By Rev. Charles G. Finney
II. I AM TO REMIND YOU OF SOME POINTS THAT HAVE BEEN SETTLED IN THIS COURSE OF STUDY.
1. The true intent and meaning of the law of God has been, as I trust, ascertained in the lectures on moral government. Let this point, if need be, be examined by reference to that volume.
2. We have also seen in that volume what is not and what is implied in entire obedience to the moral law.
3. In that volume, Lecture, XII, and also in the lecture justification and repentance in this volume, it has been shown that nothing is acceptable to God as a condition of justification and of consequent salvation but a repentance that implies a return to full obedience to the moral law.
4. It has also been shown that nothing is holiness short of full obedience, for the time being, to the moral law.
5. It has also been shown that regeneration and repentance consist in the heart's return to full obedience for the time being to this law.
6. We have also seen in the lecture on justification, that the saints under both the old and the new dispensation not only claimed to render entire obedience for the time being. but also that God expressly testifies of them that they did actually render this obedience.
7. We have also examined the doctrine of depravity and seen that moral depravity or sin consists in selfishness, and not at all in the constitution of men; that selfishness does consist in the involuntary appetites, passions, and propensities, but that it consists alone in the committal of the will to, the gratification of the propensities.
8. We have seen that holiness consists, not at all in the constitution of body or mind; but that it belongs, strictly, only to the will or heart, and consists in obedience of will to the law of God as it lies revealed in the intelligence; that it is expressed in one word, love; that this love is identical with the entire consecration of the whole being to the glory of God and to the highest well-being of the universe; or in other words, that it consists in disinterested benevolence.
9. We have seen that all true saints, while in a state of acceptance with God, do actually render for the time being full obedience to all the known requirements of God; that is, that they do for the time being their whole duty--all that God, at this time, requires of them.
10. We have seen that this obedience is not rendered, independent of the grace of God, but is induced by the indwelling Spirit of Christ received by faith, and reigning in the heart. This fact will be more fully elucidated in this discussion than it has been in former lectures. A former lecture was devoted to it; but a fuller consideration of it remains to be entered upon hereafter.
III. DEFINE THE PRINCIPAL TERMS TO BE USED IN THIS DISCUSSION.
1. Here let me remark, that a definition of terms in all discussions is of prime importance. Especially is this true of this subject. I have observed that, almost without an exception, those who have written on this subject dissenting from the views entertained here, do so upon the ground that they understand and define the terms Sanctification and Christian Perfection differently from what we do. Every one gives his own definition, varying materially from others and from what we understand by the terms; and then they go on professedly opposing the doctrine as inculcated here. Now this is not only utterly unfair, but palpably absurd. If I oppose a doctrine inculcated by another man, I am bound to oppose what he really holds. If I misrepresent his sentiments, "I fight as one that beateth the air." I have been amazed at the diversity of definitions that have been given to the terms Christian Perfection, Sanctification, &c.; and to witness the diversity of opinion as to what is, and what is not, implied in these terms. One objects wholly to the use of the term Christian Perfection, because its his estimation it implies this and that and the other thing, which I do not suppose are at all implied in it. Another objects to our using the term Sanctification, because that implies, according to his understanding of it, certain things that render its use improper. Now it is no part of my design to dispute about the use of words. I must, however, use some terms; and I ought to be allowed to use Bible language in its Scriptural sense, as I understand it. And if I should sufficiently explain my meaning and define the sense in which I use the terms, and the sense in which the Bible manifestly uses them, this ought to suffice. And I beg that nothing more or less may be understood by the language l use than I profess to mean by it. Others may, if they please, use the same terms and give a different definition of them. But I have a right to hope and expect, if they feel called upon to oppose what I say, that they will bear in mind my definition of the terms, and not pretend, as some have done, to oppose my views, while they have only differed from me in their definition of the terms used, giving their own definition varying materially and, I might say, infinitely from the sense in which I use the same terms, and then arraying their arguments to prove that according to their definition of it, Sanctification is not really attainable in this life, when no one here or any where else, that I ever heard of, pretended that in their sense of the term, it ever was or ever will be attainable in this life, and I might add, or in that which is to come.
Sanctification is a term of frequent use in the Bible. Its simple and primary meaning is a state of consecration to God. To sanctify is to set apart to a holy use--to consecrate a thing to the service of God. This is plainly both the old and the new testament use of the term. The Greek word hagiazo means to sanctify, to consecrate or devote a person or thing to a particular, especially to a sacred use. This word is synonymous with the Hebrew kaudash. This last word is used in the old testament to express the same thing that is intended by the Greek hagiazo, namely, to consecrate, devote, set apart, sanctify, purify, make clean or pure. Hagiasmos, a substantive from hagiazo, means sanctification, devotion, consecration, purity, holiness.
From the Bible use of these terms it is most manifest,
1. That sanctification does not imply any constitutional change either of soul or body. It consists in the consecration or devotion of the constitutional powers of body and soul to God, and not in any change wrought in the constitution itself.
2. It is also evident from the scriptural use of the term that sanctification is not a phenomenon or state of the intelligence. It belongs to neither the reason, conscience, nor understanding. In short it can not consist in any state of the intelligence whatever. All the states of this faculty are purely passive states of mind; and of course, as we have abundantly seen, holiness is not properly predicable of them.
3. It is just as evident that sanctification, in the scripture and proper sense of the term, is not a mere feeling of any kind. It is not a desire, an appetite, a passion, a propensity, an emotion, nor indeed any kind or degree of feeling. It is not a state or phenomenon of the sensibility. The states of the sensibility are, like those of the intelligence, purely passive states of mind, as has been repeatedly shown. They of course can have no moral character in themselves.
4. The Bible use of the term when applied to persons, forbids the understanding of it as consisting in any involuntary state or attitude of mind whatever.
5. The inspired writers evidently used the terms which are translated by the English word sanctify, to designate a phenomenon of the will, or a voluntary state of mind. They used the term hagiazo in Greek, and kaudash in hebrew, to represent the act of consecrating one's self, or any thing else to the service of God and to the highest well-being of the universe. The term manifestly not only represents an act of the will, but an ultimate act or choice as distinguished from a mere volition or executive act of the will. Thus the terms rendered sanctified are used as synonymous with loving God with all the heart and our neighbor as ourselves. The Greek hagiasmos, translated by the word sanctification, is evidently intended to express a state or attitude of voluntary consecration to God, a continued act of consecration; or a state of choice as distinct from a mere act of choice, an abiding act or state of choice, a standing and controlling preference of mind, a continuous committal of the will to the highest well-being of God and of the universe. Sanctification, as a state differing from a holy act is a standing, ultimate intention, and exactly synonymous or identical with a state of obedience or conformity to the law of God. We have repeatedly seen that the will is the executive or controlling faculty of the mind. Sanctification consists in the will's devoting or consecrating itself and the whole being, all we are and have, so far as powers, susceptibilities, possessions are under the control of the will, to the service of God, or, which is the same thing, to the highest interests of God and of being. Sanctification, then, is nothing more or less than entire obedience for the time being to the moral law.
Sanctification may be entire in two senses: (1.) In the sense of present, full obedience or entire consecration to God; and, (2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire sanctification when the terms are used in this sense consists in being established, confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration to God.
In this discussion then I shall use the term entire sanctification to designate a state of confirmed and entire consecration of body, soul and spirit or of the whole being to God--confirmed, not in the sense, (1.) That a soul entirely sanctified can not sin, but that as a matter of fact, he does not and will not sin. (2.) Nor do I use the terms entire sanctification as implying that the entirely sanctified soul is in no such danger of sinning as to need the thorough use and application of all the means of grace to prevent him from sinning and to secure his continued sanctification. Nor, (3.) Do I mean by entire sanctification a state in which there will be no farther struggle or warfare with temptation, or in which the christian warfare will cease. This certainly did not cease in Christ to the end of life, nor will it with any being in the flesh. (4.) Nor do I use the terms as implying a state in which no farther progress in holiness is possible. No such state is or ever will be possible to any creature, for the plain reason, that all creatures must increase in knowledge; and increase of knowledge implies increase of holiness in a holy being. The saints will doubtless grow in grace or holiness to all eternity. (5.) Nor do I mean by the terms entire sanctification that the entirely sanctified soul will no longer need the continual grace and indwelling spirit of Christ to preserve it from sin and to secure its continuance in a state of consecration to God. It is amazing that such men as Dr. Beecher and others should suppose that a state of entire consecration implies that the entirely sanctified soul no longer needs the grace of Christ to preserve it. Entire sanctification instead of implying no further dependence on the grace of Christ, implies the constant appropriation by faith of Christ as the sanctification of the soul.
But since entire sanctification, as I understand the term, is identical with entire and continued obedience to the law of God, and since I have in lectures on moral government fully shown what is not and what is implied in full obedience to the law of God, to avoid much repetition in this place, I must refer you to what I have there said upon the topics just named.
IV. SHOW WHAT THE REAL QUESTION NOW AT ISSUE IS.
1. It is not whether a state of present full obedience to the divine law is attainable in this life. For this has I trust been clearly established in former lectures.
2. It is not whether a state of permanent, full obedience has been attained by all or by any of the saints on earth.
3. But the true question at issue is: Is a state of entire, in the sense of permanent sanctification, attainable in this life.
If in this discussion I shall insist upon the fact that this state has been attained, let it be distinctly understood that the fact that the attainment has been made, is only adduced in proof of the attainability of this state; that it is only one of the arguments by which the attainability of this state is proved. Let it also be distinctly borne in mind that if there should be in the estimation of any one a defect in the proof that this state has been attained, still the integrity and conclusiveness of the other arguments in support of the attainability will not thereby be shaken. It is no doubt true that the attainability of this state in this life may be abundantly established entirely irrespective of the question whether this state has ever been attained.
Let me, therefore, be distinctly understood as maintaining the attainability of this state as the true question at issue, and that I regard the fact that this state has been attained only as one method of proving or as a fact that demonstrates its attainability. Dr. Woods admitted the attainability of a state of entire sanctification in this life, and contested only the fact of its actual attainment. But he should not have admitted the attainability with his idea of what is implied in it, as has been shown. For example, if, as he supposed, entire sanctification is a state in which no farther progress in grace or holiness is possible or in which there is and can be no christian warfare or struggle with temptation, he had no right to admit that any such state as this is attainable in this life. I do not admit, but utterly deny that any such state is at all attainable in this life, even if it is in any state of existence whatever.
But again: While Dr. Woods admitted that entire sanctification is attainable in this life, he denied that it is attainable in any practical sense, in such a sense that it is rational to expect or hope to make the attainment. He says we may attain it, but holds it to be dangerous error to expect to attain it. We may or might attain it, but we must not hope to attain it in this life. But how does he know? Does the Bible reveal the fact that we never shall? We shall see.
The true question is, Is a state of entire, established, abiding consecration to God attainable in this life in such a sense that we may rationally expect or hope to become thus established in this life? Are the conditions of attaining this established state in the grace and love of God such that we may rationally expect or hope to fulfil[l] them and thus become established or entirely sanctified in this life? This is undoubtedly the true and the greatly important question to be settled.
Let no one throw fog and embarrass our enquiries by doing as Dr. W. has done, that is, by admitting and denying the attainability of this state at the same breath; admitting it, to save his orthodoxy with the New School, who maintain the doctrine of natural ability, and denying it as a practical or practicable thing, to save himself from the charge of perfectionism. It is certainly a grave and most important question whether we may rationally hope or expect ever in this life to attain to such an established state of grace and faith and love, or, which is the same thing, to such an established state of entire consecration as to have done with slipping and filling and sinning against the blessed God. Certainly the bleeding, yearning, agonized spirit of the saint recently recovered from a fall, ought not to be tantalized with metaphysical or theological quibbles when it asks with agonizing interest, How long, Lord? Is there no hope that I can or shall arrive, in this life, at a state in which, through mighty reigning grace, I shall have done with abusing thee? It appears to me monstrous and barbarous to answer such a soul, as has been done by saying to him, You may attain such a state, but it is dangerous error to expect ever to cease abusing God while you live in this world. I can conceive of no temptation to take one's own life greater than this. The almost irresistible reply of the soul to such an announcement under such circumstances would be, Why then, in the name of the Lord I will cease to live. If I may not hope to live without abusing God, I will not live at all.