By Rev. Charles G. Finney
VII. OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
To the doctrine we have been advocating it is objected that the real practical question is not,
1. Whether this state is attainable on the ground of natural ability; for this is admitted.
2. It is not whether it is rational to hope to make this attainment, provided we set our hearts upon making it, and persevere in aiming to attain it; for this is admitted.
3. It is not whether this state is a rational object of pursuit, provided any are disposed to pursue it. But,
4. Is it rational for christians to hope that they shall pursue it, and shall perseveringly set their hearts upon it? Is it rational for christians to hope that they shall so endeavor to attain it as to fulfil[l] the conditions of the promises wherein it is pledged?
To this I reply,
(1.) That it makes a new issue. It yields the formerly contested ground and proposes an entirely new question. Hitherto the question has been, is this state an object of rational pursuit, provided any are disposed to pursue it? May christians aim at this attainment with the rational hope of making it? This point is now yielded, if I understand the objection, and one entirely distinct is substituted, namely: Is it rational for christians to hope that they shall pursue after this attainment? or that they shall aim at and set themselves to make this attainment? This, I say, is quite another question than the one heretofore argued.
It is, however, an important one, and I am quite willing to discuss it, but with this distinct understanding that it is not the question upon which issue has been heretofore taken. This question, as we shall see, calls up a distinct enquiry. In this discussion I shall pursue the following outline:
1. What constitutes hope?
2. What is implied in a rational hope?
3. The grounds of rational hope may vary indefinitely in degree.
4. Wrong views may inspire an irrational hope.
5. Wrong views may prevent a rational hope.
6. Hope is a condition of the attainment in question.
7. What the objection under consideration admits.
8. What l understand it to deny.
9. What it amounts to.
10. What it must assume in reference to the provisions of grace.
11. What these provisions are not.
12. What they are.
13. What real grounds of hope there are in respect to the question under consideration.
14. Consider the tendency of denying that there are valid grounds of hope in this case.
1. I am to show what hope is.
Hope in common parlance, and as I shall use the term in this discussion, is not a phenomenon of will, or it is not a voluntary state of mind. It includes a phenomenon both of the intellect and the sensibility. It is a state of mind compounded of desire and expectation. Desire alone is not hope. A man may desire an event ever so strongly yet if he has no degree of expectation that the desired event will occur he can not justly be said to hope for it.
Expectation is not hope, for one may expect an event ever so confidently, yet if he does not at all desire it, he can not be truly said to hope for it. Hope comprehends both desire and expectation. There must be some degree of both of these to compose hope.
2. What is implied in a rational hope?
(1.) The desire must be reasonable; that is, in accordance with reason. The thing desired must be such as reason sanctions or approves. If the desire is an unreasonable one the fact that there is good ground for expecting the desired end will not make the hope rational. The expectation might in this case be rational in the sense that there is valid reason for the expectation. But expectation alone is not hope. A rational hope must include a rational desire or a desire in accordance with reason, and a rational expectation, that is, an expectation in accordance with reason.
(2.) The expectation to be rational must have for its foundation at least some degree of evidence. Hope may be, and often is, indulged barely on the ground that the desired event is possible in the absence of all evidence that it is likely to occur. Thus we say of one who is at the point of death, and whose life is despaired of by all but his nearest friends, "where there is life there is hope." When events are so greatly desired men are wont to indulge the hope that the event will occur, even in the absence of all evidence, that it will occur, and in the face of the highest evidence that it will not occur. But such hope can hardly be said to be rational. Hope to be rational must have for its support, not a bare possibility that the desired event may occur, but at least some degree of evidence that it will occur. This is true of hope in general. When an event is conditioned upon the exercise of our own agency and upon an agency which we are able either in our own strength or through grace to exert, it may be more or less rational to expect the occurrence of the event in proportion as we more or less desire it. Hope includes desire; there can be no hope without desire. There may be a good ground of hope when there is in fact no hope. There may be a reason and a good reason for desire where there is no desire. There may be and is good reason for sinners to desire to be christians when they have no such desire. Again, there may be good reason for both desire and expectation when in fact there is neither. The thing which it is reasonable to desire may not be desired, and there may be good reason for expecting that an event will occur, when no such expectation is indulged. For example, a child may neither desire nor expect to comply with the wishes of a parent in a given instance. Yet it may be very reasonable for him to desire to comply in this instance with parental authority, and the circumstances may be such as to afford evidence that he will be brought to compliance, and yet there may be in this case no hope exercised by the child that he shall comply. There may be then a rational ground for hope when there is no hope. A thing may be strongly desired and yet the evidence that it will occur may not be apprehended, and therefore, although such evidence may exist, it may not be perceived by the mind, or the mind may be so occupied with contemplating opposing evidence or with looking at discouraging circumstances as not to apprehend the evidence upon which a rational hope may be or might be grounded.
Again, when the event in question consists in the action of the will in conformity with the law of the reason, the probability that it will thus act depends upon the states of the sensibility or upon the desires. It may therefore be more or less rational to expect this conformity of the will to the law of the intelligence, in proportion as this state of the will is more or less strongly desired. I merely make this remark in this place; we shall see its application hereafter. I also add in this place that a man may more or less rationally expect to make the attainment under consideration, that is to obtain in this life a complete victory over sin, in proportion as he more or less ardently desires it. This we shall see hereafter. The indulgence of hope implies existing desire, and, as I said, the hope to be rational must have some degree of evidence that the thing hoped for will occur.
3. The grounds of rational hope may vary indefinitely in degree.
I have said that there may be rational grounds of hope when there is no hope. A sinner under terrible conviction of sin and in present despair, may have grounds and strong grounds of hope, while he has no hope.
Again, the grounds of hope may be more or less strong in proportion as hope is more or less strong. For example, an event which is dependent upon the exercise of our own agency may be more or less likely to occur, in proportion to the strength or weakness of our hope that it will occur. Hope is compounded as we have said of desire and expectation. An event dependent upon our agency may be more or less likely to occur in proportion as we desire its occurrence, and entertain the confident expectation that it will occur. In such a case, although the evidence may be really but slight upon which the expectation is at first founded, yet the very fact that the mind has become confident that a strongly desired event will take place, which event depends upon the energetic and persevering exercise of our own agency, I say the strength of the confidence as well as the strength of the desire may render the event all the more probable and thus the grounds of hope may be increased by the increase of hope. For it should be remembered that hope is possible and common when there are no good grounds for it, and the very fact that a hope at present with slight grounds does exist, may increase the grounds of rational hope. Suppose, for example, that an Indian in our western forests, who had never heard the gospel, should come in some way to have the idea and the desire and expectation of finding out a way of salvation. Now before he had this hope there could not be said to have been but slight rational ground for it. But since he has the idea, the desire, and the expectation, he may from these facts have a rational ground of hope that he shall discover a way of salvation. The desire and the expectation may render it highly probable that he will in some manner discover the right way.
Again, the rational ground of hope in respect to at least a certain class of events may be greatly increased by the fact that there is a present willingness that the desired and expected event should occur, and an endeavor to secure it. Hope does not necessarily imply a willingness. For example a sinner may desire to be converted and he may expect that he shall be and yet not at present be willing to be; that is, he may conceive rightly of what constitutes conversion or turning to God, and he may for the sake of his own salvation desire to turn, that is, to turn as a condition of his own salvation, and he may expect that he shall in future turn; and yet he is not by the supposition as yet willing to turn; for willing is turning, and if he is willing he has turned already. If the event hoped for consists in or is dependent upon future acts of our own will, the grounds of hope that the event will occur may be indefinitely strengthened by the fact that we have the present consciousness of not only hoping for its occurrence, but also that our will or heart is at present set upon it.
Myriads of circumstances may be taken into the account in balancing and weighing the evidence for or against the occurrence of a given event. The event may depend in a great measure upon our desires, and when it really does depend under God upon our desires, present willingness and efforts, the grounds of confidence or of hope must vary as our hopes and endeavors vary. There may be, as I have said, ground for hope when there is no hope, and the ground of hope may be indefinitely increased by the existence of hope. There may be a strong hope and a weak hope, strong grounds or reasons for hope or weak grounds of hope. When there is any degree of present evidence that an event wild occur, there is some ground of rational hope.
4. Wrong views may inspire an irrational hope.
This follows from the nature of hope. A thing may be desired--wrong views may inspire confidence or beget expectation when there is not the slightest ground for expectation. The hope of the Universalist is a striking instance of this. The same is true of false professors of religion. They desire to be saved. False views inspire confidence that they are christians and that they shall be saved.
5. Wrong views may prseent[prevent] a rational hope.
This is also common, as every one knows. A thing may be desired, and there may be the best grounds for confidence or expectation, which is an element of hope. But false views may forbid the expectation to be entertained. In this case, one element of hope exists, that is, desire, but the other, to wit, expectation is rendered impossible by erroneous views.
Again, expectation may exist, yet false views may prevent desire. For example, I may expect to see a certain individual whom, from false impressions respecting him, I have no desire to see. It is indispensable to hope that the views be such as to beget both desire and expectation.
6. Hope is a condition of the attainment in question.
(1.) The attainment implies and consists in the right future exercise of our own agency.
(2.) The right future exercise of our own agency in respect to the state in question depends under God or is conditioned upon the previous use of means to secure that result.
(3.) Those means will never be used unless there is hope; that is, unless there is both desire and expectation. If therefore any false instruction shall forbid the expectation of attaining the state in question, the attainment will not be sought, it will not be aimed at. There may be ever so good grounds or reasons to expect to make this attainment, yet if these grounds are not discovered and the expectation is not intelligent the attainment will be delayed. There must be hope indulged in this case as a condition of making this attainment.
7. What I understand the objection to admit.
(1.) That the state in question is a possible state or a possible attainment both on the ground of natural ability and through grace.
(2.) That this attainment is provided for in the promises of the gospel; that is, that the promises of the gospel proffer grace to every believer sufficient to secure him against sin, in all the future, on condition that he will believe and appropriate them.
(3.) That all the necessary means are provided and brought within the christian's reach to secure this attainment, and that there is no insurmountable difficulty in the way of this attainment, provided he is willing and does use these necessary means in the required manner.
(4.) There is rational ground for hoping of making this attainment if any will set their heart to make it.
(5.) Consequently that this attainment is a rational object of pursuit; that is, that it is rational to hope to make it, provided we are disposed to make it or to aim to make it.
8. What I understand the objection to deny.
1. That it is rational for any christian to hope so to use the means as to secure the attainment in question, that is, that no christian can rationally hope to exercise such faith, and so to use the means of grace and so to avail himself of the proferred grace of the gospel, and so to fulfill the conditions of the promises as to receive their fulfillment and make the attainment in question in this life. The objection, as I understand it, denies that we can rationally hope by present faith and the present use of our powers to render it probable that we shall in future use them aright; or in other words the objection denies that we can, by any thing whatever that we can at present do, gain any evidence, or lay a foundation for any rational hope, that in future we shall obey God; or it denies that our present desire, or will, or faith, or efforts, have through grace any such connection with our future state in this life as to render it in any degree probable that we shall receive the fulfillment of such promises as the following: 1 Thes. 5:23,24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth. you, who also will do it." It denies that it is rational for us to hope by the improvement of present grace to secure future grace; that it is rational for us to expect by a present laying hold on such promises as the one just quoted to secure its present or its future fulfillment to us. It denies that it is rational for us to lay hold of such promises as that just quoted with the expectation that they will be fulfilled to us; that is, we can not at present do any thing, whatever, however much we may will and desire it, that shall render it in the least degree probable that these promises will ever be fulfilled to us in this life. The objection must proceed upon denying this for it is certain that christians do desire this attainment and will it too; that is, they will at least that it might be so. If all christians do not hope for it, it is because they regard it as not attainable.
9. What the objection really amounts to.
(1.) That although the promise just quoted is undeniably a promise of the very state in question in this life, yet it is irrational to hope, by any thing that we can at present do, however much we may at present will and desire it, to secure to ourselves either its present or its future fulfillment in this life.
(2.) It amounts to a denial that at any future time during this life it will be rational for us to hope by any thing that we can at that time do to secure either at that or any other time, the fulfillment of the promise to us.
(3.) It amounts to a denial that we can rationally hope, at any time in this life, to believe or do any thing that will render it in the least degree probable that this promise will be fulfilled to us; that, however much we may at present desire and will to secure the thing promised, we can at present or at any future time rationally hope to secure the thing promised.
(4.) It amounts to a denial that it is rational to expect under any circumstances that this class of promises will ever be fulfilled to the saints.
(5.) The principles assumed and lying at the foundation of this objection must, if sound, prove the gospel a humbug. If it is true that by no present act of faith we can secure to us the present or the future fulfillment of the promise of entire sanctification, I see not why it is not equally true in respect to all the promises. If there is no such connection between our present and future faith and obedience as to render it even in the least degree probable that the promises of persevering grace shall be vouchsafed to us, then what is the gospel but a humbug? Where is the ground of a rational hope of salvation? But suppose it should be replied to this that in respect to other promises, and especially in respect to promises of salvation and of sufficient grace to secure our salvation, there is such a connection between present faith and future faith and salvation as to render the latter at least probable, and as therefore to afford a rational ground of hope of perseverance, in such a sense as to secure salvation; but that this is not the case with the promises of entire sanctification. Should this be alledged, I call for proof. Observe, I admit the connection contended for as just stated between present faith and obedience, and future perseverance, and final salvation, that the former renders the latter at least probable; but I also contend that the same is true in respect to the promises of entire sanctification. Let the contrary be shown, if it can be. Let the principle be produced, if it can be, either from scripture or reason, that will settle and recognize the difference contended for, to wit, that present faith and obedience does lay a rational foundation of hope, that we shall persevere to the end of life in such a sense as that we shall be saved, and yet that present faith in the promises of entire sanctification does not render it in the least degree probable that we shall ever receive the fulfillment of those promises. Let it be shown if it can be, that the present belief of certain promises renders it certain or probable that they will be fulfilled to us, but that no such connection obtains in respect to other promises. Let it be shown if it can be, that present faith in the promises of perseverance and salvation renders it either certain or probable that these promises will be fulfilled to us, while present faith in the promise of entire sanctification, in this life, renders it neither certain nor in the least degree probable that these promises will ever, in this life be fulfilled to us.
Suppose a Calvinist should alledge that the first act of faith renders it certain that the new believer will be saved, and therefore it renders it certain that he will persevere to the end of life, but that the same is not true of promises of entire sanctification in this life. I ask for his proof of the truth of this assertion; that is, I ask him to prove that faith in the latter promises does not sustain as real and as certain a relation to the reception of the thing promised as does faith in the former promises. Suppose him to answer that God has revealed his design to save all christians, and from hence we know that if they once believe they shall certainly persevere and be saved. But in answer to this I ask, is it not as expressly revealed as possible, that God will wholly sanctify all christians, spirit, soul, and body, and preserve them blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? The language in 1 Thes. 5:23,24, may be regarded either as an express promise or as an express declaration: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." Here, observe, Paul expressly affirms that God will do it. Now where in the bible is there a more express promise or a more express revelation of the will and design of God than this? No where. But suppose it should be replied to this, that if we take this view of the subject, it follows that all saints have been wholly sanctified in this life. I answer, they no doubt have, for there is not a word in the bible of their being sanctified in any other life than this, and if they have gone to heaven, they were no doubt sanctified wholly in this life.
But secondly, it would not follow that they have all been wholly sanctified until at or near the close of life, because many of them have probably never understood and appropriated this and similar promises by faith, and consequently have failed to realize in their own experience their fulfillment for any considerable length of time before their death. The exact question here is, If the soul at present apprehends and lays hold on the promises of entire sanctification in this life, is there not as real and as certain a connection between present faith and the future fulfillment of the promise as there is between present faith in any other promises, and the future fulfillment of those promises. If this is not so, let the contrary be shown, if it can be. The burden of proof lies on the objector. If to this any one should reply that present faith in any promise does not sustain any such relation to the fulfillment of the promise as to render it rational to hope for its fulfillment, I answer that if this is so, then the gospel is a mere nullity and sheer nonsense. Nay, it is infinitely worse than nonsense.
I will not at present contend that present faith in any promise of future good sustains such a relation to its fulfillment that its fulfillment to us is absolutely certain; but upon this I do insist that present faith in any promise of God does render it at least in some degree probable that the promise will be fulfilled to us, and that therefore we have ground of rational hope when we are conscious of desiring a promised blessing, and of laying hold by faith upon the promise of it, and of setting our hearts upon obtaining it; I say when we are conscious of this state of mind in regard to any promised blessing, we have rational ground of hope that we shall receive the thing promised. And it matters not at all what the blessing promised is. If God has promised it, he is able to give it, and we have no right to say that the nature of the thing promised forbids the rational expectation that we shall receive it. It is plain that the principle on which this objection is based amounts to a real denial of the gospel, and makes all the promises a [m]ere nullity.
10. What this objection must assume in reference to the provisions of grace.
(1.) That grace has made no provisions for securing the fulfillment of the conditions of the promises. This must certainly be assumed in relation to the promises of entire sanctification in this life; that grace has made no such provisions as to render the fulfillment of the conditions of this class of promises in any degree probable; that the grace of God in Jesus Christ does not even afford the least degree of evidence that real saints will ever, in this life, so believe those promises as to secure the blessing promised; that therefore it is irrational for the saints to hope through any provisions of grace to fulfill the conditions and secure the blessing promised; the grace of God is not sufficient for the saints in the sense that it is rational for them to hope to so believe the promises of entire sanctification as to secure the thing promised. The gospel and the grace of God then are a complete failure, so far as the hope of living in this life without rebellion against God is concerned. His name is called Jesus in vain, so far as it respects salvation from sin in this life. There is then no rational ground of hope that, by any thing we can possibly do while in the present exercise of faith and love and zeal, we can render it, through grace, in the least degree probable that we shall persevere in seeking this blessing until we have fulfilled the condition of the promise and secured the blessing. Nothing that we can now do, while in faith and love, will render it through grace in the least degree probable that we shall at any future time believe or do any thing that will secure to us the promised blessing. Christians do at present desire this attainment and have a heart or will to it. This objection must assume that grace has made no such provision as to render the hope rational that this desire and will exist in future, do what we may at present to secure it.
11. What the provisions of grace are not.
(1.) Grace has made no provision to save any one without entire holiness of heart.
(2.) It has made no provision to secure holiness without the right exercise of our own will or agency, for all holiness consists in this.
(3.) It has made no provision to save any one who will not fulfill the conditions of salvation.
(4.) It has made no provision for the bestowment of irresistible grace, for the very terms imply a contradiction. A moral agent can not be forced or necessitated to act in any given manner, and still remain a moral agent. That is, he can not be a moral agent in any case in which he acts from necessity.
(5.) Grace has made no provision to render salvation possible without hope; that is, without desire and expectation.
12. What these provisions are.
In this place, I can only state what I understand them to be; and to avoid much repetition, I must request the reader to consult foregoing and subsequent lectures where these different points are developed and discussed at length.
(1.) God foresaw that all mankind would fall into a state of total alienation from him and his government.
(2.) He also foresaw that by the wisest arrangement, he could secure the return and salvation of a part of mankind.
(3.) He resolved to do so, and "[']chose them to eternal salvation' through [']sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth.'
(4.) He has instituted a system of means to effect this end; that is, with design to effect it.
(5.) These means are,
[1.] The revelation of his law.
[2.] The atonement and mediatorial work of Christ.
[3.] The publication of the gospel and the institution of all the means of grace.
[4.] The administration of providential and moral governments.
[5.] The gift and agency of the Holy Spirit to excite in them desire, and to work in them to will and to do in so far as to secure in them the fulfillment of the conditions, and to them the fulfillment of the promises.
(6.) Grace has made sufficient provisions to render the salvation of all possible, and such as will actually secure the salvation of a portion of mankind.
(7.) Grace has brought salvation so within the reach of all who hear the gospel as to leave them wholly without excuse if they are not saved.
(8.) Grace has made the salvation of every human being secure who can be persuaded by all the influences that God can wisely bring to bear upon him to accept the offers of salvation.
(9.) Grace has provided such means and instrumentalities as will actually secure the conviction, conversion, perseverance, entire sanctification, and final salvation of a part of mankind.
(10.) Grace has not only provided the motives of moral government, but the influence necessary to secure the saving influence of this government over all the elect.
(11.) Grace has not only made promises to be fulfilled upon certain conditions, but it has provided an influence which will, in every case of the elect unto salvation, secure in them the fulfillment of the conditions of these promises.
(12.) Grace has not only given commands, but has provided the requisite influence to secure obedience to them in such a sense as to secure the perseverance, sanctification, and full salvation of all the elect unto salvation.
This I understand to be a summary statement of the doctrine of grace as it is taught in the bible.
13. What are the real grounds of hope in respect to the question now under consideration?
Here it is necessary to state again distinctly what is not and what is the real question to be decided.
It is not what christians have hoped upon this subject, for they may have entertained groundless expectations and irrational hopes; or they may have had no hope or expectation when there have been good grounds of hope. Let it be distinctly understood then, that the true point of inquiry is, Have christians a right to expect to obtain in this life a complete victory over sin? Not, do they expect it? But, have they a right to indulge such a hope! Provided they have such a hope, is it irrational? Or provided they have not such a hope, have they good and sufficient ground for such hope revealed in the bible? This brings us to inquire what are not, and what are the grounds of rational hope.
(1.) They are not in the mere natural ability of man, for the bible abundantly reveals the fact, that if man is left to himself, he will never so exert his agency as to comply with the conditions of salvation. This is equally true of all men.
(2.) They are not in the gospel or in the means of grace aside from the agency of the Holy Spirit, for the bible reveals the fact that no one will ever be sanctified by these means without the agency of the Holy Spirit.
In prosecuting inquiry upon this subject, I remark:
[1.] That the inquiry now before us respects real christians. It might be interesting and useful to look into the subject in its bearings upon the impenitent world, but this would occupy too much time and space in this place. It might be useful to inquire what ground of rational hope any sinner may have that he shall actually be converted and saved when the gospel is addressed to him. It certainly can not be denied with any show of reason that every sinner to whom the gospel call is addressed has some reason to hope that God has designs of mercy toward him, and that he shall be converted, and kept, and sanctified, and saved. He must have some ground to hope for this result upon the bare presentation to him of the offers of mercy. He has all the evidence he can ask or desire that God is ready and willing to save him, provided that he is willing to accept of mercy and comply with the conditions of salvation. So that if he is disposed to accept it, he need not raise any question about the grounds of hope. There is nothing in his way but his own indisposition: if this is removed, he may surely hope to be saved. But the offers of mercy also afford some ground of hope that the Holy Spirit will strive with him and overcome his reluctance, so that he may rationally hope to be converted.
The ground of this hope may be more or less strong in the case of sinners as they find the providence and Spirit of God working together for the accomplishment of this result. If, for example, the sinner finds, in addition to the offers of salvation by the word of the gospel, that the Holy Spirit is striving with him, convincing him of sin and trying to induce him to turn and live, he has of course increased grounds for the hope that he shall be saved.
But as I said the inquiry now before us respects the grounds of hope in christians.
[2.] I remark that christians, of course from the very nature of their religion, have come strongly to desire a complete and lasting victory over sin. I need not in this place attempt to prove this.
[3.] Christians not only desire this, but in fact so far forth as they are christians, they will to obtain this victory. That is, when they have the heart of a child of God, and are in a state of acceptance with him, they will to render to God a present, full, universal, and endless obedience. This is implied in the very nature of true religion.
[4.] The inquiry before us respects future acts of will. The state under consideration consists in an abiding consecration to God. The christian is at present in this state, and the inquiry respects his grounds of hope that he shall ever attain to a state in this life in which he shall abide steadily and uniformly in this state, and go no more into voluntary rebellion against God. Has grace made no such provisions as to render the hope rational that we shall in this life ever cease to sin? Or has it pleased God to make no such provisions, and are we to expect to sin as long as we live in this world? Has the christian any rational ground for a hope that he shall be sanctified in this life; that is, that he shall obtain a complete and final victory over sin in this life? The question here is, not whether christians do hope for this, but, may they rationally hope for this? Have they good reason for such a hope, did they apprehend or understand this ground? They have desire, which is an element of hope--have they grounds for a rational expectation? I do not here inquire whether they do expect it, but whether they have good and valid reason for such an expectation? Is the difficulty owing to a want in the provisions of grace, or in a misconception of these provisions? Some christians do hope for this attainment. Are they mad and irrational, or have they good reason for this hope?
In replying to these inquiries, I remark, that the Holy Spirit is given to the saints for the express purpose revealed in such passages as the following: 1 Thes. 5:23,24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." With this and similar promises and express declarations in his hands, is it rational or irrational in him to expect to receive the fulfillment of such promises? If it be answered that these promises are conditioned upon his faith, and it is irrational for him to hope to fulfill the condition, I reply that the Holy Spirit is given to him and abides in him to draw him into a fulfillment of the conditions of the promises. It is nowhere so much as hinted in the bible that the Holy Spirit will not do this until the close of life. Observe that this is the very office work of the Spirit to work in us to fulfill the conditions of the promises of entire sanctification, and thus to secure this end. His business with and in us is to procure our entire sanctification; and, as I said, there is not so much as a hint in the bible that he does not desire or design to secure this before death. Now, suppose we lay aside all knowledge of facts in relation to the past experience of the church and look into the bible. From reading this, would any man get the idea that God did not expect, desire, and intend that saints should obtain an entire victory over sin in this life? When we read such promises and declarations as abound in the bible, should we not see rational ground for hope that we shall obtain a complete victory over sin in this life?
But here it may be said that the past history of the church shows what are the real promises of grace; that grace has not in fact secured this attainment at least to a great part of the church until at or near the close of life, and therefore grace in fact made no provision for this attainment in their case.
But if this objection has any weight, it proves equally that grace has made in no case any provision for any one's being any better than he really is and has been, and that it had been irrational in any one to have expected to be any better than in fact he has turned out to be. If he had at any time expected to be any better at any future time than he turned out to be, this, upon the principle of the objection in question, would prove that he had no rational ground for the expectation: that grace, in fact, had made no such provision as to render any such hope rational. If this be true, we shall all see when we get into the eternal world that in no case could we have indulged a rational hope of being any better than we have been, and that when we did indulge any such hope we had no ground for it.
But again, if what the church has been settles the question of what it is rational for her to hope in time to be, why then we must dismiss the hope of any improvement. This objection proves too much, therefore it proves nothing.
But again, since the Holy Spirit is given to and abides in christians for the very purpose of securing their entire and permanent sanctification, and since there is no intimation in the bible that this work is to be delayed until death, but on the contrary express declarations and promises, that as fully and expressly as possible teach the contrary, it is perfectly rational to hope for this, and downright unbelief not to expect it. What can be more express to this point than the promises and declarations that have been already quoted upon this subject?
Now the question is, not whether these promises and declarations have inspired hope, but might they not reasonably have done so? The question is not whether these promises have been understood and relied upon, but might they not reasonably have inspired confidence that we should, or that they should gain a complete and lasting victory over sin in this life? Do not let us be again diverted by the objection that the provisions of grace and what is rational to hope is settled by what has been accomplished. We have seen that this objection is not valid.
Desire has existed, why has not expectation also existed? We shall see in its place. I said that the bible represents the design of God to be to wholly sanctify christians in this life and nowhere so much as intimates that this work is not to be complete in this life. Let such passages as the following be consulted upon this question: Titus 2:11--14: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12. Teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; 13. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, 14. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." This passage teaches that this state is to be expected; it also teaches that it is to be expected before death, verse 12; that Christ gave himself to secure this result, verse 14. The chapter concludes with this direction to Titus, "These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee." Now suppose Titus to have taught as some now teach, that it is dangerous error to hope to live in this life according to the teaching of this passage. Suppose he had told them that although Christ had given himself expressly to secure this result, yet there was no rational ground of hope that they would ever do this in this present evil world; would he have complied with the spirit of the apostle's injunction in verse 15?
Again, the thing spoken of in this passage is no doubt a state of entire sanctification in the sense that it implies a complete victory over sin in this present evil world.
Again: 2 Cor. 6:17,18. "Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Now in view of these promises, the apostle immediately adds the following injunction, 7:1. "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Did the apostle think it irrational to expect or hope to make this attainment in this life? Suppose he had added to the injunction just quoted, that it was dangerous for them to expect to make the attainment which he exhorted them to make. Suppose he had said, you have no right to infer from the promises I have just quoted that it is rational in you to hope to make this attainment in this life. But suppose the Corinthians to have inquired, Do not these promises relate to this life? Yes, says the apostle. And does not your injunction to perfect holiness in the fear of God relate to this life? Yes. Did you not utter this injunction seeing that we have the promises? Yes. Is it not rational, seeing we have these promises, to hope to avail ourselves of them, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God in this life? Now suppose that to this last question the apostle had answered, No. Would not this have placed the apostle and the promises and his injunction in a most ridiculous light? To be sure it would. Would not any honest mind feel shocked at such an absurdity? Certainly.
Again: 1 Thes. 5:23,24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." Now suppose that immediately upon making this declaration, the apostle had added, you can not rationally hope that God will do what I have just expressly affirmed that he will do.
Suppose he had said the declaration in the 24th verse is only a promise, and made upon a condition with which you can not rationally hope to comply, and therefore, as a matter of fact, you can not rationally hope to be sanctified wholly and preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. How shocking and ridiculous would such a prayer, with such a promise, accompanied with such a conclusion, appear.
Again, a christian is supposed not only to desire to make this attainment, but also to be at present willing to make it, and at present to have his heart set upon obedience to God, and upon attaining to such a degree of communion with God as to abide in Christ and sin no more.
A christian is supposed at present to be disposed to make this attainment; not only to desire it, but also to will it. Now may he rationally aim at it and rationally intend or hope to make this attainment? or must he calculate to sin so long as he lives, and is it irrational for him to expect or hope to have done with rebelling against God, and with unbelief and accusing him of lying as long as he lives?
If he is at present desirous and willing to have done with sin, is it rational for him to hope by any means within his reach, and which he is at present disposed to use, to attain a state in which he shall have a permanent victory over sin, in which he shall abide in Christ in such a sense as to have done with rebellion against God. By present willingness, desire and effort, is it rational for him to hope to secure a future desire and willingness, and an abiding state of heart-conformity to God? Are there any means within his reach and which he can at present, while he has the will and desire, rationally hope so to use them as to secure to him either at present or at some future time in this life, a complete and lasting victory over sin? May he hope through present faith to secure future faith? through present love, and faith, and effort, to secure future faith and love and successful effort? For it is not contended by me that the christian will or can ever stand fast in the will of God without effort. This I have sufficiently insisted on. The question is exactly this, May a christian, who is conscious of being at present willing to attain and desirous of attaining a state of abiding consecration to God in this life, rationally hope to make such an attainment? Has the grace of God made any such provision as to render such a hope rational? Not, can he rationally hope to make it without desire and effort; but with both present desire and effort? Not whether he could rationally hope to make such an attainment if he is at present neither willing nor desirous to make it, but whether provided he at present has both the will and desire, he may rationally hope to secure so rich an anointing of the Holy Spirit, and to be so thoroughly baptized into the death of Christ as to remain thereafter in a state of abiding consecration to God?
I care not to speculate upon abstractions and upon the grounds of hope where there is neither desire nor will; that is, where there is no religion. But I have been amazingly anxious myself to have the question here put answered in relation to myself, and I know that many others are intensely anxious to have this question answered. Must I always expect to be overcome by temptation? May I not rationally hope to obtain a permanent victory over sin in this life? Must I carry with me the expectation of going more or less frequently into rebellion against God so long as I live? Is there no hope in the case? Has grace made no such provision that it is rational for me, in this state of intense interest and anxiety, to hope for complete deliverance from the overcoming power of sin in this life? Is there no foundation any where upon which I can build a rational hope that I shall make this attainment? Are all the commands and exhortations, and promises, and declarations in the bible touching this subject, a humbug? Are they no warrant for the expectation in question? May I never rationally expect to be more than a conqueror in this life? Must I expect to succumb to Satan ever and anon, so long as I live, and is every other expectation irrational?
The Holy Spirit is given to christians, to abide with and in them, for the express purpose of procuring their entire sanctification in this life. It is said Ro. 8:26,27: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Now it is a fact that the Holy Spirit often stirs up, in the souls of all christians, intense desire for this attainment. He as manifestly begets within them a longing for this attainment as he does for ultimate salvation. Now why is it not as rational to expect the one as the other? Their ultimate salvation they do expect, and receive the drawings of the Spirit after the grace of perseverance as an earnest or evidence that God intends to secure their perseverance and salvation. They regard it as rational to indulge this desire excited by the Holy Spirit and to hope for the thing which they desire. The thing is promised, and they feel stirred up to take hold on these promises. Now it is perfectly rational to hope for the fulfillment of them.
And is not the same true of the promises of entire sanctification in this life? These are among the most full and express promises in the bible. The Holy Spirit excites in all christians the most earnest desire for the thing promised. Now why is it not rational to hope for the thing which we desire? I do not here say that all do hope for it. All christians do desire it; this is one element of hope; but why do not all entertain the expectation of making this attainment, and thus hope for it? Is it because there is no rational ground of hope? But why is there not? It is expressly promised. God has no where intimated that it is not his design to fulfill this class of promises. The Spirit leads us to pray for it. Now would it be rational to believe that these promises will be fulfilled to us? Why not? The difficulty and the only difficulty that can exist in this case is that human speculation and false teaching have forbidden confidence or expectation, so that while there is intense desire, there is no real hope indulged of receiving the blessing. The blessing is delayed because there is no hope. There is ground of hope, but false teaching has forbidden hope to be indulged. The church are told by men in high places that such a hope is irrational. Thus the Holy Spirit is resisted, and grieved and, quenched, when he is striving to inspire hope that this blessing will be obtained. This is just as the devil would have it.
The fact is there are precisely as good ground for the hope of obtaining a complete victory over sin in this life, as there are for the hope of perseverance and salvation. But in one case these grounds are recognized and acknowledged, and in the other they are denied. In one case the hope is encouraged by teachers, and in the other it is discouraged. But there is not, that I can see, the least ground for this distinction. If there is ground for the one hope, so is there for the other. Suppose the ground for hope in both cases were denied as it is in one, what would be the result?
But again: Has grace established any such connection between the present belief of the promises, and their fulfillment as to render it certain, or in any degree probable that they will be fulfilled to us?
I have already said that the objection we are considering must proceed upon the assumption that there is no such connection.
But let us look at this.
Suppose that God has expressly promised any blessing whatever, upon condition that I believe the promise. I am led by the Holy Spirit to a present laying hold by faith upon that promise. Now, does not this render it rational in me to hope that I shall receive the thing promised? If not, why not? Is it replied that a farther condition of the promise is that I persevere in faith and in the use of the appropriate means, and I have no ground for rational hope that I shall continue to believe and to use the means? Then the fact that the Holy Spirit at present stirs me up to present faith affords no degree of evidence that he will continue to do so, and the fact that I at present lay hold of the promise, does not afford the least reason for the hope that I shall keep hold and use the means in any such sense as to secure the blessing promised. Well, if this were so, the bible were the greatest humbug that was ever palmed upon mankind.
The fact is, there must be at least a connection of high probability if not of certainty between the present actual belief of the promise, and the future fulfillment of them to us, or the bible and the whole gospel is nonsense.
But again: I say that this is as true of the promises of entire sanctification in this life, as of any other promises whatever. If it is not, I say again, let the contrary be shown if it can be.
But again: When Christians are stirred up by the Holy Spirit to lay hold upon any class of promises in prayer and faith they have good ground for the hope that it is the design of God to grant the blessing promised them. Now it is plainly in accordance with the revealed will of God that christians should be wholly sanctified and kept from sin. And suppose the Holy Spirit stirs up the soul to great longings and wrestlings for complete deliverance' from sin, and to plead and believe such promises as the following:
1 Thes. 6:23: And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
Jer. 31:31: Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; 32. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, (which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord;) 33. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
32:40: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
Eze. 36:25: Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. 27. 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.
Ro. 5:12: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.
6:11: Like wise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ oar Lord. 14. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
1 Thes. 4:3: For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.
If the Holy Spirit perform his work in the soul according to Ro. 8:26,27: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God;" I say, if the Holy Spirit leads christians to pray for the fulfillment of such promises as those just quoted, and to believe those promises, have they no reasonable ground for the hope that the blessing will be granted? Indeed they have the best of reasons for such an expectation.
Suppose it be objected that many christians have been led thus to pray, who have not received the blessing sought. I answer, that it remains to be proved that they were led by the Holy Spirit to plead any promise in faith, where they have not received, or will not receive an answer according to the true spirit and meaning of the promise which they plead and believed. Suppose they may have thought at some time, or that they have often thought that they had become so established that they should sin no more, and that the event has proved that they were mistaken; this does not prove that it is irrational for them to expect that their prayers shall yet be fully answered. Suppose a parent is led by the Holy Spirit to pray in faith for the conversion of a child, and that this child appears if you please, from time to time to be converted, but that the event shows that he was mistaken; that is, that he was not truly converted; this is no reason for his despairing of his conversion. He is still warranted to hope, and is bound, if he is conscious of having prayed in faith for his conversion, still to expect his conversion, and to use the appropriate means to secure this result. Just so, if a christian has been led to plead the promises of deliverance from all sin, for example, such an one as 1 Thes. 5:23,24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it;" I say if any saint on earth is conscious of being or having been led to pray in faith for the fulfillment of this promise, he is warranted to expect its fulfillment to him according to its true spirit and meaning; and this he is bound to expect, although he may have supposed that he had entered upon this state, and found himself mistaken a hundred times. The fact that he has not yet received the fulfillment of the promise in extenso, no more proves that he will not, than the delay in the case of the promise that Abraham should have a son, proved that it was irrational in him to expect the promise to be fulfilled to him. It has been objected that it was irrational to expect to attain to a state in this life in which we should sin no more, because many have supposed they had made the attainment and found at length that they were mistaken. But there is no force in this objection. Suppose this is granted, what then? Does this prove that the prayer of faith will not be answered? Suppose many such mistakes have been made; does this disprove the word of God? In no wise. God will still fulfil[l] his promises, and "is not slack concerning them as some men count slackness." If such a promise has been plead in faith, heaven and earth shall pass away before the answer shall fail. But suppose it should be alledged that evidence is wanting that any ever did or will plead those promises in faith. To this I answer, that the soul may be as conscious of exercising faith in these promises, as it is of its own existence; and although one might think he believed, when he did not, still it would be true, that when one actually did believe, he would know and be sure of it.
Many christians can as confidently affirm that they plead these promises in faith, as that they are christians. Now, is it irrational for them to expect the fulfillment of them? No indeed, any more than it is irrational to expect to be saved. If the one expectation is irrational, so is the other.
Will it be replied, that the one is less probable than the other? I ask, what have probabilities to human view to do with rendering it irrational to believe God and expect him to fulfill his word? Suppose it is less likely to human view that we shall ever, in this life, arrive at a point in christian attainment, beyond which we shall sin no more, than it is that we shall ultimately be saved: I say, suppose this to be granted, what then? Can not God as truly, and, so far as we know, as easily secure the one as the other? It may be that God foresees that the final salvation of some or of many souls turns altogether upon the fact that such a work be accomplished upon them as shall settle and confirm them in obedience before certain trials overtake them.
But suppose, again, it be said that few or none have given evidence of this attainment before death, and yet many have been saved; there is therefore little or no reason to believe that the elect are entirely sanctified in this life. I answer, that it is certain from the bible that the saints are sanctified wholly in this life; that is, at some period in this life.
I have no doubt, though I do not expect this to have weight with an objector, that great multitudes have been sanctified and preserved agreeably to 1 Thess. 5:23,24. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
But again, I say that the past experience and observation of the church, whatever it may be in respect to the subject under consideration, is not the test of what it is reasonable to expect in future. If it is, it is unreasonable to expect any improvement in the state of the church and the world. If past experience is to settle the question of what it is rational to expect in future, then at no period of the church's past history, was it rational to expect any improvement in her condition. It is not to past experience, but to the promises and the revealed design of God and to the Holy Spirit, that we are to look for a ground of rational hope in regard to the future.
I suppose that it will not be denied by any one, that most christians might rationally hope to be indefinitely better than they are; that is, to be much more stable than they are. But if they might rationally hope to be much better than they are, on what ground can they rationally hope for this? The ground of this hope must be the indwelling and influence of the Holy Spirit; that "exceeding great and precious promises are given to us whereby we may be made partakers of the Divine Nature and escape the corruptions which are in the world through lust;" that the Holy Spirit is struggling within us to secure in us the fulfillment of the conditions of those promises, and therefore we may reasonably hope to make indefinitely higher attainments in this life than we have yet made: I say, I suppose that no christian will deny this. But some of these promises expressly pledge the state of entire sanctification in this life. This is not only true in fact, but is plainly implied in the saying of Peter just quoted. Observe Peter says, 2 Peter 1:4; "Whereby are 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." This plainly implies that those promises cover the whole ground of entire sanctification. Now with such promises in our hands, why should it be thought unreasonable to hope for entire and permanent victory over sin in this world any more than it is irrational to hope for indefinite improvement in this life? Will it be said that it is easier to keep us from sin generally than uniformly. But who can know that God can not as easily give us a complete victory, as to suffer us to sin, and then recover us again? At any rate the promises of entire sanctification are made, and it is just as rational, that is, just as truly rational to expect them to be fulfilled to us, and to expect that we shall be led to fulfill the conditions of them, as that we shall fulfill the conditions of the promises of perseverance. If there be not the same degree of reason to hope for one as for the other, still there is real ground of rational hope in both cases. This can not reasonably be denied. It is therefore rational to hope for both.
Now the fact is that christians find themselves disposed to attain this state. If they are disposed to aim at it and to pray and struggle for such a victory, is it rational for them to expect or hope to obtain such a victory? The question is not really whether it is rational to hope that christians will be disposed to attain this state. The fact of their being christians implies that they are thus disposed; and the inquiry is, being thus disposed, is it rational for them to expect to make the attainment? I answer, yes. It is perfectly rational for any and every christian who finds himself disposed to aim at and struggle after this state, to expect to obtain the blessing which he seeks; and every christian is drawn by the Holy Spirit to desire this attainment. He has in the very fact of his being led to desire and pray after it, and to pray and struggle after a complete and lasting victory over sin, the best of evidence that he may rationally expect to make the attainment. It is just as rational to expect this under such circumstances, as it is to expect to persevere to the end of life in grace; or as rational as it is to expect to make indefinitely higher advances in holiness. If it is rational to hope to make indefinitely higher attainments than we have made because of, or upon the conditions of the promises, and of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to stir us up to fulfill the conditions of the promises, it is just as rational to hope for a permanent victory over sin upon the same conditions. If the Holy Spirit leads on to indefinitely higher attainments, it is rational to expect to make them. If he leads on to the fulfillment of the conditions of the promises of complete and permanent victory over sin, it is just as rational to expect to attain this state as it is to expect to make indefinite advances toward it.
How can this be denied? I can not see why one expectation should be irrational, if the other is not.
Now observe, the question respects acts of will. Religion, as we have seen, consists in the consecration of the will or heart to God. A christian is supposed to have consecrated his heart and himself to God. The will is influenced either by light in the intelligence or by the impulses of the sensibility. Selfishness or sin consists in the will's being governed by the desires, appetites, passions or propensities of the sensibility. Temptation finds its way to and exerts its influence upon the will through the sensibility. Now can a christian expect or rationally hope by aiming to do so, to attain to such a state of mind, that he shall be no more overcome by temptation and led into sin?
We have seen that the end upon which benevolence fixes is the highest good of being in general. This is the christian's ultimate end or intention. We have also seen that the elements of this intention are,
(1.) Entireness; that is, the whole will or heart is devoted to this end.
(2.) Present time; that is, the soul enters now, and at present makes this consecration.
(3.) The consecration is designed to be entire, and everlasting; that is, the consecrated soul does not enlist as an experiment nor for a limited time, but true consecration or devotion to God is comprehensive, so far as present intention goes, of all the future. This consecration to be real is comprehensive of all future duration, and of all space. That is, the soul in the act of true consecration enlists in the service of God for life, to be wholly God's servant in all places, at all times, and to all eternity. These are the true elements of all acceptable consecration to God. The soul in the act of consecration makes no reserves of time, or place, or powers; all are surrendered to God. It does not intend nor expect to sin at the moment of consecration. It fully intends to be and remain wholly the Lord's. It chooses the great end upon which benevolence fixes, and designs to relinquish it no more forever. But experience teaches the christian his own weakness, and that if left to himself, he is easily overcome by temptation. His sensibility has been so little developed in its relations to eternal realities; his will has so long been in the habit of being led by the feelings and desires of the sensibility, that when the propensities are strongly excited, he finds to his confusion and unspeakable grief that he is weak, and that if left to himself, he invariably yields to temptation, or that he is at least very liable to do so, and that he frequently sins. Now the question is, Is there no ground of rational hope that he may attain such an established state as uniformly to have the victory over temptation? Is there no ground of rational hope in this respect until after this life? Has grace made no such provision as to render it rational in the true saints to expect or hope to gain so complete a victory that Rom. 5: 21, shall be realized in their own experience: "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord;" Also 6:14: "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law but under grace." Also,  Thess. 5:23,24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." Also, Jeremiah 32:40: "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good, but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Also, Col., 4:12: "That you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." I say the true question is, Is there no hope for the christian that these and such like passages shall be fulfilled to him, and realized in his own experience in this life? Can he not rationally hope that the developements of his sensibility may be so corrected, that he may be thoroughly and constantly enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and enjoy so constant and so deep an anointing, may be so baptised into Christ and made so thoroughly acquainted with him in his various offices and relations as to break effectually and permanently, the power of temptation, and so confirm the soul in its consecration as that, through the indwelling of Christ by his Spirit, he shall be more than conqueror in every conflict with the world, the flesh, and Satan? Is there no hope? This is the agonizing inquiry of every soul who has felt the galling and fascinating power of temptation. Observe, in the case supposed, the soul is at present willing and deeply solicitous to avoid all sin in future. Thus far grace has prevailed; the soul has committed itself to God. Is there no hope that it can abide in this state of committal? Is it irrational for it, in the midst of its anxieties to stand fast forever, to hope that it shall ever in this life find itself practically able to do so? If not, what do the scriptures mean? If I may not rationally hope to stand in every hour of temptation what can this passage mean? 1st Cor., 10:13: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Does this only mean that we shall have the natural ability to bear temptation? Does it not mean that such Divine help shall be vouchsafed as that we may rationally hope and expect to stand in the hour of trial? Indeed it does.
There certainly is not in the philosophy of mind any thing to forbid the entertaining of a rational hope of making the attainment in question; but on the contrary, every thing both in the Bible and the philosophy of mind to warrant such an expectation. The mind only needs to be brought into such a state of developement and to be so constantly under the influence of Divine illumination as to set the Lord always before it, and as to have the sensibility duly developed in its relations to divine things, to secure the uniform action of the will in conformity with the law of God.
The great difficulty with all classes of unsanctified persons is that their desires are too strong for their reason. That is, their sensibility is so developed that their excited propensities control their will in opposition to the law of God as it is revealed in the reason. Now if a counter developement can be effected that shall favor instead of oppose the right action of the will, it will break the power of temptation and let the soul go free. If desires to please God, if desires after spiritual objects shall be developed, if the sensibility shall be quickened and drawn to God, and to all spiritual truths and realities, these desires instead of tending to draw the will away from God, will tend to confirm the will in its consecration to God. In this case the desires going in the same direction with the reason, the power of temptation is broken. The sensibility in this case rather favors the right action of the will. That such a developement of the sensibility is needed and possible, every christian knows.
That the Holy Spirit, by enlightening the mind, often creates the most intense desires after God and universal and unalterable holiness, is a matter of common experience. It is a matter of common experience that while those desires continue, the soul walks in unbroken consecration to and communion with God. It is when counter desires are awakened, and the feelings and emotions toward God and divine things are quenched and suppressed, that the will is seduced from its allegiance. Now there is, there can be, nothing in the philosophy of mind to forbid the hope of attaining to such a state of develop[e]ment of the sensibility that it shall become as it were dead to every object that tends to draw the heart from God, and so alive to God as to respond instantly to truth and light, and as to be mellow and tender towards God and Christ and divine things as the apple of the eye. When this is effected, it is perfectly philosophical to look for permanent consecration of will to God in obedience not to the sensibility, but in obedience to the reason. The feelings are then such that the reason demands their indulgence, and that the objects upon which they fasten shall be sought. The whole mind is then going forth in one direction. Observe, I do not say that it is impossible for the will to abide steadfast in opposition to the feelings, desires, and emotions; but I do say, that all experience proves that until the sensibility is developed in its relations to God and divine realities, the steady and undeviating action of the will in its devotion to God can not be depended upon. Now the great work of the Holy Spirit in the soul consists, at least very much, in so enlightening the mind in respect to God and Christ and Divine realities as to render the soul dead to things of time and sense, and alive to God and eternal things; to crucify the old man; and to develop a new class of desires and emotions that will favor instead of oppose the right action of the will.
Now observe, when the Spirit begets this hungering and thirsting after the universal and complete conformity of the whole being to God; when he stirs up the soul to an intense effort and to a tearful agony and travail for deliverance from the power of temptation; is it irrational for the soul to make these efforts? Does reason or revelation forbid the expectation that the blessing sought should be obtained? Is the soul mad, and irrationally aiming at an impossibility, or is it irrationally engaged in striving to get loose and to rise permanently above the power of temptation? If it is irrational to expect to make the attainment in question, it is irrational to aim at it. Nay, it is impossible to truly aim at it except it be regarded as possible. The soul must think it reasonable to expect to make this attainment, or it can not think it reasonable to try to make it. But is it deceived in thinking his attainment practicable? If so, but convince it that the expectation is irrational, and it will aim at making it no longer. It must by a law of its own nature give up the pursuit, in despair of ever living without being, at least frequently, overcome by temptation while it abides in the flesh. But does the bible encourage this despair? Does not the bible denounce this state of mind as unbelief and sin? What are the promises--what is the gospel--and what are the provisions of grace, if, after all, there is practically no remedy for the agonized christian in such circumstances? Is there no rational ground of hope or help for him in God? Then surely the gospel is a vain boast and a humbug.
Observe, the question before us is whether the christian who is actually willing and most earnestly desirous of rising permanently above the power of sin and temptation, and who is stirred up to lay hold on the promises of complete deliverance, and to plead them in faith before God, can rationally hope to make the attainment in this life at which he is aiming? Is such a soul mad and deluded, or is it rationally employed; and are its expectations in accordance with reason and revelation? Undoubtedly they are in accordance with both.
But before I dismiss this objection I trust not fail to glance at the future prospects of the church. It is, and long has been, the belief of the great body of orthodox christians that the church is destined at a future period of her earthly history to rise to a state answerable to the representations of the prophets and apostles--a state in which she shall come forth "clear as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners." In proof of the fact of a future millenium on earth, let such passages as the following be consulted.
Gen. 22:18. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Ps. 22:27. All the ends of the world shall remember, and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
37:11. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
72:6. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth. 7. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. 11. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him. 17. His name shall endure forever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.
86:9. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
Isa. 2:2. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 4. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares: and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 17. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. 20. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles, and to the bats.
25:6. And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. 7. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. 8. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall be taken away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.
22:13. Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briars, yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: 15. Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. 16. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. 17. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. I8. And my people shall dwell in a peaceful habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.
45:22. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else. 23. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
49:6. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
59:19. So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory., from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. 20. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob saith the Lord.
66:18. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders: but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. 21. Thy people shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.
66:23. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.
Dan. 7:27. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
Mic. 4:1. But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. 2. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Heb. 2:14. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
Mal. 1:11. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles: and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.
John 12:31. Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
Rom. 11:25. For I would not, brethren that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits,) that blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26: And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, there shall come onto Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 27. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Rev. 11:15. And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
20:2. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. 3. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
These things are said of the extension and state of the church undeniably at some period of its history in this world. That is, they are said of the church; not in a glorified state, but of her in her state of earthly prosperity. At least this is and has long been held by the great mass of christians.
The following things are said of her holiness at the time specified:
lsa. 60:21. Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.
Jer. 31:33. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 31. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Ez. 36:25. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. 27. 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. 28. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses; and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you,
37:23. Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgression, but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them; so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. 24. And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
Zeph. 3:13. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
Zech. 14:20. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar.
Ro. 11:25. For I would not brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceit,) that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. 26. And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 27. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
These things are said of the holiness of the church at that time.
The following, among other passages represent the spirit of peace and unanimity that shall prevail at that time.
Ps. 29:11. The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.
37:11. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
72:3. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. 7. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
Isa. 52:8. Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.
60:17. For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron; I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness. 18. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.
66:12. For thus saith the Lord, Behold I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream; then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees.
Micah 4:3. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 4. But they shall sit every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.
The following passages speak of the great intelligence of the church at that period:
Isa. 11:9. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
29:18. And in that day shall the deaf bear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. 24. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.
33:6. And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation; the fear of the Lord is his treasure.
Jer. 1:15. And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
Heb. 8:11. And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
The following passages describe the temporal prosperity of the church at that time, and show clearly that the state of which mention is made belongs to a temporal and not to a glorified state, as I understand them:
Ps. 72:7. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. 16. There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon, and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.
Isa. 60:5, Then thou shalt see and flow together, and their heart shall fear, and be enlarged, because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. 6. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord. 7. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee; and. they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory. 13. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
Joel 2:21. Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will do great things. 22. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their strength. 23. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he hath given you the former rain, moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain the former rain and the latter rain in the first month. 24. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25. And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten, the canker-worm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer worm, my great army which I sent among you. 26. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be ashamed.
3:18. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim.
Isa. 25:6. And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.
Is. 35:1. The wilderness and the solitary place, shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. 2. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God. 3. Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold your God will come with vengeance even God with a recompense he will come and save you. 5. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. 7. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass, with reeds and rushes. 8. And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there. 10. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall rice away.
41.18. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
Again: the church at that period shall have great enjoyment:
Isa. 25:8. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it.
35:10: And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
52:9. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
65:18. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
Zeph. 3:14. Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. 15. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. 16. In that day shall it be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thy hands be slack. 17. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
Let the following passages be viewed in contrast with the past history of the church:
lsa. 11:6. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den.
40:4. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. 5. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
41:18. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 19. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah-tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir-tree, and the pine, and the box-tree together. 20. That they may see and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.
55:13. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign, that shall not be cut off.
These passages are, as every reader of the bible knows, specimens of the manner in which the bible represents the state of the church in future. I have quoted thus copiously to lay before the reader the general tenor of scripture upon this subject.
It is also a matter of common knowledge that nearly all orthodox christians are expecting the church to enter upon this state soon. But how is this state to be attained if it is irrational for christians to hope to be entirely sanctified in this life? If the above passages do not describe a state of complete and continued holiness, what language could describe such a state? These promises and prophecies will be fulfilled at some time. They are, as it respects individuals, and as respects the whole church, conditioned upon faith. But this faith will actually be exercised. The church will enter into this state. Now is it unreasonable for the church, and for any and every christian, to hope at this age of the world to enter upon this state? Would it be irrational for the church to arise and aim at making these attainments in holiness during the present century?
How is it possible for the church as a body to arrive at this state, while it is regarded as unreasonable and as dangerous error for christians to hope or expect to get into a state of abiding consecration to God in this life?
It must be, I think, evident to every one that if the objection under consideration has any weight, the prophecies can never be fulfilled; and that while the theological schools insist, and ministers insist that the expectation of making the attainment in question is irrational and dangerous, the prophecies and promises will not be fulfilled to the church. While such a sentiment is insisted on, the seminaries and the ministry are in the way of the onward movement of the ark of holiness and of truth.
The objection that it is irrational to expect to make such attainments in this life as to get a complete victory over temptation and sin, must be groundless, or both the bible and the Holy Spirit are found false witnesses; but this can never be.