe throw away their confidence. Instead they
should recklessly but intelligently give themselves over to Jesus to
be His for ever, to do His will unto death; they should step out on
the promise with humility and adoring faith toward God, and with a
shout of defiance to the devil and all their fears, count the work
One day ten lepers, poor, miserable men with the flesh rotting off
their bones, met Jesus, 'And they lifted up their voices, and said,
Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when He saw them' (Luke xvii.
13-14) -- (bless Him!) -- how He loved them and yearned over them in
their misery! But His yearnings over their sick bodies were feeble
compared to His mighty yearnings over your diseased soul, my
brother, my sister. 'And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go,
shew yourselves unto the priests.' It was a law among the Jews that
when a leper was healed, he must go to the priest and get a
certificate that he was a safe person to be at large among the
people, much as a smallpox patient might have to do among us. But
these poor fellows might have objected and said to Jesus: 'But look
at us! We are not healed. Our leprosy is just the same. We are not
different since you spoke to us. We shall be fools to go in this
plight, and we shall not be received if we do go. Do not mock us.
Heal us, make us feel different that we may know we are healed, then
we will go.'
No, no, no, these poor wretches did not talk so; they did not stop
to reason with their doubts and fears; they did not stop to examine
their feelings, or to compare themselves with the healthy folks
about them. Jesus had spoken the word and it was theirs to trust and
obey; and so they hobbled off, I imagine, as fast as they could go,
'And it came to pass ' -- (something always comes to pass when
people trust and obey) -- 'And it came to pass, that, as they went,
they were cleansed.' Bless God! That was cleansing through 'the
obedience of faith,' and it is written for our encouragement and
Reader, do you want this experience? If you have it, rejoice and
praise God for it. Don't merely keep on seeking it, else you will
get into darkness, but go to thanking God for it and testifying of
it to others. But if you have it not, give yourself up fully to God
just now, ask for it, believe for it, and if it does not come at
once, patiently and expectantly wait for it. Expect it, expect it,
expect it! He gives His people 'an expected end.' Remind God of His
promises. Don't give Him any rest till He comes and sanctifies you.
Tell Him you have come to stay, and that you will not let Him go
till He blesses you. Nestle down on His promises close to the loving
heart of Jesus and stay there expecting till you know the work is
If the devil and an evil heart of unbelief say: 'It is for others,
but not for you' -- you say: 'I am all the Lord's; get behind me,
Satan,' and tell Jesus about it.
If the devil says: 'You don't feel any different,' -- you say: 'I am
all the Lord's; get behind me, Satan,' and tell Jesus about this
also. If the devil says: You can't keep it if you do get it,' -- you
say: 'I am all the Lord's; get behind me, Satan,' and don't forget
to tell this to Jesus.
Act out your faith, regardless of your feelings, and a heaven of
love and joy and peace and patience will soon fill your poor heart,
and you will get 'lost in wonder, love and praise' ; only don't
bother yourself about your feelings. Your business is to wait on God
for orders and inspiration, and then to trust and obey. It is His
part of the business to shine upon you and cleanse you, and fill you
with the Holy Ghost, and make your heart bubble over with joy.
Claim the promise; feed on the word of God; feast yourself on His
love and faithfulness in Jesus; wait on Him in believing, expectant
prayer and you will be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and you
will become strong to do a man's work for God and souls. You will
rise above discouragements and difficulties, and you will chase a
thousand of your enemies, and if you can find a fellow with a
kindred spirit the two of you will put ten thousand to flight. Glory
Go to believing just now and you will have peace. Continue to
believe and your peace will flow like a river.
Hold on this way, resisting the devil steadfast in the faith,
reminding Jesus of His promises and encouraging your own heart with
them, and I declare it will not be long before your patient,
expectant faith receives a great reward. God will say: 'It is
enough; he has come to stay; We will bless him,' and, calling to
mind His ancient promise, He will open the windows of Heaven and
pour him out ' a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to
receive it' (Mal. iii. 10). Then down into your waiting, trusting,
expecting heart will come the Comforter, the blessed Holy Ghost, and
up from the deepest center of your soul will spring the artesian
well of living waters of holy love and praise. Then the meek and
lowly Jesus will come and dwell in your clean heart, and you will
love Him more than a mother loves her first-born babe, or than the
bridegroom loves his bride. You will adore Him and worship Him and
pour out your heart's treasures upon Him, and loathe yourself for
all your sins that crowned Him with thorns and nailed Him to the
Cross, and your unbelief and hardness of heart that kept Him from
you so long.
Have the blessing now. Let God search you and show you all your
heart. Don't be afraid. Heartily give yourself to Him and trust,
expect, ask, wait, receive.