From the very first years of my ministry I have held with Adam Clarke, Richard Watson, John Fletcher and John Wesley, that regeneration and sanctification are separated and distinct one from the other and therefore received at different times. They are both received by faith, and the last one is the privilege of every believer as the first is of every penitent.
Regeneration is a mixed moral state. Sanctification is like weeding the soil, or gathering the tares and burning them, so that nothing remains to grow there but the good seed… Entire sanctification removes them – roots them out of the heart, and leaves it a pure soil.
–Bishop Hamline, Beauty of Holiness, p. 264.
In the merely justified state we are not entirely pure… But in the work of entire sanctification, these impurities are all washed away so that we are wholly saved from sin, from its inward pollution.
–Bishop Jesse T. Peck, Central Idea of Christianity, p. 52.
Regeneration removes some sin or pollution, and entire sanctification removes the corruption which remains after regeneration. This will be seen from the authorities given to be the Wesleyan idea of sanctification.”
–Bishop Foster, Christian Purity, p. 122.
The degree of original sin which remains in some believers, though not a transgression of a known law, is nevertheless sin, and must be removed before one goes to heaven, and the removal of this evil is what we mean by full sanctification.
–Bishop Hedding, Sermons.
By holiness I mean that state of the soul in which all its alienation from God, and all its aversion to a holy life are removed.
This term (sanctify) has the Old Testament sense of setting apart to a sacred service, and the New Testament sense of spiritual purification.
–Jacobus, Notes on John 17:17.
Sanctification is to have soul, body and spirit every sense, member, organ, and faculty, completely purified and devoted to the service of God.
True religion consists in heart purity. Those who are inwardly pure, show themselves to be under the power of pure and undefiled religion. True Christianity lies in the heart, in the purity of the heart, in the washing of that from wickedness.”
–Matthew Henry, Notes on Matt. 5:8.
Primarily sanctification has to do with man’s inner nature or condition, as justification does with his outer conduct. In a word, when a man is converted, he is forgiven and restored to favor with God. The power of sin is broken, “the old man” of sin is conquered, the power of the new life within him is greater than the power of a fallen nature.
This inherited bias, or “prone to wander,” this inner opposition to the law of God is not destroyed, it is conquered in regeneration. It is destroyed, absolutely annihilated, in sanctification.
–R.T. Williams, Sanctification, p. 17.
A glorious fact, however, remains for us to consider… The coming of the Holy Ghost into the heart and life in His exquisite fullness does so cleanse and empower, protect and guard that liability of spiritual failure is brought to its earthly minimum… To every soul who will yield to the Holy Ghost, He will come with loving and holy dominion driving from the heart every antagonism to all the will of God.
He will then secure the entrance to the soul with His own untiring presence. Whenever the enemy attempts to come in like a flood, He himself will lift up a standard against him. He will culture the soul with skill. He will guide the life with agility. He will build fixed principles of moral living deep within the being so that the slightest insinuation of Satan will be readily recognized and repulsed.
He will train the weakened propensities and appetites of a broken race till scriptural culture becomes the instinct of the soul. Thus empowered and equipped the liability of failure is brought to a conspicuous minimum.
–H.V. Miller, When He Is Come, p. 28.
To be sanctified is nothing more or less than this one thing, the complete removal from the heart of that which is enmity to God, not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; and this enables the life to be fully devoted to God.
Regardless of how perfect may be the consecration, no Christian is truly sanctified by Christ until the heart is made pure by His blood. This is a definite experience, a mighty work of grace, wrought by God in response to the faith of the consecrated Christian in Christ the Sanctifier.
This experience marks a definite second crisis in spiritual life, it is the perfection of a spiritual relationship with God, the cleansing from all sin, when God works within us the devotedness He desires.
Devotedness to God – sanctification – includes also a conscious fullness of the Holy Spirit dwelling within as the power of our love, enabling us to live in fellowship with Christ and in full obedience to Him, giving us glorious victory in the many conflicts of life.
Holiness as devotedness to God involves the subordination of all other purposes to the one great purpose – the joyous acceptance and the happy doing of the will of God.
–D. Shelby Corlett, Holiness – The Central Purpose of Redemption, p. 22, 23.
I have called holiness the heart of Christian experience because it is by way of the full realization of what God has promised to us in the way of crises. Regeneration and entire sanctification are the two crises in which God deals with the sin problem in us and by which He takes us out of sin and then takes sin out of us.
After that the Christian life is a way of process and progress, but there are no more crises until glorification comes at the return of Jesus to this world. There is all room for growth after sanctification, but there is no more place for crises.
There is no state of grace beyond a pure heart filled with the Holy Spirit. But from such a heart flows forth the passive and active phases of Christian life as water flows forth from a spring.
Holiness is purity – not maturity. Holiness is the goal only in that it prepares one for whatever there is of Christian life – It is the “enabling blessing” which every Christian needs.
–J.B. Chapman, Holiness the Heart of Christian Experience, p. 10.
The Holy Spirit is vitally related to all the work of salvation. The Bible clearly presents two distinct operations or works of the Holy Spirit that are crisis works of salvation.
The first of these is to be born of the Spirit (John 3:6). Birth is an act, and a crisis act. To be born is to be brought into life. In this case it is to be “born again” (verse 7), to restore a life that has been lost; it is a new spiritual birth – regeneration; it is coming to life as a babe in Christ; it is a new life forgiven and freed from the guilt of sin.
The second of these is to be baptized with the Holy Ghost (Luke 3:16). Baptism is an act, and a crisis act. Baptism is something quite different from birth and cannot possibly be until after birth; one must be born before he can be baptized.
These two figures that are here applied to the spiritual life necessitate two crisis experiences, the one following the other. With this baptism we have entire sanctification, cleansing from the inner state of sin.
–E.P. Ellyson, Bible Holiness, p. 89, 90.
Justification has reference to the disposition and mercy of God toward the repentant sinner; regeneration has respect to the offices of the Holy Spirit pursuant to the dispensation of pardon. Justification absolves from condemnation; regeneration takes away death and inspires life. Justification brings liberty; regeneration supplies power.
– Lowrey, Possibilities of Grace, p. 185.
Generation denotes the production of natural life, regeneration the production of spiritual life. Now the force of the illustration Is seen In the following particulars:
(1) The soul in its natural state is “dead” – “dead” In trespasses and sins. It is so, because “to be carnally minded is death.”
(2) Natural life is the product of divine power alone, and spiritual life must be also. Generation expresses the operation of this power in the one instance, and regeneration in the other. A similar relation exists between the ideas represented by the words “creature” and “new creature,” “born” and “born again.”
(3) Generation and birth produce new natural powers and functions, which demonstrate the omnipotence of their Creator; regeneration and the new birth produce spiritual powers and functions, entirely new, which demonstrate equally the divinity of their origin.
(4) The result of generation is natural life with its accidents, the result of regeneration is spiritual life with its accidents; the degree of health may be mentioned as an accident of the former, the degree of sanctification or holiness as an accident of the latter.
– Peck, Central Idea of Christianity, p. 15.
Hence the new birth, or regeneration, is the divine life of Infancy. It is holiness of heart, but holiness lacking the great and chief measure consisting of salvation from all sin and the perfection of love.
Regeneration bears the same relation to full redemption that infancy does to manhood, discipline to culture, feebleness to might, tuition to knowledge, and imperfection, maturity and completeness.
Such being the relation of the two states, holiness can no more be separated from regeneration than the full currents of vitality in robust manhood can declare themselves unrelated to the feeble flow of blood in infant veins.
–Lowrey, Possibilities of Grace, p. 185, 186.
(1) It is a state of moral purity. One may be far from maturity, there may be much of weakness and ignorance, the judgment may be far from perfect, but the heart may be clean; there may be nothing of moral defilement or pollution.
(2) This is an experience of separation, and of being set apart. There is such devotement to God as to set one apart from the secular to the sacred. One in his consecration must thus set himself apart. In response to this consecration Christ sets him apart.
(3) This is an experience of divine indwelling, of continued divine presence. With this experience, one is never alone, there are always two together; he is “filled with the Holy Ghost.”
(4) This is an enduement of power. The apostles were to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high.” They had been converted and called to service as the first leaders of the church, they had been in training under the teaching of Jesus for some time; but there was a heavenly enduement with power that they needed to fit them for this place to which they were called.
–E.P. Ellyson, Bible Holiness, p. 104.
The difference between a justified soul who is not fully sanctified, and one fully sanctified, I understand to be this:
The first is kept from voluntarily committing known sin, which is what is commonly meant in the New Testament by committing sin. But he yet finds in himself the remains of inbred corruption or original sin; such as pride, anger, envy, a feeling of hatred to an enemy, a rejoicing at a calamity which has fallen upon an enemy.
Now in all this the regenerate soul does not act voluntarily; his choice is against these evils, and resists and overcomes them as soon as the mind perceives them. Though the Christian does not feel guilty for this depravity as he would do if he had voluntarily broken the law of God, yet he is often grieved and afflicted, and reproved at a sight of this sinfulness of his nature.
Though the soul in this state enjoys a degree of religion, yet it is conscious it is not what it ought to be, nor what it must be to be fit for heaven.
The second, or person fully sanctified, is cleansed from all these involuntary sins. He may be tempted by Satan, by men, and by his own bodily appetites to commit sin, but his heart is free from these inward fires, which before his full sanctification, were ready to fall in with the temptation and lead him into transgression.
He may be tempted to be proud, to love the world, to be revengeful or angry, to hate an enemy, to wish him evil, or to rejoice at his calamity, but he feels none of these passions In his heart; the Holy Ghost has cleansed him from all these pollutions of his nature. Thus it is that, being emptied of sin, the perfect Christian is filled with the love of God, even with that perfect love which casteth out fear.
Regeneration is like breaking up the fallow ground and sowing it with wheat, In the growth of which there spring up tares. It is a mixed moral state.
Sanctification is like weeding the soil, or gathering the tares and burning them, so that nothing remains to grow there but good seed. In regeneration a spiritual growth is like the slow progress of the wheat, choked and made sickly by the intermingling weeds.
Entire sanctification removes them, roots them out of the heart, and leaves it a pure moral soil.
The Scriptures affirm that there remains in man, after conversion, what is called “the flesh,” the “old man,” “carnality,” “wrath,” – inherited predisposition – some call this predisposition, “tendency to evil,” but it is evidently more; the apostle calls it “the body of sin.”
–P.F. Bresee, Sermons, p. 46.
The question is not concerning outward sin; whether a child of God commits sin or no. We all agree and earnestly maintain, “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” We agree, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.”
Neither do we inquire whether sin will always remain in the children of God; whether sin will continue in the soul as long as it continues in the body: nor yet do we inquire whether a justified person may relapse either into inward or outward sin; but simply this, Is a justified or regenerated man freed from all sin as soon as he is justified?
But was he not then freed from all sin, so that there is no sin in his heart? I cannot say this; I cannot believe it; because St. Paul says the contrary. He is speaking to believers in general, when he says, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal. 5:17).
Nothing can be more expressive. The apostle here directly affirms that the flesh, evil nature, opposes the Spirit, even in believers; that even in the regenerate there are two principles, “contrary the one to the other.”
–Wesley, Sin in Believers.
Again, in his sermon on Patience, Mr. Wesley says, “Till this universal change (purification) was wrought in his soul (the regenerate), all his holiness was mixed.” Mixed, necessarily in a restricted sense. Both grace and inbred sin have existence in the same soul, though antagonistic and at war with each other.
Though existing for the time in the same person in admixture, they are distinct in nature and tendency; they are “contrary the one to the other,” and are irreconcilable enemies.
Partly holy, and partly unholy, as in a sense is the case with the merely regenerate, does by no means imply a homogenous character, combining and assimilating into a common nature the elements of both holiness and sin.”
–J.A. Wood, Purity and Maturity, p. 111.
Regeneration and sanctification both deal primarily with the sin question. That is why they are called the first and second blessings or works of grace. There are many blessings in Christian experience and Christian life, but there are two blessings that are called the first and second blessings.
This is due to the fact that these two specific blessings deal with the question of sin. The one deals primarily with what we do, the other primarily with what we are. It would not be altogether correct to say that regeneration deals with the act alone. We have already stated that regeneration deals with sins committed, with spiritual death, and with acquired pollution.
Neither would it be quite correct to assert that sanctification deals only with our inner state. This is true primarily, but indirectly it deals with our ethics because of the fact that our inner state makes it easier or harder for us to live right externally.
Here is the great battle ground concerning holiness. The question is simply this, is sin destroyed in the act of sanctification or not? This is the question on which turns all belief in sanctification.
It is folly to try to pass as a believer in holiness and at the same time question its doctrine of eradication. There cannot be such a thing as holiness in its final analysis without the eradication of sin.
Holiness and suppression are incompatible terms. “The old man” and counteraction make a pale and sickly kind of holiness doctrine. It is holiness and eradication or holiness not at all.
–R.T. Williams, Sanctification, p. 16, 17.
When does inward sanctification begin? In the moment a man is justified. Yet sin remains in him, yea the seed of all sin, till he is sanctified throughout.
–Wesley, Plain Account, p. 48.
Regeneration, also, being the same as the new birth, is the beginning of sanctification, though not the completion of it, or not entire sanctification. Regeneration is the beginning of purification; entire sanctification is the finishing of that work.
–Bishop Hedding, Conference Address.
The implantation of spiritual life does not destroy the carnal mind; though its power is broken, it does not cease to exist. While the new birth is the beginning of purification, it is, perhaps, more the process of imparting or begetting spiritual life, than the process of refining or purification; which in entire sanctification is the extraction of remaining impurity from regenerated human nature.
–J.A. Wood, Purity and Maturity, p. 112.
That a distinction exists between a regenerate state, and a state of entire and perfect holiness, will be generally allowed.
–Watson, Institutes, 2, chap. 29.
The substratum of all experimental grace, subsequent to justification is the same. It is love, perfect or imperfect. From the horizon to the zenith, from the twilight to the effulgence of day, the substance is love, love to God and to our neighbor.
–Lowrey, Possibilities of Grace, p. 225.
That this perfect love, or entire sanctification, is specifically a new state, and not the improvement of a former state, or of regeneration, is plainly inferred from the Bible.
–Bishop Hamline, Beauty of Holiness, p. 264.
We remark, first, entire sanctification is not usually, if ever, contemporary with regeneration. Regeneration is, in most cases of Christian experience, if not in all, initial sanctification – not completed, perfect renewal.
The regenerated person is not, at the moment of his regeneration, “wholly sanctified”; he is not born into the kingdom of God a full-grown man; his new creation is not in the stature of the fullness of Christ; nor is he a child born into perfect spiritual life and health.
In a good sense it may be figuratively said, as it is often said, he is a perfect child; but pleasant as the figure may be, it must not be pressed beyond the truth; though a perfect child, evincing good health, there are still in his moral nature, susceptibilities, liabilities, perhaps actualities, of disease, which may develop into speedy death, and, unless counteracted by additional grace, will certainly do so.
Does anyone argumentatively ask, Does God bring into His kingdom sickly children? We must answer, He certainly does. Many such are born naturally, and there are many such among God’s spiritual children – children requiring much nursing to keep them in the breath of life.
–Raymond, Systematic Theology, 2, p. 375.
I have been lately thinking a good deal on one point wherein, perhaps, we have all been wanting. We have not made it a rule, as soon as ever persons are justified, to remind them of “going on unto perfection.” Whereas this is the very time preferable to all others.
–Wesley, (Letter to Thomas Rankin).
Regeneration has been defined by one as an ingeneration of divine life; a sudden process by which man passes from spiritual death to a spiritual life through the quickening power of God’s Holy Spirit.
As has been stated, in regeneration one passes from a state of death to a state of spiritual life; from a state of guilt to a state of “forgiveness”; from a state of pollution – that is the pollution acquired by his own acts of disobedience against the laws of God – to a state of conscious cleansing; that is, a cleansing from acquired pollution.
Thus regeneration has cleansing, not from the moral corruption inherited through the fall, but cleansing from that moral pollution acquired by his own acts of disobedience. –R.T. Williams, Sanctification, p. 13, 14.
The truth seems to be this, that the conditional, preparatory work done in the soul under the guidance of the Spirit may be a process more or less lengthy, according as the seeker after sanctification is more or less receptive and yielding to the Spirit’s influence.
But when that preparatory work is all completed, and the soul is submissive and open to God, “suddenly the Lord whom ye seek will come to his temple” your heart, your whole being, and fill you with Himself and reign there without a rival.
–A.M. Hills, Holiness and Power, p. 215.
Sanctification is “distinct in opposition to the idea that it is a mere regeneration; holding it to be something more and additional; instantaneous, in opposition to the idea of growth gradually to maturity or ripeness ensuing gradual growth, but is by the direct agency of the Holy Ghost, and instantaneously wrought, however long the soul may have been progressing toward it.”
–Foster, Christian Purity, p. 46.
Those who teach that we are gradually to grow into a state of sanctification, without ever experiencing an instantaneous change from inbred sin to holiness, are to be repudiated as unsound – antiscriptural and anti-Wesleyan.
–Nathan Bangs, in Guide to Holiness.
Though purity is gradually approached, it is instantaneously bestowed.
From this we may deduce two principles. First, the general bias, or character of the soul, becomes positively more and more alienated from sin and set upon good; and, proportionately, the susceptibility to temptation or the affinity with sin becomes negatively less and less evident in its consciousness.
There is in the healthy progress of the Christian a constant confirmation of the will in its ultimate choice, and a constant increase of its power to do what it wills: the vanishing point of perfection in the will is to be entirely merged in the will of God.
The positive side – that of consecration by the Spirit of love – is also a process, a gradual process.
Hence the shedding abroad of the love of God by the Holy Ghost admits of increase. It is enough to cite the apostle’s prayer: “that your love may abound yet more and more” (Phil. 1:9). This, in harmony with the uniform tenor of scripture, refers to the growth of love toward God and man.
Is then the process of sanctification ended by am attainment which rewards human endeavor simply? Assuredly not; the Holy Spirit finishes the work in His own time, and in His own way, as His own act, and in the absolute supremacy if not in the absolute sovereignty of His own gracious character.
–Pope, Compend. Chr. Th., p. 37, 38, 42.
There is a consummation of the Christian experience which may be said to introduce perfection, when the Spirit cries, “It is finished,” in the believer. The moment when sin expires, known only to God, is the divine victory over sin in the soul: this is the office of the Spirit alone.
The moment when love becomes supreme in its ascendancy, a moment known only to God, is the Spirit’s triumph in the soul’s consecration: this also is entirely His work, and whenever that maturity of Christian experience and life is reached which the apostle prays for so often, it is solely through the operation of the same Spirit. It is being filled with all the fullness of God, and that through being strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man (Eph. 3:16-19).
–Pope, Compend. Chr. Th., 3, p. 43.
The fact that inborn sin is a unit, an evil principle or taint infecting our nature, and cannot he removed by parts, and more than its antagonism, the principle of life in Christ, can be imparted gradually in our regeneration is evidence that sanctification is instantaneous.
–J.A. Wood, Perfect Love.
Salvation in all its stages is by faith and by faith alone. And this makes sanctification not only instantaneous, but creates a necessity that we should receive it as a gracious gift, bestowed in opposition to a product worked out, or resulting from development and growth.
(1) Sin exists in the soul after two modes or forms: in guilt, which requires forgiveness or pardon; in pollution, which requires cleansing.
(2) Guilt, to be forgiven, must be confessed; and pollution, to be cleansed, must be also confessed. In order to find mercy, a man must know and feel himself to he a sinner, that he may fervently apply to God for pardon. In order to get a clean heart, a man must know and feel its depravity, acknowledge and deplore It before God, in order to be fully sanctified.
(3) Few are pardoned, because they do not feel and confess their sins; and few are sanctified or cleansed from all sin, because they do not feel and confess their own sore, and the plague of their hearts.
(4) As the blood of Jesus Christ, the merit of His passion and death, applied by faith, purges the conscience from all dead works; so the same cleanses the heart from all unrighteousness.
(5) As all unrighteousness is sin, so he that is cleansed from all unrighteousness is cleansed from all sin. To attempt to evade this, and plead for the continuance of sin in the heart, through life, is ungrateful, wicked and even blasphemous: for as he who “says he has not sinned, makes God a liar,” who has declared the contrary through every part of His revelation; so he that says the blood of Christ either cannot or will not cleanse us from all sin in this life, gives also the lie to his Maker, who has declared the contrary; and thus shows that the Word, the doctrine of God, is not in him.
–Adam Clarke, Com. I John 1:7-10.
Sanctification implies both the death of sin, and the life of righteousness. When, therefore, we speak of sanctification, as to the former part of it, we say it may be attained at once – it is an instantaneous work.
But in relation to the latter part, that is the life of righteousness, it is regarded as entirely progressive. The destruction of sin in the soul, and the growth of holiness are two distinct things.
The one is instantaneous, the other gradual, hence it is that we sometimes say with propriety, that the work of entire sanctification is both gradual and instantaneous.
–George Peck, Christian Perfection.
What is it that cleanseth the soul and destroys sin? Is it not the mighty power of the grace of God? What is it that keeps the soul clean? Is it not the same power dwelling in us? No more can an effect subsist without its cause, than a sanctified soul can abide in holiness without the indwelling Sanctifier.
–Clarke, Christian Theology, p. 187.
To say that the doctrine of Christian perfection supersedes the need of Christ’s blood is not less absurd than to assert that the perfection of navigation renders the great deep a useless reservoir of water.
–Fletcher, Last Check, p. 574.
But if there be no such second change; if there be no instantaneous change after justification; if there be none but a gradual work of God as well as we can, to remain full of sin till death.
As to the manner, (that there is a gradual work none denies), then we must be content, I believe this perfection is always wrought in the soul by a simple act of faith: consequently in an instant. Certainly sanctification (in the proper sense) is an instantaneous deliverance from all sin.
The veil over the eyes of a man surrendered to God, is sin – not committed sins but the sin conditions which are his as a child of Adam. It blurs the vision, it hides God from the soul.
–Bresee, Sermons, p. 135.
The attainment of perfect freedom from sin is one to which believers are called during the present life; and it is necessary to completeness of holiness and of those active and passive graces of Christianity by which they are called to glorify God in this world and to edify mankind.
All the promises of God which are not expressly, or from their order, referred to future time, are objects of present trust; and their fulfillment now is made conditionally only by our faith.
They cannot, therefore, be pleaded in our prayers, with an entire reliance upon the truth of God, in vain. To this faith shall the promises of entire sanctification be given, which in the nature of the case supposes an instantaneous work immediately following upon entire and unwavering faith.
–Watson, Institutes, 2, p. 455.
Original sin, or sin as generic and belonging to the race in its federal constitution on earth is not abolished till the time of which it is said, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5); as something of the penalty remains untaken away, so also something of the peculiar concupiscence or liability to temptation or affinity with evil that besets the man in this world remains.
The saint delivered from personal sin is still connected with sin by his own past: the one forgiveness is regarded as perpetually renewed until the final act of mercy. Hence it is not usual to speak of original sin absolutely as done away in Christ.
The race hath its sin that doth so easily beset (Heb. 12:1), its euperistaton amartian; and we must cease to belong to the lineage of Adam before our unsinning state become sinlessness. But original sin in its quality as the sin that dwelleth in the me of the soul, as the principle in man that has actual affinity with transgression, as the source and law of sin which is in my members, as the animating soul of the body of this death (Rom. 7:20, 23, 24), and finally, as the flesh with its affections and lusts, is abolished by the Spirit of holiness indwelling the Christian, when His purifying grace has had its perfect work.
–Pope, Compend. Chr. Th., 3, p. 47.
Sanctification goes even deeper than contradiction of wrong habit or evil conduct. It strikes not only at our customs and our ideals, but it goes to the seat of wrong affections. It demands death to every wrong affection and to every wrong inner feeling and calls for the absorption of the will in the divine will.
This is a glorious demand, but a costly one and, therefore, it is unpopular. Sanctification calls for the death not only of sinful acts, but sinful desires, sinful appetites and sinful affections.
It goes to the center of the human character to destroy the works of the devil. Here is the great battleground of human hearts and human lives.
–R.T. Williams, Sanctification, p. 30, 31.
The original teaching of Methodism was peculiar also in its remarkable blending of the divine and human elements in the process of sanctification. It invariably did justice to both the supreme divine efficiency and to the co-operation of man.
The charge brought against it, sometimes malevolently, sometimes thoughtlessly, that it stimulates believers to expect this supreme and most sacred blessing at any time, irrespective of their preparatory discipline, is contradicted by the whole tenor of the authoritative standards of this doctrine.
Wesley’s sermon on “The Scripture Way of Salvation,” contains an elaborate discussion of this point; and it must be taken as a whole by those who would understand the subject.
–Pope, Compend. Chr. Th., 3, p. 97.
Human nature at its best, under the blessed remedial power of the blood of Jesus, is but a dwelling place from which, or an avenue through which God acts. Of course the dwelling place or avenue is glorified by His presence, as the water in the river-bed makes its banks fresh with life and beauty. There must be conditions of power, but the conditions are utterly useless without the added power.
–Phineas F. Bresee, Sermons, p. 8.
Perfection! why should the harmless phrase offend us? Why should that lovely word frighten us? We can speak of perfection in reference to mathematics, and all is right; we are readily understood. We speak of a right line, or a line perfectly straight; of a perfect triangle; a perfect square; a perfect circle; and in all this we offend no one – all comprehend our meaning perfectly.
We speak of a perfect seed; a perfect bud; a perfect plant; a perfect tree; a perfect apple; a perfect egg; and in all such cases the meaning is clear and definite. Because a seed is perfect, no one expects it to exhibit the qualities of the plant or tree; because the plant or tree is perfect, no one looks to find in it the characteristics of the bud; nor in the bud, the beauties or fragrance of the bloom; nor in the bloom, the excellent qualities of the ripe fruit.
–Fletcher of Madeley.
In the year 1764, upon a review of the whole subject, I wrote down the sum of what I had observed in the following short propositions:
1. There is such a thing as perfection; for it is again and again mentioned in Scripture.
2. It is not so early as justification; for justified persons are to “go on unto perfection” (Heb. 6:1).
3. It is not so late as death; for St. Paul speaks of living men that were perfect (Phil. 3:15).
4. It is not absolute. Absolute perfection belongs not to man, nor to angels, but to God alone.
5. It does not make a man infallible; none is infallible, while he remains in the body.
6. It is sinless? It is not worth while to contend for a term. It is “salvation from sin.”
7. It is “perfect love,” (I John 4:18). This is the essence of it; its properties, or inseparable fruits, are rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing and in every thing give thanks (I Thess. 5:16ff).
8. It is improvable. It is so far from lying in an indivisible point, from being incapable of increase, that one perfected in love may grow in grace far swifter than he did before.
9. It is amissible, capable of being lost; of which we have numerous instances. But we were not thoroughly convinced of this, till five or six years ago.
10. It is constantly both preceded and followed by a gradual work.
11. But is it in itself instantaneous or not?
In examining this, let us go step by step. An instantaneous change has been wrought in some believers. None can deny this. Since that change, they enjoy perfect love; they feel this, and this alone; they rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.
Now this is all that I mean by perfection; therefore, these are witnesses of the perfection which I preach. But in some this change was not instantaneous. They did not perceive the instant when it was wrought. It is often difficult to perceive the instant when a man dies; yet there is an instant when life ceases. And if even sin ceases, there must be a last moment of its existence, and a first moment of our deliverance from it.
Therefore, all our preachers should make a point of preaching perfection to believers, constantly, strongly and explicitly; and all believers should mind this one thing, and continually agonize for it.
Wesley, Christian Perfection, p. 283-285.
Experience shows that, together with this conviction of sin remaining in our hearts, and cleaving to all our words and actions as well as the guilt on account thereof we should incur were we not continually sprinkled with the atoning blood, one thing more is implied in this repentance, namely, the conviction of our helplessness.
–Wesley, Scripture Way of Salvation.
The phrase afesin amartiwn, or remission of sins, means simply the taking away of sins: and this does not refer to the guilt of sin, merely; but also to its power, nature and consequences. All that is implied in pardon of sin, destruction of its tyranny, and purification from its pollution is here intended; it is wrong to restrict such operations of mercy, to pardon alone.
–Adam Clarke, Com. Acts 10:43.
Queries, humbly proposed to those who deny perfection to be attainable in this life.
1. Has there not been a larger measure of the Holy Spirit given under the gospel, than under the Jewish dispensation? If not, in what sense was the Spirit not given before Christ was glorified? (John 7:39).
2. Was that “glory which followed the sufferings of Christ,” (I Peter 1:11), an external glory, or an internal, namely, the glory of holiness?
3. Has God anywhere in Scripture commanded us more than He has promised to us?
4. Are the promises of God respecting holiness to be fulfilled in this life, or only in the next?
5. Is a Christian under any other laws than those which God promises to “write in our hearts”? (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:10).
6. In what sense is “the righteousness of the law fulfilled in those who walk: not after the flesh, but after the Spirit?” (Rom. 8:4).
7. Is it impossible for anyone in this life to “love God with all his heart, and mind, and soul, and strength”? And is the Christian under any law which is not fulfilled in this love?
8. Does the soul’s going out of the body effect its purification from indwelling sin?
9. If so, is it not something else, not “the blood of Christ, which cleanseth it from all sin”?
10. If His blood cleanseth us from all sin, while the soul and body are united, is it not in this life?
11. If when that union ceases, is it not in the next? And is this not too late?
12. If in the article of death; what situation is the soul in, when it is neither in the body nor out of it?
13. Has Christ anywhere taught us to pray for what He never designs to give?
14. Has He not taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”? And is it not done perfectly in heaven?
15. If so, has He not taught us to pray for perfection on earth? Does He not then design to give it?
16. Did not St. Paul pray according to the will of God, when he prayed that the Thessalonians might be “sanctified wholly, and preserved” (in this world, not in the next, unless he was praying for the dead) “blameless in body soul, and spirit, unto the coming of Jesus Christ”?
17. Do you sincerely desire to be freed from indwelling sin in this life?
18. If you do, did not God give you that desire?
19. If so, did He not give it to mock you, since it is impossible it should ever be fulfilled?
20. If you have not sincerity enough even to desire it, are you not disputing about matters too high for you?
21. Do you ever pray God to “cleanse the thoughts of your heart” that you “may perfectly love Him”?
22. If you neither desire what you ask, nor believe it attainable, pray you not as a fool prayeth?
God help thee to consider these questions calmly and impartially.
–Wesley, Christian Perfection, p. 239-241.
The normal regenerate heart is one where the self is restricted by divine law, but yet existent. In this heart are two centers of gravity – self and Christ. Two laws are there in conflict, a horizontal earthly law and a perpendicular godly law. In such a heart the “new man created in Christ Jesus” reigns, but not without a rival – self.
Thus it is that the regenerate man has a dual nature: the divine nature implanted in regeneration and the self-nature, the former being active and dominant, the latter being restricted and suppressed. Here the will must be constantly exercised and the most careful attention be given lest “a root of bitterness [self] springing up” give trouble, and the sinful nature come again into ascendancy.
–Floyd W. Nease, Symphonies of Praise, p. 143.
What is Christian perfection? The loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This implies that no wrong temper, none contrary to love, remains in the soul; and that all the thoughts, words and actions are governed by pure love. The perfection I teach is perfect love; loving God with all the heart, receiving Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, to reign alone over all our thoughts, words and actions.
Faith, in order to its exercise, presupposes a certain state of the mind and affections, and without these it cannot exist – its very existence includes them; namely in the briefest terms, it supposes the knowledge of sin, and sorrow for it; the knowledge that there is a Saviour, and a readiness to embrace Him.
–Bishop Foster, Christian Purity, p. 121.
Purity and maturity! The words are similar in sound, but they are very distinct in meaning. Purity may be found in the earliest moments after the soul finds pardon and peace with God. But maturity involves time and growth and trial and development.
The pure Christian may even be a weak Christian. For it is not size or strength that is emphasized, but only the absence of evil and the presence of elementary good. Purity is obtained as a crisis, maturity comes as a process. One can be made pure in the twinkling of an eye; it is doubtful that anyone in this world should be listed as really mature.
Growth continues while life lasts, and for aught we know, it may continue throughout eternity. More faith, more love, more hope, and more patience incline one to think that at some undefined time we will have none of the opposites of these.
But growth is not a process for purifying. Growth is addition, purifying is subtraction. And even though one may approach holiness by ever so gradual a process, there must be a last moment when sin exists and a first moment when it is all gone, and that means that in reality sanctification must be instantaneous.
At this or any given moment every Christian is either free from sin or he is not free from sin. There can be no sense in which he is actually holy and at the same time still somewhat defiled.
–J.B. Chapman, Holiness: The Heart of Christian Experience, p. 23, 24.
Not only sin, properly so-called, that is, a voluntary transgression of a divine law; but sin, improperly so-called, that is, involuntary transgression of a divine law, known or unknown, needs the atoning blood. I believe there is no such perfection in this life as excludes these involuntary transgressions, which I apprehend to be naturally consequent on the ignorance and mistakes inseparable from mortality.
Therefore, sinless perfection is a phrase I never use, lest I should seem to contradict myself. I believe a person filled with the love of God is still liable to involuntary transgressions.
–Wesley, Plain Account, p. 43.
To us the clear teaching of the Bible is, that man quits sinning when he begins to repent. But he does need a further salvation from many other things; his ignorance – lack of skilled conformity to heavenly patterns – and from his shortcomings or limitations because of the results of old conditions.
He is like a king’s son who was captured and carried away to live among wild and uncivilized races, but who was at last recaptured and brought home; he is full of gladness and love, yet, in his ignorance, liable to offend in many ways against the new conditions into which he has come.
Thus every Christian will always have need to say, “Forgive me my trespasses.” He needs a salvation of abounding grace that will keep every element of mind and body in its normal condition as the agent and instrument of Jesus Christ. The appetites of the body are God created – right and good – and are to be held in proper poise and condition by the gracious anointings with the Holy Ghost.
The attributes of the mind are, likewise, God created and must be held in balance by the same divine Spirit. Some of them will need great, direct help from the Holy Ghost, and it is necessary for our good that we realize this help and receive it in answer to prayer. A sanctified man is at the bottom of the ladder.
He is but a child – a clean child. He is now to learn; to grow; to rise; to be divinely enlarged and transformed. The Christ in him is to make new and complete channels in and through every part of his being – pouring the stream of heaven through his thinking, living, devotement and faith.
–Phineas F. Bresee, Sermon: Death and Life.
In every state we need Christ in the following respects:
(1) Whatever grace we receive, it is a free gift from Him.
(2) We receive it as His purchase, merely in consideration of the price He paid.
(3) We have this grace, not only from Christ, but in Him. For our perfection is not like that of a tree which flourishes by the sap derived from its own root, but, as was said before, like that of a branch which, united to the vine, bears fruit; but, severed from it, is dried up and withered.
(4) All our blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, depend on His intercession for us, which is one branch of His priestly office, whereof therefore we have always equal need.
(5) The best of men still need Christ in His priestly office, to atone for their omissions, their shortcomings (as some improperly speak), their mistakes in judgment and practice, and their defects of various kinds. For these are all deviations from the perfect law, and consequently need an atonement.
Yet that they are not properly sins, we apprehend may appear from the words of St. Paul, He that loveth, hath fulfilled the law; for love is the fulfilling of the law (See Rom. 13:10). Now mistakes, and whatever infirmities necessarily flow from the corruptible state of the body, are no way contrary to love; nor, therefore, in the Scripture sense, sin.”
–Wesley, Plain Account, p. 42, 43.
First, I suppose all will admit that when the temptation gains the concurrence of the will, the subject contracts guilt. There can be no doubt here. Second, It is equally clear that when the temptation begets in the mind a desire for the forbidden object, the subject enters into temptation, and so sins against God.
Third, It is also clear that temptation cannot be invited or unnecessarily protracted without an indication of a sinful tendency toward the forbidden object, and consequently, such a course not only implies the absence of entire sanctification, but involves the subject in actual guilt.”
–Peck, Christian Perfection, p. 435.
Were we to discuss the problem at length we would raise the question: How could Adam and Eve ever fall, for they were complete in holiness? The answer is found in the simple recognition of the fact of the humanity of Adam. It was true, then, and now is, that the royal road of Satan to the heart of man is found through his natural appetites and desires.
Temptation is ever based upon desire. It is upon this fact that he plays until be has produced an act of disobedience and again sown the seed of iniquity in the heart of man. But the questioner persists, how can sin actually get back into the heart of man after once it has been removed? The answer to this is found in a proper recognition of what sin as a principle actually is.
It is here again that our human language breaks down in its efforts to describe spiritual relations. We speak of sin as a substance because of the beggary of language. It is called the old man, the body of sin. But these terms are merely figures of speech. Sin, as a principle after all, is not a substance, it is a moral quality. It is the pollution of the blood stream of the moral nature. Were sin a substance or a thing, most assuredly it could never be placed back in the nature once it had been removed.
But sin is not a substance, it is a moral condition. And just as the bloodstream of an individual, once having been cleansed by purgatives, could again become carelessly polluted by contamination, so the heart of man can again become polluted by disobedience and spiritual indolence.
–H.V. Miller, When He Is Come, pp. 27, 28.
In the motivity of every moral person there are, at the beginning of the test, two antagonistic groups of motives, the good and the bad. That is, any personal interest which can be related to conscience at all is necessarily either good or bad.
By using the motive in either group, the motive so used is made stronger, and also the opposite motive, if there is one, is made weaker. Or, by rejecting a motive, it is made weaker, and also the opposite one is made stronger. That is, if you have an interest, and express it in specific volition, you will increase that interest and diminish any opposing interest; or vice versa. In this way, under the law of use, a motive can be emptied of all urgency.
The exhaustion of any one motive tends to exhaust all the motives in the same group. The moral life is so related that if you touch it anywhere you must influence the whole. For example, no man can lose all interest in honesty and not begin to lose his regard for truth. When the group entire, of good motives or of bad motives, is exhausted, then the person’s moral character is fixed beyond any possibility of change.”
–Curtis, Christian Faith, p. 49, 50.
Among the various terms that have been used to indicate the experience of entire sanctification, this expression “the fulness of the blessing” (Rom. 15:29), has found a place. Searching into the derivation of the Greek word, we discover that it comes from a verb that has two senses, one to fill and the other to fulfill, complete, perfect, accomplish. while both meanings are present in the use of the term in our New Testament, yet the latter ones predominate at a ratio of four to one.
Taking this second meaning over to the noun, which is substantiated not only by the fact that the verb more often carries this sense but also by the ending that the noun has, then the thought conveyed is that which is completed, that is, the complement, the full tale, the entire number or quantity, the plenitude, the perfection.
While the term had a general sense and is used thus in the Gospels, yet in the Pauline writings it is evident that it has passed for the most part into a definite, theological and doctrinal significance. It became a word that had a very definite connotation.
Among the Christians of the day it had found its way to express the thought of a complete Christian experience relative to holiness of heart as the expression “second blessing” did in Methodist circles at a much later date, and as it does now among us.
–Olive M. Winchester.
There can be no perfect consecration to the whole will of God until there has been a sincere repentance for the double-mindedness and wilfulness and stubbornness and love of the world, all of which are marks of an unsanctified heart. The soul’s sorrow for its inward sin must be as deep and moving as was its sorrow for its outward sins.
The one is just as loathsome in the sight of God as the other, and is just as effectual a bar to the perfect enjoyment of God’s grace and favor. But in approaching the throne of God with this deeper need, there is a point where the seeker knows that his sorrow and repentance for his heart depravity have reached their utmost depths; where his consecration to the will of God is complete and final; possessions, time, talents, ambitions, hopes, wishes, loved ones and friends, all yielded forever to Christ.
The vast unknown future placed daringly and yet confidently in God’s hands, for Him to control and reveal as and when it pleases Him to do so; one’s dearest Isaac bound and placed on the altar, and the knife upraised without thought of any intervening divine hand, so that it may be said of us, as of Abraham, that by faith we actually offered him up to God.
One knows beyond question in such an hour that his sacrifice is complete; there is nothing he could add to it, and nothing he would take from it. And in that glorious instant the seeker has the witness of his own heart that every condition it is humanly possible to meet has been met.
–J. Glenn Gould, The Spirit’s Ministry, p. 9, 10.
Look for it every day, every hour, every moment. Why not this hour – this moment? Certainly you may look for it now, if you believe it is by faith. And by this token you may surely know whether you seek it by faith or by works. If by works, you want something to be done first before you are sanctified. You think, I must be or do thus and thus.
Then you are seeking it by works unto this day. If you seek it by faith, you expect it as you are; and if as you are, then expect it now. It is important to observe that there is an inseparable connection between these three points – expect it by faith, expect it as you are, and expect it now. To deny one is to deny them all.
–Wesley, Sermons, 1, p. 391.
As when you reckon with your creditor or with your host, and as, when you have paid all, you reckon yourselves free, so now reckon with God. Jesus has paid all; and He hath paid for thee – hath purchased thy pardon and holiness.
Therefore, it is now God’s command, “Reckon thyself dead unto sin”; and thou art alive unto God from this hour. Oh, begin, begin to reckon now; fear not; believe, believe, believe and continue to believe every moment. So shalt thou continue free; for it is retained, as it is received, by faith alone.
–Fletcher of Madeley.
By simple faith is meant, taking God at His word without doubting or reasoning; and by naked faith is meant, faith independent of all feeling, and stripped of every other dependence but Christ alone. The holy Fletcher says, a naked faith, is a ‘faith independent of all feelings,’ in a naked promise; bringing nothing with you but a careless, distracted, tossed, hardened heart – just such a heart as you have got now.
–J.A. Wood, Perfect Love, p. 104.
But does not sanctification shine by its own light? And does not the new birth too? Sometimes it does, and so does sanctification; at others, it does not. In the hour of temptation, Satan clouds the work of God, and injects various doubts and reasonings, especially in those who have either very weak or very strong understandings.
At such times, there is absolute need of that witness, without which, the work of sanctification not only could not be discerned, but could no longer subsist. Were it not for this, the soul could not then abide in the love of God; much less could it rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks. In these circumstances, therefore, a direct testimony that we are sanctified, is necessary in the highest degree.”
–Wesley, Plain Account, p. 75, 76.
“It is a perfection which is no other than a perfect, self-annihilating life in Christ: a perfect union with His passion and His resurrection, and the perfect enjoyment of the value of His name Jesus, as it is salvation from sin. It is the perfection of being nothing in self, and all in Him.
It is a perfection for which the elect with one consent have longed, from the apostles downward; neither more nor less than the unuttered groaning desire of the children of God in every age; the common, deep aspiration with only one note more emphatic than has always been heard, though even that has not been always wanting, the destruction of the inbred sin of our nature.
He who searcheth the heart bath always known the mind of the Spirit, even when its deepest desire has not been clearly uttered. And He will yet, we dare to believe, remove the last fetter from the aspirations of His saints, and give them one heart and one voice in seeking the destruction of the body of sin as well as the mortification of its members.”
–Pope, Compend. Chr. Th, 3, p. 99.