THE CENTRAL IDEA NEGLECTED
SECTION I. THE FACT SHOWN;
FIRST, IN THE CONDITION OF INDIVIDUALS.
WE believe that Christians, generally, are sanctified but in part.
1. We remark that the probabilities are not against, but in favor of this position. Let it, however, be distinctly understood, that we speak not now of unconverted persons or apostates in the church. There are, doubtless, many of these. But we refer to those who are truly Christians, in the sense of actual inward experience. And, first of all, let no one assume that we undervalue the converted state. Pause for a while over those who can honestly say, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." What reasons have they for gratitude!
Their sins are pardoned, and they were very numerous, and very great. The inward corruptions of a fallen nature were long voluntarily retained. Thoughts of depraved action were fondly cherished. Desires that should shrink from the light of day; motives that were "earthly, sensual, devilish," were freely encouraged. Duties, the most sacred were neglected, and laws pure as the nature of God profanely trampled under foot! And yet, these Heaven-daring offenses were all forgiven! God saw the deep and genuine sorrow of their hearts; their grief for having violated his holy law; their renunciation of sin; their rising, trembling, confident faith; their living, personal trust in the merits of a Redeemer; and he freely forgave all! What amazing condescension! The very Being whom they had so unjustly offended, without one meritorious act upon their part;. without one redeeming element of character; in the pure, unbounded love of his nature; for Christ's sake, did "abundantly pardon;" so that they could triumphantly say, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." This was mercy — free, boundless mercy. It was efficacy in the blood of the Son of God. What a glorious privilege — saved from the guilt of the past! After all this unworthiness; this strange obstinacy; this stubborn denial of the right of God to reign; this rebellion against the only faultless government in the universe; after all this, to be freely absolved, so that no impending curse lowers over their heads; no sounds of wrath fill their souls with terror. No wonder that "joy unspeakable and full of glory" swells the heart, speaks from the eye, and quivers upon the lip, while angels chant anew the song which trembled upon the air of Bethlehem, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men."
But more than this: they are regenerated — "born again" —" born of God," for in this expressive language do the Scriptures represent the change wrought in the converted by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The leading idea of this great work is reproduction; not of the constitutional elements of the soul, for, though these have been marred and perverted in various ways, they still retain their essential identity, and are unquestionably indestructible. It is a reproduction of life — life which originally existed in man, but which had become extinct by violence; spiritual life, depending upon union with God — a union interrupted by sin; hence the soul was "dead in trespasses and sins." No mode of restoring this life could be possible, but that which should unite the soul with God. Christ became the bond of union. He became our "daysman “ — our intercessor. "He took his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high," where "he ever liveth to make intercession for" us. Converted men, by faith, have accepted his mediation, and appropriated the merits of his death, and thus, through him, the elements of a new spiritual life have been imparted to the soul.
But we think some err very much in regarding this work as a literal creation; and this leads them to inquire whether a holy God can permit imperfection to inhere in this "new creation." Others are, perhaps, more spiritual in a similar conception. They think of it as an organic "change of heart," and say, it must indeed be total. Such a conversion of the soul, undertaken and effected by such a power, must, it is assumed, leave it perfectly holy.
But, let us lead you to the contemplation of this gracious work from another direction. We would humbly ask you to take God's favorite language for its expression. cc born again; “born of God;” “born from above;" "sons of God;" "heirs of God."
Now conceive of a soul morally dead. Suppose that soul, with its living intellect, to apprehend God; with its living sensibilities, to feel the impressions of his Holy Spirit; with its living will, to resolve upon the abandonment of sin; upon real, instant, saving faith in Christ. Suppose it done. Now that soul is united to the Father through Christ. Now life runs through, quickens, and pervades it. No new spiritual essence has taken the place of the old; nor is it changed from one kind of organic being to another. But it has received a living energy from God; a power that sets in motion the moral heart, and throws the life-current sweetly through the whole man. This is God in the soul. It is God the Father, the originating Life; it is God the Son, the atoning Life; it is God the Holy Ghost, the sanctifying, witnessing Life.
And what is more natural than that those thus "born of God" should be reckoned "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus?" "When the fulness of time" was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou," (honored Christian, ) "art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
Now, observe, we do not pretend thus to have explained the manner of the new birth. It is too wonderful for us. We cannot explain it. We cannot fathom the doings of the Infinite in the salvation of a soul. Not a step in all that grand process is fully within the grasp of finite minds, though they were extended to the capacity of a seraph.
Nor do we mean that this is the only true idea of regeneration; nor claim that it is even the best one. We only mean that we are exceedingly pleased with it. It presents the glorious idea of spiritual life reproduced in an aspect to us highly illustrative, and surpassingly beautiful. It seems to us not only to be vindicated, but immediately suggested, by the very "words which the Holy Ghost teacheth;" and it must be safe to conceive of the life of God thus powerfully operating to produce a spiritual resurrection of the inner man.
We have shown that regeneration does not necessarily include entire sanctification. It implies neither a literal creation nor an organic change, but the reproduction of life. Then whether or not the soul is made perfect in holiness and love, at the time the divine energy restores it to life, is wholly a question of fact.
It is evident, also, that in this great work is the commencement of sanctification. The very life which is infused into the soul, is a pure life, and hence, of necessity, a purifying life. It is a divine life, and thus an active, holy energy; working against sin, and in favor of holiness. It is God entering the soul, to make it his home. What else could be expected, than that the glorious work of purification should commence at the very instant the divine entrance is effected? Moreover, the regenerated man is conscious of the inward operation of this cleansing power, and the witness of it is included in the witness that he is "born of God." Indeed, so wonderful is the change produced by the first throbs of this divine life, that it is neither strange nor uncommon for the young convert to suppose that his inward corruptions are totally destroyed. And even when his maturer experience corrects the error, he feels a sense of purity in his motives that he never felt before the great change; a horror of sin, of his own remaining sin, which shows unequivocally that the purifying process has powerfully commenced; and the same testimony is borne by his life.
We cannot over-estimate the value of this great work. What a work of love — of love divine — is this surprising transformation! The soul of man alive from the dead, with a clear apprehension of its heirship to glory, unending as the being of God! The fruits of the Spirit new-born within, love gracefully leading the heavenly train! Its appetites changed from earthly to spiritual! Its aims elevated from a world of sin and death to a world of God-like purity, love, and immortality! And all this without claim — without merit; nay, in despite of a life of ingratitude, a life of rebellion, which were enough to have vindicated forever. his eternity of woe! All for the sake of Christ alone! Well might the soul, thus raised from the dead, exclaim,
"I'll praise my Maker while I've breath
And, when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler powers
My days of praise shall ne'er be past,
While life, or thought, or being, lasts,
Or immortality endures!"
But we return to the position that Christians generally are sanctified only in part. We trust we have removed one principal difficulty out of the way of the truth. And we may now glance at another. Many forget that inspired, like other writers, discuss truth generically and specifically. When it is their design to represent inward religion as a whole, they say, for instance, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, and, behold, all things are become new." But then, "perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment; he that feareth is not made perfect in love," is a specific discussion, due in this place, and not in the other. And so of churches. In the Apostle's address to the Corinthians, he assumes their prevailing characteristics, and hence writes, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance and in all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you; so that ye came behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ," &c.
It would thus seem that everything was right in the Corinthian church; but look further on, where the discriminating analysis begins, and you find "It hath been declared unto me that there are contentions among you," — "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ," —" It is reported. commonly that there is fornication among you," — "Now then there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another." But this in no wise contradicts the commendatory introduction. It is a specific discussion of facts reserved for this place. So the converted state is sometimes discussed without analysis, but at the proper time just discrimination is adopted. He who would study the Scriptures safely, must consult the scope of the particular discussion, to ascertain whether it is the design of the inspired writer to show what is the essential religious state, or what the highest, or what are its various stages. Neglect of this obviously important method, has led to grave differences of opinion, some maintaining that the lowest actual religious condition includes entire sanctification, and quoting general texts in proof of their position; others insisting upon the opposite, and very properly quoting specific texts to sustain their views.
Another source of error is in opinions entertained of depravity. Those who reject the commonly received doctrine in relation to "sin in believers," object to the terms corruption, carnal nature, inward defilement, and the like, as too physical, affirming that nothing evil can be predicated of spirit but predisposing tendencies. The error here, is in attempting to show in what depravity consists. This is an inquiry prohibited by the laws of our being. Surely, if we cannot know what spirit is, we cannot know the manner of its depravity. Our terms are physical, because we have no others that are more appropriate. There is, however, no more necessity for mistaking the force of the words corruption and defilement, than of the terms expressing the work they require; as washing, cleansing and others. Should any assert that there is no remaining depravity in the heart of a believer, because we cannot tell what it is, the answer would be, we can with no more accuracy tell what is depravity in an unbeliever. As well might we say "the evil man" has no "evil treasure" in "his heart," because we cannot tell what it is. The fact of depravity is evident, and we are bound to infer moral condition from moral phenomena, as we infer intellectual powers from intellectual phenomena.
But it is still insisted that the holy and omnipotent God would not, could not indeed, do a work imperfectly — that, from the very nature of the case, the new creation must be instantaneous, and entire. We beg, however, to suggest, that this is so far from being necessarily true, that it is not at all sustained by the analogy of the divine proceedings. Progress in duration from the point of beginning to that of completion, is the law of Jehovah's works. He might undoubtedly have created the world in an instant, but he saw proper to begin it, and then go on through a period of "six. days," to the consummation of his plans. He might have effected the redemption of man, by the atonement of Christ, instantly after the fall, but he saw proper to begin the work, and move on through a space of more than four thousand years in its progress. He might give us perfected vegetation, and harvest, instantly after the deposition of the seed; but naturally, as well as spiritually, he has preferred the progressive order, “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." He might have given to earth, a "kingdom of heaven" that would be illustrated by the "leavened bread," but he preferred to give one which "is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." So he might have preferred and efficiently secured, invariably, a finished sanctification at the moment of conversion, but he has chosen to begin the work, and make its completion depend upon faithfulness to the grace already given. He might have preferred a conversion which would have superseded the first part of the apostolic prayer, and rendered. only the latter, "I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless," at all proper; but he chose to make the completion of sanctification contingent, and hence inspired the prayer, "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." The whole probability then is in favor of a progressive, but instantly concluded sanctification. Not only, therefore, is it unlikely that Christians generally have been entirely sanctified, at the moment of conversion, but it is extremely probable that they have quite unnecessarily delayed the fulfillment of its scriptural conditions,
2. We may argue from the facts evident to consciousness and observation. Experience, as we have felt bound to claim, is generally, if not invariably, in favor of the position, that sanctification is at first but partial. It is true, as we have seen, that such is the power of the change from death to life, in conversion, that most who are subjects of it, think the work of cleansing entirely finished; or rather, their attention is so wholly absorbed in the happiness of pardon and adoption, that they do not give calm consideration to this great question. Hence they are often greatly surprised, when they feel the first movements of an unsanctified nature. A strong, worldly attraction, perhaps, or a sudden assault of the devil, rouses their inward conquered enemy, called "the flesh," which now struggles for the mastery. Bitter disappointment and deep discouragement not unfrequently follow this unexpected disclosure. Some, indeed, conclude instantly, that they were never converted, and fall into hopeless despair, or rush madly into sin. But others, better instructed, resist manfully. They feel pain, but no guilt; and frequently they have a strong sense of the divine presence graciously assisting in the struggle. They fly to Christ, and are conquerors, "yea, more than conquerors, through him that loved us." When again they feel the risings of carnal nature, if they have been faithful, they are better prepared, and hence more speedily conquer. Now we are not at liberty to consider these converts backsliders, because they have their conflicts with themselves; for they have experienced no alienation of affections from the Savior, no change of their gracious purpose to serve and glorify him. Indeed, nothing grieves them so much as the thought of offending him. They resist "the flesh" heroically, as they do the world and the devil. They grieve over these evidences of remaining depravity, and in earnest prayer cry out to God for deliverance. Yea; they obtain it, and go from the closet or the prayer-meeting, exulting in the hope of the glory of God. A backslider does none of these things. He yields when our true soldier of Christ fights. He is a captive in chains, where our Christian hero is a victor. The witness of the Spirit is not lost in the struggle of the successful combatant. We hazard nothing in asserting that true Christians may, and often do know, that they have the remains of carnal nature within them, while, at the same time, "the Spirit itself beareth witness with their spirits that they are the children of God." The more they improve in religious experience, until wholly sanctified, the more they see of the evils of their own hearts. Their tendency to sin is not so great, because they are living nearer to God; but they know more of it. Their spiritual vision is constantly becoming clearer, and hence, they detect depravity in their own souls, which was before unknown to them. Is not this incontestably so? Who are they, who have the deepest sense of their inward corruptions? Who groan most earnestly for deliverance? Who have most of mental agony upon the discovery of their unlikeness to Christ? Certainly, not those who have "departed from the faith "; not those who seldom pray in earnest — whose lives are yielded a sacrifice to the world. No; they are surely those who live nearest to God in a justified state; who are most constant and devout in the use of the means of grace; whose conduct before the world is most exemplary. The discovery of this inward impurity, and these efforts to be freed from it, are not therefore evidences of apostasy, but rather of growth in grace, for which the converted have reason to be devoutly thankful.
3. But let us next inquire, what are the professions of the great mass of Christians? They profess religion: they profess faith in Christ: they profess a sense of pardon, of gracious acceptance, of adoption into the family of God; but do they profess to have received in themselves the answer to the prayer of the great apostle: "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly?" Do they say, "The blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from all sin?" No, they cannot, they dare not say it; for they feel the impurities of their nature rising too fearfully within them. They too sensibly feel the dreadful exertions of the strong man bound, struggling for freedom and the mastery. Do they profess to have received the blessing of "perfect love?" No, they may not do it, for they have read expressly, that "perfect love casteth out fear. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." And they do fear, seriously fear, that they shall be conquered by their spiritual foes, and go to hell at last.
Now, would this be so, if Christians generally were sanctified wholly? Would not so rich a grace deserve, and receive, an humble, faithful, and grateful acknowledgment? Would the declarations of our class and conference meetings be, as they now are, a sad tale of confessions, with so little holy triumph and joy! Grant that many of our testimonies are from backslidden members; (and to be honest, however humiliating, we must grant it; ) if all who are Christians at all are wholly consecrated to God, with their souls bathed in the ocean of "perfect love," must not the words of their lips burn with holy joy as they declare what Christ hath done for them? Depend upon it, this almost universal reserve with which the regenerated speak of their religious state; this confession and lamentation on their own account, means something. It tells, in language not to be misunderstood, that there is a fearful sense in which "the carnal mind" yet remains. It shows, with incontestable clearness, that much of inward renovation is yet to be accomplished. Let once the fire of the Holy Ghost baptize the soul; let sin be utterly destroyed; let love, pure perfect love, fill the heart, and the testimony would be changed. What meekness of spirit, what tenderness of affection, what strength of confidence, what boldness of faith, what spiritual, searching, holy power, would gush from the soul made pure by the blood of Christ! We are perfectly certain that the entire sanctification of the great mass of Christians would completely change the character of our social meetings; and, if this is true, then the present humiliating professions of the church are in evidence that its members generally are sanctified but in part.
4. There is a certain peculiarity in the prayers of the devout, which deserves to be carefully studied. We observe that most good men, when they pray, beseech God with more or less earnestness to purify them, to cleanse them from sin, to make them holy. And this they do, not in a style of doubt as to whether they need such cleansing; not as though they were merely conscious of the natural infirmities of human beings, and therefore of a possibility that they may have unintentionally, and without their knowledge, received the stains of sin upon their wholly sanctified natures. This is by no means the general implication of that prayer which goes up often with agonizing earnestness, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Sin in the soul is felt as a dreadful reality. Its motions have been so frequent, its struggles so powerful, that there has been no mistaking its character, or its presence; and hence, frequently, the very first thing in the prayers of the regenerated is a plea for purification; and such is the power of this inward depravity, that it seems to stupefy the soul, and render the utmost exertion of its energies necessary to a realization of its terrible evils, and, the immense importance of entire deliverance from it. Hence it is that the very prayers offered to God, for an inward cleansing from sin, are often cold and ineffectual.
Good men all recognize this state of things in the church. The most devout ministers, as well as the best of the laity, make the burden of their cry, O Lord, sanctify thy people. O cleanse thy believing children! The Savior himself set the example, "Sanctify them through thy truth." It must be so. Christians generally are sanctified but in part. What reason this for the most earnest searchings of heart, and devout humiliation before God!
5. If the position we have taken be not true, then, we are driven to one of two painful conclusions; either the great mass of those who are supposed to be Christians are backsliders, or entire sanctification is a very low state of grace.
If we understand this perfected work in the ordinary sense of being "cleansed from all sin," as "the mind that was in Christ," or "perfect love," how exceedingly small the number who can claim it! And though we should, as we do, concede it to some who do not "bear witness of the light," the number would still be small; for almost all 'e know are so far from furnishing clear evidence of perfect holiness of heart and life, that they furnish abundant evidence to the contrary; and it must be admitted that, in general, the reason why it is not professed under proper circumstances, is, that brethren know they do not enjoy it. Let a searching examination be commenced by any one who doubts this, and we believe he will soon be perfectly convinced. Small, indeed, is the number in whom the blessed image of God is perfectly restored; and are these all the Christians there are in the world? Are all the rest hypocrites? Surely, this cannot be. He who would thus, at a stroke, sweep away so large a proportion of the church of Christ, must have studied imperfectly both men and Revelation; and yet he who asserts that none are Christians at all, except those who are perfectly holy, certainly does this!
But let us look at the other alternative. Admit that the number of the wholly sanctified is considerable — that all who were once converted, and have not backslidden, are as pure in their souls as it is the aim of the Holy Ghost to make them; then, alas! where are we? These inward tendencies to sin must remain for life! The gospel makes provision to suppress, but not to remove them! Pride, anger, and lust, must arise whenever their excitants are brought to act upon the soul, and our' best hopes can only extend to victory over them. Except as the number of conveys shall increase no purer state of the true church can ever be expected than we now have! The world has, in believers as they now are, the holiest models of Christian character that it will ever behold!
Against both of these alternatives we enter our solemn protest. For all those who hate sin on its own account, but who are painfully convicted of inward corruptions, and devoutly aspiring after the complete image of God, we claim the evidences of justification, and hence, a valuable Christian character. In the strength of grace they resist, and conquer their inward propensities to evil. They pray with spiritual power, and are often melted into tenderness and holy joy. They love the brethren, They impress the world more or less with the truthfulness of religion. In imitation of their Master, they "go about doing good." They humbly affirm the witness of the Spirit that they are "born of God." They "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." None of these things were ever true of them in their unconverted state. None of them could be possible if they were backslidden. We must not therefore throw them away. We must not rank them with wicked men in the road to hell. To do it, we must decide against the evidence of experience; against the whole force of observation; against the most solemn professions of the men themselves; against the word of God, which says, "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;" —" If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin;" "and every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure;" — against the universal opinions of the primitive church; for, says Wesley, "I do not know that ever it [possible sin in believers] was controverted in the primitive church. Indeed, there was no room for disputing concerning it, as Christians were agreed; and, so far as I have ever observed, the whole body of ancient Christians, who have left us any thing in writing, declare, with one voice, that even believers in Christ, till they are 'strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,' have need to 'wrestle with flesh and blood,' with an evil nature, as well as 'with principalities and powers.'" Indeed, the judgement we oppose, must be against fact itself. This must be extremely hard; and, we submit there is no earthly necessity for it. How happy, upon the contrary, should we be to know that there are many Christians besides those who are wholly sanctified!
But mark the acknowledged defects in the experience of the persons under consideration. Impurities yet remaining, show themselves in thoughts, in feelings, and desires, which ought never to be gratified. "The flesh warreth against the Spirit." It is an enemy — a known and powerful enemy — in alliance with the world and the devil, to ruin the soul. Or, in other words, it is a state of mind peculiarly susceptible of worldly impressions and allurement; a state which responds to the suggestions of the devil, and strongly tends to guilty compliance with temptation; and hence the war with self, which these disciples are compelled to keep up. Hence, also, the many "fears within," which harass them. Hence the darkness and doubts which distress them. Hence the weakness which they frequently feel in spiritual exercises — the reluctance against which they are often forced to do duty. Hence that liability to fluctuation in character, in enjoyment, in life, over which they have to mourn. Hence those humiliating confessions which they make from week to week, often with tears of contrition, in the presence of God and their brethren. Hence the struggle which is necessary in the closet, and in the prayer-meeting, to be blessed — the frequent groanings to be set free. That all these facts may co-exist with all the evidences of adoption given above, we know by experience; and from the plain word of God, from the testimony of multitudes, and from the actual and relative developments of religion in the world.
But is this all of entire sanctification? Has the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost passed through us, done its work, and left all these impurities never to be removed? Is there no higher style of faith — no more permanent happiness — no more complete deadness to the world — no purer inner life — no holier living? Is the church, which we now see, leaving out irreligious members, the "peculiar people," for whom Christ gave himself that he might redeem them from all iniquity? And are they already so redeemed? "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish." Is the present state of Christians the realization of all that is included in this glorious revelation of the object for which the Savior died? No, God forbid. Let us not thus lower the standard of holiness. Some bright examples there are on record, and some still living, of entire sanctification, in distinction from the many who are sanctified but in part; some of "perfect love," in distinction from those whose love is, to the eye of God and men, evidently imperfect. And these are so many indications of what the whole church of Christ may be — of what it ought to be — of what it will be, when he shall have fully "sanctified and cleansed it," and when he shall "present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing." Then, indeed, it shall "be holy, and without blemish." O, transporting thought! Such a destiny awaits the church of the Redeemer. And all that is "glorious in holiness," as the privilege of the militant church, is fairly within the reach of every member.
But we have a great practical end in view, in this attempt at true analysis, and an honest development of the state of believers. It is not to convince speculators upon this ancient and honorable faith of the Bible, and of the best forms of Christianity known in history, though we should rejoice to see the last doubt removed from every mind in the church. It is not even to convince the masses of sincere disciples, who are, in reality but partially sanctified,— for we cannot doubt that this fact is already known to them individually. No. But we wish to rouse the sensibilities of the church to the character of this truth.
If it be true, that Christians generally are sanctified but in part, can it be that we have no interest in such a state of things? Are we to know such a fact as this, and make no inquiries in relation to it? Have we no concern as to the results of the fact? None as to the reasons for it? Can we remain so seriously imperfect in our Christian state, year after year, and make no efforts to know whether a better character is possible to us whether there is guilt in our negligence, whether there is danger to ourselves, danger to the church, danger to the world, in so long remaining "babes in Christ” when we ought to be mature men?
Verily, the mere suspicion that the mass of Christians are sanctified but in part ought to rouse the spirit of inquiry throughout the length and breadth of Zion; and the positive knowledge of the fact ought to enlist the sympathies, and engage the energies of the church, till we can say, in truth and holy triumph, Christians generally are sanctified wholly.
SECOND; THE FACT SHOWN IN THE STATE OF THE CHURCH.
"Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" The reception of the Holy Ghost, in a special sense, is every believer's privilege. This is evident from the promises made. John said, "He that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." The special character of this baptism appears in the language of the Savior given by St. Luke: "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." Now "the number of the names together were about an hundred and twenty;" and "they were all with one accord in one place;" "and there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them." It was hence evident that this special baptism was provided for the whole church. St. Peter confirmed this opinion. "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord cur God shall call."
Now this could not have been the only work of the Holy Spirit upon earth. He is the great agent of general grace, and must have been engaged in the ordinary work of enlightening, purifying, and saving men since the first promise of redemption. But the Christian dispensation was to be marked by peculiar responsibilities, and hence, of course, by peculiar privileges. The full inauguration of the Messiah-King was therefore attested by the abundant outpouring of the Spirit, which was so special as to be announced and, described as an original gift.
The instances recorded are ample confirmation of the general right of believers to this special baptism. We have room for but two: "Now, when the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost; (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." Consider also the brief history in Acts 19.1-7. Paul found certain disciples at Ephesus, to whom he proposed the question, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" He supposed them to be true believers — regularly baptized Christians. From both these instances, and other similar ones, it is evident that, in primitive theology, a special baptism, in distinction from the ordinary work of the Spirit, was recognized as the believer's privilege. It was not implied in the rudiments of faith — in the first conditions of discipleship. It did not invariably accompany Christian adult baptism. It was received at times more or less remote from primary faith, and hence in different stages of Christian progress. It was given in answer to prayer, which, in the forms of primitive simplicity, was accompanied by the laying on of hands. And, finally, it was sometimes followed by certain miraculous results, that were in accordance with the spirit and emergencies of those times, yet not essential to the promised blessing.
But, conclusively, the results required imply the special baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is not merely the conviction for sin, the repentance and faith, the regeneration and witness given in the ordinary forms of divine agency, that will impart completeness to the Christian character, that will clothe it "in the beauty of holiness," that will gird it with power to conquer the world; and, yet these are results imperatively demanded in the revelation of God. The church is held responsible for a state of perfection, for a style of activity, and a degree of moral power, which must be utterly impracticable in the absence of this special baptism. It is evidently assumed in her predicted mission that she will have received the fulfillment of the promise which is to her and her children; and when Christians are found without their intended purity, development and efficiency, it may well be asked, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?”
It thus appears, from the promises recorded, the instances given, and the results required, that the reception of the Holy Ghost in some special sense, is every believer's privilege.
But how is this important, apostolic question to be answered by the mass of believers at the present time? Perhaps few could reply, "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." Unquestionably, however, large numbers must answer in the negative. They have been truly converted, are recognized as believers by the church and the world, and perhaps by the omniscient God. Still they are only "babes," — weak in faith, and very inefficient. They have at no time felt the corruptions of their hearts, so as to make them cry out for deliverance. They have not bewailed their sinfulness for days and nights together, engaged in fervent, agonizing prayer, for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, determined never to rest, until they could "reckon themselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." They have not felt the holy violence of faith, that knew no denial, and claimed, in present renovating power, the baptism of fire. They have not realized the dissolving energies of the Holy Ghost, pervading their whole being, and filling their souls with a burning desire for the glory of God. Or, if so, they have been unfaithful, and are now uttering their lamentations by the rivers of Babylon, with their harps hung upon the willows.
Though devoutly grateful for the special manifestations of saving grace, wherever they appear, the friends of Zion cannot fail to see, and mourn over, her low estate. Inefficiency is felt to so great an extent, as to excite alarm and anxious inquiry into its causes and remedies. The church question — involving the whole field of its essential and organic life, of its historic and prophetic relations to itself, to human governments, and to the ultimate destiny of the race — has no one aspect so intensely interesting as this: What is its essential want? With all deference to those who seek to solve this problem, in other modes, we believe that, The baptism of the Holy Ghost is "the great present want of the church.
1. In proof of this position, we observe, that, The Vision of the church is obscure. From the modes of her being, and the feature of her mission, the church is required to examine with great accuracy the moral condition of the world. She must study profoundly her own state, and the wants and woes of those who are out of her pale. But she does not succeed well in these efforts. Thousands of her members cast a momentary glance at their own hearts, and are flattered by the view; seeing nothing but virtue, where pride, avarice, envy, lust and revenge, have their undisturbed habitation. The soul's reflection cannot reach these depths of concealed depravity. The light is insufficient. The road to heaven is a narrow way, but do not Christians generally think it exceedingly broad? The boundaries of the road, which to an accurate vision would be distinctly marked, seem quite undefined; and when they suppose themselves in the way to life, it is quite possible that they are in "the broad road that leadeth to destruction." There are dangers before them, but they cannot see them; dangers in their worldly prosperity, but they think it the best of fortune; dangers in their levity, but they think it merely innocent joy: dangers in their splendor of dress and equipage, but they think it only decency and good taste; dangers in their sumptuous entertainments and fashionable amusements, but they regard them as essential modes of social refinement. There are frightful dangers in the outward prosperity of the church; in her accumulating wealth and numbers; in her popular and secular power; but she takes these to be the true signs of progress, and ever and anon reaches out her grasping hand for more. These are sad evidences of obscure vision. But there are others.
A work of vast moment is committed to the church; but how little of it does she see! A circle of a few miles bounds the vision of her greatest numbers. And even within that narrow circle, hundreds are perishing for lack of spiritual food; but they are not seen. The hours and the moments of wicked men all around these professed Christians, are made up of eventful crises on which eternal life and eternal death depend; but they come and pass, with their momentous issues, unnoticed!
Far off in the regions of idolatry, what deep and damning guilt preys upon the souls of men! — what agonies wring and crush the heart! — what fearful corruption rages! — what distressing doubts hang over the great unknown! — what countless myriads are moving off, in all the misery of unpardoned sin, every day, into the world of retribution! But all this is nothing to the church. She cannot see it. She has, it is true, an idea that there is something to be done in this direction, but, whatever it may be, she seems hardly aware that it requires haste; and hence she calculates, with cool and exact economy, how much she can spare towards it, from home demands and worldly gratification; proposing in all sincerity to send a few missionaries more, each year, into this vast field of the morally dead. What is it to the church that there are more than six hundred millions of deathless souls, unaware of the revelation God has made to man — of the Savior he has given them — of the immortality to which they are destined — of the bright glories of the heavenly world, and the deep horrors of an endless hell?
Now, no light of science that ever dawned upon the world can illuminate these "dark habitations of cruelty." No inquiry of human reason can ever reach the moral death that pervades the world. No natural eye can gaze into these depths of human misery. No merely natural philanthropy can ever explore these abodes of sin. Nor can any ordinary Christian sight penetrate this vast profound of darkness and woe.
But the special reception of the Holy Ghost is a baptism of light. He is God, and "God is light. In him is no darkness at all." It was to this Divine Spirit that we were indebted for the first view of our sinful hearts. It was his gracious light that revealed the cross, and that has led us every step we have taken in the way to heaven. But hitherto we have received this light in limited portions, just as God has seen to be suited to us, just as our faith has commanded. Hence this obscurity of vision. But "light is sown for the righteous." Provision is made to take all this obscurity away. The promised baptism of the Holy Ghost is a flood of light, penetrating the darkest recesses of the soul, revealing its most concealed corruption. Receiving this, the Christian, sanctified but in part, could not return from an examination of his heart, congratulating himself that there is so little sin there. Its very fountain of inbred corruption would be exposed, causing him to groan in anguish, to "abhor himself, and repent as in dust and ashes." But to the same mind this light would reveal more distinctly than ever its cause of gratitude for what the Lord had done — the evidence of his justification — the honor of sonship — the open "fountain in which to wash from sin and all uncleanness."
It is a clear light, reflected from the mind upon the word of God. It opens with astonishing brightness the promises of the gospel, and strongly illustrates the divine providences. It quickens the inquiring and active powers, and pushes investigation far out into the world of suffering humanity. It reveals with great distinctness the "high and holy way cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in." It discovers dangers that were never before realized. It shows the perilous track of a wandering church within the unhallowed precincts of sin. It compels the soul to shrink from and abhor the very things which before it has earnestly coveted. It trembles to see that the outward splendors of the church, once deemed the reliable evidences of success, are but the attire of a harlot, both revealing and inviting illicit intercourse with a godless world.
It is a baptism of light, uncovering the responsibilities of the church; the fearful power of sin over the hearts of men; the peril of neighbors and friends out of Christ; the delusions of errorists in the struggles of reason after truth to believe, a God to adore, a power to redeem. It more than manifests the fact that "the world lieth in wickedness," which may have been known before. But with this strong accession of light, the soul sees the danger of ignorance, the guilt of infidelity, the responsibility and power of a love of sin. It looks out upon the bewildered masses of humanity as they are moving off to perdition, and says, Alas! these are my brethren! I have a personal, living, eternal interest in them. I am responsible for them to the full extent of the moral power that resides in a converted soul, and lies within its reach. It exclaims in agony, I am, O my God, I am my brother's keeper! And lo! he goes, uninstructed, unwarned, before my eyes, down to hell!
We have no room to extend the view. The argument stands thus: the special outpouring of the Holy Ghost is alone a baptism of light; the vision of the church is obscure; therefore the great present want of the church is a baptism of the Holy Ghost.
2. The life of the church is feeble. Christians have a life in common with the race, and they have a life other than that — a "life hid with Christ in God." It is given in regeneration, in the union established through Christ with the Fountain of life. It is hence characterized as a divine life — a life "begotten of the Father." It is a union of humanity with divinity — a life utterly new in all its attributes and functions. The soul which before gave out only the manifestations of death, now gives out those of life; which before was downward, hell-ward in its tendency, is now upward, heavenward.
It is, moreover, characterized as a life of faith, not merely a life of belief. This is the life of wicked men — the life of devils. It is a life of voluntary reliance upon the Savior. It is faith in the unseen, in the unknown, in the non-existent! Taking God at his word, the soul renounces all worship of visible, tangible being, in favor of an unseen, impalpable, spiritual essence. It renounces present gratification, in favor of that which is mainly future. It sets aside the glories of earth for the beatitudes of heaven, which can only exist for the individual, when they are realized. And all on the strength of a word.
Such is faith. But let it be strictly observed, it is a life of faith, in distinction from any number of separate exercises or acts; in itself a living, God-inspired principle; giving perpetual life to the soul as well when asleep as awake; as well when intensely fixed upon a mathematical problem, as when engaged in prayer; a faith that lives in God, that receives all from God, that turns all to God.
It is also distinguished as a life of love; a life of holy delight in the character of God, and a true desire to promote his glory; of delight in the characters of Christians, and a desire to promote their prosperity; of delight in the essential qualities of the human soul, and a desire to save it; a delight in all goodness, and a desire to extend it; a living love, that is a divine reality, whether it glows in the fervor of a pure, intense passion, or rules as a fixed, commanding principle.
Now, such is the individual Christian life; such is the associated, organic Christian life; a divine and spiritual life; a life of faith, a life of love, with all their implied concomitants and results.
But in the same hearts it may vary in its strength and vigor, in proportion as its conditions are met. Especially does it depend upon the measure of divine influence received. And this is comparatively limited at first, though its smallest measure seems too much for the soul in its unworthiness to receive, in its feebleness to endure. But experience proves that these incipient gifts of the Holy Ghost are but the earnest of the baptism in reserve, and made to depend upon faithfulness to the grace already given.
As in individuals, so in the church. You shall find a collected, organized life, just in proportion to the individual life of which it is composed. And it is this life of the church which we would accurately estimate.
The individual consciousness of the church, if it could be ascertained, would be decisive in this inquiry. We may certainly know something of this from ourselves; and let us ask, how does the interior life report itself? What is the vigor of that life which you profess to have, in distinction from the natural life; your divine life, wholly unlike any thing human or earthly; your life of faith, renouncing the tangible, the sensual, the present, for the spiritual, the rational, the future; your life of love, fixed on God — God in unchangeable triunity, God in doctrine, God in law, God in redemption, God in fellowship with man? In all candor, is not the inward witness of this life faint, and often inaudible to the spirit-ear?
Actions report correctly this individual consciousness. True, the work of an inward, spiritual life, may be seen at the present time, and it is seen. Many are the spiritual toils, the works of faith, the labors of love, that show a divine life in the church. But there are other works that do not subordinate to these; that are not merely diverting from the true employment of a living spirit; that are not merely accidental or occasional in their demands; works that are engrossing, and that shudder at the light!
Upon the whole, the phenomena of a deep, pervading, spiritual life in the church do not appear at this time. The facts, so far as we are able to judge, compel us to admit that it is comparatively feeble. The general impression, that it is so, cannot be mistaken; and it is distressing to see the expedients adopted, to stimulate this fainting life, and revivify the church. To some it seems that long, loud, and censorious preaching will accomplish it; to others, that special revival measures are the remedy; to yet others, that a spirit of deeper, purer intelligence, diffused throughout the church, will secure the desired result; others still, think radical changes in the constitution and policy of the church are demanded; while not a few insist, that the hope of religion is in a more critical, liberal, and extended philosophy But sad experience proves that, under the strongest action of these, and a thousand other similar resources, the church may wither and die. She has use for an honest and faithful ministry, for special revival measures, for widely diffused intelligence, for improvements in the flexibility of ecclesiastical polity, for a sound philosophy. But it may be doubted whether she ever had more of these than now, and yet her life is drooping.
It is time to consider the fact that the Holy Ghost is eminently life-giving, as well as life-being. His special influence is alone a baptism of life. We have had it in a small degree. Individuals have felt it in its ordinary power and effect. Churches have enjoyed it in a limited measure. The whole church is sustained by its usual general grace; but all this is not enough. It is not what the Bible promises. It is not what the Savior purchased. It is not what the church of antiquity received. It is not what the church of the Reformation experienced. It is not what the church of former generations enjoyed in the days of Wesley and Asbury, of Edwards and Payson. We have too much forgotten this grand and effective provision for the emergencies of the church — the very power which the omniscient God foresaw would be imperatively demanded in the church of the future. We have allowed our minds to be engrossed by subordinate instrumentalities, and just in the same proportion have approached the standard of the church of the Middle Ages. The Holy Spirit is clothed with omnipotence, for the very work we are struggling to accomplish, too much without him. Let the divine effusion come; let it fall as upon the day of Pentecost; let it baptize the whole church of the living God; let it penetrate the souls of ministers and official members, and run like fire through the masses, and then there will be life. This is, by way of eminence, a revival. It is pouring the life of God through the souls of men, and wrapping the church in a flame.
Clearly enough, the special gift of the Holy Ghost is alone a baptism of life. The life of the church is feeble; therefore the great present want of the church is the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
3. The holiness of the church is defective. We have seen that the first great law of holiness is consecration. It is so because, in every act of divine grace efficiently successful, there must be the concurrence of the will. This fundamental principle is conceded in the revelation of God. "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies [a part for the whole ] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." It is an imperative duty, founded in the relations we sustain to God as creatures, and as probationers under a remedial dispensation. But we must do it. God will disturb our sinful devotion to self, his great rival in man. He will awe us by his threatenings, and move us by his "mercies." He will send us the stimulating power and gracious aid of his Holy Spirit. But he will not yield for us. We must present ourselves as the sacrifice upon his holy altar. It is not till the first point is yielded — our voluntary attachment to sin — that he begins the work of sanctification. Nor can the work progress faster than the voluntary consecration proceeds. The full and final realization of that "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord," must involve the free surrender of soul and body, with every power, known and unknown, of life and health, of attainments and reputation, of property and friends, to God for ever. The reservation of the least of these shows a will not yet perfectly subdued.
The second great law of holiness is faith, the "faith that works by love and purifies the heart."
Another is purity: the word implies it. All the terms used in Scripture to define and enforce holiness make this interpretation necessary. The divine arrangements are made to purify us. If the conditions are met, "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" — an achievement so great, it would seem to us, as to be utterly impossible; but the infinite power and faithfulness of God are pledged.
The remaining law is completeness or perfection, not in development, for eternal progression is the rule of God's spiritual kingdom. We mean completeness in the character of the Christian graces especially. Impurities mingled with these render them imperfect in themselves, irregular in their exercise, and slow in growth. Take love as the great, general grace, inclusive of all the rest. We quote once more: "Perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." Plainly, therefore, there is a Christian love that is less than perfect love; a love mingled with fear: and there is a "perfect love that casteth out fear." This is holiness; and surely it is not beyond the claims of God, or the power of redemption. It is only measuring up to the broad command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." This is the great principle and sum of obedience. Even outward obedience proceeding from imperfect love would be irregular, constrained, and deficient; but, proceeding from perfect love, in all the details of Christian duty it would be a holy pleasure. The will of God would be supreme. Love to God would be so intense and absorbing that it should not be needful to inquire whether his pleasure is uttered in the way of imperative command or otherwise. The slightest intimation that any act, however hard to perform, however crossing to human nature, would be, in any degree, pleasing to him, would move the whole soul to do it.
Such is holiness in its highest practicable realization. Of course there has been no time in which the church has fully measured up to this standard. It would be true of her in any age to say she is defective in holiness. As the purification of the heart is a progressive work, there will always be great variety in the holiness of the church. Nor do we now compare the church of the present with that of the past. Even granting it could be proved that there is more holiness in the church now than at any former period, it might be more defective. For the light, the privileges, and the responsibilities of the church are constantly increasing. She may be defeated. now under the same degree of moral power which in a former day would have rendered her triumphant. We seek to estimate her attainments by her present responsibilities.
And first, the holiness of the church is in proportion to the degree of her consecration. The grand test of consecration is humility. In the heart of an individual, the complete domination of pride is evidence that there is no consecration. Its partial ascendency shows the struggle between conflicting powers indecisive. But self-abasement reveals a consecrated soul. That which values itself does not surrender to God. And the same must be said of the church. Perfect humility alone would be the proof of her entire consecration.
Upon careful examination, we fear it will be found that her members, as individuals, have a high estimate of self, of its value and rights; that they habitually place themselves above their brethren, and, in some instances, even above the Almighty! Else how should it happen that they are so exacting in relation to the esteem of others; so sensitive in regard to reputation; so grasping in bargains; so aspiring as to official rank and posts of honor? How is it that so much power of body and mind is concentrated upon worldly schemes,— that so much property is claimed for self, and so little really rendered to the Lord, who rightfully claims the whole? Why is so much time engrossed with schemes for the aggrandizement of the individual, and so little recognized. as the Lord's? Why are kindred and friends held so closely? and, when God asserts his right by taking them to himself, why such immoderate grief, such rebellion against divine sovereignty? These claims, it must be remembered, are asserted against God, in defiance of his authority. Self is not humbled. It has not accepted its revealed insignificance, its nothingness. It has rejected it, denied it, and preferred its claims to high consideration by signs which none can mistake. The extent of this practical rebellion is alarming; and to the same extent is the evidence of defective consecration in the church. No talents, no property, no time is set apart to a sacred use, consecrated to God, which is reserved for the unauthorized use and disposal of self.
Nor can we make a higher claim for the church collectively. If her consecration were complete, she might show it by her humble views of herself; by her attentions to the poor; by her plainness and economy; by her liberal contributions for the spread of the gospel; but other and opposite facts and principles are exceedingly prevalent. Her separate denominations are characterized by elevated views of themselves. In the general, their arrangements and policy are not adapted to illustrate this distinguishing glory of the Christian dispensation, — " Unto the poor the gospel is preached." Artificial distinctions are daily indulged, that bring home to the poor the fact that they are poor, and to a greater or less extent prove that poverty is proscription. Plainness in churches, in establishments, is dreaded. as an evil; and splendor is courted and adopted at the expense of credit, justice, and charity. Extravagant demands at home render foreign appropriations small and entirely inadequate. Alas! how much of unsanctified self yet remains in the church! Defective consecration is marked and daily published to the world.
And what is the faith of the church? Works are the evidence of faith, and she does some important work for the world. But not the work demanded to renovate society, and save the millions who are dying without the Redeemer. Hers is a faith too easily baffled, not, as it should be, that which removes mountains.
Next, we must inquire into the purity of the church; not her purity in doctrines and ecclesiastical polity, but in heart. "The pure in heart " love holiness and hate sin, So strong and decisive are these principles, that their developments are visible. It is impossible to conceal them. The conversation, the company, the employment, will all reveal the inner condition. How are these in the church? The fact cannot be concealed that the purest services known on earth do not attract the multitude. The social prayer meeting, where the purer hearts seek direct communication with God, is generally small. The close and searching religious conference is thinly attended. The rooms of the sick and suffering, of "the widow and the fatherless,” are frequented by but few. The holy communion is dreaded and neglected by multitudes. These are among the holiest scenes on earth. It must be cause of deepest sorrow that so few have the state of mind which renders them delightful; that there is so much impurity in the church, that the most trifling diversions will prevent great numbers from entering them; that attachments to them are so slight as to constitute almost no effective moral power, in competition with parties of pleasure or any species of fashionable amusement. By these simple tests, this grand element of holiness is shown to be wanting to an alarming extent.
But, finally: The holiness of the church is in proportion to its completeness in the Christian graces, especially love; and obedience is the test of love. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Let us seize at once upon a few specific laws which distinguish the Christian system. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Alas! what a fearful amount of disobedience to this most solemn command there is in the church! Take another: "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." And another: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Mark this law of progress. See with what authority we are called upward in the divine life. But disobedience defeats these splendid schemes of divine love. We do not love God further than we obey him. Our very feeble and imperfect obedience reveals a sad deficiency of love.
In all the great elements of holiness, then, the church is seriously defective. And the remedy — what is the remedy? is a question of the gravest importance. We have not been wanting in experiments. The common resort is reformation of life, attempted by thousands from deepest conviction of want, and in the utmost sincerity; but followed by the most lamentable failures. The reason is obvious. It is an effort to purify the streams while the fountain remains corrupt. Discipline is another mode of purifying the church. But the power to execute it is insufficient; the subjects are too numerous; the light to discriminate them is too dim.
The reception of the Holy Ghost, is a baptism of holiness. He is, by way of eminence, the Holy Ghost, as the sanctifier of believers, as the great source and efficient agent of holiness in the church. He alone can give the light which reveals the necessity of purification. He alone can move the great deep of the heart to abhor sin, and pant for holiness. He alone can excite that abandonment of self, that complete reliance upon Christ, which consecration implies. His power can cleanse and renovate the soul; can fill it with "perfect love." This is making the tree good. It is thoroughly cleansing the fountain. And may it not be a general blessing? It is the church, the whole church, that needs this purification. Its worldly tendencies mar its distinctive character, Its corruptions cripple its energies. Its imperfections make it fearful, where the boldest courage is demanded.
The special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is alone a baptism of holiness; the holiness of the church is defective, therefore the great want of the church is a baptism of the Holy Ghost.
4. The power of the church is inadequate. Her power over herself is especially so. She needs control. She needs government with a strong hand. Made up of frail and sinful human nature, she reveals decided tendencies to the world, to self-gratification, to an abandonment of her first principles. She must, from some source, have power to check these tendencies, or she will cease to be the salt of the earth. To speak of them, to utter solemn and repeated warnings, to correct individuals here and there, will not suffice. There is needed a moral energy, that will move through the masses of the church, command their attention, and really arrest their downward career, fix their hearts and wills upon the great aim of probation, and secure a general spirited devotion to it.
Strong conservative power is constantly needed, or pure doctrines revealed from Heaven will be sacrificed to the pride of intellect, the rashness of speculation, or the neglect of indolence. Her morals, which glow with celestial light, will be trampled in the dust; her institutions, pure, simple and elevating, will deteriorate into unmeaning forms, and at length be wholly superseded by the inventions of men; her primitive government will be despised and abandoned, in favor of spiritual despotism or irresponsible anarchy. The power of a wholesome, vigorous discipline, must "mark the unruly," and separate from visible communion, such as will not be reformed, and are contaminating in their influence upon others.
The church, to accomplish her mission, must also be endowed with a strong and increasing aggressive power; a power that will be stronger than sin; that will not hesitate to attack it in high places; that will move forward her reforming agencies with steadiness and effect, into all lands, and against all resistance. She must have a social power, that will silently and unobtrusively permeate all classes, and all governments, subduing the fierce passions of men, arresting the career of ambition, and meliorating the condition of the race.
We have no hesitancy in claiming this moral power, to a greater or less extent, for the church in all ages. But it is too feeble. A sad want of power is extensively felt at the present time. The marked defects of the church are partially seen, are acknowledged; but there seems to be little power to remedy them. Her dangers are deplored, but there is no power to avoid them. Radical tendencies and retrograde movements, are viewed by the few with deepest alarm; but they are breaking over every barrier, and moving on to destruction, with force apparently irresistible. The want of power in discipline is most lamentably evident. That there are many ungodly persons in the church, under whose baneful influence she mourns and labors, there can be no question, But what body of Christians feels that it has power to purge itself from this corruption? Efforts are frequently made, but they are seldom thorough. Few pastors can feel themselves sustained in a candid and impartial administration, that will remove all who dishonor the church, and are injured rather than benefited by the false assurances derived from her honorable protection and guaranty.
And how inefficient is our aggressive power! How bold and obtrusive, and even triumphant, is sin in our presence! How little power have we to reach those who are perishing around us! We see some of them. We lament their doom, but have no strength to avert it. We direct our arrows well, but there is not power enough in the arm to drive them to the heart. We have men to send into every heathen land beneath the sun, but we have not power to send them. The church abounds in wealth, but she cannot command it. Providence is throwing open a thousand doors to the great field of her future triumph, but she does not, cannot, enter them. Alas! how feeble those energies which might be clothed with omnipotence!
It is in vain to grasp for secular power to supply this defect. History shows that this is weakness, rather than strength. It has been the bane of the church in all ages. Her true “weapons are not carnal, but spiritual, and mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds." The elements of her strength are not numbers, nor wealth, nor popular favor. The outpouring of the Spirit of God is alone a baptism of power. With this renovating influence, the church might gird herself for the conquest of the world. This, where it is full and general, takes away the cause of her weakness, stimulates with amazing energy every power of her being, and thrusts her out for the realization of her destiny. Under such a divine afflatus, the dead revive, the timid become courageous, the weak are nerved with supernatural strength, and the sacramental host of God's elect marches on to triumph and glory.
This, then, is the argument. The special outpouring of the divine Spirit is alone a baptism of power; the power of the church is inadequate; therefore the great want of the church is a baptism of the Holy Ghost.
In its combined strength it stands thus. Inasmuch as the vision of the church is obscure, the life of the church feeble, the holiness of the church deficient, and the power of the church inadequate; and as the special gift of the Holy Ghost, promised in the gospel, is alone a baptism of light, a baptism of life, a baptism of holiness, and a baptism of power, it follows conclusively that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is the great present want of the church.
We have thus certainly found reasons for much careful reflection in examining the condition of individuals, and of the church. Surely nothing further is necessary to show the great central idea of Christianity neglected.
SECTION II. THE FACT ACCOUNTED FOR;
FIRST: NOT BY WANT OF TIME BUT OF ATTENTION.
We have seen that the central idea of Christianity is, to a very great extent, practically neglected, and that, as a consequence, Christians generally are sanctified but in part. We now propose to ask why it is so?
1. It cannot be because there has not been sufficient time since their conversion. This may have been the secret, if not avowed, impression of many. They were not wholly sanctified when they were justified. This they have learned by experience, if they did not from the Bible, where it is clearly taught: and they have argued that time is necessary for the completion of the work — how much time they know not; but a long time; and, at length, it has been, perhaps in many cases, unconsciously extended to the period of death. In this way, with a few, weeks and months, but with most, years — many long years, have passed, and the time of their entire consecration has not yet arrived.
But why might not the work have been sooner completed? Sin was pardoned, and the soul regenerated, thus removing the obstacles to the work, though not fulfilling the conditions of it. There is surely no time fixed in the Scriptures, which must elapse before the work can be accomplished. The Savior prays for his disciples, "Sanctify them through thy truth," assuming that they were all at that time eligible to this great blessing. And in view of the same fact, Paul prays, "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." The only one pre-requisite seems to be the Christian or converted state. Even "babes in Christ" are exhorted to "go on to perfection;" and all believers are included in the command, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." The want of time has not been the difficulty. Alas, how many gracious privileges have been neglected! how long have most of us been called to holiness! what darkness and condemnation have we brought upon our souls by refusing the call, or postponing attention to it to another period! All of which clearly shows, that, had we given the subject suitable consideration, we might have been long since wholly saved from sin.
Indeed, there has been such variety in the periods of entire sanctification, as to show clearly that no specific time must elapse before the converted man may enter into the rest of perfect love. In a few instances, we believe, the blessing has been received so soon after regeneration, as to make the periods seem entirely identical; and all times, from this infant state to the greatest age of Christians on earth, have been found available for this gracious work. But reasons vast as eternity may be urged in favor of entering early in our Christian state upon this glorious privilege of the sons of God. What dangers beset the path of those who are but partially sanctified! What numbers backslide! What numbers are finally lost, by neglecting the present imperative call to holiness of heart and life! And what can be gained by delay? How many have been compelled to own, that they have lost much; lost the favor of God; lost growth in grace; lost the power of usefulness; lost interest in the subject; become dead weights upon the church, merely by delaying the work of full consecration! Time! dear brethren; there has been no want of time. But let us rouse ourselves to a consideration of our present duty, our present privilege, or the favored time — the last time for this holy work, will have gone by forever.
It cannot be because entire salvation has not been our privilege and duty. The great declaration, "It is the will of God, even your sanctification," has been always true of every believer. It has always been a direct revelation to every Christian. Of what one of all God's dear children can it be said, He is an exception; she cannot have the blessing? Who would say, The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin all the converted, who will fully appropriate it, except such as these? Who could say, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, but not you? No such exceptions are made. The blessed privilege is as general as the church of the living God. To you, to every soul delivered from the guilt of sin, the charge is given; "Wherefore come ye out from among them, [the worldly,] 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." "Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves [in the blood of Christ, at once] from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." To everyone the entreaty is addressed, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies [a part for the whole] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and. acceptable, and perfect will of God." For every converted man and woman the prayer is fervently urged at the throne of grace: "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." And how inspiring the promise that is added, "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it!" Let no believer, therefore, indulge the apprehension that he is excluded from the high and holy privilege. These scriptures, as we see, hush every fear, and call every soul up to this perfect standard. And why this general delay?
2. We fear attention has not been called so distinctly and forcibly to the doctrine of holiness as it should have been. Sermons have too generally stopped short of it. Other fundamental doctrines of the gospel have been allowed paramount attention — whereas it, has been fully shown that they all depend upon this for their significance, and all point to it as their ultimate aim; and we must express the fear that even philosophical discussions, polemical divinity, splendid rhetoric and orotorical displays have not unfrequently been deemed more important to assembled multitudes, hungering for the bread of life, than the great doctrine of entire sanctification.
Pastoral visitations have been made, and repeated time and again, without a word or a hint upon this great privilege of believers. Prayers have been offered in the house of God, around the family altar, and by the bed of the sick and dying, but with no such distinct allusion to the duty of present, full salvation, as to inform, convince, and arouse the soul to take hold of it as the purchased inheritance of every believer! How, in view of these facts, can it be matter of surprise that Christians generally are sanctified but in part?
3. We do not make it a distinct subject of study. The Bible is full of it; but how many read the Bible without ever observing that it contains provisions for our entire salvation in this life! How many, who are fully aware of this truth, allow the positive commands — the gracious promises — the ample illustrations which relate to it, to meet their eyes almost daily, without ever pausing to ponder them! How many, who believe sincerely that it is both their privilege and duty to be cleansed from all sin, never make a serious effort to use the word of God as a guide to that rich grace? Must not all such inevitably remain unsanctified?
We have many excellent writings upon this subject; but who read them? We fear but a small proportion of those who are sanctified but in part. Christian literature has given great prominence to the doctrine of perfect love. But will not the truth compel the confession, that the majority of the church utterly neglect the great productions of our master minds upon this subject? We cannot say that Christians, the class under consideration, deliberately prefer a work of fiction to a searching book on Christian Perfection; but we must say, that, in multitudes of instances, the entire neglect of works of this kind has prepared the way for that vicious taste which is now ruining the characters of thousands, and "drowning men's souls in perdition." And to what purpose have devout, and even splendid men of different Christian communions, addressed their brethren upon this subject, in cogent arguments and pathetic appeals? In a few instances, the results have been highly encouraging; but, generally, it must be confessed, the response is either cold neglect, or stern opposition. Whoever would, therefore, honestly endeavor to explain the imperfect sanctification of the church, must, we are sure, add this reason also: the pure and excellent books which pour a flood of light upon this great question, are not read!
Serious reflection is a powerful means of sanctification. Frequent, honest, self-examination detects the remaining depravity of the heart, begets an inward loathing of self, extorts the cry, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," and sends the panting, earnest spirit to the blood that cleanseth from all sin. Deep and searching study of the character of God, the nature of his law, the state of the soul, the remedies of the atonement, leads directly to the same result. Are we not, therefore, obliged to believe that those among us who are not aroused to a sense of their remaining sins, and who are not athirst for God and for holiness, neglect reaction upon this theme of really profound and thrilling interest? And is not this another clear ray of light upon the important question which we are endeavoring to solve?
SECOND; WANT OF SPECIAL PRAYER AND CONVICTION.
1. We do not make it a subject of prayer, as our duty, and its immense importance demand. Is there not generally a want of definiteness in our prayers? How commonly do we pray to be blessed, to be delivered from our enemies, to be saved, in such general terms as to show that our minds are not fixed distinctly upon any thing! But even when many wants are fully realized, and successfully urged at the throne of grace, is this want of entire purity likely to be among them? Do Christians generally go away to the closet feeling the burden of inward sin, and, with the distinct conception of a possible present deliverance from it, fall down before God expressly to pray for it? Is the total radical cure of sinful tendencies — the fulness of perfect love — the specific blessing usually prayed for by the converted? Far from it; and yet it is clearly included in the prayer composed for disciples by the Savior himself: "Thy will be done [by me] on earth, as it is done [by angels] in heaven." In attempting obedience to the great command, "Ask, and ye shall receive," we cannot, I think, be too explicit in fixing our minds upon the very blessing we desire; nor need we be surprised if, failing to ask entire deliverance from sin, we fail to receive it.
Is there not, also, a great want of fervor in our prayers, even when we think to ask the blessing of a clean heart? How frequently is it named, merely as a thing of course, without feeling, without concern, without agony of soul on account of our remaining sins, without importunity! The suppliant leaves the throne of grace without being aware that he has on his knees felt his corruptions to be a burden, without a solemn impression that he is henceforth, by sacred covenant, entirely consecrated to God, solely for the reason that no such things have occurred. Had the subject been carefully studied before prayer, had the soul devoutly yielded to the powerful convictions which such study produces, and then gone away expressly to lay this great matter before God, we are sure no mere indistinct allusion to the subject would produce satisfaction — no mere mention of the great blessing would relieve the agony of the spirit. The importunity of the widow would characterize every petition; the fervor of the psalmist would be again exhibited, as the soul exclaimed, in broken accents, "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God;" "My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." We may be well assured that the cleansing baptism of the Holy Ghost will never be given to the cold desire, the half-hearted request. Certainly this very style of praying must of itself go far toward explaining the imperfect sanctification of the church.
And are we not too unsteady in our prayers? We are often deeply convicted by the Holy Spirit of the necessity of purification. Under the power of this conviction, we cry out for full salvation; but the occasion passes, and we suffer our interest in the subject to die away! Our prayers assume the common style, until some other powerful excitement rouses us again to the mighty work. But nothing is promised to such instability. We must bow our souls under the cross, to remain there; we must make our covenant never to be broken; our prayers must be urged till the request be granted. The very general failure of prayers is a strong intimation that they have not been steady — not persevering.
And, finally, is not the want of faith in prayer the grand defect which explains all others? Faith, had it been clear, strong and unwavering, could not have left so many of us in our present state of imperfect sanctification. The Holy Spirit has power to cleanse; the blood of Christ must prevail, if we will only appropriate it. Faith that casts the soul forever upon the merit of Christ, for this very object, must be triumphant. But how unbelieving have been the souls which have long felt the need of this gracious work! Unbelief, that we must admit to be without reason, without excuse, has strangely paralyzed the energies of the church, and extensively defeated. the glorious purpose of the Redeemer to "purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing." How can it be otherwise? What can be more palpably inconsistent, than for any man to say with his lips, " Create in me a clean heart, O God!" and in his heart, "I do not believe thou canst do it! Sanctify me wholly; but I do not believe it is thy will that I should be thus sanctified! ‘Cleanse thou me from secret faults,’ but I expect no such thing to occur! Give me the mind that was in Christ: but such a thing is impossible." And is not this a true representation of much of the praying which is done in the church, for entire salvation? Such prayers cannot succeed.
2. The great doctrine of holiness, as an experimental and practical doctrine, has not been admitted into the convictions and affections of the church generally. Multitudes deny it outright. Many others barely admit it as a possibility. And many believe it as a part of their creed, merely intending, at some other time, to give it consideration! These are facts which none can deny. Many reasons may be given. Inward corruptions oppose the study of it, and resist all attempts to reduce it to practice. The world, in its spirit, bears up against it with a dreadful force. The devil never ceases to exert himself to conceal it from our eyes; and if he fails in this, his final effort is to distort our views of it, and. postpone the period of its serious consideration. An affected or real timidity prevents most professors of religion from mentioning the subject for years and years together. Nearly all the great efforts at reform are directed to the conduct, and not to the heart — to the streams, and not to the fountain. How often do sincere men bow before God in the morning, with the devout desire to live that day without sin! The purpose is solemnly formed to do so; the aid of the Holy Spirit is invoked in carrying out the noble purpose; but scarcely an hour passes, before the worldly, sinful elements within break out anew. The day passes, and leaves upon the soul its fearful burden! Sad repentance, or carnal stupidity, ends it; and the morning comes but to renew the same demands, the same resolutions, the same delinquencies, and the same sadness of heart. The holy Bible explains the grievous cause of all their trouble! It is within them. If they were cleansed from all unrighteousness — if they were filled with holiness and love — how sweet would be their rest — how strong their faith — how bright their joys. Days and nights would move quietly on — no disturbing force would be sufficient to destroy their equilibrium. The fountain purified would send out its streams of holy love, of perfect patience, and triumphant bliss.
But all this occurs only with a few — the devout, the simple-hearted, thoughtful, trusting few! The great multitude hold the preparations for these grand results at a great distance; tremble for fear when they are mentioned; and as soon as decent etiquette will allow, waive the subject in favor of something less difficult, less condemning, more popular. Perhaps a theme directly worldly, is preferred to the glorious truth, that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." This is an outside matter — a thing to be mentioned but seldom, and never to be urged; foreign from the deep convictions, and ardent love of the church) This, of itself, we are sure, would answer the question, Why are Christians generally sanctified but in part?
SECTION III. THE FACT DEPRECIATED.
FIRST; CONSEQUENCES TO NEGLECTERS.
The fact, that Christians generally are sanctified but in part, has been shown, and accounted for. In the fear of God let us now ask, what are the consequences? There are, there must be, consequences of eternal moment connected with such a fact as this; for, let it be observed, that it implies a state of sin, against which special provisions have been made in the gospel — a state of sin long continued, in the midst of light by which it is clearly exposed! Surely Christians, though they resist, and subdue the tendencies of this state, cannot continue in it, for many months and years, without serious consequences to themselves.
1. The first is, fearful advantage to their great enemy, the devil. He comes to them with artful blandishments, to induce a spirit of skepticism, and they have a tendency to unbelief. He comes to enslave them with fear, and they have a strong inclination to fear. He comes to inflate them with inordinate esteem of themselves, and they have a predisposition to pride. He comes to inspire them with a love of the world, its wealth, its honors, its pleasures; and the worldly element has not yet wholly perished within them. He comes to inflame their lusts, and these, though wounded, often show a fearful life, and struggle against the Spirit with terrific power. He comes to excite them to anger, and their natural irritability of temper is not wholly cured. He comes to obscure the path of duty, and their spiritual vision is yet quite dim. He comes to induce rebellion against God, and their spirit of disobedience is not utterly eradicated. And thus we might go on through the whole round of schemes and temptations, which arch sagacity or malignant hate can invent, and we should find, in the mass of Christians, some tendency, more or less concealed, of greater or less power, to yield to these satanic demands. What a fearful advantage is thus allowed to the' enemy! Need it be deemed a matter of surprise, that the soul, in such a state, is so often filled with gloom and. terror? Nay, that the whole foundation of Christian joy and hope is so frequently shaken to its centre?
2. Another consequence is, frequent defeat in this dreadful battle. True, to retain their Christian character, these brethren must conquer in every temptation; for "he that is born of God doth not commit sin." And to regain that character, when once it is lost, they must "repent, and do their first works." But how frequent are failures in the former, and how often the latter is the only remaining resort, let honest experience and truth-telling conscience declare. With what sorrowful literalness does this familiar stanza describe the lives of multitudes of converted men:
"Here I repent, and sin again,
Now I revive, and now am slain;
Slain with that same unhappy dart,
Which, O, too often wounds my heart."
Admit, as we are compelled to do, that sin and repentance, and even final apostasy, are possible, in the highest state of Christian perfection, yet who can fail to see how dreadfully our exposures are increased by remaining inbred sin! We are compelled to declare, that, in our honest judgment, there are few cases of only partial sanctification, in which every single day does not make bitter work for repentance. So violent are the struggles of the strong man bound; so forcible are the affinities between external temptation and internal condition, and so weak and wavering are the Christian purpose of the will, and the trust in a Redeemer, that inward, and even outward sin, with alarming frequency, requires pardon in order to a state of acceptance with the Lord. Is it not so? Would that it were not! What relief would it bring to our hearts at this moment, to be able to prove ourselves in error! But we cannot. With our eyes open to the light of history and revelation, the fact would meet us at every step, even though we should utterly fail to account for it. But with the unsanctified state of the church before us, recognizing, as we are obliged to do, the remaining predisposition to comply with temptation, there is no room left for surprise that so many fall into sin. Nay, it is rather surprising, it is indeed a miracle of grace, that we conquer at all, under these frightful disadvantages. Grace, never wants power. It is no disparagement of grace, but the contrary, to show the fatal tendencies of its neglect.
3. Here must be sought the origin of those grievous apostasies which have dishonored the church, and ruined the souls of men. It is sufficiently lamentable to observe the yieldings of converted souls to the combined power of inward and outward seduction, even when they speedily rally, and regain their forfeited treasure. But, alas! who can ensure the rising again of those spiritually slain? How innumerable the company of those who have ultimately "denied the Lord that bought them," as the legitimate result of long-tolerated internal corruptions! Failing to see that much of the great moral revolution which religion required remained to be accomplished; that their perfection in holiness was made dependent upon fidelity to the grace already given; that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;" that earnestly crying to God for "a clean heart" was every believer's duty; that faith in Christ for entire sanctification, was the only way fully to honor him; and that repose in a justified state was sin against the great apostolic summons, "Let us go on to perfection;" either neglecting or despising the evidences of these glorious truths, they have been swept away by the overwhelming flood of internal corruption and external temptation. Can there be any question of this? Who, that, believes in the possibility of either temporary or final apostasy, could suggest a mode of backsliding more effectual, more inevitable, than to allow the sinful propensities of our nature to remain undisturbed; to disobey the great law of progress, which is revealed as sacredly binding upon every converted man; to neglect the blood which offers to cleanse from all unrighteousness, and decline, as a thing of naught, the purifying baptism of the Holy Ghost! This, it is true, is not done deliberately, and at once. The converted man would shrink from the idea of so great a crime with instinctive horror. But it is the gradual result of procrastination. It is chargeable, we fear, to an alarming extent, upon that ministry which neglects to call attention to the glorious privilege of full redemption; that fails to enforce the doctrine of holiness by a clear experience, a sanctified life, and by powerful appeals from the word of God! Heaven save us from such an awful responsibility! But by whatever means it has occurred, one thing is certain, the great doctrine of Christian perfection has been neglected, and we may see the result in the state of the church. Thousands, once happy in God, have neglected it, and are now in hell. Thousands more have neglected it, and are now among the most profane of all the wicked that throng the broad road to death. Thousands more have neglected it, and are now hanging upon the church as a body of death, from which deliverance, if it come at all, seems far in the distance. Thousands more are neglecting it, and are backsliding as fast as the devil could desire. O! where will this thing end? What power from eternity shall rouse the slumbering church to its only salvation?
SECOND: BUT THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO THE CHURCH.
1. Among these must be reckoned, her equivocal state before the world. Were her converts, or even those of them who retain, for a considerable time, the blessing of justification, to "go on to perfection," who would be at a loss to determine the true character of the church? What excuse could then be given for calling in question her integrity, or doubting her commission from heaven to evangelize the world? Certainly it is the fact, that her members generally are sanctified but in part, that renders her position doubtful, that emboldens her enemies to challenge her legitimacy, and question her prerogatives. Indeed, such is the nearness of resemblance between her masses and the better portions of the world, that she often scarcely knocks herself, and is frequently in alarming doubt whether she has not, by some sad fatality, lost her own identity. We allege, that, were the regenerated of the church all on the stretch for holiness, or in the full possession of it, there could be no such doubting in what character she exists before the world — nothing equivocal in the nature of her mission — nothing problematical in the success of it.
2. Her instability is another sad result of her remaining sins. Responsible men, invigorated with power from another life; set to be the world's light, in the midst of its gloom; commissioned to reclaim a revolted race; bearing from Jehovah himself the seal of their commission; hastening on to eternity, to render their solemn account, ought to have nothing eccentric in their movements, ought not to act spasmodically upon the heart of the world. If moral dignity, if consistent action, if inflexible fidelity, belong to any body of men upon the face of the earth, it is to the church of Jesus Christ. But her unsanctified spirits cannot be held steadily to her holy work. They must be roused afresh at every onset upon the kingdom of darkness. And when the excitement of the action is over, they sink back into comparative lifelessness, and must be excited again to do battle valiantly for the Lord of hosts. Now could this be so, if she were cleansed from all iniquity — if she were a holy, "peculiar people, zealous of good works?” Surely it could not. To account for all her relapses, nothing further need be sought than the chilling effect of remaining depravity. To secure the invariable directness and stability of effort which her high commission demands, her entire sanctification alone is required.
3. Who can deny that the church shows signs of weakness in grappling with her numerous foes? O, it is a fearful war in which she is engaged! This whole world, in its natural state, is under the dominion of the devil, "the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience!" The sleepless, untiring enemy of our suffering race, assaults our great Father, whose tender mercies bless us; his divine Son, whose blood atones for us; and the Holy Spirit, whose energies sanctify us! He arrays as warriors of wrath his fellow-demons, and our wicked brethren, his deluded and hated. vassals; and, with these, attacks, at every hopeful point, and at every available moment, for thousands of years in succession, the recognized friends of the Holy Trinity. The church is God's embattled host against this mighty force, and sometimes she triumphs gloriously. But why not always? The weapons of her warfare are not carnal, but spiritual, and "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." Alas! she is too often divested of her power to use these heavenly weapons. Not only are there enemies and traitors in her ranks, but remaining sympathy with her foes too often paralyzes her efforts, and sends her mourning from the field, when she ought to have been "more than conqueror." There is weakness in this contest, and what more is needed to account for it, than that such multitudes in the church are not entirely on the Lord's side? Divided hearts, divided forces, and defeat; united hearts, united forces, and triumph. So long as sanctification remains incomplete in so large a proportion of the church, we fear we shall have much of the former, and comparatively little of the latter. O that God would speedily remedy this alarming evil by a general baptism of the Holy Ghost!
4. But the church must mourn comparative inefficiency in her enterprises. Look at the mission of the church to herself. To purge her own members from inward sin — to secure their steady, rapid growth in holiness and love — to exercise a wholesome, thorough, Christian discipline, recovering as many as possible of her erring children, and promptly removing those who, by their irreligion, do more harm to her than she can do good to them — to maintain her spiritual services and temporal economy, she is sent to herself. This mission, in fact, if not in form, she has always recognized. Efforts to accomplish these noble purposes for herself may be seen in all her societies. But who can carefully mark them, and not feel grieved at heart? Her most vigorous endeavors to lead her members into the fountain that "cleanseth from all sin," fall vastly short of their object. indeed, even to convince them that entire salvation is possible, and necessary, to rouse them to a spirit of fervent, agonizing, persevering prayer for it, seems wholly beyond her strength. She tries to do it; but, with her small successes, for which the Lord be praised, what extensive, mournful failures mark her history! What can be the cause, if not that the immense aggregate of her inward corruptions deprives her of the spiritual holy power with which she is bound in duty to prosecute this work? How can her ministers thoroughly and effectually "show the house of Jacob her iniquities, and God's people their sins," and lead them to the cleansing blood, while they are themselves neither made "perfect in love," nor "groaning after it?" The cause of such lamentable weakness in these Heaven-sanctioned efforts, stands out as clear as the sun. Many of us to whose charge the work is solemnly committed, are sanctified but in part, and, with deep solicitude, but strict fidelity, we must add, some of us seem content to remain so.
The same explanations of the want of power in exertions to secure the steady and rapid growth in grace, of her members, will, we think, be found sufficient. These exertions are much more common and direct than those which aim at entire purification; and yet, we doubt not, many have been greatly surprised to see so many backsliding in the very midst of these efforts, and to find at the end of the year so little progress, where so much has been expected! This inward earthly, sensual spirit, often neutralizes both the power and effect of the effort.
Christian discipline is lamentably weak among the churches of all denominations. When men begin to backslide, it seems as if we had almost no power to arrest them! We can hardly influence them to attend the external means of grace; and when it is known that they are wholly apostatized, and all efforts to reform them are unavailing, how difficult, if not impossible, to excommunicate them! The church often tries to cleanse herself by wholesome discipline; but it is well, indeed, if, on the whole, this gloomy work does not increase, rather than diminish upon her hands! We may be wrong, but we thoroughly believe that if experimental holiness had its due influence amongst us, no such weakness would exist. Complete success, it is true, might not be possible, because of our imperfection in knowledge; but we are sure we might be able to accomplish what our enlightened, sanctified intelligence should move us to undertake. Sin is weakness, but holiness is strength.
And the spiritual services and temporal economy of the church are maintained. with far less efficiency than they richly deserve, and her friends desire. Warnings and appeals fall powerless upon the ears of the masses. Only a small number can be induced by any efforts, to attend the prayer, the conference, and the class meetings. The great majority stay away. Their states of mind draw them more powerfully elsewhere; and prayers, entreaties, tears. are all in vain.
With honorable exceptions, what begging, scheming, and debating, even among the wealthy, are necessary to obtain the small means required to build our churches and parsonages, support our ministry, and meet the other indispensable home expenses of religion, we need not try to show. Sad experience has superseded all other teaching here. Nor need we attempt to make plainer the humiliating truth, that remaining selfishness, which the fire of divine love should have wholly consumed, is the unchangeable obstruction to the needed benevolence of the church. This is certainly one of the most evident and sad results of the established fact, that Christians generally are sanctified but in part.
But the mission of the church to others demands our attention. The treasures of holy love are not committed to her for her own use alone; they are to be poured out for the benefit of the world. The nations are to be gathered to the Redeemer by her instrumentality. She knows this full well; and hence her mission to foreign lands, her Bible, and tract, and educational efforts. But here, perhaps, more than anywhere else, her weakness appears. God forbid that we should in any sense undervalue the work already accomplished, and in delightful progress, in all these holy enterprises. But when we look at the state of the world, the ignorance, the corruption, and the peril of spirits enveloped in the darkness of heathenism and infidelity; when we think of the hundreds of millions who "know not the Lord," to whom there is no written revelation — no civilization — no Sabbath — no Gospel message, — for whom there is no light shining upon the death-bed, or the grave, or eternity; — when we reflect upon the many thousands of these deathless souls, that are annually ushered into the spirit-world, and then contemplate the limited efforts of the church to save them, we are amazed at the indifference with which these facts are regarded. O what means this stinted, measured, forced contribution, to a cause, which by its living interest, ought to set the whole church on fire! In the name of God, we ask, why do we rest contented amid the glories of a gospel day, while our poor brethren are perishing by thousands, in the darkness of heathen night? Why do we lavish our tens of thousands upon our persons, our tables, our children, our worldly enterprises, and give but a miserable pittance to save men from hell — to deck with immortal gems the coronet of the Redeemer? Why will we so long hesitate to explore the land of sorrow and death, — why refuse to rush into the field to rescue our fellows from the dominion of the devil, when multitudes, even of our own number, peril life and character, time and eternity, for the treasures of earth? Alas! there is so much of unsanctified self — so much of sin remaining in our hearts, that we have no power to make the sacrifices — no strength to do the work! We look out mournfully upon the scene of desolation, but we are too weak to reach it! We cry out to God to save, and then give the struggle over! We weep for our selfishness, under the pathetic appeals of ten thousand dying men, echoed by a servant of Christ; give a few pence, or it may be dollars; — half as much, perhaps, as we would expend for a, sumptuous dinner, if a number of the rich were our guests; and then with our consciences appeased, give ourselves no further trouble, till another anniversary arrives! O God, lay not this sin to our charge! Turn thou our eyes within us, that we may see the fatal cause of our deadly slumberings over a world in ruins! O remove our inward corruptions, that the gushing sympathies of our sanctified natures may flow out to our suffering brethren in streams of holy love! Baptize us with the Holy Ghost, that we may be thrust out upon errands of mercy, through the ten thousand doors opened by thine own omnipotent arm, before our wondering eyes; and eternity shall echo the praise of that grace which answers now our earnest prayers.