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- The Theology of Holiness - 2/19 -


as follows: First, through repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, we are converted. Our past sins are pardoned, and we are born again. After that, our sole business is to grow in grace, and by this growth to approach nearer and nearer to the standard of entire sanctification, but never even suppose that we can reach that standard until the moment of death.

Now, grace is the gift of God, and we cannot, possibly, grow in grace until we receive it. And we can never grow into grace, but grow in it after we get it. We can grow, it is true, in the grace of justification to a limited degree and for a limited time. The degree is limited because of the presence of inbred sin, which is the great, if indeed, not the only hindrance of growth. The time is limited in most cases, at least, because if the justified Christian is brought to see the need and the possibility of entire sanctification, and yet fails, as so many do, to enter into the blessing, because of unbelief, he is very prone either to backslide, in which case, of course, there will be a cessation of growth, or, like the Galatians, he will submit to the bondage of legalism, and after having begun in the Spirit, he will seek to be perfected in the flesh; in which case Paul's verdict to that beloved church was not ye are growing in grace, but, "ye are fallen from grace."

It is plain, therefore, that we can never grow into the blessing of entire sanctification. That blessing is to be received by faith, as the gift of God in Christ Jesus and through the Holy Spirit; and when the grace has once been obtained in this manner, then we can grow in it indefinitely and for a lifetime, possibly even for an eternity. Growth in grace is a most blessed thing in its right place, and when rightly understood and experienced, but it can never bring us to the death of the old man, nor to the experience of entire sanctification.

And as growth cannot do this, neither can death. Death is nowhere mentioned in Scripture as a sanctifier. Death can separate the soul from the body, but to separate sin from the soul is a work which God can only do. Jesus Christ is our sanctification, and the Holy Spirit is our sanctifier, and even if the work is performed in the article of death, it is still the Holy Spirit and not death that performs it. And if He can perform it in the hour and article of death, where is the hindrance to His performing it a week, a month, a year, or forty years before death--if only the conditions are fulfilled on our part. Do we say that He cannot perform it before death; then where is His omnipotence? Do we say that He will not do it before death; then where is His own holiness? In either case, we dishonor God and rob ourselves of an inestimable and indispensable blessing. God save us from such folly.

Scripture, reason and experience, therefore, all unite in the sentiment that entire sanctification is to be sought and obtained now, and if now, then it is to be obtained instantaneously, and if instantaneously and now, it follows, also, that it is to be obtained by faith, and from these premises the further conclusion is logically deducible, that we cannot make ourselves any better in order to receive it, but that we must take it as we are. And so we arrive at and adopt the pithy precept of John Wesley, "Expect it by faith--expect it as you are--expect it now."

In these remarks we have necessarily anticipated some things which belong more accurately to the next chapter; but we are not seeking so much for a perfectly methodical arrangement, as for a clear and Scriptural presentation of the subject. And we proceed to affirm now that entire sanctification is not only essential as the condition of entering heaven, but that it is also necessary for the highest results of the Christian life on earth. It is not only an indispensable blessing to die by, but, if we would fulfill our Father's will in this world, it is indispensable to live by.

But before leaving entirely the subject of growth in grace, having demonstrated, as we trust, that we can never grow into entire sanctification, we ought, perhaps, to explain what we mean by the statement that we can grow indefinitely in that precious grace after, and not before, we receive it. Entire sanctification has two sides or aspects. It has a positive side and a negative side. Its negative side is the removal of inbred sin, and is, therefore, a matter of subtraction. And herein, we may remark in passing, is a characteristic difference between entire sanctification and regeneration. The latter is a matter of addition, because it implies the impartation of a new life to the soul which has hitherto been "dead in trespasses and sins." Now in this negative aspect of entire sanctification there can be no growth. If a heart is pure it cannot be more pure. If it is free from sin it cannot be more free from sin. An empty vessel, as some one has said, cannot be more empty. There can be no increase in purity.

But the positive side of entire sanctification is perfect love, and this is a relative expression. It does not mean that all who possess it must have an equal amount of love. Perfect love to each individual is just his own heart--not some one else's heart--being filled with love. One individual may have a greater capacity of loving than another, just as he may have a greater capacity of seeing or of working. Perfect love in a child would not be perfect love in a man; and perfect love in a man would not be perfect love in an angel. And perfect love may increase in the same individual so that what is perfect love today may not be perfect love to-morrow. As we commune with God and work with Him, as we get more and more acquainted with Christ and With the Holy Spirit, and see more of the infinite attractions of the Triune God, how is it possible that we should not love Him more and more? "There will never be a time in earth nor in Heaven," says the late Dr. Upham, "when there may not be an increase of holy love." On the positive side of entire sanctification, then, there may be and will be growth indefinitely and everlastingly. And this is the true growth in grace, about which much more could be said, but we leave it for the present, to resume our main theme of the necessity of entire sanctification in this life as well as the life to come.

We make a definite statement as follows, viz: No Christian can do all that God would have him do, nor enjoy all that God would have him enjoy in this world, without the grace of entire sanctification. In the beautiful language of metaphor the Saviour says, "I am the true Vine and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away, and every branch in Me that beareth fruit He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit." And again, "Herein is My Father glorified that ye bear much fruit: so shall ye be My disciples." Now the abundant fruit requires for its production the abundant life, and these are both found in the Lord Jesus Christ. "I am come," says He, "that ye might have life (in regeneration) and that ye might have it more abundantly" (in entire sanctification). The abundant life and the abundant fruit, therefore, can only be found in connection with purity of heart.

It is doubtless true that every living branch, that is to say, every justified and regenerated believer, may and should and must, if he would retain his religion, bring forth some fruit. And it is precisely these branches that are bearing fruit, whom the Great Husbandman "purges"--sanctifies--that they may bring forth the more abundant fruit by which He Himself shall be glorified. And here we might rest our case with a Q. E. D., but another remark or two will be in place.

The late Lord Tennyson could perceive, with the genius of a poet, the intimate connection between purity and power. He puts into the mouth of Sir Galahad, one of his heroes, these beautiful words, viz:

"My strength is as the strength of ten, Because my heart is pure."

Now one of the most common complaints among Christians of all denominations, is because of their weakness and their leanness. And yet nothing is clearer than that God has promised to make His people strong, that He has commanded them to be strong in the Lord, and that not to be strong is even blameworthy, not to say criminal in His sight. The reason, then, of our weakness and our leanness and the meagreness of our fruitage, can be nothing else than because we do not fulfill the conditions on which He promises to make us strong. One of these conditions, and an indispensable one, is that we be entirely sanctified. It is they that know their God, both in conversion and entire sanctification, both in pardon and purity, that shall "be strong and do exploits." Beloved, if you would accomplish the work that God has given you to do, and not have to regret its non-accomplishment in eternity, even if you are saved so as by fire, seek and find that which is the essential condition, and ask at once to be wholly sanctified.

And if you would have the fullness of joy, even the joy of an uttermost salvation, the peace that passeth understanding, the fellowship with the Father and with His son, Jesus Christ, the sealing and anointing of the Spirit, the white stone and the new name, the abiding presence of the indwelling Comforter, then pray that the very God of Peace may here and now sanctify you wholly. Amen.

CHAPTER II.

ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION OBTAINABLE.

This would seem to follow as a necessary corollary from what has been said in the preceding chapter. If entire sanctification has been proved to be not a matter of option but a matter of necessity; if we cannot attain to the highest results in Christian privilege, nor in Christian enjoyment, nor in Christian service without this blessed experience, and if, at the end, we cannot be admitted into the celestial city unless we possess it, surely we cannot doubt for a moment that our gracious Heavenly Father has provided a way by which this indispensable requisite both for time and for eternity may be received.

But before discussing this proposition in detail let us have a clear understanding of what is meant by entire sanctification, and, as a preliminary, let us study a few simple theological definitions.

In the first place, my reader will have no difficulty in believing that I fully accept the Arminian doctrine of the universality of the atonement. The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for the salvation of all mankind, and its benefits are offered to all. "He tasted death for every man." But it does not follow that all men will be saved, and this for the reason that the atonement is not unconditional but conditional. It is offered to all, and all are invited and entreated to accept it. But it is available only in the case of those who believe. "He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned." A universal atonement, therefore, does not by any means imply a universal salvation.

Redemption is a term of broad and varied application. It is either general or special. In one sense it is as broad as atonement. Atonement is for sin; redemption is from sin and from all the sad results of sin. In its more special meaning it is applicable only to those who accept the atonement. For these it implies release from the bondage of the will under the law of sin and death, or justification and regeneration. It brings also release from the power and existence of depravity or


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