THE CENTRAL IDEA IN ITS COUNSELS.
SECTION I. THE CONVICTION PRODUCED.
THE conclusions reached are such as must command attention. Holiness is not an outside or accidental appendage of Christianity. It is the very centre of it — the grand element of its power — the essential fact of its value; and yet, it is generally neglected, so that a large proportion of converted men are sanctified but in part, and the church comes very far short of accomplishing her mission. It is time for us to ask "what shall we do?" May we not assume that the reader has already determined that it is desirable to be holy — it is possible to be holy — it is necessary to be holy? The most anxious desire must then be to understand the way; and there is certainly no need of mistake. The central idea which has produced revelation has filled it with counsels which "he that runs may read," and which followed in the spirit of humble confidence, will surely lead us to the full realization of this glorious state.
But let us not be superficial. Whatever is valuable in religion must be grounded in conviction. The receptive intellect must take in the subject. If it disappear, memory must recall it, and attention detain it, for the most careful examination. The reason must determine its truth, its importance and its claims. The heart must yield to its deep impressions, and the resolves of the soul must harmonize with the understanding.
Conviction is a law term. It implies that the accused has been arrested, tried, and condemned — brought in guilty of the crime alleged against him in the indictment.
But in theology, this term has a special sense. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, imparting to the soul positive evidence of its guilt, its depravity, and its exposures. "And when he is come he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." So perverted is the natural conscience, that it cannot be relied upon, for accurate moral discriminations, for safe and decisive moral impulsions, or just and remedial retributions. Man left to himself, accumulates guilt, with no true estimate of its enormity, becomes harder and darker as crime increases, and "treasures up to himself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." The light of reason, or of philosophy shines too feebly to penetrate the gloom of his depravity.
But the spirit of God has the intelligence required for the revelation of the facts. His omniscient eye scans the minutest particulars of our history, and gazes into the profoundest depths of the soul. He can, therefore, certainly reveal to us the wrongs and the dangers which we have failed to see. Besides, it is not enough to know how our outward or inward sins appear to us. Our own view must in any event be superficial and entirely insufficient for the purposes of reform. We must know God's estimate of these wrongs; at least, so far as he has made us capable of receiving divine communications, and is pleased to make them. To us, his decisions are of paramount importance, and nothing but these may be relied upon with safety. We may, therefore, be humbly grateful that full provision has been made for this necessity. "When he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." This very general and positive declaration is not made for any one class of men, nor intended to refer to any one fact of the moral state or relations. It presents us with the Holy Ghost as the great truth-telling agent to the souls of men. He, and he alone, knows the truth which men have occasion to ascertain. Just as no "man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him, even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God."
In a very important sense, the awakened sinner must therefore have "the witness of the Spirit" to the fact of his guilt, or the divine attestation to the light in which his sins are viewed, by the Being against whom they have been committed.
It is necessary in this discussion to distinguish between the conviction of an unpardoned sinner, and the conviction which must be felt by the inquirer after holiness. In the former instance, the soul is pained and oppressed with a sense of guilt. It is not merely the general knowledge of the fact that he is a sinner that distresses him. Of this he has always been aware. But now, from an agency out of himself, and to him invisible, he is deeply impressed with "the exceeding sinfulness of sin "— especially of his sins. The memory of his crimes against God is strangely quickened, and the examination is surprisingly minute and searching. He feels that he is justly arraigned before the Sovereign he has offended, and all efforts at self-justification are utterly vain. So many hidden crimes are brought to light; — so overwhelming is his feeling of remorse, that he cries out in anguish, I am lost — I am sinking to perdition. "O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" There is no relief from earth or heaven but in pardon. And the same spirit that leads the sinner into the truth of his guilt, must lead him into the further truth of his justification; for this is one of the "things of God" which no one knoweth but the Spirit of God.
We are thus particular in stating the phenomena of conviction in the case of the unpardoned, not only that the conviction due for "sin in believers," may be placed in its own distinct light, but that we may aid inquiring minds in avoiding a dangerous error in the character of experience. It must be of the highest importance for the reader to inquire whether there is guilt in his soul — whether he has been pardoned for the past, or has retained upon his conscience the crimes of a lifetime; or, having "known the way of righteousness, he has turned from the holy commandment delivered unto him," and so lives before God with the crime of apostasy unatoned and unforgiven. That the truth may be known, the Holy Ghost asking for entrance must be admitted. His divine illumination must reach the utmost extremities of the soul, and from the depths of his being this guilty one must repent of the wrongs he has committed. To him the question of pardon is first. His soul must be relieved of its guilt, and, alive from the dead, it must be brought into fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, before he will be in a condition to receive the profound convictions, and enter upon the holier work of seeking entire sanctification. Unpardoned guilt will obstruct the light, and bar the power which this completed work implies; and we cannot fail to urge upon all who would become "pure in heart," that they must first be justified by faith — must be born again. Many doubtless have sought, and sought in vain, for "the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ," wondering why they did not receive it, when the grand obstruction has been in some indulged offense which has brought unpardoned guilt upon their souls. And many others have been seeking for higher attainments received a great blessing, and supposed it to be entire sanctification; when in fact they were only reclaimed from apostasy, or newly born from above. Hence, early doubts arising from the recognition of inward depravity, from which they had believed themselves entirely saved. Hence, also, premature professions and inconsistent living, which bring the work of holiness into discredit before the church and the world. Let us urge upon all to mark carefully the nature of their convictions. Do they refer to offenses voluntarily committed? Are they the evidence of allowed "unrighteousness," or of "knowing to do good, and doing it not?" or of "a transgression of the law?" If so, let the deepest repentance and the clearest justifying faith become the first concern of the soul. And when "the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," then let us invite and give heed to the convictions which are necessary to the completion of the work of purification so auspiciously begun.
It is important, however, to observe that it is not for the justification of delay, but to prevent serious mistake, that we make this discrimination. We have already shown that no specified length of time can be required for the transition from the one state to the other. This must depend upon the clearness with which the subject is grasped and understood — upon the character and power of the faith exercised, and, we believe, to some extent, upon the previous experience of the individual; for, doubtless, one who has once believed to the justification or entire sanctification of the soul, better understands the process of faith than before he had such experience. However difficult it may be for such an one to yield, to determine, and to trust, he knows the way, and when the crisis is reached, may, by an act of faith, make a prompter and even more comprehensive claim upon the atoning blood, than would have been otherwise probable. We grant indeed, here, and elsewhere, that the transition from guilt to forgiveness, and from impurity to holiness, may, in rare instances of discriminating and appropriating faith, be so rapid as to be unnoticed by consciousness; and that, hence, some really do suddenly pass from a state of guilt into the full enjoyment of perfect purity But the order of events is not the less real because unnoticed. It is well known that succession is often so rapid as to be unnoticeable at the time, and yet a critical analysis of the same subject, under circumstances more favorable for observation, will reveal the fact of succession. So we find it to be in the case under consideration. The seeming exceptions, have, therefore, no tendency to destroy the distinctive character of the great work of entire sanctification; and yet they allow us to give all confidence to the candid testimony of those who have found themselves from the time of conversion in possession of "a clean heart," and of those who, after having received the blessing, have relapsed into their former state, and, in the absence of a clear justifying faith at first, have sought and obtained the renewed evidence of perfect love; only requiring in these, as in all other cases, that they "have their fruit unto holiness."
But there is a conviction for inward impurity — for "sin in believers," which is eminently the work of the Holy Spirit. Depravity of the heart, however subdued, cannot remain long concealed. Its first motions, as we have seen, are felt with surprise by the truly regenerated. They produce more or less of pain and exposure, but if promptly resisted, they do not bring a feeling of guilt upon the spirit trusting in Christ. Further experience, however, shows that the life of the Christian is to be almost a continual battle, not merely with outward foes, but with himself. The recognition of these inward wrongs will depend not only upon what they are, but upon the habit of attention to the state of the soul, and the degree of divine influence secured by the cooperation of the human agent. The truly devout man will, however, frequently find his attention silently but powerfully drawn to these inward impurities. Sometimes when, so far as his consciousness reports, no train of reflection has led to it; — in the midst of passing engagements, and of other thoughts, the conviction will flash upon him suddenly, and he will feel like hiding himself from the sight of men, burying his face in the dust, and crying out for deliverance. At other times this sense of wrong tendencies assumes an amazing distinctness in the midst of spiritual exercises, and even of powerful outpourings of the Holy Spirit. This cannot be due to unprompted reason. Left merely to ourselves, we should sensibly or insensibly yield to the rising evil, and allow the conquest of the heart by its own subjugated foes. Whatever influence we may attribute to the associations of the hour, and to the habits of the life, they are not sufficient to account for the searching light that breaks in upon the soul, and the power which humbles it to the dust. The great reprover "of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment," is there in the faithfulness and authority of a God, performing the work for which he has appeared among men.
These convictions, let it be expressly stated, differ from those felt by the unpardoned sinner. They are convictions of inward depravity, and not of guilt; they are connected with felt aversion to the impurity recognized, and a conscious dependence upon the Savior's merits for gracious acceptance; they produce pain, but not condemnation; they are not unfrequently strongest in the midst of fervent spirit-pleadings for gracious influence, and increase with the advance of the soul in its longings after God, and in the elements of a higher Christian life.
We are aware that the evidence of these positions is chiefly that of experience; but we claim that it is perfectly decisive. We have never yet conversed with a Christian man or woman, whose experience did not confirm every position here taken. And as perfectly do these positions accord with the special revelations of the Bible, repeatedly quoted in this volume, and with the humble lamentations of good men recorded in the Scriptures, that we regard them as settled facts which no man can safely deny.
But it may be asked, if these convictions are the work of the Holy Spirit, how are they dependent upon us, and what counsels in relation to them are suggested by the central idea of Christianity? To this it must be answered, God has arranged that in this, as in all other instances, the essential freedom of man shall be recognized. The Holy Spirit enlightens, arouses and guides the soul directly, but the power and effects of these divine influences, will depend upon the voluntary condition and bearing of the mind addressed.
1. Would you avail yourself of divine teachings? You must entertain the subject, and candidly seek to know the truth. Your views of theology, and your habits of mind may have been entirely opposed to the special consideration of holiness. The very name has produced in your mind a strange aversion, and such has been your dread of the responsibilities involved in efforts to be saved from all sin, that you have shrunk from them, and repelled the convictions which you have felt. Thus God's Spurt has been grieved, and you have lost the benefits of those gracious influences which he proposed to vouchsafe to your necessities. Alas! my brother, you have deeply wronged your own soul, You now see that the words you have rejected are the very "words which the Holy Ghost teacheth." Is it not to be regretted that the blindness of your education, or of your own indulged habits of mind, has led you to reject the chosen language of inspiration, for the inculcation of the richest truths of the gospel scheme, while these sacred words —"pure in heart," — "be ye holy," — "sanctify you wholly," — "be ye therefore perfect," —"perfect love casteth out fear," — with innumerable others, have been laden with blessings for you? What untold privileges have you thus unconsciously rejected. Nay, but a better understanding, and a truer, profounder humility, would have led you to say, these are God's own words. They are better than mine, I will receive and study them with filial docility. I will search for their utmost scope and power, and the higher and holier the privilege they reveal for me — for the church of God, the more delighted and humbly thankful I shall be. You will come to this at last. This determined preference of human to divine wisdom, has long enough robbed you of your richest privileges. It is full of wrong and danger. It has sent myriads to hell, and but for the amazing goodness of the being you have slighted — of the Savior, whose power you have limited, and of the Holy Ghost, whose proffered purifying work you have feared to allow, it had long since ruined you. Turn then, we beseech you, your thoughts and studies in the direction of holiness, and fear not the rich, the ennobling grace of full salvation now again proffered to you. Again, we beseech you, examine your heart with the profoundest sincerity. Nay, shrink not from the revelations unfolded to your view. Submit to know the worst. Whatever the pain — whatever the loathing produced by the discovery of the facts, still invite this discovery. Secure it by every means in your power. We entreat you to think — to read the holy Bible — to read the books which speak clearly upon this great theme — to study the whole system of redemption, in the light of that holiness which we have found at its centre, and we are well assured that there will then be no want of conviction. You will know — you will feel in every part of your being, that you are deeply depraved — that you cannot remain so — that you must be holy, or wrong your own soul, and wrong your Savior whose blood is freely offered to cleanse you from all sin.
2. But most emphatically and earnestly do we entreat you, "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Pray — O pray that he will deign to come to your aid. Invite him as your friend — your welcome guest. Beseech him to increase the light which reveals the defects of your Christian state, and to uncover to your view the most secret wrongs within you. Invite even the anguish, if need be, of the most humiliating self-exposures, and shrink not from the rod of correction, which shall drive you to the bosom of your only protector. Need you again be reminded, how far beneath your privilege you have lived — how numerous have been the evidences of your internal depravity — how frequent have been your failures to honor God, and advance the interests of his cause? Prayer — humble, believing, mighty prayer — prayer from your heart — prayer as you walk the streets — prayer with your brethren, and especially prayer in the closet — long-continued, inquiring, struggling prayer, will help you to know yourself better — will bring the special grace of God to your aid. Let nothing discourage you. In darkness, in coldness, in hardness, if it must be, pray until the subduing melting grace shall be given.
3. Your conviction, to be available, must not be superficial — must not be the merely ordinary impression, with occasional increase, that you are not what you ought to be. It must be profound, penetrating, and abiding, or you will never make it the starting-point of successful effort to obtain purity of heart and life.
One thing you surely feel; that your efforts at reform have been heretofore quite too superficial. You have again and again marveled at your failures. One particular and another, known, perhaps, only to yourself and to God, you have determined to change. One reform after another you have resolved, in the strength of grace, to make — have thought they really were made, but have been amazed almost directly, to detect the same things returning, and find to your grief that you were the same man as before. Your mistake is an obvious one. You have been trying to purify the streams, but have neglected the fountain. The grand source of impure thoughts, and words, and actions, has remained within you unremedied, and thus you have struggled on. Your religion has been a religion of victories over "the flesh," as well as the world, and the devil. Are you convinced at last that this is all unnecessary — that the fountain may be cleansed, and the streams become pure? Are you convicted by the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, by your own enlightened conscience, that entire salvation is not only your high privilege, but your indispensable duty? Then with humble confidence advance. You have only to act upon these convictions, and the most gracious results will follow.
SECTION II. THE RESOLUTION FORMED.
YOU have often resolved to live a better life. Your failures have grieved and alarmed you. You have said it is strange that I should know the way so well; see in it so much of beauty and righteousness, and yet not walk in it steadily and rapidly. I will begin anew. I will reconsecrate myself to God, and henceforth my walk and conversation shall show that I am a true Christian. Then, it is likely you have poured out your soul in prayer. God has been pleased with the sincerity with which you have entertained the thoughts and purposes of duty he himself has suggested. He has seen the true spirit of loyalty to him, and faith in his Son, in which you have bowed and asked his blessing, and he has granted it. With humble gratitude you remember the many instances in which you have been melted down before the Lord, and baptized with his love.
The great fact, however, has perplexed and distressed you, that these improvements were quite too temporary. Why, you have been ready to ask, is there no more strength in my resolutions? Why must my evils of heart, and the necessity for repentance and conquests over myself, return upon me so frequently?
It is presumed, that, after all your experience, your self-examination, your prayers, your reading in the Bible and other excellent books, you have at last no doubt as to the true explanation of these failures; that you are now fully convinced that the evil is within you, and that a profound conviction from the Holy Spirit of inward impurity, of the necessity of holiness, has taken possession of your soul. What now will you do?
Nothing is of moral force which has not the sanction of the will. Your own free spirit must act. Your purpose must be fixed under a high sense of right, and a longing desire to be pure in heart. Why should you delay? Is not the evidence conclusive? Have not all your delays been injurious to you? Have you not deprived yourself of much pure enjoyment, the church of much efficient labor, by putting off, from time to time, the work of entire dedication to the service of God? In many particulars, have you not failed to glorify him as you would have done, with a heart glowing with perfect love? How long shall this halting continue? In the name of Christ, we beseech you to end it.
Do you ask what shall be the character of the resolve now to be made? We answer not merely a resolution to reform, though it is inclusive of this. To resolve to live near to God, to be more thoughtful, more devout, more guarded in spirit, in word, and in action, is a high duty, and you will never in this life, be beyond it. To resolve upon a reconsecration of yourself to God, and to seek a deeper work of grace will be all well, and what you have done, and will have occasion to do times without number; but your experience shows that this does not reach the case. Some profounder remedy is demanded than any you have thus found.
But, do you say, I am resolved to be henceforth entirely a Christian? I have long enough endured the evil of a divided life. I have tried to meet the claims of God, and yet I have failed to separate myself wholly from worldly influences. I see the wrong, I feel it more deeply than words can express. To be wholly the Lord’s — to be a Christian in every thing — to be prepared to glorify God at all times in life or in death, seems now the most desirable of all privileges on earth. I am determined that this shall be my future course. For such a noble purpose we humbly join with you to thank Almighty God, who has given you grace to form it. But we have one thing more to suggest. Let your resolution relate to your inner being — to the very source of your thoughts, your affections, your life. Nay, resolve directly and explicitly that you will seek for holiness of heart; that nothing but this shall satisfy you. Several things are essential to this resolution.
1. It must be grounded in conviction. Of this we have written at length. We trust you have felt its truth — that it has aided you in inviting the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, by which this conviction has been produced. Without it your resolution will be feeble and temporary — little more indeed, than a mere impulse. Many excellent resolves have been formed under the influence of temporary excitement, or the special pleadings of a friend, or even the force of arguments which you did not know how to resist, and hence felt forced to yield your assent, against some of your strongest inclinations. These resolutions were right in themselves, and in some degree influential over your subsequent lives, and yet they fell short of their object. They had not the strength, the power, the reliable durability which your condition and wants demanded. But thorough conviction of inward depravity and of the need of entire sanctification, wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost, will remedy this defect. Let there be no failure now. Have you a doubt that your inward impurities have been the sources of your trouble? Has God fully shown you these secret wrongs, so that you now know what must be done to render your life a holy life — a life of perfect love? Has that conviction gone through and through you, so that you have no doubt as to the complete remedy — the full salvation you need, and are entitled to receive through the merits of Christ? Has the conviction become more than a matter of feeling with you? Has it become a fact, a deep-seated pervading fact of your being, so that you do not find it trembling, hesitating, and yielding after a few hours of trial? Is it present yet? Does every effort of prayer, and examination, and faith strengthen it? Then you have reliable ground for the resolution to seek for holiness until you obtain it. Your convictions will make such a resolution as is now due, possible — will give it soundness and force, — will move on with it to sustain it and increase its power.
2. But carefully observe that this resolution is not made in your own strength. Poor human nature has no strength for such a purpose. How often have your most solemn vows failed, for no other reason than some secret reliance upon your own power. But, now let this error also be remedied. You have no strength of your own. You see this more clearly than before. You are nothing; God is all. The Holy Spirit can sustain you in the purpose to seek for a pure heart, until you obtain it. Think now in earnest sincerity; — are you satisfied that divine power alone can support you? Do you feel that you may trust that power without the least reserve? Fix your whole soul upon the Almighty Spirit, until you see and feel that he is given for you; that he has come to accomplish the work of cleansing for you; that in the unlimited power of God he is with you, to be might in your weakness, and to uphold you in this struggle. Now, make the resolution. With every energy, of intellect and heart, confiding in the strength of the Holy Ghost, venture to say, I will seek for holiness until I obtain it. Why should you fear? This resolution is in harmony with God's will — with the teaching of the Bible — with the whole plan of redemption. It is just the point to which you have been urged for many months, and probably years. God invites you, he urges you, he pleads with you. Surely you will not refuse. Then is the resolution formed?
3. There must be no mental reservation. Did you think, as you were settling the question, I will make an effort — I will see whether it is for me — I will try the theory by an experiment? Alas! then you have been deceived by your enemy. Do you not see how marked is the evidence of unbelief in all this? Is it, then, only a resolution to ascertain whether God is true or false? Do you propose to debate the promises of the gospel, and to proceed only upon conditions that you shall find them reliable'? No. This would be a fearful responsibility. We trust you are fully apprized of its wrong, and its danger. This alone would account for the failure of your effort. The resolution, to be successful, must be based upon the absolute unchangeable veracity of God — upon the unquestioned integrity of the promises, upon the positive certainty that the blood of Jesus can cleanse from all sin, and that it can, and will cleanse you, so soon as you take the right position in regard to it.
4. Another caution suffer us to suggest. An attempt to prescribe your own states of mind before and after this work is wrought, and the manner in which it is to be effected, will mislead you. Should you say, as you make the resolve, I must advance in a particular manner, or continue a long time in this effort to seek for holiness, you would be liable to disappointment and discouragement at every step. The methods of divine grace upon the souls of men are various. Characters differ; — some feel more deeply, some think more profoundly; some have dulness and some liveliness of soul. "There are diversities of operations, but the same spirit." The manner in which you will be affected is not, therefore, a question submitted to yourself; you may have some power over it, but you ought to have as little as possible; at least, include nothing of this in your resolution; leave it all with God. The resolution must be absolutely without condition; — simply and purely a resolution, made in the strength of grace to seek for perfect love, in the use of all the means God has appointed, according to your best ability, until you gain the blessing. To say beforehand it cannot be done now; — I must agonize and pray for days, or weeks; — at least there must be some delay in the matter; is to limit God,— is to assume to judge beyond your light; nay, in opposition to your light; for all this deferring and selection of times, is surely against the word of God. True, there may be a delay, but the reason will be in you, not in God. All we mean here, is, that the time, whether longer or shorter, is to make no difference with your resolution. It is a resolve to seek until you obtain, and especially to seek now. Is this your resolution f
5. Finally, the resolution must be made with a full purpose to accept all the requirements of God's word. Some of them may be crossing to your nature; some may be difficult for you, with your habits of life, to meet. You may feel the shrinkings of the flesh, while the spirit is willing, and yet every cross must be borne, every trial endured, every apparent danger braved. The thing you have undertaken is, to obtain a clean heart, to be in soul, body, and spirit, wholly the Lord' s. This rises in dignity and importance above every thing else, and must be preferred to every thing else. Every sacrifice required for the fulfillment of the revealed condition must be considered a privilege for the sake of the object, for the honor of Christ, for the glory of God. But be not alarmed; as we proceed to develop the work before you, you will be delighted to see how right, how perfectly in accordance with your sense of duty every particular of it is. You will feel an agreeable surprise at the perfect simplicity of the way; and as you proceed to take one step after another, you will see difficulties vanish, and the most dreaded crosses turn into the most grateful privileges.
We trust we may now consider it settled that you have advanced with us through the second stage of this great experience; — that you have formed the resolution, grounded in conviction; — formed it in the strength of God, with no mental reservations, and with simple purpose to accept all the requirements of God's word,— to seek for perfect love until you obtain it. A noble triumph is this! May God help you to maintain it against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
SECTION III. THE FEELING NECESSARY.
A hard heart is unfriendly to the purpose you have determined, by the grace of God, to execute. Indeed, in the strictest sense, it is guilt, and is associated with impenitence and wrath. Hence, the language of inspi • ration to the wicked, "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ~ but after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Such guilty hardness we by no means attribute to you; and yet, there is a state of the heart which does not harmonize with the determination to seek for entire sanctification.
The intellect is not unfrequently in advance of the sensibilities in this great work. Strong arguments against sin, even all in-dwelling sin, are not wanting to the rejecting mind. They are suggested with more or less frequency and power, as the days and nights pass on. The reason of a converted man is perpetually suggesting to him that he ought to go further. Consciousness of inward corruption nearly simultaneous with the evidence of pardon, strikes him as a lamentable and unnecessary antagonism within him. His enlightened conscience brings his inconsistencies strongly to his view The memory brings back unnumbered instances of unfaithfulness, growing out of remaining wrong tendencies of the soul, and sound judgment condemns the state out of which they arise. The Holy Spirit pours divine light upon the facts and the arguments, and urges on to the conclusion that there is need of a further cleansing. The conviction takes strong hold of the intellect, and hence the high resolution in its greatest propriety and strength may be formed to seek for holiness, while the heart is not in precisely the state which promotes, and invites the realization of the object. Who does not know this? How many times have you said, O, that I could feel as I ought to feel! If I were broken down before the Lord, if my whole soul were melted in his presence, then I should be capable of higher spiritual exercises, I could receive more readily and permanently the divine impress.
It is necessary, however, to guard a point here. No certain standard of feeling can be fixed which all must reach, or never be filled with perfect love. Doubtless this is a question with which constitutional temperament has much to do. With some, feeling is excessive under powerful conviction, and needs rather to be checked than excited, in order to calm reaction and permanent consecration. Some who feel most deeply, make little outward demonstration of feeling, and might even suppose themselves to be wanting in conviction, when, really, their whole souls are roused, and unalterably fixed on the glorious prize, and they may be carried forward through the most vigorous efforts of faith with no bursting emotion. We should commit an error, therefore, to compare ourselves with others, or to predetermine precisely what amount of feeling we must have, before we can realize the great blessing. Indeed, we are free to admit that too much dependence may be placed upon the mere matter of feeling — so much as to make room for a very ruinous temptation. Many, we doubt not, have even thought it a sufficient excuse for making no effort to obtain the blessing, that they had not so much feeling as others manifested, and their arch enemy has, perhaps, for years induced them to wait for the feeling they have judged to be necessary to make the effort successful. Let this snare be broken. The duty is a present and pressing one, and nothing should be plead as an apology for delaying the work which, under the divine blessing, depends upon your volitions.
But there is a high sense in which the heart is involved in this great work, and we think we may reach an exposition of this fact which will relieve a difficulty, and greatly aid those who, in judgment, are soundly convinced that without holiness, they cannot see the Lord.
The idea that just as you are, in any state of feeling, under the convictions of the intellect, and the resolves of the will, you can meet the conditions of entire sanctification, is monstrous, and is repudiated by all sound teaching upon this subject. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Most sincere seekers of holiness feel that they can do little in the effort until they have true tenderness of heart. Their devotions, their attempts at the exercise of the faith that purifies, are too cold, too mechanical; and they regret it, they mourn over it. They need a breaking up of soul, a soft and impressible state of the heart, fully prepared to receive the stamp of the divine image. They must be all alive to the work they propose to do, and the blessing they expect to receive.
It may be said, a devout Christian is always in a state of sensibility; — never cold, or dull, and doubtless there is a degree of tender susceptibility which is implied in the justified state; but that all feel as much and as deeply as they ought, and that the true Christian is at all times in a state of feeling that is most friendly to high religious efforts, is not according to fact. Indeed we lay it down as a matter of experience, that the heart has need of melting, subduing grace, before it can be capable of the exercises which roust precede entire sanctification. So the sound and growing Christian feels, and, we believe, will generally affirm.
It is, then, a question of grave importance, how is the right feeling to be acquired? How may we obtain such tenderness of spirit, as will enable us to receive the stamp of God's image?
1. Our strong and general answer is, prayer. We deem it legitimate for the seeker of holiness to ask God directly for "a broken and a contrite heart." He alone can grant the peculiar influences which subdue the soul, and melt it to humble contrition. "He is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him, than parents are to give good gifts to their children." Yes, more willing, for while theirs is a finite, his is an infinite love, and with the yearnings of an infinite heart, he longs to give his children all that their wants require. The Holy Spirit melts the heart; and it is this very gift that your heavenly Father is so willing to bestow upon you. But your will must accord with his. He will hold you to the conditions. " Ask and ye shall receive." You may rely upon it. His promise is "yea and amen to him that believeth." In the name of Jesus "ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." You want this tenderness of soul; more than all the wealth of earth you desire the blessing of tears. Then ask for it humbly, believingly, perseveringly, in the name of Christ, and it shall be given you. Be assured that this gracious result is at the command of faith. How many hardened sinners have commenced to pray without conscious emotion, and been presently bathed in tears. How many, cold in religion, have been warmed and revived, in answer to prayer. How many in precisely your condition, with their intellects convinced, and their wills determined, but with a painful want of emotion, feeling that they would give the world for tears, have at length been all dissolved in answer to prayer. Then go to the fountain of melting tenderness and love, and plead with God, for Christ's sake, to give you the state of heart you require, to be able at once to receive the image of God.
2. In the midst of your praying, there is much that you can do, which will facilitate this result. Let memory be active now. Call to mind your past unfaithfulness,— your want of faith, of zeal and love. The view of these deficiencies will affect your heart. Remember your Savior's dying love; — how much he has suffered for you; how graciously he pardoned you at the first; how amazingly he has sympathized with you in your infirmities, and in your sore temptations; how many times he has delivered you out of the hand of your enemy, and how often and richly he has blessed you in spite of all your unworthiness, and you will be sure to feel. Look into the holy Bible; read the penitential psalms; read the weeping prophet; read the words of the suffering Jesus; mingle all with fervent breathings after the melting power of God's Holy Spirit. You shall not complain of a want of tears. The fountain of the great deep will be broken up, and then what a view you will have of yourself. What discoveries of your inward pollution, of your entire unworthiness, of your helplessness before the Lord. How utterly will you then abhor your vanity and unholy ambition. How empty will the proffers of the world appear to you. You will feel yourself sinking lower and lower in your own eyes, until all self-consequence is utterly gone.
O, how sweet this subduing, melting grace! How humbling, how profitable to our naturally proud and rebellious spirits! We must have it. No cold reasonings, no independent purpose, no resolution to believe, no forced exertions will suffice in the stead of it. And there are none who may not have it. May the prayers you are even now urging before the throne, be speedily answered in this gracious special gift.
SECTION IV. THE CONFESSION REQUIRED.
We must suggest that this conviction for holiness and resolution to obtain it, can in no case be made a secret. Not, that this or any other religious exercise is to be a matter for ostentatious publication. Certainly, far otherwise. To proclaim it merely that it may be known, would not comport with that deep humility which you are bound to cultivate. We wonder not that you feel no disposition to attract attention, or make a vain show of your effort to obtain the higher religious life. Your felt unworthiness — the chastisements of your Heavenly Father — your bowing down of spirit before the Lord are all against it. In deepest self-abasement, were it possible, you would shrink from the sight of men, and bury yourself in the dust. This is all as it should be. You are now fast acquiring just views of your own nothingness. Self, that once adored idol, is sinking in your own eyes. Let it go down to the deepest self-abasement. God only knows how often and how perilously it has risen and strengthened itself into rivalry with your meek and holy Savior. Would that this might be the last of its unhallowed usurpations.
And yet you must be consistent. God will not allow you to be one thing to your own consciousness, and another in the reasonable apprehensions of others. You may not inwardly reckon yourself a seeker of entire salvation, and outwardly appear to be content with the ordinary Christian state. You cannot ask God to look upon you as a determined seeker of holiness, and ask your brethren to look upon you as having no peculiar convictions, or purposes, or feelings in regard to this great question. No duplicity can be allowed here or elsewhere. Honestly, just what you are, you must be willing to be considered. Nay, so entirely averse should you be, to becoming a party to any false impressions, in regard to your views of yourself and your humble resolve to seek the blessing of holiness, that you will feel inwardly urged to inform your friends that you feel the need of a clean heart — that you are panting after God as the hart panteth after the water-brooks — that you have felt yourself arrested by a divine invisible power, and shut up to a life of simple faith — of completed holiness, and perfect love; that you have heard the call of God ringing through your soul with the solemnity of the trump of judgment, and yet with the gladness of the notes of jubilee; and you have accepted the call, reluctantly indeed, and after far too long delay, and yet, at last, freely, fully, and understandingly. Humbly ask your Christian brethren to help you in the execution of your solemn covenant — to accompany you in the effort, and seek for themselves the blessed assurance that the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin.
1. There is an involuntary expression of this important covenant. If it be genuine, it will be difficult to conceal it. The deepening solemnity of your spirit will appear in your countenance. Your restless breathings after God will be audible and intelligible to the church. Your groanings and strugglings to be set free may be too mighty to be suppressed, and your rising power of faith and prayer — your serene delight and holy rapture, as a growing, conquering, justified Christian, rapidly alternating, and even mingling with your efforts to seek for holiness, will be noticeable, without your intention, and even beyond your desire. These are speaking convictions and triumphs, which can by no means be concealed.
2. And yet, when the opportunity offers, there is distinctly something for the lips to utter. In the presence of those who know whereof you affirm, whose prayers you seek, and whose counsels must aid you, fail not to own that you feel the need of cleansing — that you believe provision has been made by your adorable Savior to cleanse you, and that you have covenanted to give yourself up to this work, and seek in the scriptural way until you obtain the blessing. How could you, even practically, deny this without grieving the Holy Spirit, and bringing upon your soul the guilt of falsehood? What reason have you for concealing on earth the facts which make heaven ring with joy ? Surely, none.
But you will find some stubborn difficulties in your way. There are some unavoidable implications in the confessions you are called upon to make, that will be deeply humbling to the soul. You have probably been long known and recognized as a Christian — perhaps a faithful fervent Christian; you may have been a leader in the armies of Israel — a minister in the church of God, — even an eminent minister among your brethren. In either case, it is not quite easy to confess that you have been all this time without a pure heart — that your religion has been a religion of contests with yourself, as well as the world and Satan, and that, though you have advocated for years a religion of purity, you have never yet fully availed yourself of the purifying provisions of the gospel. You dread to confess it, and yet is it not true? Do not God, and angels, and men know it well? and why should you seek to conceal it? Confess, we beseech you, to your brethren near you, that they may be induced to do the same, and so together you will fulfill the holy Scripture, "Confess your faults one to another that you may be healed." Conceal nothing that candor or righteousness demands. Have you felt the risings of self, of anger, of pride, of an unholy ambition for distinction, for wealth or power? in the the name of God acknowledge it. An honest, truth-telling spirit is of the greatest possible importance to you. We refer not to minute details; — these are not due except to individuals whom you may have injured, and to whom you owe reparation; and this, it is presumed, you have not knowingly withheld, or you would have lost your justification. Nor is it upon any principle of penance, or self-mortification, or with any view to priestly absolution, that confession is required. The grand principle of this whole concession is truth; truth to the conscience; truth to the facts of the present and the past; truth to the convictions of the soul by the Holy Spirit; truth to the vows you have made, and to the demands of the church; all of which requires, and must have, candid expression; and you will be gratified, you will be thankful to God for the benefits it confers.
3. When you have distinctly and meekly avowed your convictions and resolutions, you will be surprised at the relief it will bring to your soul. It will be like the falling off of a burden. You will hear a silent whisper within you saying, this is right. I have long owed this clear acknowledgment to my brethren, to my own sense of propriety, and I thank God for enabling me to make it. You will feel humbled in the dust, as you conclude it, but you will feel a sweet sense of the divine approbation, and a blessing that no language can describe.
4. Besides, there is much in being committed to what is right. This is a principle that extends through all the relations of man to God, and to his fellows. We are formed with a constitutional love of consistency. We do not wish to be known as faithless to our word. We shrink from violated integrity with instinctive dread. God avails himself of this important fact, in his holy covenant, and in his whole system of religious vows. Certainly no one will presume that a reckless, trifling method of making pledges of any kind, is authorized by Scripture, or suggested here. Indeed, it is no formal promise to others to which we refer. It is the firm and willing disclosure of solemn facts and pledges already made to God, that we urge, and the moral force of the principles of religious honor with which we sustain it. We know all this may be forgotten, and disregarded in the future, but we claim that commitment to the right is the law of God; and the moral power of the principle involved, is of the highest practical moment in this important struggle.
5. It will moreover secure a strong sympathy for you, and the most fervent prayers from those who love you. You will feel the power of this collateral support. It will sustain your resolution mightily, and the richness of the blessings called down in answer to united intercessions, from faithful believing ones, will more than compensate you for the cross you have borne.
True, there may be unbelievers in your presence. You will not seek to overtax their confidence in the words and manner of your confession. You will, of course, prefer to avoid it. But should any of the select circle usually present amid such solemnities as these, turn coolly and incredulously away, — should the spirit of resistance to the doctrine and experience of holiness be avowed, — should cavil and criticism follow, instead of united longings and prayers for a clean heart; and even cold neglect or stern opposition appear, you have nevertheless done right in avowing the truth, and you are gathering more and more the power of holy love with which to conquer not for yourself, but for your master.
A little resistance will do you no harm. You may be all the more thorough and evangelical on the account of it. Your warfare is by no means ended, and is never to be ended on earth. Only the opposition of yourself is to cease. You seek, and with the highest warrant from God your Savior, to be wholly on the side of right, and this, it may not be concealed, will have no tendency to destroy the opposition from without.
Regret not, therefore, the candid avowal, though it may have brought you into severe trials. It will probably be your humble privilege to find, in another world, and even here, that confession has roused many slumbering consciences, brought many beloved disciples into "the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of peace," and added many stars to the crown of your rejoicing. Will you make the confession?
SECTION V. THE CONSECRATION MADE.
May we assume that the reader has felt the conviction, formed the resolution, received the melting divine influence, and made the confession, which we have ventured to suggest? Another point of great practical importance must now be introduced. Consecration is literally "the act, or ceremony of separating from a common to a sacred use." We have already introduced it as a law of sanctification, and mentioned humility as its test. But it is here introduced as a thing to be done. It is for you to make the consecration which your determination to seek for holiness requires. Your soul must be separated from all carnal, worldly use, and formally set apart as the exclusive property of God. Your powers of intelligence, reason, imagination, feeling, will, must be solemnly dedicated to the service of Almighty God, Your affections are henceforth to belong only to him who made the power to love. Your body is to be given up as "the temple of the Holy Ghost," and never to be "defiled." Your talents, natural and acquired, are to be reckoned henceforth wholly his. Your property in part, and in whole, is to be held subject to the divine will. Your dearest loved ones must be no longer yours, but God's. Yourself, and your all, must be without reserve consecrated to the Lord for time and eternity; for he is to be your only object of adoration. He is to reign alone within your heart. Absorbed in the contemplation of his divine excellence; — devoted to the execution of his holy will, — seeking and recognizing the labor he has authorized, and the spirit in which he wishes every thing done; rejecting every thing, whether of honor, or pleasure, or profit, which is not for his glory; your life in all the future is to flow out in the channels of divine love.
1. Can you do this? You fear you cannot. You really cannot if your own power alone is to be brought into exercise. But shrink not from the effort — look not now into the future, confine yourself to the present. The question is not now what will you do — what can you do before you die — next year, or even the next moment; but at this present time can you — will you hand all over to God. Think carefully. If you had property in your hands that belonged to another, could you not hand it over to him, and in such a way as to consider it henceforth in every sense entirely his? You say, Certainly I could do this, and would do it at once. God forbid that I should claim any thing that does not belong to me. But here is a fundamental principle of the consecration you are now called upon to make, “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” It has been an error to conceive of yourself and your possessions as your own. Of this you have been long aware, and you have been gradually coming to the light, until you have at length discovered that all rivalry of God within you, is not only to be conquered but totally eradicated. This you now understand. You know whose these powers and possessions are; will you promptly and unreservedly hand them over to him? We mean not that you can, as a natural act, make this consecration to God with the same ease, and in the same manner, as you could restore the goods belonging to another. We seek only to illustrate the right, and the practicability of the duty. There are acknowledged difficulties in the way of the one not in the way of the other. Your remaining selfishness is in the form of depravity which resists with cruel obstinacy this last and unrestricted effort to destroy it ; and the arch enemy who would have nothing to object to the payment of an honest debt, because objection would be hopeless, will exhaust all his skill and power to prevent this entire surrender to God. And then, there is the force of a long established and habitual error in the conception of every thing as of right belonging to you, and you may not easily break the snare, and make the entire consecration. Besides, this is a good act which you are called upon to do, — a religious act ; and you are well aware that you can by no means do a good act, or speak a good word, without the grace of God in Christ Jesus preventing you,—going before, preparing the way and powerfully aiding you. It is not, therefore, after the manner of a mere ordinary business transaction that you can make this consecration. And yet, surely, you can make it. You are entreated to make it, " I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies [yourselves] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." There can, therefore, be nothing impossible in it. Indeed, nothing can be easier, if you do it by the grace of God, by the aid of the Holy Spirit. If you say, in so many words, and from the undisguised sincerity of your heart, I will, by thy help, O, my Savior, give up all to thee forever, you will be graciously aided, — you will be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
2. And what will you lose — what will you really sacrifice? You must renounce the world; and do you not feel called to this? We mean not that you are to go out of the world,—not that you are to resign any of its lawful pleasures. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein;" but he has placed us here to honor him in its appropriation. It must therefore be acknowledged his, as it really is. No man is allowed a more delightful use of the precious gifts of God, temporal and spiritual, than he who is wholly consecrated. It is a sanctified use — a use which recognizes all the claims of God in behalf of his church and the world; — reserves his portion for his special service, with a conceded claim on all the rest, for whatever the exigencies of religion may require; — wastes nothing — uses nothing in needless self-indulgence, and uses that which is wanted for present purposes, as much as the portion given, for the glory of God. All this you feel to be delightfully true in its strongest sense, and it is in perfect harmony with this that you are ordered, "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." "Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth." And in a yet broader sense, you are entreated, "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." Here is the evidence of your duty; what will you do with it? The help is at your command. O lift up your heart to God for the needed aid, and,
"strong in the strength which God supplies,
Through his eternal Son,"
renounce the world — its carnal pleasures — its honors — its wealth forever.
3. As you repeat the vows of your baptism now, with a deeper, holier significance than ever before, saying, "I renounce them all," does not God know you are sincere? that you now make this renunciation understandingly to include everything? Then is it not really done? As you feel yourself sinking humbly down at the Savior's feet, and say again, I renounce them, do you not see them retiring? and can you regret them? Surely you cannot. How fearfully have they deceived you . Riches have promised you happiness, but bitterly disappointed you; let them go. Honor has been to you a bubble, and never redeemed one of its promises; let it go. Pleasure has been to you like the fair but bitter apple of Sodom; let it go. Your worldly associations have been but the scene of your unhallowed dissipation, and the precursor of darkness and despair; let them go. See these visions of your torture — of your severest troubles, as they retire! Would you call them back? No. Let them go. You part with them without a pang. All — all is gone but your Savior, and you are alone with him. Nothing else is left for you in earth or heaven. And is not he enough? "In him all fulness dwells." Shut up to him, and him alone, are you not entirely safe? There rest your weary spirit.
SECTION VI. THE FAITH EXERCISED.
You have now reached a point in which the question of faith is of paramount importance. You have renounced all dependence upon self; all trust in an arm of flesh. You have seen one after another of your earthly supports fail. You dare not trust again, anything less than infinite power. You would not recall one worldly dependence which you have renounced. To you, there is now absolutely but one hope, one confidence left, and you need no other. "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." Pause humbly, silently, before the crucified. You have now but one all-absorbing desire — to be “cleansed from all sin,”—to be fully prepared to glorify God and enjoy him forever. See, now, the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanseth from all sin. How entirely efficacious, — how completely it meets the demands of the law, — how fully it pays your debt, — how sovereign the remedy. Dare you trust it? Nay, dare you do otherwise? You do trust it now; — you depend upon it for pardon, for acceptance; why not for salvation from all inward defilement?
1. You long for the fulness, and "in him all fulness dwells." Gaze for a while into that noble, throbbing heart. For you it beats with infinite love. You cannot, — do not doubt his love. He suffered for you. He grappled with death for you. He rose from the tomb leading captive your captivity. How kindly he bore with you in your rebellion! With what compassion he lifted you up, and embraced you when you came all guilty and trembling, and fell at his feet. How he blest you — forgave all your sins, and made you his child, his heir to all his blood had purchased! Can you doubt?
2. Call some precious Scripture to your aid. This, for instance, "For we have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need," "Touched with the feeling of our infirmities!" Is is possible? The sympathy of Jesus! A revealed, a glorious fact.
You are in a condition to need sympathy. How great your infirmities. How deeply you have felt them. How weak and erring at every step, and how fearful that you should some time fall to rise no more. How many efforts to reform have you made and found yourself failing in the midst of them. How often in the morning have you risen, and on your knees covenanted that every moment of the day should be the Lord's, but when the night has come, with what feelings of regret have you bowed to seek forgiveness for your unholy tempers, your unguarded levity, your worldly desires, your want of devotion, or your idleness in your Master's vineyard! How strangely feeble when you ought to have been strong — how timid and doubting when you should have triumphed in the power of living faith. Yes, you have needed sympathy, and need it still. There you lie at the foot of the cross "weaker than a bruised reed." What can you do?
Christ is qualified to sympathize with you. He is a man; he is your weeping, sympathizing brother; he is a tried man; he has passed through every fiery ordeal. Remember the mountain and the forty days. Remember Gethsemane, the bar of Pilate and Calvary. He is a triumphant man. "Yet without sin." What a volume of meaning — what a comprehensive theology in these few words! He encountered the foe, and he conquered — conquered for you. See him on Tabor, with "his garments white and glistering." See him rising from the sepulcher; — stand with him upon Olivet, and see him ascending! for you "he ascended up on high — he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." Here is triumph — here is victory — victory for you.
The sympathy of Jesus is no mere name. It is an available sympathy. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace." "The throne" is the seat and the emblem of royalty. Grace is enthroned, a sovereign in this dispensation. Grace personifies the risen Christ, who has royal prerogatives now. "The government is upon his shoulder, and his name is Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Look into the sanctum sanctorum of the Jewish tabernacle. There is the ark of the testimony. The law is here, with its power unbroken, and its wrath threatening the sinner with instant death. But, let the priest of God approach. His ceremonial preparations complete, there is no danger. The covering to the ark of the testimony is the seat of mercy. Mercy is enthroned there directly above and upon the law. The wings of cherubim are spread over the mercy seat, and the Shechinah is there to symbolize the glory of him who reigns a prince upon the throne of mercy. And, mark the import of these expressive symbols. They directly proclaim to the approaching culprit, "Draw near without alarm. The law is here, it is true, I must preserve its integrity ; but it shall not harm you. I hold its thunders in abeyance. I satisfy its claims, and dispense mercy to those who deserve its fiercest wrath." Here is your safety.
Since your Savior came in person, and has redeemed the pledges of prophecy, the throne of grace is no longer local. Everywhere he reigns, and invites the world to his feet; not for trial, not for punishment, but "that they may obtain mercy." You have tried it, you went where the wrath of the law should have flamed out and consumed you, and you found "mercy." Come again. Here is "grace to help in time of need." Just in this hour of extremity the grace of full salvation is here at your command. Come, and come "boldly." This, you will say, is a strange liberty for a worm of earth. How can a poor sinner be bold in the presence of his righteous Judge, the august Sovereign of the universe ? Surely, not on his own account — not in view of any thing he has ever been, or thought, or felt, or done. If to himself alone he must look, it is right that he should shrink with alarm at the idea of an approach to God. But see; it is because we have a sympathizing High Priest that we are to come "boldly." The degree of your confidence in this approach is to be the measure of the honor you will confer upon your sympathizing Savior. “Boldly,” because he bleeds, and weeps, and prays for you; " boldly," for you come at his own command to ask the grace you need; " boldly," for he bends toward you and stretches out his wounded hands to receive you " boldly," for he cannot deny himself, he will redeem his rich and gracious promise, and "save to the uttermost." O, trembling spirit, take courage; be not afraid of Jesus ; come near to him; fall into his arms; press closely to his bosom, that you may feel the throbbings of his heart of love. Let him wrap you in his crimson vest, and you shall feel, and say, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us " — cleanseth me — " from all sin." Now let your fears depart; — no more shrinking or hesitating. With humble simplicity, with faith that receives Christ for every thing — your "wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption" — claim the answer to prayer, and claim it now, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults," "Create in me a clean heart, O, God." You are urging the prayer; hear what your Savior says ; " Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Here let your humbled spirit rest, and claim the full efficacy of the atonement, for yourself, without a doubt. Do you now really do this?
O, how sweet this divine influence running through the soul; how wonderful this amazing renovation ,— this gracious baptism, — this sinking down into God! "What richness of faith, what power of love, what rest of spirit! Cleansed by the Holy Ghost, what a sacred sense of inward purity, what visions of God, what deep and holy joy fill the soul, — love, "perfect love!" it "casteth out fear."
If you are right, you have believed implicitly in the promises of God, and what safer exercise of the immortal soul can ever, under any circumstances, be possible? The holy, immutable God, cannot be untrue, and we will trust that, at last, you have confided in him fully; without a doubt. You have believed the Savior, and cast your all upon him forever. Your consecrated soul has accepted him to the exclusion of every thing else, as your entire sanctification, as your all in this world, and in the world to come ; and your calm, appropriating, commanding faith, has been answered in the descending baptism of the Holy Ghost. Until the reception of this inward witness, you have not believed the work accomplished. Your faith was a present, prevailing power, that brought the assurances of God's word into one decisive moment, and then you believed that you had the things for which you prayed; but you did not believe you had obtained the blessing of holiness that you might obtain it.
3. There is a necessary distinction between the fact and the condition of the fact. Faith in the blood that cleanses, is certainly antecedent to the fact of being cleansed, and a condition of it. Then the order of time must be, 1st, the faith in Christ and his promises, that secures the application of his cleansing blood ; 2d, the fact of the blood applied, which takes all sin away ; 3d, the evidence of the fact — direct, the witness of the spirit, —i nferential, from the feeling of renovation and the promises ; 4th, faith in the fact founded upon the evidence.
This succession is, generally, matter of consciousness; but it need not be, to be true, for, as we before had occasion to remark, succession is frequently so rapid as to be inappreciable. The yielding, the trust, the cleansing, the witness, may all be so closely successive as to seem simultaneous. But that the condition of a fact must precede the fact, is a universal truth; that the fact must precede the evidence of the fact, is another; that the evidence of the fact must precede belief in the fact, another; that no fact can be a condition of itself, another. Faith in the existence of a fact, the condition of its existence is an absurdity.
Faith in the possible, is one thing; faith in the probable, another thing; faith in the morally certain, another; and faith in the actual, another. Now to say that faith in the fact that we are cleansed from all sin, is a condition of being so, is to say that belief in the actual is a condition of the actual, which is either to speak unintelligibly, or to say what cannot possibly be true. The Scripture that has been supposed to teach this doctrine, only insists upon faith in the present answer to prayer, an important duty by far too much overlooked. The soul gasping for purity, cries out, "I believe he is able to cleanse me ; " this is faith in the possible. "I believe he is willing;" faith in the possible strengthened. "I believe he is able and willing to cleanse me now, just as I am;" faith in the probable. "I believe he will do it;" faith in the morally certain ; the last earthly reliance is renounced. "I believe he does save me; I sink into his arms; the promise is sure; the renovating power runs through me ; the spirit itself beareth witness; I believe that I receive the things I ask; I am saved, completely, perfectly saved;" this is faith in the actual. It is believed there are many witnesses to the truth of this description.
And is not this finally what we all mean? When brethren insist that we shall believe the work now accomplished, and it surely will be; it certainly is; do they mean to exclude the prerequisites of entire consecration, and faith in the power and willingness of Christ to save wholly? We do not understand them so. We think there is not one who would not insist upon these as indispensable to the application of the cleansing blood. Do they mean that the simple belief of any man, that he is wholly sanctified, is a condition and an evidence of his being so, without regard to his previous state, or present exercises? We are sure they do not. We presume all include the inseparable antecedent of a conscious perfect dedication of the soul and body to God, for time and eternity. Now mark, if we attack them upon the supposition that they mean real dedication, because conscious, we make a false issue, for they certainly mean conscious because real, not real because conscious. Again, to whom do they say, "Believe that the work is done, and it is done?" To those who are without a present, perfect, appropriating faith in the cleansing blood of Christ? We think not. The exhortation is usually, at least, based upon the supposition that the faith in the blood of Jesus, is really that which cleanseth from all sin, and hence the soul is bound to believe the work accomplished according to the unchangeable faithfulness of God. Observe, it is so because he believes in Christ for it. He believes it is so because it is so, and it is not so because he believes it.
But when the consecration is perfect, and the faith really sanctifying, who does not know that Satan has many devices to prevent the enjoyment of the blessing? Preconceived opinions, almost certainly erroneous, are thrust in for comparison, and it is the fell design of the enemy that instead of making experience the test of these opinions, they shall be the test of experience. Hence the instant suggestion, this deep humility; this settling into God; this dissolving love; this amazing simplicity; this perfect repose ; this seraphic sweetness, is not entire sanctification; — it is a deeper work of grace — a great blessing. You must look for something more wonderful than this. Alas! How many have been thus defrauded, when nothing was wanting but to believe the work complete. It really was so; and, by the blood and promise of Christ — by the power and testimony of the Holy Ghost, they were entitled to believe it; and they grieved the blessed Savior, and brought darkness upon their souls by refusing to believe it.
To remedy an evil so extensive and so fearful in its effects, many have called attention most earnestly and beseechingly to the idea of present faith; faith in the actual fulfillment of the Savior's promises, when their conditions occur. In some instances, it is true, there has seemed to be an overlooking of these conditions, and so far, of course, zeal has done injury; but in the general, we are persuaded, this has been only in appearance. And just so far as present prevailing faith has become the ruling element of prayer, great good has been accomplished.
4. How deeply have "the pure in heart" mourned as they have witnessed the general feeling of distance from the great event of entire salvation! It has exhibited itself in the utter omission of the subject from prayers, conversation and preaching; in the languor which has accompanied occasional allusions to it; in the manifest timidity of even good men when the subject was mentioned in company ; in the dreadful silence that has frequently followed the humblest professions of those who have tremblingly claimed the precious blessing; in the cautions that have been occasionally dropped, to beware of enthusiasm; and most of all, in the conduct of the great mass of professed believers in the doctrine of holiness, who, it must be mournfully confessed, have not acted as though they were expecting the cleansing baptism of the Holy Ghost to follow their labors; as though they felt themselves to be upon the very point of realizing the efficacy of the Savior's blood to cleanse them from all sin; as though they really stood upon the very shore of the great ocean of holiness, and were just about to plunge in and be made every whit whole. After sermons and prayers, and exhortations, they have not been looking this way and that, to find the spirits who were "all on fire to be dissolved in love." Indeed, we cannot resist the conviction, that a struggle for full deliverance just now, and especially, the humble declaration of success in the struggle, followed by an earnest effort to bring others into the immediate triumphs of faith, would excite an evident concern for the stability and unity of the church. Entire sanctification may be preached, may be prayed for, may be conversed about sparingly, so long as the time is in the distant future! It may even be urged as a present privilege; but who can deny the alarm and the caution and the standing-off which follow present action and profession according to the faith of our fathers?
It is under these circumstances that many have cried out with spirits almost bursting with grief, not hereafter, not next year, not to-morrow, but now, dear brethren, even this very moment, we are called to holiness. Distance! Alas! this fatal, fearful distance has well-nigh ruined us. Now is the time to seek for perfect love — now is the time to obtain it. Now is the time for the whole church to rouse herself and rush into the glorious strife. This is the very day to gird on our armor, to fight and to conquer.
And in the same spirit prayer has, at least in a few instances, put off its procrastinating forms, and assumed a confidence, a boldness, a power, which calls down the present baptism upon the panting spirit. And faith is talked of, and urged as a power that acts instantly in the struggle for purity — that grasps a perfect Savior and will not let him go; that believes at once every thing he has said; appropriates now the blood that cleanseth from all sin, and hence entitles the soul to the glorious faith that the work is done, that it has in very deed the thing for which it prays. A commanding, active, omnipotent style of faith, this, which annihilates time, and makes the order of events comparatively unimportant. Would to God there was more of it.
In this struggle, probably some have stated injudiciously, and even erroneously, the conditions of entire sanctification. The faith that sanctifies may have been, in some instances, lost sight of, in the anxiety to secure faith in the fact that the work is already done. Too literal an adherence to the language of one text, may have diverted attention from the scope of the sacred writings upon the subject. Some may have believed, prematurely, that they were wholly sanctified. All this is probable. Admit that it is even certain, and that so far we have cause to regret, and be admonished of our danger.
5. We dare to believe no radical difference exists among us; indeed, we would almost venture to write the very words in which we all really harmonize. Are we correct that our brethren who have been deemed in error on this subject, do mean that those whom they exhort to believe they have received the blessing, are supposed to have made a perfect consecration of soul and body to God forever; — that by appropriating faith they have apprehended and received the cleansing power of a Savior's blood, and are hence entitled to "reckon themselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord," but have been hindered by erroneous opinions, by constitutional timidity, by fears of self-deception, by the artificial terrors inspired by an unbelieving age, or by the direct influence of the devil, from claiming the blessing; — in fine, that they wish men to believe in a fact, not that it may be a fact, but because it is a fact; and that their great aim is to excite present inquiry, present effort, present faith, present answer to prayer; to secure present entire salvation, present evidence of it, and present belief in the fact? Then, in principle, they are right. Let us commune with these spirits for a few moments.
6. We have no selfish ends to serve; a blind devotion to any particular phraseology is no part of our character; an attempt to get all men to adopt our peculiar " Shibboleth," no part of our mission. We will give up forms, words, illustrations, any thing, every thing, but the thing itself; holiness, a distinct blessing to be sought, obtained, professed, practiced, and urged , with all humility and love, but with might and main, upon the whole church,—entire sanctification through faith in Christ, the present privilege, and the present duty of all Christians. This we never will give up. In the name of Jesus, and with the eye of faith fixed upon his cleansing blood, we will contend for it till death shall sign our release.
But subordinate to this we will be any thing or nothing, for the sake of the cause. We will modify our forms of expression, so as to obviate, if possible, the objections of brethren. We will be even more particular to insist upon the prerequisites of entire consecration and perfect trust in the merits of the Savior, and upon the evidence, direct and indirect, that the work is wrought as the ground of believing that it is. We will try to speak of "believing that we have it," in such a way that all the world shall know, we mean it is because we have the evidence that it is ours. So long as we are without the evidence, we will admit that there is some defect in our faith; that, whatever it may be, it is something less than appropriating faith. And when we urge seekers of the blessing to believe that they have it, it shall always be, not that they may obtain it, but because, upon close and careful examination, we believe they have already received it; because in their subdued spirits, in their melted hearts, in their dissolving love, in their quiet mighty faith and heavenly words, they exhibit the phenomena of the sanctified state, and are entitled to the faith of assurance.
So shall the advocates of holiness speak a common language, as well as believe a common faith, and aim at a common object. And we have all the solemn motives of eternity to seek union among ourselves. In numbers the church is comparatively a feeble band ; but with united power, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, she will accomplish her mission. Infinite gratification no doubt it would be, to our common foe, to see us distracted by theological controversies; divided and scattered upon words, and illustrations, and means, when we are, in fact, all actuated by the same lofty and soul-stirring aims. No! It must not, cannot be. Jesus, our perfect Savior, will graciously prevent it; and with a heart of love, throwing its life-current to the extremities, at every pulsation, we shall move on simultaneously in our holy work.
7. We return to the earnest seeker after the blessing of perfect love. We trust it has done you no harm to think. Even a brief discussion upon a point of difficulty, and especially of difference among the friends of holiness, would, perhaps, confuse and discourage a mind merely under the influence of temporary excitement. The whole effort might be abandoned as the result of strong temptation. But we have assumed that your resolution is an intelligent and decisive one, the result of profound conviction followed by the dissolving of heart, the sincerity of confession, and the completeness of consecration, which belong to this thorough and exalted work. Indeed, we have supposed you in the very act of casting yourself, by a faith that in no respect wavers or hesitates, upon the merits of the Savior's blood for entire sanctification; and you are not diverted. You have felt it a pleasure to pause in the calmness of sustained confidence, and examine the character of true sanctifying faith; and do you see it clearly? At least, you understand that it is not merely faith in Christ for the forgiveness of actual sin; — not the trust that removes a burden of guilt. This, you have long enjoyed, and quite well understood. But now you have been called upon for a higher and more commanding style of faith, — a faith that claims ample provision in the gospel for entire deliverance from sin — power in the blood of Christ to cleanse you from all sin, and to accomplish this work, not at some future indefinite time, — not to-morrow, but now, — just as you are. A faith has been demanded that would yield nothing to the suggestions of the enemy, or the timidity of shrinking self, but claim the immediate application of the cleansing blood, washing away every stain, and filling the soul with "all the fulness of God." Do you now exercise this faith? Do you this moment claim for yourself, the complete efficacy of the atonement, extending to every defect, and every want of the soul? Is your doubting at an end, and henceforth, are you to have just what there is in Christ, and only this, for your portion in this life, and in the life to come? Do you take him for your "wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption?" And are you satisfied to be shut up to this result, — to have no other resource, — no other dependence for happiness or security, now and forever? How delightful is the simplicity of appropriating faith. One object "the fairest among ten thousand, and the one altogether lovely," fills the whole field of vision. One exercise engages the soul; — trust — simple trust, for all you want, — confidence that claims the atoning blood as just sufficient to meet every demand, and extending to every part of indwelling sin, not to apologize for it, but to remove it totally and at once, so that henceforth you may "all on fire to be dissolved in love."reckon yourself dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Here then let your soul rest, calmly, sweetly rest. Already the saving blood may have been applied. Even now, you may feel the calm sinking into God, — the descending baptism of the Holy Ghost. — At this moment you may hear the quiet whispers of the witnessing Spirit, and experience the fulness, richness, and power of perfect love. God grant it may be so. But let not your faith, your reliance, your appropriating trust waver for a moment. This is to be steady and complete, not affected by any mutability of feeling or circumstances. Simply, because Christ is true, and God's word cannot fail you, are to believe every promise. Such confidence will not be in vain, for the promises of God are, " yea and amen to him that believeth.
SECTION VII. THE PRAYER OFFERED.
The spirit of prayer must pervade this whole effort. The conviction in which it has its origin, depends much upon this for its clearness, pungency and success. It is true, that much of the convincing work of the Holy Spirit is without the consent of the soul enlightened; but nothing of actual salvation is accomplished without the free concurrence of the moral agent. The Holy Spirit is given in special power to them that ask him, and thus the mind inquiring after holiness receives the strongest conviction of its necessity and possibihty, while humbly and ardently breathing out its desires for the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit. Those who are unfaithful in their devotions feel very little "hungering and thirsting after righteousness," — very little conviction for indwelling sin. There is moreover no strength in resolution to seek for holiness which is not aided in answer to prayer. God gives power to form the purpose, inspires it with his own divine energy, and maintains it in increasing firmness, in answer to prayer. He sends the melting power that prepares the soul for the completion of this great work in answer to prayer. He gives strength and sincerity to make the required confession in answer to prayer. There is no real and full consecration but by the special aid received in answer to prayer, and the "faith that works by love and purifies the heart,” the clear, comprehensive, commanding faith which realizes the promise "ye shall be clean," is stimulated and invested with its omnipotent power in answer to prayer. Prayer is therefore the grand means of success in this great undertaking. But some particulars deserve special consideration.
1. Prayer should be intelligent and discriminating, to secure its object with greatest ease and certainty. We grant that there are manifest provisions for much of human weakness and ignorance. We do not deny, but are happy to allow, that many who from the negligent habits of early life, or the force of theological training, have failed to acquire just views of the special work of sanctification, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in answer to prayer, that is quite general, and undefined in its objects, do actually receive the cleansing baptism, and become real examples of perfect love. But all this indefiniteness is evidently in the way of the most sincere exertion. There is confusion in the view, and dissipation of thought, giving great advantage to temptation, and preventing the grasp of faith, which is so important in such a crisis. Let the thing desired be matter of distinct and intense thought, and separated from everything else, let it be asked for.
For this definiteness in prayer, you have ample authority in divine revelation. You are now in the condition of David, who longed for inward purity, and with him you can pray "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me;" — "cleanse thou me from secret faults." This is exactly to the point. There is no confusion, no indefiniteness in this prayer. Urge it in the name of Christ until it is answered. You pray in harmony with apostolic pleadings in behalf of Christians. Read the following: "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power; that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Here is the Scripture warrant, and you take up the prayer of the apostle, and ask for yourself what he has asked for you and others. You wish to be ready "when he shall come to be glorified in his saints," and you pray "that our God would count you worthy of this calling ; and fulfill," in you "all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ." This is exactly what you are now asking, — "the work of faith with power;" and how strong is the consolation, in the fact that you pray in the use of inspired language, and ask nothing disallowed or questionable in character or extent. The Savior prayed "Sanctify them through thy truth," and you pray, "Sanctify" me "through thy truth." He teaches all his children to pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven;" and you say "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done" in me, and by me, "as it is in heaven." The apostle prays "the very God of peace sanctify you wholly," and you say "the very God of peace sanctify" me "wholly." This is specific prayer for the blessing of entire sanctification, and, as you distinctly see, it is entirely in accordance with the revelation of God.
And why should you not ask for the very blessing you need and desire? When you want one thing of your fellow-man, you do not ask for another. The very thing asked for is what you may expect to obtain. "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or, if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? or, if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your Heavenly Father, give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." Here is revealed the infinite willingness of God the Father to answer our prayers, and the Scripture authority for asking, expecting, and receiving the specific blessing desired. What is thus so in harmony with reason, is exactly in accordance with the divine plan. No "scorpion "-gift shall be presented to the child who asks" an egg;" — no deceptive influence shall be given to the devout believing mind which pleads for "the Holy Spirit;” — he who seeks the purifying baptism from above, may recognize the voice of unchangeable veracity in the assurance, "Ask and ye shall receive." We mean not that the good are never to ask anything else but perfect love; but all things whatsoever they ask when they pray should be as distinctly defined as possible, and especially so of this great and full salvation. Let the mind be so centered and fixed upon it, that its pleading may be earnest and absorbing. In this way may the full power of prayer be realized.
2. Your own helplessness must be deeply felt. Prayer is the language of dependence, and to exert its utmost strength the sense of dependence must be complete. This has been shown to you in a remarkable degree at the time of your voluntary consecration, but it must not be forgotten in your prayers for a clean heart. Look again at this utter want of strength in yourself. See how you sink into nothing before the flaming law and the awful purity of God. Where are the powers within you by which you can hope to cleanse away the stains of sin, or raise yourself to the bliss of perfect love? What fact in your character or life, could you think of pleading, as the ground or reason for your sanctification? You can think of none, — there is absolutely nothing of self which can deliver you, or upon which you can place any value. It is given up; it is all yielded a willing sacrifice, and Christ is all to you. In this utter self-abandonment, with what exclusive reliance do you turn to your bleeding Savior. This is the frame of mind for prayer. O, how strong is the merit of his blood! how perfect are all the provisions of infinite love in him! Nothing more is wanted, nothing asked, nothing thought of. "The blood of Jesus Christ — cleanseth from all sin."
"I the chief of sinners am.
But Jesus died for me."
Here is the place for the strength of prayer. There seems to be nothing now in its way. It rises in bold and humble confidence, and claims the realization of its largest requests.
3. Faith must triumph in the prayer for a clean heart. We have discussed faith in a separate section, but we must return to it here. It is mingled as we have assumed in all right mental exercises which relate to the work of God in the soul. It has not, we are sure, been absent in one of your investigations, or struggles to reach the grand result held out to you in the holy Scriptures. But it has special position and importance in the pleadings of prayer. All this you understand; but you may even now be asking what am I entitled to believe? We answer clearly and distinctly, that the provision for you in the blood of Christ is ample, — is exactly what you need, — is, at this moment, available to save you to the uttermost. Moreover, your confidence in the revealed method of obtaining the avails of the Savior's death should be unwavering. You are to "ask and receive that your joy may be full." You are asking, and it would be a great error to assume that it avails nothing to ask, — that there is no blessing connected with right obedience to God in an effort of prayer. True, there is no merit in prayer, — no merit in any thing but in the blood of Jesus. It is not, however, a question of merit, but of the advantages of asking, — of the blessing guarantied to prayer. What are your rights on Christ's account alone as a praying man, and especially when you are pleading for entire sanctification? The Savior himself shall answer. "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it." Look now at the strength of this position. "It is the will of God, even your sanctification" — that you should be sanctified wholly. He has said, "Ask and ye shall receive." You are asking with deep conviction of your necessity, — with firm purpose to persevere, — with all you have, and are, so far as you can now see or understand, consecrated to God forever, — with your resolution acknowledged in the sight of heaven and earth, and your heart all melted down before God under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Under these circumstances you are asking in the name of Jesus. Are you not then in duty bound to believe that he will do it? He surely will. Read his sacred promise again: "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." What can command your faith if this declaration cannot? How are you to excuse yourself for a moment's hesitancy? It is the unequivocal declaration of Christ — the veracity of the Savior, that you are called upon to believe. O, doubt it not. As certain as it must be the desire of the Father to be glorified in the Son, your simple, earnest, believing prayer shall be answered. This is your stronghold. In this divine condescension, in this gracious assurance, all things requisite for soul and body, for time or eternity which you shall ask, believing, are thus secured to you. You will guard against postponement. Again, we urge a faith that brings you at once, even this very instant, into the enjoyment of the fulness. Hear the Savior once more, "What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." How evidently he who knows all things would guard you against all idea of distance, — against deferring the time for the reception of the special blessing for which you pray. True, the reception must be after the prayer for the blessing desired, but it should be immediately after; the reception must be after the faith that brings the blessing, but it should be instantly after, so as indeed to make the asking, believing and receiving, virtually simultaneous. “Ye shall have them.” They are purchased for you. They have been long proffered to you. They are ready at hand to be conferred upon you, and the very moment your faith in Jehovah's promise, — in the blood of Jesus, is such as to command them, "ye shall have them."
But do you say, I believe in the power and willingness of Christ to save me from all sin. I ask it, believing that he will just now answer the prayer, and yet I feel no change, — no inward witness, — no special baptism. Am I notwithstanding entitled to believe that I do receive the blessing? Certainly not; your state of mind is not such as would inevitably follow if the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost had fallen upon you. Do you therefore ask, has not the promise of the Savior then failed? No verily. We beseech you indulge in no such unworthy idea of the infinite Jesus. Check at once this propensity to lay the blame or the responsibility of a failure on him. You will surely see the reason in yourself; and even now he who is infallible in knowledge and truth, is saying to you, as he did to others, "Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss." It is not for the same reason, that you ask amiss ; and yet so long as you fail, you are bound to believe that, in some particular, you "ask amiss." Forget not how frail you are, — how imperfect are all human knowledge and judgment, and you will in all humility allow, that your consecration is imperfect, or your appropriating faith too weak while the answer delays. But you will by no means hence be discouraged. Remember it forever, that you have given yourself to God in holy covenant; and though he tarry, he will surely come. Keep your position, humble and self-abased at your Savior's feet. Breathe in ceaseless urgency the prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." He will "strengthen you" for the conflict. He will exhibit to you, with clearer and clearer evidence, the great and sufficient provision for all your wants; a provision present, and available for you now just as you are, and you will rise in the power of faith, and claim your purchased inheritance.
We have thus discussed separately, the important steps, from profound conviction to triumphant faith in prayer, which we believe to be indispensable to a present realization of entire sanctification. We have seemed to detain the earnest seeker, when, at different points in this process, he has been quite ready to enter into the perfect rest of faith. But we trust this has been only in appearance. Nay, we would feign believe that many of our readers have anticipated us, and in the very act of consecration, have so prayed and believed as to receive the full assurance of entire salvation. Indeed, the points we have separately placed before our readers, are in immediate connection with each other; and, as we have before assumed, are sometimes so rapidly experimented as to annihilate all appreciable ideas of time. While we have occupied space with explanation and argumentative language, and the reader's time in passing from one section to another, he has seen how intimate are the relations of these several topics, and how unavoidably our discussions of them have run into, and implied each other. The combined harmonious effect is the only object we have in view. Happy for the reader, if at any point in this investigation, he has been able to realize the present power of the Holy Ghost to cleanse from all unrighteousness.
Aware, however, that some minds must move slower than others, we have hoped, by a more distinct presentation of the steps to be taken, to aid them in reaching the glorious result, they so earnestly seek. Happy shall we be, if even, one by one these steps have been taken, and thus deliberately, any have been brought into the clear enjoyment of perfect love. At least, allow us to believe that the one who now reads is able, from a full heart, and upon the most reliable evidence, to say,
"'Tis done, thou dost this moment save
With full salvation bless,
Redemption in thy blood I have,
And spotless love and peace."
SECTION VIII. THE EVIDENCE RECEIVED.
A question of the utmost importance now presses itself upon our attention. How can it be known whether the work of sanctification is complete? What is the evidence of the fact to the individual in whose soul it is wrought?
1. The witness of the Spirit. We lay it down as a general truth that all authoritative communications to the spirit of man come from God. Revelation is authoritative, because God is its author. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The great Source of all truth knew what the facts and principles were which were needed for a general and special revelation to the race; and he communicated them to holy men, to be written and disseminated. But revelation cannot settle a question of fact, in relation to the light in which God views us personally. He, alone, knows what is passing in his own infinite mind, and therefore, he alone can declare it. Hence, the position, that the Holy Ghost is the great truth-telling agent to the souls of men. Mark the promise of the Savior, "If ye love me, keep my commandments; and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with you forever ; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him ; but ye know liim; for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you." Again; "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me." And again, "When he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth ; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine and show it unto you." Notice also the language of St. Paul; "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew; for, had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him; but God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now, we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God; which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
We have brought these very important passages together that the reader may see the great strength of our main position, which is, that all our knowledge of divine things comes from God. We ask attention to the following particulars:
(1.) We receive all our spiritual saving influences "from above, from the Father of lights." We can neither produce nor deserve one of them.
(2.) We cannot by our own natural intelligence know them as they exist in God, nor that they are for us, nor that we have met their conditions, nor what they are when we receive them. "The Spirit of truth the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom — which none of the princes of this world know." "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him;" "for what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" What one individual can tell what is passing in the mind of another individual? "Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ; for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Thus it is seen that our ignorance of divine things is real and total, arising out of actual, natural incapacity for independent spiritual knowledge. The reasons are given. This knowledge must relate to "the things of God," which he alone can know, and "the natural man," in his fallen state is morally disqualified for discovering these elements of divine intelligence. " They are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Our ignorance relates to all that we have need to know or receive.
(3.) The Holy Spirit has all this divine intelligence, and all these gracious influences which we need, and cannot furnish to ourselves. "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." "Even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God." Here is the requisite intelligence; the omniscience of God. Evidently, therefore, should it please the Almighty, he can communicate to us exactly what we require.
(4.) It is in the economy of grace that these necessary divine communications shall be actually made to us by the Holy Spirit. They are promised. "Ye know him, for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you." "He shall testify of me." "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." "He shall receive of mine and show it unto you." Thus much then is clearly revealed. Knowledge of the divine mind in relation to us, — of the divine Spirit himself, — of all truth belonging to our sphere and included in our salvation, — of the things of Christ reserved for us, is possible to us, is provided for us, is promised to us; and the unimpeachable veracity of the witness is solemnly guaranteed in the fact of his asserted divinity, and the distinct emphasis with which he is repeatedly styled "the Spirit of truth."
(5.) We find it established that these divines communications of grace and facts have been repeatedly made to men. The Holy Ghost has actually communicated personally to individual minds, all the stupendous truths of divine revelation. To good men it has been said, and may now be said, "Ye know him, for be dwelleth with you and shall be in you.” It is true that “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, but God hath revealed them unto us," "We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” and when these things are thus divinely revealed to us we do not conceal them; "which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth; but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” A divine testimony is borne to the soul, and thence to the church, of "the things that are freely given to us of God;” sometimes, as in the case of the apostles, including the higher revelations of authoritative teaching, to complete the sacred canon, and "things to come," for the miraculous ends of holy prophecy.
(6.) When it is seen what vast comprehension, and yet what minute detail are included in the exclusive sphere of divine teaching, who can doubt that the method of attesting all that we are in relation to God, and all we receive from him, is here given? Indeed, nothing can be clearer than that all our knowledge of divine things comes from God; — that not a single just conviction, or the least reliable direct instruction upon any of these great questions can come from any other source. The sinner, as we have seen, must have the witness of the Spirit — the direct announcement of his guilt, or he will never know it. The act of pardon is purely the act of God, and he alone can in the first instance testify to it. He only can tell when the faith of the penitent is such as to render the pardon righteous and safe. When he sees that all the particulars required, combine in the one act of faith, which claims the blessing of pardon for Christ's sake alone, he, by his Holy Spirit, declares the fact, and the direct evidence of justification is very properly termed the witness of the Spirit. What, though no special scripture, in so many words, affirms this witness? Its necessity is in the nature of the case, and the teaching we have given above from the sacred records, is sufficiently explicit. The Savior's promise is redeemed to this penitent, believing soul; "He shall take of the things of mine and show them unto you." This pardon is one of "the things freely given to him of God," and he has received "the Spirit which is of God," that he might know it as he receives it. This is that spirit-voice, which first speaks to him, and says, it is done; your petition is granted; your sins are pardoned. It is a strange, sweet, inward persuasion that God for Christ's sake has forgiven him all that is past. It is the witness of the Spirit to the justification of the believer.
Inseparable from the act of pardon is the fact of adoption. This, too, is attested directly by the Holy Spirit. To genuine Christians at Rome, and in a manner that shows it applicable to all who are truly converted, St. Paul said, "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." In the epistle to the Galatians this delightful truth is reaffirmed. "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father." Now, let it be observed, this explicit statement is made in regard to adoption, not to take it out of the general law, but to show very expressly that it is included in that law; — not to exclude any or all other works of grace upon the soul, equally divine in origin and influence, but to aid gentile and other believers, in understanding the fact that their sonship was in no respect questionable. Aliens as they were from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, they were now brought nigh by the blood of Christ, and this glorious truth of sonship was not to be doubted, for it was officially attested by the Holy Spirit, as one important instance of the fulfillment of the wonderful promise, "When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth." It is the witness of the Spirit to adoption to the sonship of the believer.
Just as explicitly does the Spirit of truth bear witness to the fact that "the blood of Jesus Christ," as the meritorious influence, "cleanseth from all sin." But the importance of this position, and the fact that it has been questioned, will render it proper to pause for a while, and consider it. The reader will now see how clearly this truth is included in the facts incontestably settled in the above discussion.
(1.) We receive all our spiritual saving influences from God ; and, surely, this is a spiritual saving influence. None but divine power could cleanse the soul from all indwelling sin, and fill it with perfect love. The Holy Spirit is the efficient agent in the work of sanctification; "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." "God hath, from the beginning, chosen you to salvation, [not unconditionally, but] through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth." Let, then, this fundamental truth, that the Holy Ghost alone sanctifieth the soul through the blood of Christ, be deeply impressed upon the mind of the reader.
(2.) "We cannot, of ourselves, know what this work is as God understands it. It is too high for our finite powers, and of course we cannot know that it is for us, only as he reveals it to us generally in his word, and personally by "the Spirit he hath given us." We cannot, from any human intelligence, know when we have met the conditions of this grace. We wish to emphasize this remark. The greatest danger of delusion lies in the opposite position. Assuming that we are competent judges of our own mental states, in their relation to the claims of God, some have marveled why the answer did not come at the moment expected, and perhaps, have yielded to the temptation to lay blame upon God, for the delay of the baptism of fire; or, perhaps assuming that the conditions were met, have claimed the accomplishment of the work, without further evidence than reliance upon their own assumed knowledge of the completeness of their consecration, and the perfection of their faith. This is fearful presumption. We may be accurate in our consciousness of any given mental state, but whether or not, as a religious condition, it is complete in character, or adapted to its object, or, satisfactory to the omniscient God, no human mind is competent to judge. Nor should we without divine teaching know the work when wrought, so as to be at all safe in determining what it is, when really given us, or that the blessing we have received is entire sanctification. It is said the effects upon our own souls will reveal it, and render the direct testimony of the Spirit unnecessary. We answer the inward effects of pardon and adoption are decisive, but, they by no means supersede the witness of the Spirit, which must precede and produce them. But it is claimed that the results in the life must show the work of sanctification complete. Certainly; but this is so of adoption. But here, in both cases, we anticipate the inferential proof; a matter that is not now under consideration. We are sure that no living man can assign a reason why that first inward persuasion that we are children of God, does not come from ourselves, which would not be exactly and equally applicable to the first powerful conviction that we are cleansed from all sin.
(3. ) But the Holy Ghost has all this infinite knowledge, which, from the nature of the case, we cannot have. "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." He knoweth the things of God, for he is God. What is the exact character of that gracious work which he proposes to accomplish for us, what are the precise conditions of that work, when they are exactly met, and when the work is accomplished, he knows and can declare it to us so that we can distinctly understand it. Let us forever, hereafter, accord this high prerogative to him and to him alone. Nothing is safer, nothing more certain ; while we must feel that nothing is more perilous than to assume it for ourselves.
(4.) The actual communication of the fact in this case, as well as others, is the order of God, — the method of his spiritual kingdom. Consider that the work is wrought by the Holy Spirit, — that he, in his divine intelligence, is present in the soul itself. "Ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you; " and this is the reason why you shall know him in his true character and work. "Hereby know we that we dwell in him and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." Now mark; the fact of his being present — of his working in us, is a revealed explanation of the knowledge we have of our gracious privileges. It is thus that the evidence of adoption is explained, or, in other words, we have the witness of the Spirit to the fact because his influence and guidance have been received and acknowledged. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, for ye have received the Spirit of adoption." Here then is the law of this testimony. It must be borne by the author of the work. The Holy Ghost sanctifies the soul, therefore the Holy Ghost is the witness to the fact. Read the confirmation in the words of St. John. "But ye have an unction from the Holy one, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you, because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth." Should any devout ones ask how it is that they are thus largely endowed with sacred knowledge, so that they are not to be misled with regard to the true character of Christ, how they have this clear, distinct witness of the work cf God in the soul, just as it is in all its degrees, inspiration answers; "The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." "Who now can doubt that the sanctifying Spirit dwelling within the believer has this sacred knowledge for him, and that to communicate it is in accordance with the divine plan; — that it is promised to all, and actually affirmed of those who have received the special baptism of the Holy Ghost; — that it is not to one work of grace alone that the Spirit testifies, but to all which are ever wrought upon the soul.
As surely as the Holy Ghost is our sanctifier, — as he and he alone knows the nature, conditions fulfilled, and the time of entire sanctification, — as the blessing of holiness is one of "the things of Christ," which "he shall show unto us," — as it is one of "the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," — as it is one of "the things that are freely given to us of God," — as the Holy Ghost is "the Spirit of truth," and as surely as all things which we know directly, officially, authoritatively, are from him, we may have satisfactory and reliable evidence that we are sanctified wholly, and that evidence must be the witness of the Spirit.
2. The soul in which the work is wrought, recognizes and understands the divine testimony. It has been aware of a supernatural agency, operating, with silent power, to produce a state of perfect purity, and giving distinct assurance that the work is accomplished.
There is no voice audible through the outward ear. It is not the divine method, to teach us by saying, as one man would say to another, your request is granted; the Holy Spirit now cleanses you from all inward depravity, and fills you with perfect love. We do not, it is true, deem this impossible; certainly, it would not be, if this were God's preference. But as other methods of divine communication are his choice, it is doubtless presumption to expect this, and delusion to claim it.
Nor, would we call the state of mind produced by the witness of the Spirit, an impression; for there is much which is misleading in the doctrine of impressions. It is doubtless easy, and we think quite common, for minds of ardent temperament, to mistake their own impulses, or preferences, or even satanic influence, for the teachings of the Holy Spirit. Amid the tumult of passion, or the contentions of rival powers, there is great need of discriminating care, in judging of impressions. Both the caution and the test are given in divine revelation. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God." In other words false teachers, in the very power of antichrist, will appear, professing to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit; but they will be practical rejecters of Christ; either denying him altogether, or denying his proper humanity, or true divinity. Reject such "false prophets." They are not of God ; and in the same way there will be impressions made upon your minds, which are not in accordance with the character, and teachings, and spirit of Christ. They will fill you with self-confidence, and so reject the merits of Christ; — with self-will, against the meekness, tenderness, and submissiveness of Christ; — with unholy self-love, against the melting love of Christ. Reject these spirits. They are not of God. They deny the incarnate Son. We know the Spirit of God by the direct opposite of all this. Its teachings are all abasing to man, but honoring to Christ. Against all visionary schemes of salvation, against all delusive impressions from adverse spirits, divine revelation is the only sure protection. To this the soul asking the right, must appeal and defer, and in its explicit directions there is perfect safety.
We prefer, however, to speak of the mental state produced by the witness of the Spirit, as a divine persuasion or conviction of the truth communicated. And under the authority of revelation, to a mind suitably prepared, there is no necessity for mistake. When the conviction is thorough; when the soul is humbled in the dust; when it is entirely consecrated, and breathes out its prayers for full salvation, in such faith as to secure the answer, divine teachings will surely be understood. With the witness that the work is accomplished will come the conviction that it is from God. The mind may be unaccustomed to nice distinctions; the individual may be utterly unable to tell you why he regards the state of his mind as a divine conviction, and yet he is so persuaded. God undertakes to make himself understood, and succeeds. There is a spirit-voice to a spirit-ear, and the communication is intelligible. In how many instances, have the uneducated received this evidence from God, and been perfectly satisfied! The deaf and dumb have been taught of God with regard to their own spiritual state, and given every evidence of the correctness of their spiritual apprehensions. Savages but partially instructed, have been inwardly and powerfully persuaded that God has accepted them. Indeed, all true Christians are instances of the same supernatural conviction. When it had been out of the question for any of our friends to persuade us that we were pardoned or purified, though it was our most anxious desire to believe it, and theirs to have it so; just when no human power could produce the conviction, it was produced. When no argument could induce us to believe it, we did believe it. Thus, does the state of our own minds, in the recognition of the information communicated, attest the genuineness of the work. It is a delightful and decisive persuasion that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.
3. The experimental results harmonize with the divine testimony. A peculiar simplicity and tenderness of spirit follow the accomplishment of this work. The complications of thought, and antagonisms of feeling, have not merely subsided, but been exchanged for a sweet and delightful harmony. All the powers of mind and heart have found unity in God, according precisely with the fact assumed, that they are voluntarily and wholly his. A conscious sinking into God, has saved the soul from those annoying cares for self, and perplexing doubts of the future, which belong to a state of imperfect sanctification. So it ought to be, and so it is. It is seen and felt that God reigns, and there is no concern for the stability of his government, or the security of that which is committed to his care. The spirit which has long been agitated by rival forces, at last reposes entirely in the Redeemer, and finds perfect rest. The consecration which has been chiefly an act, is now in an important sense a state, — a condition of the soul to be permanent. Not that it can never be lost; for doubtless moral freedom is still an essential element of human character, and the frailty of the moral constitution as the results of sin, suggests both the danger of conquest from without, and the need of perpetual consecration to the Redeemer; but it is still to be regarded as a determined and continuous fact; the soul sanctified wholly is a consecrated soul. This is conscious experience. A few moments after the work is completed, a few months, or many years after, this devoted spirit understands that it is not its own — that it must think, and feel, and act for God. Should the tempter gain the mastery, and self rise up and again, by the consent or negligence of the soul, assert its sway, then this state of entire consecration would be lost, and with it the evidence of perfect love.
In this sacred state there is no longer a feeling of distance from the blood of atonement. It is present and availing; and, at every moment, it saves to the uttermost. It does this because the faith that reposes upon it, is living and implicit. It is an act, an exercise to be sure, but it is a state, — a condition of the living spirit, which keeps it in holy union with the living Christ. Hence there is faith, — a felt, triumphant, holy power of faith, in darkness and light, in prosperity and adversity, amid friends and foes, in life or death, which explains the conscious triumphs of the soul in prayer, the amazing energy of Christian effort, the humble heroism with which perils are braved, and the unnatural fortitude with which sufferings are endured.
A consciousness of purity is one of the desirable, experimental results of a completion of this work. We mean not the mere negative fact that no corrupt desires, no unholy motives are felt within at a particular time; but the feeling of purity itself; deeper, richer, fuller, than before. As the soul bathes in the ocean of redemption, as it lies humbled at the foot of the cross, as it meekly kisses the rod with which it is afflicted, as it stands firm against the shock of temptation, as it recognizes the presence and indwelling power of the Holy Ghost, it feels that it lives in purity.
And there is a fulness of love — a perfectness of delight in God, and his holy ways, which no language can describe. Love is steadier, stronger, and more pervading than formerly. Such is the depth of holy devotion to God and his cause, and such is the sense of security in Christ which it gives, that it may well be styled perfect love, which casteth out fear; and its increase is to mark the genuineness of its character. The soul which now loves with all its power, will be stronger and larger to-morrow, and will hence love more. It will, if faithful, increase perpetually in its power to love, and in the holy exercise of its devoted affections, pervading the intellect and controlling the whole man, and thus realizing the prayer of the great apostle ; “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being tilled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." This is the experience which the soul realizes in entire sanctification; feeling it, and giving it humble expression in the life, "to the glory and praise of God; "by no means to his own glory, for he is filled with a humility that sets up no claims for self, but all for his Master, — a humility that you can mark in the cast of his countenance, in the propriety of his words, in the tone of his voice, and in all his bearing toward his fellow men.
Finally, there is pure, rich and exalted happiness, in this state. It is not generally tumultuous. It is not likely to be overwhelming, but sure to be deep and comparatively steady. It is the calm repose of unwavering faith — of perfect love, and of "hope that is an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast." It will not be always the same in degree. It is liable to abatement in time of severe trials. It may be interrupted by "heaviness through manifold temptations." It may be varied by the state of the body, especially of the nervous system, and by the sufferings and death of friends. It may be increased under the action of special means of grace, and by special baptisms of the Holy Ghost, so that with the psalmist the completely saved will exclaim " Bless the Lord, my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies."
But, independent of all these variations, it is a state of happiness which arises from constant union with God; which is too deep to be permanently or seriously affected by any contingencies, apart from unbelief; and which increases with the enlargement of the soul, and with every trial it endures. Inspired words shall again express this delightful experience. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
4. Reason will sustain the divine testimony. To reason ourselves into the belief that we are wholly sanctified, in the absence of this witness, would be perilous. We should surely be misled. It must moreover be expressly stated, that all reasoning is to be held subordinate to the authority of revelation. But there is much inferential proof, which ought to be carefully noted in this stage of religious experience.
You may argue, from the absence of sinful passions and propensities, with which you have had to contend in your previous state. You know these passions and propensities well. You have felt the risings of anger, of pride, of ambition, of lust; are they gone now? Have you noticed that the same temptations to these rising desires which formerly brought them into action, fail to do it now? In their place do you feel only love, humility, purity? This, then, is as it ought to be; as it surely would be, if the work of sanctification were completed.
You may argue from a comparison of your feelings with the word of God. You notice the commandment, "Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world." Do you find no love of the world, nor of the things that are in the world, in your heart? It is well. So it ought to be if you are sanctified wholly. "Set your affection on things above;" are your affections placed on things above ? "Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks." Do you do this? This is one of the inspired tests. "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Are you dead to sin, not legally, but really, in your moral being, in your feelings, in your affections, in you life? Is your "life hid with Christ in God?" But, "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Have you the inward evidence of this growth ? Can you see, from day to day, since you felt the evidence of being cleansed from all sin, that you are advancing, — that you are rising higher in the divine life? So it ought to be, if you are living in a state of entire sanctification.
Finally, you may argue, from the moral power of the Christian life within you. Do you find that it is evident, that it is steady, vigorous, and controlling? That it has utterly subordinated the natural life, and that you can say in candor, from the very centre of your being, "I live, nevertheless not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live is by the faith of the Son of God?" Do you perceive that you are, in your intercourse with men, meekly and unobtrusively, but firmly and successfully, in an humble degree, representing Christ in the power of his love, so that your prayers, your pious conversation, and personal influence, are strongly felt against sin, and in favor of holiness? Are you really, from the known preference of your soul, and out of pure love to God, "ready to every good word and work?" So it ought to be in this holy state.
Let us then say, if you have the true witness of the Spirit that you are cleansed from all sin, it is so; for he can only guide you into truth. If your own spirit, acting and feeling, and judging, in accordance with the word of God, detects this divine testimony, you are surely right in claiming the blessing ; and if you have judged correctly that this inward conviction of the work wrought, is from the Holy Spirit, then, as we humbly believe, you have felt this peculiar simplicity and harmony within; this oneness with Christ, this sinking down into God, and this perfect rest which we have attempted to describe. You now find yourself a consecrated man, not merely as you remember it, and by a special volition, make the offering anew, though this you will do, in all your humble, fervent breathings of prayer to God; but as a settled, felt, recognized, perpetual reality, you feel yourself to be wholly the Lord's, and the very thought of living to self gives you pain, and is banished at once as an obtrusive temptation. You feel the power of the cleansing blood, and fully believe that the Savior's infinite merits are yours. Your faith commands the realization of the divine promises, so intimately near, and unchangeably true is he of whom you ask and receive. You are conscious of a feeling of purity pervading the whole soul. You love the Lord your God with all your heart, and do not feel the risings of affection for rival objects, which seek to charm you away from him. The love you bear to your families and friends, to the church of God, and to guilty sinners is purer, stronger than before, because it is in harmony with the will of God, and all for Christ's sake. Your humility, meekness, and gentleness of spirit, are the result of no effort, but they are your actual condition, and send out their streams from a purified fountain. Your sweet and sacred happiness, includes your whole being. You rejoice with unspeakable comfort, to find that the unholy passions which have formerly troubled and grieved you are gone. You find, upon comparison with the word of God, that in Christ, and through his merits alone, your state of mind and heart corresponds with the divine delineations of the image of God upon the soul. You feel the power of an inner life, that is pure and healthy, and growing in its own vital elements, and comes directly from God. Is all this true? Did you really feel it to be so when the answer came to your beseeching prevailing prayer? Do you find it to be so, now that time has elapsed since this holy triumph, sufficient for thorough self-examination, and careful searching of the word of God? Then “Cast not away your confidence which hath great recompense of reward.” "Let no man take your crown." With these evidences, to doubt for a moment, would be surely wrong, — would be ingratitude, and if not corrected, would lead to the hidings of the divine countenance. Most solemnly would we charge you, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
SECTION IX. THE RESPONSIBILITY TAKEN
Have you now the evidence of your entire sanctification? Shrink not from the responsibility which this excellent grace implies. There is soundness in the position, that responsibility is always equal to privilege, and your privileges are great. You have received the special tokens of the Savior's love, and you are now required to return gratitude to the extent of your ability. Doubtless the most appropriate expression of gratitude which you can make, will be the faithful preservation of the grace you have received. This can only be done by a living faith in Christ, keeping you in perpetual union with the source of your purity and love.
But faith is an energetic, working power, and it is assumed that you are willing to do your duty. Whatever is the pleasure of your Lord is most delightful to you, and your "works" of holy devotion to God, of Christian benevolence, will correspond with the solemn acts of consecration, and trust in "the blood of Jesus," which have given you this valuable experience.
You would, however, greatly err were you to suppose that this responsibility is to be unpleasant to you, — that you have entered upon a life of unnatural restraint, — shut up to uncomfortable exactness, and forced sanctity. It would be difficult, more directly to misrepresent this high state of grace than by such an assumption. It is, on the contrary, the very home of the soul, the rest of perfect satisfaction with all that is truly right. It is true there will be a lively sense of the divine presence, a quick apprehension of duty, a godly jealousy for the honor of Christ, and an earnest longing for greater heights of love, and deeper baptisms of the Holy Ghost. The burden of souls may be greater than before, and you will feel that you cannot be satisfied without witnessing the cleansing of the church, and the onward victorious march of Zion. But all this will be in your chosen way of duty. Your soul is adjusted to it, and you will find it your holiest delight to suffer and to do the will of God. "The just shall live by faith." You will be shut up to the present. The past will have no power to annoy you, for it is all atoned in the blood of Christ, which is your salvation. The future is to give you no concern, for it is not yours. You may never meet the cares and trials which your mind would naturally suggest. You may be in heaven before the day of tribulation comes; and, if not, your safety is with him to whom you have committed your all. He will cover you with his hand "until the indignation be overpast." For all the future, you are to trust in God without wavering. And how is life thus simplified? Am I now wholly the Lord's? Not, was I at some former time? Not, shall I be next year, next week, next moment, but now is it all right? Would that all Christians could obtain the power to live by the moment. It reduces indefinitely the concern of the soul, makes every thing a present passing reality, and secures the practicability of perfect contentment. It is easy to examine the present, — to settle the question of gracious acceptance now; but impossible to decide the future, only by the faith that determines the present. Am I now glorifying God in my body and spirit which are his? Am I now doing his will? Does the blood of Jesus now cleanse me from all sin? Then it is all well. I have no other concern. As each succeeding moment of the future comes, it will be a present moment, and disposable in the same way. Here at least the wholly sanctified must rest; and this is the method of adjusting the question of responsibility. To ask what it will be, and shrink from its future demands, will be to involve the soul in doubt, and it may be inextricable difficulty. It is true the purest Christian has a future; but it is the future of faith, of hope, of divine revelation, and not of anxiety. The plans of a sound discretion in the light of the present and the past must extend into the future. A prudent foresight belongs eminently to faith, but it is the exercise of confidence and submission. "Thy will be done," is the clearest expression of choice and purpose. Surely this is not a responsibility to be dreaded. There is much more that is fearful and perilous in the responsibility of living without holiness.
It is time, however, to remark that you cannot appear before the church and the world in precisely the same character as before this work was accomplished. To know that a great and glorious change has taken place, and yet, willingly to make the impression that there is no change; — to know by the tests which revelation furnishes, that you are sanctified wholly, and yet desire others to think you are sanctified but in part, would be an inconsistency, not to say a guilty duplicity, which must destroy your confidence and sacrifice your position. We have thus reached the question of profession, which we propose to discuss in the plainest and most practical way.
1 Is it the duty of the wholly sanctified to acknowledge it? We answer affirmatively; and we place it upon the broad ground of truth. If any man "speaketh the truth in his heart," it is surely the man who is " cleansed from all unrighteousness." He is the very soul of truth. There is nothing in him that he has reason to conceal. He is all "light in the Lord;" and the sincerity of his consecrated spirit is like the bright shining of the sun. Perfect transparency of character has been reached, and must be maintained by the full application of the blood of Christ; but it would surely be sacrificed by a misrepresentation of the facts, or by entertaining a desire to conceal them. A profession of religion is the acknowledged duty of all true Christians; but what is to be the profession made? We answer, the truth, just as we understand it to be. He who undertakes to narrate experience must tell what he has experienced. He who mentions the work of Christ must tell what he has done. If the declarative glory of Christ depends upon what he has done, the more he has accomplished the more we have to tell, and the more he is glorified. If he has pardoned our sins, regenerated our natures, and adopted us as his children, we have so much to tell. With the psalmist we may say, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” “I waited patiently for the Lord ; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit; out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God, many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." And if the blessing should be greater, should we on that account shut it up in our own hearts, and allow no man to know it? or is there, anywhere in the Bible, an intimation that the work of God in the soul may be confessed up to a particular point, say of justification, and sanctification commenced, and that all beyond that is to be unacknowledged? We are sure not; for the more accomplished by rich and abounding grace, the more there is to be acknowledged, and, if possible, the greater the obligation to acknowledge it.
The psalmist, in his triumphant joy, said, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. But verily, God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me." Here is exactly our position. "I will declare what he hath done for my soul;" whatever it is, just as I have received it. I want you to know it, the whole of it. "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul." He had been "in trouble," and had made solemn vows. He engaged in a struggle of prayer, and obtained the victory. Had he "regarded [seen or approved] iniquity in his heart, the Lord would not have heard him," but the unmistakable answer, and the glorious deliverance, proved his sincerity in the utter renunciation and abandonment of all inward sin. He would now keep nothing to himself in the matter. The grace he had received was too rich, too full, to be shut up in his own heart. Indeed, he would not even make a selection of witnesses from the church to hear his testimony; ''Come and hear, all ye that fear God." To us it would seem that this was no ordinary state of grace, not the first initiatory experience of his renewed nature. There is too distinct a renunciation of heart-iniquity, — too intelligent and discriminating a struggle for deliverance, and too obvious a fulfillment of former pious vows, for such a construction. But whatever the Lord had done for his soul he proposed to declare. Who could doubt that, had it been more, his struggling gratitude would have sought to tell it, to all them that "fear God?"
Our Savior has endorsed the principle very distinctly. To one who had been saved from the power of an evil spirit, he said "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis, how great things Jesus had done for him. And all men did marvel." Great things indeed, the Lord had done for him, but had they been greater, must they therefore have been withheld? It is unreasonable. So much the more would the humble and hearty profession have been required.
As a part of an inspired argument, it is said, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth, the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For, with the heart man believeth unto righteousness ; and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation." And what is that confession of Christ? Evidently acknowledging him in his true character and work. If the blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin, can we truly and properly confess him, without acknowledging the whole truth? It would be to confess him in part, — to own a part of what he had done, but practically to deny the rest, and so far to deny Christ, — to deny the richest manifestation of his power and grace, — to accord to him a part of what is due, and withhold from him the rest. Is this the method of a true and faithful witness? It is perilous to withhold a just, an humble, and candid acknowledgment of Christ. He does nothing of which he is ashamed, which he would wish to have concealed, which he has authorized us to conceal. In the truest, fullest sense, as the most correct acknowledgment of his power to save, and his gracious act in saving, we must confess him. “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” We cannot be mistaken in asserting the danger at this point. It is true that we can conceive of states of mind, arising from erroneous or defective Christian education, and perhaps, from constitutional timidity, in which an honest fear of the responsibility of profession, might lead to delay, to the invention of excuses for delay, to the expression of less than the truth, or of the truth in such methods as to reveal the trembling and shrinking of spirit, which Jesus seeks to remedy, without such guilty denial of Christ as will lead him to deny us. But it would seem to be inevitable, that the experience must soon be reduced to the measure of confession; and the tendency to go beyond the line of excusable diffidence, and true distrust of ourselves, into the sphere of shame, and distrust of Christ, is so strong, as to require the most affectionate and thorough admonition.
The reasons for insisting upon a candid and thankful expression of what the Lord has done for us are very evident. "Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." How important the effect to be produced; how salutary the lessons of instruction which are to be learned, from the faithful exhibition of the work of God upon the soul! The awakening of sinners, the sanctification of believers are before us, to induce us to reveal the truth. "Many shall see it, and shall trust in the Lord." The humble will rejoice in the faithful testimony of the triumphant believer. "I will bless the Lord at all times ; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear thereof and be glad. O, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." How refreshing and instructive this holy triumph of a man of God. How well calculated to rouse the souls of the church, and inspire the desponding with the hope of victory. Had this noble testimony been suppressed, how much would have been lost to the devout and inquiring, for the lapse of advancing centuries, to the end of time. And who would now consent to exchange it for the timid, doubting, conjectural professions so frequent in modern times? Let us also read again with profound reflection, the triumphant testimony of St. Paul. "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day ; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." Who of us would have this testimony erased from the sacred record, and anything else inserted in its place?
But why should the argument be further extended? The whole system of Christianity is a system of transparent honesty, — of charming candor and simplicity; giving the clearest possible exhibitions of truth in the abstract and in the concrete, truth in principle, and in fact, and giving special prominence to experience, which becomes not objectionable and dangerous, requiring concealment, in proportion to its depth and purity; but increases in its subduing, saving power, as it approaches the elevated standard of the gospel. The whole genius of the Christian system, in the aspects now under consideration, is beautifully and powerfully expressed by the Savior. He addressed his own disciples in a way to guard them forever against the delusions of monasticism, the follies of the Essenes among the Jews, and the Gnostics among pagan philosophers. They dreamed of superior sanctity in retirement. They taught the greatest possible seclusion from men, and the silence of practical Quietism, as known in after times. But he said, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick : and it giveth light unto all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." No concealment here. The clearest, possible exhibition of the light of God in the soul, is due from us, as an expression of gratitude, — is required for the salvation of men, and the glory of God; and just in proportion as our light is less than it ought to be, or by any means obscured, or shut in from the view of men, we fail to promote these exalted purposes.
And let it not be insisted that the words of our lips have no part in this grand exhibition of God, for the illumination of the world. The royal psalmist shall again instruct us. "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honor of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts; and I will declare thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger; and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom ; and talk of thy power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of thy kingdom." Here is the reign of God, the theme of triumph and praise, upon the part of the author of this incomparable hymn, to be taken up by other men, and uttered for the instruction of the age, and of generations to come. The works of God are called in to join the glad acclaim, and finally all the saints shall praise and bless him, shall speak of the glory of his kingdom, and talk of his power. Splendid manifestations of God in the natural world are here the themes of devout recognition, the wonders of his Providence in behalf of his people are remembered, and the reign of mercy in the salvation of men in all coming time, becomes the theme of pious exultation. But notice especially, these things are to be devoutly spoken by all the saints; and let it not be said that this is merely the eulogium of contemplative minds, in view of the outward splendors of Jehovah's kingdom. These are heart-utterances from the highest spiritual apprehensions of God. So profoundly penetrated, it is assumed, the saints will be, with divine and saving influences, as that they shall recognize God in every thing. And then so holy and thrilling are the joys within, that they are to be expressed heartily by the lips. Who could wish to suppress the exultations of the psalmist, when he felt the power of God's kingdom within, and, looking out, saw its glory in the universe? It is useless to attempt it. He asks no man's permission; he makes no attempt at apology. "I will speak of the glorious honor of thy majesty and of thy wondrous works." Nor he alone. Other "men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts;" and, after recognizing the terrible majesty and greatness of God, “they shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness.” What, but this, do we claim as the duty, and the privilege of Christians? Let the purest and the best say, I will "speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of thy kingdom."
It may be said there is no evidence that either of the inspired authors quoted, professed or intended to profess, the blessing of holiness. We think differently; but this question we have not attempted to settle. The language used is rich, and full, and triumphant, just as it ought to be, in a state of complete salvation, and in the highest spiritual exercises. The strong assurance of the dying Paul is the assurance we mean in a full preparation for heaven. But the argument is this. The experimental power of divine grace, in all its processes and degrees, should be clearly manifested, for the glory of God, and the good of others. It is to be uttered freely, humbly, and fully, in words. The extent and power of the experience are to be the measure of its expression, so far as words can represent the glory of the divine kingdom within. Simple truth is the basis of the whole, and the greater the truth the more delightful and influential its utterance. This cannot be questioned, and it sustains our position with the force of positive demonstration.
But it will be said, many who make profession of entire sanctification, show by their lives that they do not possess it. Let it, therefore, be observed that we are advocating the utterance of truth, not of falsehood. We refer to the test we have given in the preceding section. Those who have these evidences of the blessing, are the ones who have testimony to give, that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. With the objector, we would say, let no man speak confidently, only so far as his confidence is sustained by the Bible; and we trust he will join with us to say, if the Christian is truly, and entirely consecrated, if he has received the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost, and has verily the testimony of the Spirit to the fact that he is wholly the Lord's; if his soul is subdued, and sweetly saved from inward depravity, and powerfully filled with complete humility and perfect love, let him speak of it, to the glory of God and for the benefit of the church; for the richness and greatness of the blessing, does not constitute a reason for concealing it, but urges with overwhelming force its candid full confession. Does my reader say this? thus we are happily agreed, and will henceforth speak a common language.
We have not introduced the usual argument from the experience and counsel of holy men and women, who, from the humblest to the loftiest ranks of society, have been found with melted hearts, and in strongest confidence proclaiming the fact that they were indeed sanctified wholly; who have with the utmost tenderness and fidelity admonished us that we shall grieve the Holy Spirit if we refuse to acknowledge his work, — that many have lost the witness of perfect love, by failing to confess it. There is logical force in this testimony, and though we have given prominence to the argument from Scripture, we ought to entreat our readers to accept, in true humility, of the warnings and advice of those who have been honored of God and man, for the depth of their experience, and the wisdom of their teachings.
2. Under what circumstances should holiness be professed? No state of religion sets aside a sound discretion. When the nature of the case required it, Jesus said to the objects of his miracles, "See thou tell no man." He bade his own disciples "Cast not your pearls before swine," intimating a wise discrimination with respect to circumstances and hearers. Paul did not say, on all occasions, "I am ready to be offered." David said, "I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked is before me." Not that he would be careful to speak only the truth in the presence of wicked men; for this he would do before the righteous. But he would speak prudently, — he would utter nothing when the wicked were before him, that they would be likely to misunderstand or misrepresent to others. It may be said that, in their ordinary state, wicked men and even Christians, are unprepared to receive the full testimony of the wholly sanctified. It would not unlikely repel rather than subdue, or encourage them in goodness. Under such circumstances it would appear to us to be indiscreet to bring forward this testimony. It may seem to be mentioned gratuitously, as if to tax or challenge the faith which can hardly be assumed to exist. But under the manifest influence of the Holy Spirit when all present, whether saint or sinner, are fixed in attention, melted in tenderness, and are listening confidingly to what the good man will say as to the power of grace, this testimony humbly and truthfully given, will move the hearts of others as nothing else can. We have seen even multitudes swayed and dissolved, and sinners awakened under its influence, as if the breath of God were in it. The state as well as the character of an audience may be regarded as an important question, when we would decide whether this evidence is demanded or not ; and it is obvious that the character, position, and spiritual condition, of the witness, is fundamental to the question. Much more may be safely said by one of tried and undoubted integrity, of marked humility, of known transparent candor, of sound discretion, and whose perfect love is glowing under the divine influence, than by those who are without these peculiar advantages, though really saved from all sin. It will hence appear that sound counsel is against the indiscriminate announcement of this experience, in mixed assemblies, and under ordinary circumstances.
In proportion, however, as the audience is select, and imbued with the spirit of Christ, will be the probability of being understood, and of exerting a useful influence, upon other minds, by the full expression of the joys of a full soul. In close communion with a confidential friend, or an honestly inquiring mind, in the select prayer or class, or conference meeting, and the melting love-feast, your richest experience will have place, and will honor the Savior of a faithful witness! O what holy joy, what adoring gratitude, what longings after God, what victories of faith, mingle with such unrestrained and deep communings of soul. How much they are needed in the church of the present, to inspire and elevate the humble but fainting, and fearful. God is with us for this very purpose; "for thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
But especially must we mention, among the circumstances under which profession of holiness is made, sure and sufficient reasons for believing that we are now in that state. To make this profession, because we have once professed the blessing, because we have made it before, and have this reputation to maintain, or as a habit, and matter of course, must be highly dangerous, must indeed lead to fearful presumption, and condemnation, Much careful self-examination, — much humble prayer, and the inward witness of the Holy Spirit clearly uttered, should precede and accompany this high profession. We mean not that we should make this preparation in the spirit of unbelief, and thus invite the triumph of our enemy; but in humble sincerity, and in holy conquering faith, we should clearly ascertain the facts before we mention what they are, A quiet, constant resting in God, will make this easy; may, even prepare you at any time, after a moment's attention to your inward consciousness and the divine teaching, to say with living confidence, the blood of Jesus cleanseth now from all sin. But if you have been unfaithful, if you have given occasion to honest minds to doubt your purity, or spiritual power, beware how you suddenly resolve to claim this exalted state. There is danger to the cause, there is danger to the church in such inconsiderate rashness. May heaven save you from it; and especially may you be spared the necessity of doubt which such unfaithfulness originates.
3. How shall this profession be made? There is an important sense in which the life is to bear testimony to the state of the heart. The Savior was distinguished for the profession of action. "The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me." In this let him be our model. St. James makes a distinct announcement of this principle. "I will show you my faith by my works." And no mode of profession can supersede this. The whole life must be in harmony with the state of purity and love supposed. It is a telling profession, to show everywhere, amidst all the provocations of a fallen state, an eye single to the glory of God; the deadness to the world that a full consecration implies; the calmness of a faith that never wavers; a religious power that connects your breathing devotions with the throne of God; a purity that rebukes "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," and reveals in all their fulness "the fruits of the Spirit, — love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Nothing can resist the power of such profession, and we wish to give it prominence here. But the words of our lips, as we have seen, must utter the experience of the soul; "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man, out of the good treasure of the heart, bring forth good things: and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shall be justified, and by thy words thou thalt be condemned." Mark hence, that the words are evidence of the state of the heart. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." But besides, how emphatically is it stated that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh!" speaketh undoubtedly, of what is in the heart; and how if the heart abounds, — is filled to overflowing with "perfect love," can the mouth fail, in some way to express it. It is precisely thus that "the good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things."
The language of profession is safest when nearest the language of the Bible. The very "words which the Holy Ghost teacheth," are less likely to mislead, and, as it seems to us, more properly expressive of humility, than any others. But surely there is no authority for shutting up any man to any one particular form of expression. As diversity is the law of our intelligence, so also is it the law of taste and of habit; and as no two persons would describe a scene, or an event, in the same language, so neither can they be expected to express a feeling, a conviction, a state of inward experience, in the same way. Some are free and fearless in the utterance of anything that they are sure is true; others are timid and doubtful, but overcome their timidity by the power of triumphant faith. The latter will however be more cautious in the statement of experience than the former. They may fear that the words even of Scripture are too strong, and they may seek to give outward expression to the inner life, in language subdued and humble. Let no one on this account reject their testimony. If it is real, though it should be indirect, it may yet honor the truth and commend to all who hear, the great reality. Inferential testimony alone, if it be conclusive, such as can only be explained by the fact of "a clean heart," may be as convincing to some minds, both as to the fact and the privilege, as the boldest form of experience of which language is capable. We are very far from insisting upon a merely mechanical or outward conformity in modes of expression, or assuming that none but those who are able to assert in so many words that they are sanctified wholly, are to be regarded as really so. While we deem it compatible with the very purest humility, for one who has the evidences we have mentioned, to say "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth me from all sin," we deem it a clear testimony to the same thing, for one with the same evidence, to say, I am wholly the Lord's; I have given up the world; I am filled with pure love; I am waiting for my Master to call me home; "I am now ready to be offered." Only let not the choice of words amount to an actual or virtual denial of the work, or a refusal to bear the responsibility of this "high and holy calling." We must again urge that he who should willingly decline to use words which would own the work truly done, or use such words as would be calculated, and knowingly allowed to mislead the listener, would not in this be truly humble — would not represent his Master, would not honor the truth-telling spirit within him; nay, he would greatly endanger his acceptance with God, and presently find that he had need of pardon and restoring grace. How can we fail to see that it is the truth that is due; the exact truth; and, so near as we can express it, the whole truth; in whatever language we may use for the purpose?
Finally, we would attach the utmost importance to the spirit in which all this is done. To everything that savors of self-congratulation, — of personal consequence, — of vain-glorious boasting, there are the most absolute objections. Such a manner tells but too plainly that the man is really self-deceived, and has nothing of peculiar sanctity to express. O, let him be warned of his danger before he further dishonors the sacred cause he professes to advance! His heart should glow with a depth of humility, and a purity of love, that would forever save him from so grave an error. The soul wholly sanctified has nothing to say in honor of himself. His profession only differs from that of ordinary Christians in that he says more of Christ. He has more to say, for Christ has done more for him. Indeed, the genuineness of a true profession of this superior grace, has no one characteristic more distinct and unmistakable, than that, in word, in spirit, and in manner, it exalts Christ. It shows the power of his blood, the efficacy of his merits, the condescension of his love, the glory of his holiness. In the membership as well as in the ministry, it expressly says, " But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
Against the profession of perfect love in this spirit, who has ought to object? If any, let him first seek with all his heart, till he obtains this "pearl of great price;" let him experience the purifying baptism of the Holy Ghost; let his heart melt with hallowed love, and glow with sacred fire; let him feel the sweet simplicity, the holy joy, the triumphing faith of a perfect Christian; and then let him read over again, what we have written, and we shall be glad to see him, or hear from him in any way, that we may profit by the light of his experience, and the soundness of his instructions.
We have thus concluded the chapter in which we have sought to express the true counsels of the central idea of Christianity. Whatever we have said must be tried by this criterion. It can only be true, as it is in harmony with the fact, that the production of holiness, in heart and life, is the grand aim of the Christian scheme.