THE CENTRAL IDEA IN ITS APPEALS.
SECTION I. APPEAL TO PROFESSORS OF PERFECT LOVE.
FIRST: TRIALS AWAIT YOU.
You are doubtless aware that the devil is still your enemy. He is surely not less so from the fact that you have utterly rejected him, and consecrated yourselves wholly to the Lord. Indeed, if before the moment of complete salvation he had reasons for malice and alarm, he has much stronger ones since. Hence those feelings of dismay, of "heaviness through manifold temptations," which sometimes beset you with peculiar power when you are aware of no disobedience, when you have been living closely with God.
1. But especially your faith will be tried. The direct point of union between your consecrated souls and God, is firm trust in the "blood that cleanseth from all sin." It is therefore not unlikely that this will be early and artfully assailed. Before you are aware of the cause, you will be conscious of a suspicion, that the cleansing efficacy of Christ's blood is not what you have supposed it to be. When you feel that you have nothing else to depend upon, that you have great need of present help and support, you will perhaps feel a hesitancy in trusting in Christ. You will be conscious of an effort to do it, and it will require some time, and possibly a struggle in prayer, before this sense of complete reliance is restored. You will probably not at first feel inclined to doubt the general efficacy of the atonement. But the query will be, does it avail for me? Now, at this moment, may I claim it as my own? Would it not be presumption? I am so unworthy; I have been so imperfect. Even when in sincere purpose I have been entirely devoted to God, my failures have been so numerous, so evident to others, can I venture to trust in this blood for present entire sanctification? I fear to do it! At least, I must have time to reflect and improve before I can venture! And if you yield thus far, you will find yourself inclined to go further. The suggestion will assume a bolder form. Can any blood cleanse sinful man? At all events are not most, or even all of those who think they are cleansed from all sin, mistaken? And at best, must it not require time, long continued sorrow, long and severe self-discipline, great power of pious habit, before any work of grace can wholly purity the soul?
But, brethren, beware. Here is a plain denial of the merits of Christ, and the efficacy of his blood. It seems plausible at first ; the veriest humility indeed! But it is certainly a suggestion of the devil. What! is this a limited atonement? Must we depend partly upon this and partly upon something else, for full redemption? Does it avail for me at one time, and not at another? Who says this? God does not. The Bible does not. Experience does not. Surely none but the deceiver can originate so unworthy a suggestion. The testimony of eternal truth is, that the blood of Christ is precisely the demand of justice, the full demand, at all times, for all persons. True, the condition must be met. But the question is not, whether this blood will cleanse those who reject it, who do not apply it, who do not "walk in the light, as God is in the light," who do not confess their need of it. It is simply and exclusively whether it avails for me if I do trust it? Whether, if by a true evangelical faith I take it now, just as I am, without reservation for my sanctification, it really is so? Whether if I walk in the light, the blood does verily now cleanse me from all sin? God forbid that I should doubt it! If I do, I cannot refer that doubt to any want of power in the infinite Savior, to any limit to the merit of his blood, to any want of veracity in him, to any intimation in his holy word. It is false — maliciously and dangerously false. It can have but one origin. It is a temptation. It is a trial of faith. It should be recognized as such instantly, and by an act of the will, the very thought should be dashed aside. The tempter may be foiled by seizing some precious promise, and presenting it to the throne, and holding it there with steady hand until you feel it is redeemed.
But here will arise a modified form of the temptation. One promise after another is suggested and laid aside. This, says the tried spirit, is very precious, but it is not for me! Nor this! Nor this! And so on until all that come to mind are exhausted! And at last there arises a general fear that the whole system will prove a failure! The suggestion is distinct and alarming, — "These assurances will never be realized!” What surer evidence can there be that this doubt is false, than that it questions the word of Jehovah? It certainly comes from the father of lies. We must contradict it. The veracity of God cannot fail. He does redeem all his promises. The experience of thousands attests it. And it is a grievous sin to hearken and yield to this temptation. No marvel that he who does it, is so soon prostrate in the mire. The devil has charged God falsely, and one of his own dear children has credited the charge! adopted it! vouched for it! Alas for our weakness! Alas for our folly! Unbelief, the most unreasonable, the most ruinous of all our sins, and yet the most common, the most probable. How much more consistent with our own ignorance, with true humility of heart, to say, in firm sincerity,
"Lord, I believe thy every word,
Thy every promise true;
and we can believe it. We can see that every promise is true. Indeed we are convinced of its truth, by the reason which has grasped a revelation, by the impressions of the eternal Spirit on our souls, by the living words spoken in our hearts, by a thousand redemptions of his sacred pledges to our own spirits. It is only by bewildering temptations direct from Satan, that the holy Christian can be induced to falter in his faith. Confusion of mind brings on darkness and fear, and the word verily believed is not voluntarily trusted, — the Savior accredited, is not freely and fully relied upon. But it is in no sense necessary to fall at this point. Let the soul be alive to recognize the temptation; let it instantly assert that whatever doubts the word of God is false,— that whatever shakes the faith in the present available truth of Jehovah's promise is from beneath; let the eye be fixed upon the sprinkling blood, — the prayer be breathed to Heaven for help, — remembering above all that blessed word, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you; draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you."
But in connection with this trial of your faith in the efficacy of the blood and the verity of the word, will come the artful suggestion that you are not sanctified wholly, — that you have somehow forfeited the blessing, or that you prematurely believed at first, and hence have been deceived yourselves, and have deceived others by false testimony. Now we do not mean that every conviction that you are not holy, is a temptation, — that every fear as to the present or past, is necessarily an ungrounded fear. For doubtless it may in some instances be true, that the blessing has been lost, or that it has been claimed where it did not exist. All cases of this kind can be traced and identified, and have their remedy. But apply the tests. We address those who profess the great blessing, and would assist them in guarding against a snare of the devil. Is the thought accompanied by a desire of evil, — a desire to seek gratification in some forbidden object — a secret wish that you had never taken the responsibilities of a holy life upon you, — that you might somehow be honorably discharged from them? Then you have reason to fear. Whatever may have been your former state, you are now doubtless without the evidence of entire consecration. You can probably remember some instance of yielding when you were tried, — of unbelief which grieved the Holy Spirit — and perhaps of some bolder form of sin which has shorn you of your strength. O repent, and hasten again to the sacred fountain. May God help you. Redeem your solemn vows before it is too late.
But on the contrary, is this suggestion a source of grief to you? Do you feel that if it should prove to be true, it would rob you of your chief glory; that it is directly against all the desires and inclinations of your soul; that, whether true or false, you would not for the world distrust your Savior, or grieve his Holy Spirit; that whether for life or death your all is still the Lord's, and, whatever is the issue, no word of your solemn vow which consecrated all to God shall ever be revoked? Then "thank God and take courage." You are only walking through the fire, and if there be no shrinking "when you are tried, you shall come forth as gold." You deceived in the faith that you are wholly the Lord's, when you have been distinctly conscious of a divine testimony to the fact, and are actually bringing forth the scriptural fruits of perfect love! Deceived in claiming "the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of peace" when you rely wholly upon the merits of Christ and the promise of his word for this very thing! Deceived in obeying the divine command, "Reckon ye yourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord," when you shrink from the very thought of sin as from deadly poison, and your whole soul is absorbed in doing the will and promoting the glory of God! Impossible. Lie low at the Savior's feet till the storm is over-past. Watch closely the motions of your own spirit, and of the Spirit of God. You will feel the witness in the very midst of the temptation, and triumph in the very face of the foe. As to the past, have no argument with the devil. You live by the moment; your present consecration, your present acceptance, your present witness, is all you need. Be content with that; it would be enough to complete the bliss of an archangel. The past is with God; there leave it with filial confidence. The devil, who would defraud you of your present treasure, would certainly misrepresent all that has been done to obtain it.
One other form of this trial we feel bound to mention. Where the tempter cannot unsettle the present, nor destroy the past, he makes desperate exertions to overcast the future with clouds of darkness. He starts the suspicion that our weakness will some time yield; but this is all idle. The one good and reliable rule of living by the moment will destroy the temptation. He suggests that the cause of experimental holiness cannot succeed, — that it is unpopular, — that special attempts to promote it destroy the influence of men, — that possibly its friends have acted unwisely in bringing it so prominently forward, and thus exposing it to the special assaults of the world — that a more discreet policy is much easier for us, and more useful in the end! Alas! what a concatenation of misrepresentations is here! And yet we seriously fear that many of our dear brethren are yielding to the fatal delusion. What if it be unpopular? Is not that an evidence in its favor? Make holiness too prominent! It is that one blessing and life "without which no man shall see the Lord." Expose it to the attacks of the world! It is the grand element of our moral power. Easier to propose and be responsible for a lower standard! Yes, if we call a compromise with the devil ease. Will never succeed! Then no more souls will get to heaven. Must be given up! Then the word of God must fail.
No, it will not, cannot fail. It is God's special care on earth. It is the great end of the atonement. It is the glorious work of the church. It is the centre and sun of the Christian scheme. Then “listen not to the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely.” True, it must be slow in progress while the practical opposition to it is so immense! It is not the choice of poor blind man even if a religion is to be adopted. But it will not show passionate resentment. It will not yield to discouragement. It will bear itself meekly, but firmly, until its triumph is declared from the throne of the omnipotent Judge in the ears of an assembled world.
Such briefly are the leading temptations to which you are exposed for the trial of your faith. If you yield to them, the sacred cause will mourn; the church will feel the loss of your moral power; fearful struggles between light and darkness, hope and fear, are before you; and God's Holy Spirit will be grieved. If you bear up against them courageously, the holiest triumphs await you.
Have you endured " the trial of your faith " without yielding? If so, you have proved that it "is much more precious than of gold that perisheth; " if not — if you have at least allowed "an evil heart of unbelief," in " the blood that cleanseth," in the word that promises, in the fact of your entire sanctification, or in the filial triumphs of holiness, then, alas! you will, not, without recovery, share in the further trials peculiar to this holy state. You will rather become the sources of them! And if there be no rallying of personal, appropriating faith, those children of God, with whom you have been so closely and tenderly identified in the experience and sufferings of holiness, will soon begin to feel the weight of your influence upon their tried hearts; — silently at first, — unintentionally upon your part, — only through the inferences of others, drawn from your decline, which can by no means be hid, but at length openly, and even bitterly, we fear; as it is matter of painful experience that the severest trials of these we are addressing, come from those who have at some time professed entire sanctification! If any of you are really shorn of your strength, you will have no direct interest in the cautions which follow. We must, however, in passing, beg you to think, to remember, to repent, to cry to God, to reconsecrate your all, to believe again for entire salvation, and plunge again into the open fountain.
2. But, brethren, you who have thus far "kept the faith," your Christian charity will be tried. "We cannot admit, for a moment, that the great blessing you have experienced, has the slightest tendency to produce uncharitable feelings towards other Christians. It is so charged, we know; but if in any instance there has been apparent reason in the accusation, it has arisen, we are sure, either from the plain and pointed reproofs which brethren, burning with love, have felt obliged to give, to manifest "sin in believers," or backslidden professors; or from a reprehensible censoriousness, which has resulted, not from holiness, but the want of it. If there be any state in which the Christian's heart is literally filled with that charity which "thinketh no evil," it is that of entire sanctification ; and yet this very charity is destined in every case to be severely tried.
Apparent indifference, and even opposition to holiness, will try your Christian charity. You preach, for instance, with your soul penetrated with the convictions, and your heart overwhelmed with the feelings of experimental holiness. You explain to your brethren their honored privilege. You support it by the most indubitable arguments. You appeal to the Searcher of hearts for the sincerity of your motives. You bring into requisition the holy Scriptures, the views and experience of "the eminent dead," and the very faith of the church to which your brethren have voluntarily and solemnly subscribed; and after all no general permanent interest is awakened. Only a few are melted under the power of the truth. A smaller number still are sufficiently impressed to say a word upon the subject afterwards; whereas the great mass of church members reveal apparent contentment in a state of partial sanctification perhaps look coolly upon your exertions for the advance of the sacred cause; give you reason to believe that they pity you for the manner in which you are wasting your efforts and influence; indicate personal aversion to you; speak triflingly of your profession in your absence, and reproachfully of your character before some, who, for kind or vicious reasons, report it to you; and finally come out in open opposition to your views and efforts, and evince, with more or less severity, the spirit of persecution to you, on the account of your determined support of the great doctrine of experimental holiness. Earnest and frequent prayers and exhortations, and especially the declaration of experience, but increase these demonstrations.
And here comes the trial. You deeply feel that these brethren are in error. You feel that they wrong you; that they wrong the truth of God; that they wrong the church and the world ; and especially that they wrong the Savior, who with affectionate entreaty offers his blood to cleanse them from all sin. You plausibly argue, that if they were Christians they would love holiness; that they could not oppose it; and it is even unaccountable that they should be indifferent to it.
But, beware; the tempter is at hand. Your Christian charity is in the furnace here. Grant, as we must, that no true Christian can voluntarily resist what he recognizes as holiness, can indulge in a persecuting spirit towards even the feeblest of Christ’s “little ones," or uncharitably and wantonly sacrifice the reputation of his brother; grant, that whoever does this, reveals an unconverted or a fallen state, or destroys his justification before God, and that there are many such among those whose relations to the work of holiness even now so strongly tax your charity; yet allow us humbly to submit; you cannot certainly know the motives of men. God has not made you a "judge over them." Nay, he has expressly forbidden you to judge. You, most of all, should heed that peremptory command of the Savior, "Judge not that ye be not judged." Be assured there is nothing incompatible with this high behest in that other declaration, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Observe; "ye shall know them," (false prophets,) which may not require that you should "judge" and denounce them; besides, "fruits" which show them to be really bad men, must not mean any merely accidental or isolated facts in their history. A uniformly bad and unholy life alone, in the midst of flattering words and high professions of goodness, would show them to be the "wolves in sheep's clothing," to whom our Savior referred, and of whom he bade his disciples "beware," But such surely are not our dear brethren in the church of God.
So far should we be in any truly Christian state from allowing hasty conclusions against those who oppose us, that we should seek with anxious care to account for their positions upon other principles. May there not be something in us that in part explains their aversion to the experience we recommend — some want of meekness under trials, of humility in prosperity, of gentleness in our manners, or kindness and sympathy in our mode of teaching the truth? Or if we have in no sense sinned in these particulars, still must we not admit that there is enough of general infirmity and of peculiar weakness about each of us to excuse, to some extent, though not justify, the criticisms practiced upon us? And must it not be confessed that there are few of us who exhibit so uniformly the holy power of perfect love, as to place our position utterly beyond the reach of cavil? May not some of our brethren really and from honest hearts differ from us in relation to the mode of teaching and promoting the doctrine, and hence place themselves in apparent opposition to the cause of holiness, while in reality they are in favor of it, and opposed only to what they deem our peculiarities? We are persuaded that this is the case with thousands; and if so, it would be a grievous wrong to condemn them as apostates, or refuse to acknowledge them as in any sense coadjutors in the great work of "spreading scriptural holiness over these lands."
And suffer us in all kindness to suggest, that, in very many instances, this apparent or real opposition to active and specific efforts for the promotion of holiness as a separate blessing, may be accounted for in various ways, which will leave ample ground for confidence in the piety of our brethren. Poor human nature is very weak and erring, with the best of intentions; and whatever of this great evil may be set down to this fact, will save our mutual Christian confidence. Besides, these masses are confessedly sanctified but in part, and what more natural than that remaining corruptions should tend to the very results of which we complain? What more natural than that the burning truths poured upon the souls still unsanctified, should rouse more or less of resistance? In such a state, the first instinct is self-defense, vindication, and even resentment! It furnishes indeed sad evidence of the truth of the doctrine, and of the necessity of effort, but it may not prove these persons in a state of unpardoned guilt. They doubtless often condemn themselves for all this folly, repent of it in deep anguish of spirit, secretly before God; and yet, perhaps, were they are aware of it, detect themselves in framing theories of holiness, accommodating to their condition, and persuading themselves to believe that there is something forbidding, injurious and unnecessary in any specific and formal efforts to promote entire sanctification. Even in your own past experience, it is not unlikely you may find some reason for a charitable construction of this dreadful evil. It is probable that your own minds have, at different times, even in a truly converted state, felt more or less of this very aversion, and been guilty of these same inconsistencies; if not, you have special reasons to thank God for the grace that has saved you from them.
We have said these things, not to convince you that all your opponents are true and honest Christians; for alas! we are very well aware that this cannot be claimed. Doubtless, many oppose holiness because they hate it, and oppose you, because they know and feel that you represent it; but surely no member of the church of God ought, upon slight grounds, to be charged with so heinous a crime; and it may be safely assumed, that where such depravity exists, it will show itself also is other ways, and by some means attract the attention of those who are responsible for the discipline of the church.
Nor would we wish to diminish your aversion to sin even in others, or to a love of sin wherever it may be found. To inspire charity for what is wrong in itself, or dangerous in its tendency, especially if it is found in the church, is no part of our object. Against every thing of this kind, those who are perfect in love must, upon all proper occasions, bear a decided and unflinching testimony; and even when disapprobation may not express itself directly in words, the life, the spirit, the countenance must be an unequivocal reproof to all attempts, formal or otherwise, at compromise with the devil. The danger of quiet, and of all efforts to evade responsibility, in an unsanctified state, must be pressed home upon the hearts and consciences of our brethren, "whether they will hear or forbear." This is no time for indecision. To give even an implied approval or consent to the indifference or opposition of the church or individual, to the experience and spread of holiness, would bring evil upon your own conscience which you would be unable to bear.
But we have made these suggestions to show that you may be saved the pain, — the wrong of sweeping condemnations, by sound thinking, by careful analysis of character, by the true authority of history, and by the light shed upon the ways of even regenerated men, by the word of God. We wish to guard brethren against general conclusions adverse to the piety of individuals, from the simple fact, that they do not harmonize with them. God is, we trust, graciously carrying on a work in their hearts, which will finally remove all their inward aversion to the thing itself, and to all scriptural modes of promoting it; and however much you may condemn their course, you will surely not be uncharitable to them; you will rather rejoice to believe that there is much good being done, besides that which is done by the special advocates for present distinct action in favor of holiness; and if men will not go as far in doing good as they ought to, you will bid them God-speed as far as they do go. You shall thus disarm prejudice, or at least clear your own souls. Are any among you inclined to despair of the goodness of all who blindly resist this work? allow us to hope that these cautions may not prove in vain. Your Christian charity is passing a severe ordeal. It may be destined to something severer still; but "You will come forth as gold." You will pity where you cannot approve. You will grieve over those whose lives, as a whole, compel you to think them destitute of true piety. You will charitably distinguish between the resistance made to your particular mode of promoting holiness, and opposition to the work itself. You will carefully and rigidly scrutinize your own hearts and lives, — your modes of doing your heaven-commissioned work, to see how much there may be calculated to discredit it, and what you can lay aside as needlessly offensive. You will sincerely rejoice in all the good you find in those who oppose you, and in all the good they may do to the souls of others. You will yield nothing of the great fundamental truths of the gospel to the demands of men, even Christian men. You will compromise no duty. You will remit no efforts to urge forward the glorious work of entire salvation from sin to gratify your dearest friend or bitterest enemy. To all unmerited condemnation let every true Christian reply, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self; for I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord." Let all heed the injunction: "Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart."
3. Your Christian patience will be tried. "In your patience possess ye your souls," is an inspired direction given because it is needed. No Christian can be innocently fretful. Not even natural disposition can be an excuse for it. It always includes more or less of untruthfulness, of exaggeration, of censoriousness. It engenders "anger, malice, strife, and every evil work." Those who give way to it, however great the provocation, must mourn the hidings of the divine countenance — must lament in bitterness so great a folly, or soon be numbered with apostates.
But you, who are wholly consecrated to God, cannot be impatient even in feeling without the greatest danger. It is no doubt greater harm to speak complainingly and censoriously, than to have the feeling and suppress it; for if you indulge in such language even to your dearest friends, you will start suspicion in relation to your profession; and much more will the sacred cause be wounded in the presence of enemies, or of those who look with doubt upon the doctrine, the experience, and the profession of holiness. But have you not sometimes thought that the feeling of impatience if it be suppressed is wholly innocent? Beware, brethren. Precisely here is the snare of the devil. When your evidence of perfect love is clear, and your soul is complete in all the will of God, do the petty annoyances of life affect you? Can you not endure even the most unreasonable provocations from servants, friends, or enemies, in perfect calmness? Make the very sweetness of your temper and the gentleness of your manner, a powerful rebuke to sin, and a palliative to the misfortunes of those around you? But if you are conscious of something more than inward sorrow for the wrongs that others inflict upon you and upon themselves, — of something different from the purest love to those who annoy you, — if you feel your dissatisfaction with them so great as to incline you to repay them for the trouble they have made you, to annoy them in return, to resent your injuries, though you do not utter a complaining word, you may be sure something is wrong. It is the heart, the inner man, upon which the eye of God is fixed. True, the connection between the feelings and the words, the thoughts and the actions, is so close that they are not easily separated. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," and "he that offendeth not in word nor in tongue, the same is a perfect man." You will, therefore, not long retain the feelings of resentment with which the enemy has inspired you within your own breast. Your countenance, your movements, your tones of voice, and finally, your words, will show that you are inwardly wrong. O the calmness of love! The sweetness and power of purity! But this rich and heavenly grace cannot be left to itself. In this world of sin it must be severely tried. The rashness of friends and the virulence of foes will attack it. The want of harmony around you will powerfully tend to unsettle the harmony within. Worn and exhausted vital energies will expose it. Enfeebled and irritable nerves will surely try it. Through all these, and a thousand nameless ills, the tempter will assault a meek and quiet spirit. But if you keep your unity with Christ, if in all this you have no other will than the will of God, the temptation will fail. You may be conscious of inward pain, but not of resentment; of inward grief, but not of anger; of the strongest disapprobation, but not of ill-will. Love, deep and melting love, will pervade the soul under the keenest sufferings, and the severest provocations. It will illuminate the countenance, sweeten the temper, soften the words, and throw a charm over the scenes of wretchedness itself! It is well to guard against the assaults of the enemy made directly by whispers of evil when none but spirits are near you, or indirectly through persons and things around you. Indeed you must "watch," or be taken by surprise. The great security, however, is in living faith that renounces self, and casts the soul wholly upon the Lord.
But the patience of the wholly sanctified is destined to other trials. When the clear light breaks in upon the soul, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost resolves all doubts, and reduces the whole problem of Christian perfection to complete simplicity, we feel that the work is easy for all the church of Christ. We think it can be readily explained. We hope soon to induce others to accept the same relief from the evils of a divided heart, and even expect to see the work of holiness spreading like a flame throughout the land. But alas! the trial soon shows the intractableness of the materials, and the unskillfulness of the workmen. The tears which gush out in response to deep-felt sympathy and melting love soon dry up. The confidence you have inspired is soon followed by suspicion, neglect, and finally opposition; and the amazing truth comes home to your hearts with the most pungent sorrow that you are destined to general defeat; that only a few will be fully roused and brought into the perfect liberty of holiness; that some of these will soon become inconsistent in life, and treacherous in heart, and join the ranks of opponents; that neither a year nor an age will suffice "to spread scriptural holiness over these lands." And then comes on the discouragement. The temptation falls upon the soul with fearful power, it is all a failure! We can't succeed! The church will go on in its worldliness until awaked by the trump of judgment! The little that we can do is of no avail and we may as well give over our efforts, do what we can in the ordinary way, and trouble ourselves no further! Here again is the fatal snare. Alas, brethren, whence do you get this suggestion? Does God say so? Does he say, I have tried for years to make men holy, and have only succeeded in a few instances, I will therefore give it up? Does the Savior make the difficulties of his undertaking the reason for abandoning it? No. "He shall not fail nor be discouraged until he have set judgment in the earth." You will never be fully like your Master until you can learn to both work and wait — work as though the salvation of the world depended upon your efforts, and wait as though it were a most willing life-labor to be the means of saving a single soul; "knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
4 Your Christian firmness will be tested. The apparent want of success will try it. How often has it already been suggested to you to detach yourself from a cause that is so unpopular! Better to abandon an enterprise that meets with so little favor from the mass of professing Christians, and from which you can see so little evident fruit. And neglect will try your firmness. Your preaching, your exhortations, your personal entreaties to awake to the necessity of holiness, will be heard with indifference, or, if felt for the time, will not generally be acted upon. If you introduce the subject in private conversation, it will soon be superseded by something else, and thus you will be tempted to yield the point and say no more. Sometimes also you will meet with direct opposition, — opposition in doctrine, in experience and practice, — perhaps from those who have been baptized in the faith of the church, who have avowed before the altar of God their belief in the power of Christ to cleanse from all sin, who have solemnly affirmed that they "expected to be made perfect in love in this life, and were then groaning after it!" But will you give it up? When you first read, in the word of God, "it is his will even your sanctification," did you say, I will believe this until some of my brethren deny it or explain it away? When you first began to cry out, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," did you add, if it shall be found popular to have clean hearts? When you made your consecration, was it with the reservations of expediency? When you first lifted up your voice and cried to the church, "Be ye holy for God is holy," was it with the intention to desist as soon as it should appear that only a few would heed the solemn appeal? No, verily. Then you would have been ashamed at the very thought of such gross inconsistency. Why then do you now tremble to find yourself so nearly alone? Why are you now secretly looking out for a way of retreat when the battle begins to rage? O, "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not again entangled with the yoke of bondage." "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour; whom resist, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you;" for really it cannot be denied that to many professors of perfect love this language is exactly appropriate.
5. In the struggle in which, you have engaged, your perseverance will be severely tested. Have you not marked how many who have entered the path of holiness have finally abandoned it? Have you not seen how many have brought disgrace upon this sacred profession by their inconsistencies, by their want of sound discretion, by their instability? Has not your heart been grieved by the sad exposures of this holy cause from the infidelity of its friends? And will you add one more to the number of the unfaithful? God forbid it. Is it not true that God requires holiness, that he holds it out to every believer by the most charming promises of the gospel? Is it not true that the large majority of real Christians are yet without it, that in consequence of its neglect the church is loaded with a body of death, filled with backsliders, and comparatively powerless for the great purpose to which she is ordained of Heaven? Is it not true that, by keeping silence, by waiving the claims of entire sanctification, you may deprive many of the advantage of your experience, deaden the work in your own soul, and finally lose your evidence as others have done? For Christ's sake, "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord."
SECOND: HOLINESS MUST NOT BE TAKEN OUT OF ITS PROPER CONNECTIONS.
That there is a tendency to this, can hardly be denied. When we are thoroughly roused by the Spirit of God, from a state of comparative indifference to lively Christian activity, and enter upon a course of searching inquiry into the deficiencies of the past, and the depth and extent of our privilege, as a natural and first effect, we sink amazingly in our own eyes; and happy for us if, through the device of the devil, the work of God already done in our hearts, and still in progress, does not go down with self! Surely, we are in great danger of blindness here. Many have been the sufferers who, in the very struggle for "a clean heart," have been led to depreciate their past religious experience, until they grieved the Spirit, and reached a state of complete despair. But if the soul escapes this snare and the work goes on, the glory of holiness becomes entirely absorbing. Oh, how deep, and rich, and full its blessings. Completely enamored with its charms, and awed by its overpowering grandeur, one may very well say, — give me this, and I want nothing besides. It is not wonderful that, in such a state, this one object should completely occupy the mind. And when this absorbing desire is gratified, the danger is not entirely past. We do not mean the danger of over-estimating the grace of perfect love. This, we are sure, is impossible. We mean simply the danger of making it the whole of the Christian scheme. It is doubtless the very centre and soul of the scheme, — the grand aim of remedial love in reference to sinners. But it is not the whole. Other fundamental principles, however accessory and subordinate to this, have their place in the system, — their importance to the unconverted, to the justified, and to the wholly sanctified — their demands upon us, upon all, for attention, enforcement, and defense.
If now, as ministers or members of the church, we should become so entirely engrossed with the charms of perfect love as to lose sight of its accessories — if our minds should be so occupied with the one thought — the one doctrine, vast and comprehensive as it is, that we could preach upon no other theme, converse or pray only about holiness, the precious truth would doubtless suffer in our hands. We do not believe the many are liable to fall into this error. Far otherwise. It must rather be confessed with sorrow that much the greater numbers are in danger of the opposite extreme; — that they do not feel the charm of Christian purity drawing them for months, and even years together, to preach a single sermon or speak upon its distinctive character and claims; — that numerous Christians and large congregations are permitted to sit under the ministry for many years, perhaps for life, without being impressed even once with the glorious truth that entire deliverance from sin in this life is their blood-bought privilege, their indispensable duty. This undoubtedly is the great evil of the pulpit and the church. But for the present we address a different class — a class to whose course and bearing we attach the greater importance, from the very fact that it is small. Indeed, it would seem that the church cannot well bear the misdirection of the smallest part of those labors which are especially designed to promote experimental holiness. To aid one beloved brother, who has to any extent impaired his usefulness by becoming, in an unfortunate sense, a man of one idea, in recovering from this dangerous tendency, would, as we believe, be a work of incalculable usefulness.
Let us then with great plainness point out the indications of this error. You have proved by blessed experience the power of holiness. Of course you love it. The theme attracts you wherever mentioned. A sermon in which it is truthfully presented, — a prayer in which it is earnestly asked, — a conversation in which it is sincerely discussed, — or a book in which it is clearly explained and ably enforced, has, for that very reason, a special interest for you; and the more so as you meet with so little of this, and so much of everything else. This is unquestionably right. Would that a similar love of holiness pervaded the whole church. But, if now you detect in yourself a secret disrelish for any other theme, — if you perceive a lurking desire to avoid delivering or hearing those discourses which dwell upon any of the innumerable other Bible topics, which, though intimately related to this one, are in some sense distinct from it, — if you are conscious of an aversion to experience, though sincerely related, which falls short of the highest standard revealed in the gospel, or a general distrust of the religion of those who make no special efforts for the promotion of holiness, — if you feel an inaptitude, — an inward disqualification for labors that aim directly at the hearts of sinners, — that seek their awakening and conversion, the reclamation of backsliders, the confirming of the weak and the growth in grace, however gradual, of the truly regenerated; if any of these or kindred tendencies begin to develop themselves to your consciousness, then be on your guard. Precisely here is the snare of the devil.
To any who may be thus enticed we beg leave most affectionately to submit the following suggestions:
1. These feelings of aversion are clearly wrong. You once felt them to be so. At their first appearance they startled you. You cried out to God against them, — struggled against them and got the mastery over them. But since, they have seemed more plausible, and you may have even admitted them into the elements of your religion, and persuaded yourself that you were greatly subserving the cause of holiness, by giving to it your exclusive attention, and virtually proscribing every thing else! Alas! my brother, see what these things are to which you have acquired this aversion; — feeling for sinners — "exhorting, entreating, rebuking with all long-suffering and doctrine," — "supporting the weak," — "raising up the bowed-down — holding up the feeble hands and confirming the feeble knees, strengthening the things that remain that are ready to die" — the very work in which your blessed Master was engaged while on earth, and is to this hour, and which he has entrusted to his church. Surely you will not permit the existence of this feeling of exclusiveness, opposed directly, as it is, to the humane and heavenly mission of our holy Christianity.
2 It is inconsistent with the claims of holiness which demands only its own position. It supersedes no doctrine of the gospel. It is instead of no other work of grace. It acknowledges the atonement, conviction, repentance, justification by faith, regeneration, adoption, sanctification commenced, and growth in grace. Nay, more. It depends upon all these. It cannot exist without them, and hence req[uires its advocates to bend their energies, to a very large extent, to the work of producing and maintaining them. As the grand preliminaries to entire sanctification, they must be insisted upon. Holiness is offered directly to but few. The great mass of the world cannot receive it. An immense previous work must be accomplished before it would be of any avail to urge upon them the doctrine of holiness. And this previous work is of the utmost importance in itself, and in its relation to the sanctified state. No well instructed advocate of holiness can therefore be devoted directly only to that work. The claims of holiness extend in the fullest degree to the preparation of men for its experience, as well as to the completion of the work in the hearts of true believers.
3. There is danger in the spirit which we wish in all humility to guard against, — danger to the soul that entertains it; as its immediate effect is to destroy the basis of his own experience and produce uncharitable tempers, — danger to the souls of others whose salvation from the guilt of sin is thus neglected, — and danger to the cause; for its enemies wield these inconsistencies against its advocates and against the cause itself. So soon as any of us can patiently speak of and hear nothing else, then we cease to be respectfully and profitably heard upon this subject.
These remarks we have addressed to the few who are in danger. Let no one charge these errors upon the professors of holiness generally. They understand their calling better, and seek to check the first beginnings of exclusiveness, though they originate in the very ardor of love for this glorious grace. They may be depended upon to labor anywhere, and with due regard to circumstances, for the promotion of the whole and every part of the Christian scheme.
THIRD: BEWARE OF SCHISM.
This caution may startle you. You will say at once, "Schism in the body of Christ is a crime — a grievous offense against God and man, of which we would no more be guilty than of blasphemy. It separates the hearts of brethren. It stirs up jealousy, pride and strife, making enemies of friends.” It will therefore surprise you to see that you are thought to be in danger from a spirit that is, in every respect, so utterly foreign from that of perfect love! But, brethren, let us lie low, and humbly inquire at the foot of the cross. We may detect evil where we least suspect it, and you are not afraid to know the truth. You do not start back indignantly at the intimation that the arts of your tempter may lead your poor weak human nature astray, and scornfully refuse to investigate. No, God forbid. All this belongs to the unsanctified heart Your very profession implies that you are teachable as a child.
All evil, to be understood and avoided, must be traced to its source. The beginnings of a vice may be tolerated, and at length cordially entertained, by those who would shrink with horror from its developments. Let us, therefore, search for the origin of schism in the chuich, and see whether we can discover any thing against which we have reason to guard.
1. Differences in doctrine may lead to division in feeling and in action. Indeed, it cannot have escaped the notice of even superficial observers, that those who have the same views of the great truths and minor details of the gospel, very naturally adhere to each other. Hence it is that brotherly love is easier between members of the same, than of different denominations. Similarity of opinion, perhaps more than any thing else, groups men naturally together in separate church organization. Hence, when they begin to differ upon those points which harmonize them, they feel the tendency to separate. If issues are made, and controversy arises, the danger of alienation increases, until, from this cause alone, all the dreaded evils of a torn and distracted church may arise.
Now, history shows that we are at all times liable to this, and that caution is always appropriate. But let us examine our special exposures from different views of the doctrine of holiness. We have observed with some concern an increasing disposition to derive or modify our opinions from the cast of our own minds. To some, the idea of any separate and special attention to the work of holiness is disagreeable, and hence the tendency to magnify all the evils which have been incidentally connected with such efforts. Indeed, the decided influence of this feeling of aversion, in producing the opinion that sanctification and regeneration are identical, — that no Christian has need of being cleansed from impurities, cannot be doubted by a logical mind or a careful observer. This same reluctance to act may account also for the opinion that, though the work of sanctification is not completed in conversion, its progress and perfection are implied and secured in the converted state, Without fixing the eye upon it, — without hungering and thirsting after it, — without praying, agonizing and believing for it; — that with ordinary faithfulness the work will be gradually, but imperceptibly accomplished, and that it is useless, nay, even vicious, to think of it, speak of it, labor for it distinctively.
On the other hand, an individual filled with the joy of perfect love may feel a strong security against the power of sin. He sees nothing in his own heart that can permit affinity with the devil; and, taking his principles from the cast of his own mind, he believes that there is a state of grace which is beyond the reach of contingency, and thus looks upon all acquisitions less than this as defective Christianity.
Now, the source of all these novelties in doctrine is evidently relying upon our own minds to teach us the truth, — looking at certain facts, tendencies and preferences within, — admiring them, — supposing them to be general instead of simply special or individual, as they are, and announcing as general principles our own conceits. But the opinions of individuals formed from this variable standard are nearly as various as their numbers. Hence issue controversies and alienation of feeling, to the great injury of the church.
The Bible is the only standard of doctrine. No schism can be truly grounded in it. Let us cease from ourselves, and go to the fountain. In this way only can we see eye to eye, and save the church from hazardous speculations and experiments. Opinions above holiness are just as dangerous and as inevitably false as opinions below it. Innovations which claim to free humanity from its frailties, its liabilities to error, and its exposure to sin, are as perilous to the souls of men as those which would reconcile the claims of God and the provisions of the gospel with willful transgression, or voluntary remaining depravity. God's word gives not the slightest countenance to either, though a man's own feelings and opinions may.
Let no one say, "I cannot help my belief." Nay, but you have adopted an unauthorized standard of faith. Every one of us can, if we will, renounce this standard, and go to the living, unchangeable word. The fathers may tell us much truth, but they may also tell us error. Creeds and standard authors may be true exponents of Bible doctrine, but only so far as they are, can they be relied upon to aid our investigations, and teach us the way of full salvation. The mature views of Wesley may be regarded as a clear, safe and full exhibition of the teachings of revelation upon the great doctrine of holiness. But we dare not appeal to his writings as the authoritative teaching on this vital subject. We can claim nothing more than that he was made by the grace of God a very transparent medium through which divine light poured out from the Bible upon the world. It is only because he kept so closely to the Scriptures in his exposition of the doctrine, that so much safety, harmony and prosperity have resulted from strict adherence to his standard, and we have been involved in endless questions and imminent peril by stopping a particle below or passing a step beyond it. We say his standard — we mean nothing more nor less than the Bible. If we keep to this we may stop all our controversies, repudiate all improvements, and simply pray for, believe for, and experience that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord," and in our mission of love, "spread scriptural holiness over these lands." If we speculate, argue, and array man against man, we shall fail to experiment, and live this glorious blessing, and shall rend the Body of Christ.
2. A want of charity may lead to schism. Should brethren who cannot, or do not, see alike upon the great liberty of the gospel, indulge personal aversion to each other, — should they unkindly question each other's motives or sincerity, speak lightly of their professions, or dwell upon their frailties, nothing could be more certain than distraction and ultimate serious division in the church of God. Should you, my brethren, who profess perfect love, conceive the impossibility of bringing up the great body of the church to the standard which you have reached in experience, and hence feel like giving them up, and begin practically to withdraw yourselves from them, you would inevitably bring upon yourselves the crime of schism. Any thing like the spirit, "Stand aside, I am more holy than thou," is unworthy of you — is a device of the devil to cut you off from the sympathies of the church in general, and destroy your usefulness. We do not deny that there may be society, even in the church, which you cannot intimately fellowship. We know it is possible that conduct may be tolerated by feeble and unfaithful discipline, which it will be your imperative duty, in meekness, to reprove. We are aware that there is a very important sense in which distinctness from worldly professors is indispensable to your retaining the blessing of perfect love. But surely you will not be known from the rest by any want of Christian charity, or by anything like a spirit of proscription. This is certainly not in the grace you have professed. It is no part of it. It may be artfully made to supersede it, and you may thus become a victim to a most ruinous delusion.
True, you are to be distinct from worldly professors, but it will be by "denying yourself of all ungodliness and worldly lust, and living soberly, righteously and godly in this present evil world." You must be distinct even from justified Christians, but only by being more deeply humble; by greater simplicity and sweetness of spirit; by loving them more tenderly, and laboring for them and the world more indefatigably and successfully than would otherwise be possible. Thus not schism, but strong and indissoluble Christian union, will be the result of increased attention to the doctrine of holiness.
3. Any organization of the friends of holiness as a distinct work, is highly dangerous. It must lead to invidious distinctions which are by no means intended by the friends of the measure. It must place distance, more or less, between the members of such associations and their brethren, and lead to jealousies, heart-burnings and divisions. It must cut off from the sympathies of the masses, those whose special graces are intended by our heavenly Father to be like leaven in the measures of meal — to permeate the entire church.
The example of Mr. Wesley furnishes no precedent for such a measure; for surely there is a wide difference between the moral and religious condition of the evangelical churches of the present day, with all their imperfections, and the secular, worldly and corrupt establishment within which he formed his societies. Besides, he organized upon no one idea, however central and controlling. His special fellowship included distinctly and professedly the whole scheme of gospel morality and piety, as every Christian fellowship should, all tending, to be sure, “to spread scriptural holiness over these lands." This very organization and other evangelical churches exist for us, rendering any other unnecessary.
As the advocates of entire sanctification, we have no new revelations for the world; no novel doctrines to advance; no startling discoveries in the means of grace. Our object is as old as the date of redemption. Our prayer for ourselves is the same as that breathed by the devout psalmist, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," — for others, identical with that of the apostle, "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly;" and of the adorable Savior, “Sanctify them through thy truth, — thy word is truth." Our theory is as simple, as comprehensive, as powerful, and as true, as the apostolic announcement, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." Here we have solid rock. Here let us stand against the powers of earth and hell. Don't let us add a thing — venture a single speculation, or attempt a single improvement; but exert all our energies, and all the power of our faith, to get the blood applied to our own hearts and the hearts of others. Nothing more than this, and, in the name of God, nothing less.
So shall not "our good be evil spoken of," and the doctrine of evangelical holiness preached, experienced, extended, shall prove in the future as, in its purity, it has in the past, the highest conservative power of the church.
FOURTH: THIS SACRED PROFESSION MUST BE VINDICATED.
It cannot be taken simply upon its own strength. It speaks of a work of grace so naturally improbable — so far from being true of the great mass of believers, that no mere declaration can command the faith of the world. It must be confessed that, to all but thinking minds, sound theologians, or persons of deep experience, the probabilities are against it. There is much plausibility in the thought that human depravity is so deep, so all-pervading, so concealed, and human consciousness and reason are so defective that a man may even honestly think he is cleansed from all sin when he is very far from it. Indeed, without good and sufficient sustaining evidence, the profession cannot be received. There are many known defects in human nature in its best earthly condition, which, however capable of clear and satisfactory explanation by the acute theologian, are most naturally attributed, by the world, and even professors of religion, to remaining depravity. The credibility of this great work must not, therefore, be made to rest upon a priori evidence. The only cause which men can see, and which they are disposed to take into the account, does not contain the alleged effect — does not suggest it, but quite the contrary. And it is not discreet to overtax the faith of men, especially of sincere men. The effect is always adverse to the intention.
Besides, it must not be forgotten that men generally are in an unbelieving state with regard to this blessing. As there is no a priori probability, so far as they can see, that any man is sanctified wholly, so there is no a priori tendency in them to believe it, upon any evidence whatever. The minds of most men are skeptical upon this point, as upon most others, involved in experimental Christianity, not only from inward corruption, which spontaneously resists all truth, but from choice and habit. It is self-reproving to admit that a state of purity so superior to their own is practicable and within their reach — that before their eyes there are demonstrations of a power, available to all sinners, which might long since have restored them to the image of their Maker; and hence that they have assumed a fearful responsibility in remaining so long under the total or partial influence of inward sin. They choose, therefore, in self-defense to deny the fact. And this, commenced so early, has been persisted in so long, that it has become a fixed habit of the mind. It is the first result of listening to a profession of perfect love, and is so much a part of the man, that he is likely to have no idea of the sophistry he is practicing upon himself. He would, it is true, be startled by the thought of denying that it is desirable to be delivered from all sin, — that it is possible, — that it is necessary; but really feels that he has no reason, even to apologize, for denying positively that any man on earth is delivered from all sin! How general this skeptical tendency is, we need not attempt to show you, brethren. You have met it everywhere. You have felt its chilling effects in the very bosom of the church. Hard enough to endure, coming from an unbelieving world, it has grieved you to the heart when you have been compelled to recognize it in the looks, the words, and the conduct of those you tenderly love in the membership, and even in the ministry.
One other consideration we must mention. There is opposition to holiness of which its professors must become the direct objects. No man can, even as an advocate, and much less by open profession, identify himself with a cause which contains so much of reproof to sin, and which presents an antagonism so direct and palpable to the endeared vices and palliated corruptions of the world, without feeling the force of its self-respect, of its deeply rooted prejudices, and of its challenged resentment. "The world will love its own and them only." And just in proportion as we dissent from its fashionable sins, we shall provoke its resistance.
Now, to meet this opposition with mere profession — to expose ourselves to the charge of gross inconsistency, presenting no evidence of the reality which we formally claim, is not only to secure the contempt of men, but to endanger the system which we so totally misrepresent. Opposition to a mere fiction is an easy task. To disprove and hold up to ridicule, claims which have no real foundation, requires no skill in logic, no deep malice at heart. But the grievous fact is, that, from precisely this position, multitudes impose upon themselves and others by arguing from the concrete to the abstract, — from the particular to the general; and hence they say, with an air of triumph, here is another demonstration of the utter falseness of this dogma of Christian perfection, — of the utter impracticability of this, as well as all other schemes of human perfectibility. Against all this, which so clearly disregards the testimony of revelation, and dishonors the Savior, it is of no use to oppose mere profession. If this is all, it is better to suffer in silence, or to be content with opposing true logic to sophistry, and battling by sound theological laws for the truth, as it is in Jesus. All these facts, in the state and tendencies of the world, we adduce, not to discourage profession. Far from it. We have shown that all consistent profession of religion is an attempt, in humbleness and sincerity, to tell the truth, and the more profound and pervading the truth, the more gratefully and joyously should we tell it. We admit and even urge that we are not excused from being living witnesses to the fact that the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all sin, by the knowledge that our testimony will be rejected, — that men will take occasion to attack, with renewed zeal and bitterness, the glorious doctrine of full salvation. Truth is not responsible for error; the right for the wrong; light for darkness. The faithfulness of the Savior, of his apostles, and martyrs was the occasion of bitter revilings, of fearful blasphemy and murder! but the cause lay deep in the hearts of corruption whence these bitter wrongs arose. No; we are to declare the whole counsel of God, whether men will hear or forbear. With all the solemnities of sworn witnesses, we are bound at the proper time to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." The testimony of the Spirit is to be honored for its own sake ; and on the naked authority of this inward witness, whatever our stage of advancement, we are to tell what the Lord hath done for our souls.
But this is not our own defense. Profession is not our weapon, but the simple exposure of the object of attack. This is the thing to be vindicated against the improbabilities in the nature of the case; against the natural skepticism and the sinful opposition of men; and the vindication is practicable; the means of successful and triumphant vindication are within our reach, and we are under the most sacred and imperative obligations to use them, for the honor of our revered principles, for the protection of our individual rights, for the deliverance of souls from the power of sophistry, the dominion of prejudice and the oppression of the devil, and for the glory of Christ, whose blood, in spite of all cavil and neglect, has power to cleanse from all sin.
1. The spirit of the sanctified must vindicate the profession. Such amazing grace cannot be hid in the heart. A light so pure, and bright, and constantly increasing, will shine out to the view of men. A tree so good will bear good fruit.
The spirit which characterizes the man wholly sanctified, is a clear and steady vindication of his profession. It is the spirit of love — of perfect love. There is a marked difference between the love which is the fruit of partial, and that which is the result of entire sanctification, — love which may co-exist or alternate with fear, and "perfect love which casteth out fear." It is much weaker, and hence more easily overcome. It is indeed warm, and fresh, and glowing, when the soul is first converted ; and would seem to be able to contend with men and devils. But the time of its trial comes on. It has a rival within. Undue love of self is only conquered, not destroyed. And this springs up, with its strong importunate demands, in a thousand forms. It seeks, and, to the grief of the Spirit, not unfrequently gains, the ascendency. Love to God resists it, struggles against it, and, by the help of grace, puts it down. Otherwise condemnation would arise. But the contest reveals the feebleness of the power. God knows how fearful, and often doubtful, is the strife, — how the soul's affections are held in equipoise, hardly knowing which way the scale will turn. The vibration is alarming, as self on the one hand, enlarges and increases in our esteem, as we gaze upon it, see its beauties, and feel its cravings, and gradually, almost imperceptibly, add the weight of consent to its demands, — and our Savior, on the other, by the charms of his character, the pleadings of his tears and blood, appeals to the heart he has claimed, and received, and renewed, for its undivided love. Who has not felt this vibration? Who has not been conscious of this rivalry within him? and the world, with its wealth, its honors, its pleasures, has come in with its claims, its demands to be loved even in comparison with God, and in opposition to him, and has found its response in the soul not sanctified wholly, conspiring with remaining love of self, to rival and overpower the Christian love which has been kindled within. It must battle moreover with the fears of the heart. The way is new, and apparently adventurous. What wonder that the unpracticed Christian should fear a false step, and tremble lest a fall from this giddy height, should dash him to ruins! And the foes he must meet — alas! they are not unknown to him. Until a few days since, they were his intimate friends! The world, the flesh, and the devil — he hailed them brothers, until God opened his eyes; and he may well fear the power of their fascinating friendship. It is natural that his heart should flutter at the prospect of meeting them face to face, under solemn orders and covenant to renounce them, and abandon them forever, despite their tantalizing smiles, and menacing frowns. And much more certainly will the spirit sink with fear for the conflict, after it has tried the power of their combined malevolence and skill, and perhaps been left again and again bleeding and dying from its wounds in the strife. This, is the revelation of its feebleness. And it must needs be further tried by "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life." A fearful array of antagonist feelings will arise from within, to oppose, mingle with, and if possible overwhelm it. And the weakness and foibles of men will try it. The wickedness, the meanness, and the opposition of men will provoke it. Untoward circumstances will expose it to defeat, and even utter overthrow, while yet its habits are unsettled and its power is undeveloped.
Let now this unholy love of the creature, self, and the world, be utterly eradicated; let the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost remove all inward vileness, all resistance to divine love, all fear. Let the consecrated soul, in its intellections, its passions, and its will, become once more a unit. Let love — " perfect love" — dissolve, pervade, and control the whole man, and wield every power of body and mind, in contest with the two remaining foes, the devil and the world, now straining every nerve with tenfold energy, and you shall see what we mean by the spirit which vindicates the profession of holiness. We have now before us a realization of that matured, consolidated, and well developed power of the Christian religion, expressed in heaven's holy law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." And this is the spirit which is revealed in the life.
How truthful it is in its representations of God's moral law! It proposes no amendment to that stringent code, which exacts every thought and feeling, every word and action, for the glory of God. It would abate nothing of these high demands, nor vary, in the slightest degree, the will of Jehovah. With this will it harmonizes sweetly and perfectly, though it reveals crosses, and perils, and sufferings, more terrible than ever seen before. The spirit breathed in the sanctified state says, "It is the Lord, let him do as seemeth him good." Under this rule, how firm and uncompromising is the soul, however constitutionally timid and shrinking, in meeting its foes, and condemning sin, in whatever form it appears, whether in " high places" or low. It is the spirit of moral heroism, which trembles at nothing but the frown of God, and turns aside for no foe, however terrific in countenance, or formidable in power.
But at the same time what meekness, what humility, what tenderness, it reveals! How conscious of the utter weakness of all human power, how utterly dependent upon the might of God, how solely confiding in the blood of Christ, and the cleansing, vitalizing energy of the Holy Spirit! No loftiness in bearing, no self-conceit in countenance, no boasting of its own purity or achievements, no severe denunciations of the less experienced children of God, nothing harsh or censorious in word or temper. Kind, and gentle, and forgiving to all, compassionate even to the vile and the ungrateful; seeking all occasions to return good for evil, and paralyze an enemy by the power of love. A spirit so sweet, so invariably pure, is the noblest similitude of God on earth. It is God living, and breathing, and acting in the soul of man, and through these organs of clay.
And this spirit carries itself into all the social relations and business of life. He who is thus the embodiment of love is not, it is true, the less alive to a sense of justice, is no better prepared to give his tacit sanction to the attempts of iniquity to defraud a fellow man of his equitable rights. He is not thereby slack in his estimate of business laws, or quiescent amid the arch deceptions of a grasping world. His stern love of the right, will allow of nothing which could compromise it, without firm remonstrance and vindication. But his sense of justice passes over to the account of his fellow, as well as of himself. No longer anxious to get the advantage in trade, he is as sincerely interested for the rights of the one party as the other; — and then so transparent in his words, his looks, his actions, that he disarms suspicion, and vindicates confidence. When he meets his friends in social life, he reveals nothing of the ascetic, or the bigot, or the mere enthusiast. He is simply, there and on all occasions, a Christian — a man of God. The deep repose of his countenance shows him proof alike against the sullen gloom of monasticism, and the trifling levity of the man of pleasure. Cheerful in the enjoyment of the purest bliss and highest hopes that ever glowed in the bosom of a mortal, and solemnly earnest in the accomplishment of the loftiest mission that ever commanded the heart, or nerved the energies of mind, he diffuses everywhere joy to the good, and terror to the bad; and all this by the spirit which God has given him. His is the work of benevolence; in all its conditions, No form of humanity so low that he despises the priceless gem which it encloses, No labor of love so humble, so offensive to a creature of sense, so exacting upon the sensibilities of the heart, or the muscles or nerves of the body, or the means in his hands, as that he shrinks from its performance, or becomes weary of its burdens. An angel of mercy, by the couch of the sick and the dying, in the abode of poverty and helpless wretchedness, and the very hand of the church in its deep-reachings after low, degraded, but immortal man.
In the prayer meeting, in the class meeting, in the conference room, the sweetness of his spirit, the dissolving power of his love is the life and soul of the whole. Hard hearts melt under his prayers, the feeble wax strong under his exhortations, darkness flees before the burning glories of the cross, seen and felt in the spirit of the consecrated one, O, what loveliness and power it reveals! Whoever possesses this spirit may safely profess to be perfect in love.
2. Increased usefulness must vindicate this profession. We are aware that there is no coercion in religion. Mind is free, and can, if it will, resist all kinds of saving influence. Voluntary unbelief baffled the skill and power of the Savior, while upon earth; and every day, sinful men depart to hell, because they resist the Holy Ghost. Christians can never, therefore, in the absolute sense, be held responsible for the salvation of others. And yet there is ground of a most fearful responsibility, in behalf of the church and the world. If we cannot absolutely save men, we can influence their salvation, and whatever we can do, to rouse them from their slumbers, to pour light upon their darkness, to guide them to the Savior, to secure them a home in heaven, we are bound to do. For the full extent of our possible influence over the moral destinies of the world, we shall unquestionably be held accountable at the judgment. "Whatever God has given, he will undoubtedly require; and this rule is clearly applicable to those who have been washed from all impurity in the blood of the Lamb. Mark, my brethren, the divine announcement of this stern and equitable law of responsibility — "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required."
Now, it is not mere teaching in the abstract, however correct it may be, that is the efficient instrument of salvation. More depends upon the spirit, which prompts and pervades it — upon the degree of grace, of holiness, of religious power from which it comes. Doubtless the warmth, the freshness of early love, the temperament of the individual, his talents, learning, experience, zeal, all come in to modify particular effect. But the controlling power, the grand pervading influence of usefulness, is piety; and it must be true that increase of piety, in every case, will give increased usefulness. "The tree is known by its fruit," is a divine maxim of universal application. The state of grace which you profess, if it really exist, cannot conceal itself. Its fruit will appear. "Every branch in me," saith the Savior, " that beareth fruit, he purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit." We must therefore state plainly, that where no more than ordinary power of usefulness appears, when no marked religious effects are realized, there is strongest reason to doubt whether entire sanctification exists. We utter so stern a rule with trembling. We know we must be tried by it. We know not who may be cut off by it. We know not what loved ones will be thrown into agonizing doubt by it. God forbid that it should do harm. We would not write it, if we did not feel that its truth imperatively controls us.
But let us see. You are supposed to have greatly increased your power with God. Faith, with you, is not the product of emergency. It is not called up by special exertions, sometimes strong, and sometimes so feeble that you tremble with fear that it is lost altogether, — sometimes distinctly beholding Christ your Savior, and sometimes unable to penetrate the veil, which obscures him, — sometimes grasping the promises, and sometimes unable to trust them. This was, once, the style of your faith; and even then, you could sometimes take hold of God, and command a power which made Satan tremble on his throne. Frequently, perhaps, you called down, upon saints and sinners, a measure of divine influence, which filled them with comfort and praise, with awe and terror.
Now, faith is your life, your breath, your easiest, strongest, most habitual mental exercise. Not that you are unchangeable, like God. Poor enfeebled human nature must have its variations. But they must not paralyze the faith of the perfect Christian — must not break its hold upon the crucified, nor produce distrust of what Jehovah says. There may be "heaviness through manifold temptation," but no letting go the hold upon the tempter's conqueror. There may be clouds and darkness around the cross, but the trust in him who bled, is firm and unflinching. Faith, clear, strong, steady, and commanding, is the very life of perfect love. And the effect of this upon your power in prayer, is marked and decisive. With this unyielding faith, you pray for the brethren. And are they to feel no special grace in answer? You plead with God to rouse the slumbering, convict the impure, and create the immortal thirst for full redemption, which will not, cannot rest, until it is realized; and may you expect to see no movings of the mighty deep? Will no pungent sorrow for inbred sin, no weeping confessions of unfaithfulness, no groanings for liberty, follow these fervent constant pleadings of such prevailing faith? Impossible! God will not deny himself. There will be trouble somewhere, conviction for impurity somewhere, a struggle for clean hearts somewhere, just as sure as the " faith that works by love and purifies the heart '' is in lively exercise. There may be stout resistance, — brethren may speculate, criticize, and even unjustly censure, — may doubt, fear the effects, postpone the consecration, or treat the cause of holiness with entire neglect ; but, in answer to the pleadings of that faith which supports perfect love, the Holy Spirit will disturb their repose, and there surely will be somewhere a crying out for full salvation. We, therefore, put it down as a fact inevitable, that, if holiness is enjoyed and lived, it will be diffused.
And the same, we are certain, must be true in regard to sinners. They cannot, all and forever, remain quiet, when this power with God calls for his awakening Spirit. The entreaties of Christ's own loved ones, — of those who are honored with rest upon his very bosom, the very throbbings of whose hearts he feels, and who "plead with him as one would plead with a friend,” must prevail. Heaven will be moved by the power of faithful prayer, and some gracious results will be seen abroad, — the same perhaps in kind which are frequently seen in the church when only ordinary grace is felt and brought to bear. The same in kind, but vastly more. It is not possible that perfect purity exists where none is felt, — where none is operative. We might appeal to facts. We have them, within our own limited observation, sufficient to fill a volume. But we have not room to introduce them here. We will throw ourselves upon the unalterable assurance of the adorable Savior: "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." Would to God that these words of power were realized by the church.
And there are other means than prayer, to be increased in efficiency by the blessing of holiness. The spirit of the sanctified cannot be inoperative. It is felt and acknowledged, wherever it exists. Without a word, it reproves sin so directly, so forcibly, that the sinner trembles under its stern rebukes. It leads the wanderer back to God. It persuades with silent, but pathetic love, the regenerate to seek for holiness. It draws, like the heart of Jesus, by its powerful attraction, the souls of believers upwards, and of guilty sinners away from the devil. Religion, "pure and undefiled," so enters the person, the bearing, the words, the business transactions, the daily life of the wholly consecrated, that all men see it, and hear it, and feel it when they mingle with them. And then, this heart of perfect love, is moved to every good word and work. This spirit is seen in pity and relief for the poor, and the distressed, by the side of the sick and dying. It shrinks from no crosses, no sacrifices, no sufferings, in the cause of the Master. All this must have its effect, — must add to the fruit that is borne by the ordinary Christian, so that all the world may see it. As the mountain stream that glides through the vale, reveals its humble track by the freshness of the verdure by its side, this fertilizing spirit exhibits its power by the thrift and vigor of the graces wherever it moves.
And there is immense additional force in the living testimony, in the word of exhortation and warning that comes up from these purified hearts, and drops from these consecrated lips. If they come from the sacred desk, they burn, and glow, and dissolve, wherever they fall. If they come from the most obscure and illiterate, they go home, with a power that no man can evade.
Yes, we must vindicate our profession, by the moral effects of holiness — actual, visible, practical. And if we are bearing no "more fruit" than before we were purged, it is time to beware. In this condition, searching self-examination, weeping sorrow, and appropriating faith are more becoming than high profession.
Thus, does the central idea of Christianity make its appeal to professors of perfect love. Not an utterance in all this earnest plea which is not dictated and required by the fact that holiness is the centre of the Christian scheme.
SECTION II. AN APPEAL TO THE GENERAL CHURCH, AND ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED BUT IN PART.
The deep solemnity of the truths we have reached in this discussion, and especially in the chapter on the central idea neglected, must profoundly impress us. The want we have ascertained is highly suggestive.
1. It calls the church to profound reflection. Facts so immensely important in their bearings cannot be passed slightly over. Whoever neglects to consider them carefully and thoroughly, must incur a fearful responsibility. Throughout the length and breadth of Zion, let us anxiously inquire how much we have lost by dependence upon false remedies for the evils which have threatened us. What intense folly to have speculated so much and so wildly upon the means of church renovation and power! What madness to have "forsaken God, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out to ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water!" What a grievous waste of time and strength, in wandering so far for help, when it is just at hand! God calls upon the church to examine cautiously the reasons why this want exists, why it has continued so long. Shall we find the defect in him ? We dare not entertain the thought. His infinite perfections, his ample provisions, and his gracious promises forbid it. Alas! in ourselves alone we shall find the cause. Let the search commence more sincerely, more thoroughly, more generally, than ever before. The great sin of the church is surely neglect of reflection. Here and there may be found individuals who are looking intensely into their own hearts, into the providences of God, into his holy word, into the history of the church, into the spirit of the age, and into the destiny of the race. But this is not the general occupation of nominal Christians. Oh that we could reach the careless multitude, sweeping on to eternity with no just estimate of this wondrous being, and its fearful responsibilities! Stop, brethren; stop and think. How dreadful is the darkness gathering around you! How trembling and faint that life which should be vigorous with the energy of God! How deep that depravity which defiles Jehovah's temple! How feeble that power which should be clothed with omnipotence! And how unnecessary, how criminal is all this, when our Heavenly Father is "more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him, than parents are to give good gifts to their children!" Alas! our thoughtlessness, our indifference, will ruin us. Depend upon it, the church will never be better, will never clear up her vision, will never revive, will never present herself without spot, will never put on strength, will never accomplish her mission, till the habit of profound reflection upon the character of her wants, her privileges, and her responsibilities, can be induced in her members. And to this our want calls us this day, with an eloquence of entreaty, and an authority of command, which it would seem impossible to resist.
2. It calls the church to deep humiliation. Can we brethren, look at our sad deficiencies, and retain our pride, our arrogance? Is it a small evil, that we have grieved God's Holy Spirit; that we have declined the light, the life, the holiness and power, which he has urged upon us, and spread “blasting and mildew" through such large portions of the heritage of God? Human inventions, carnal gratifications deliberately chosen, and divine agency superseded! The world perishing, and the Heaven-commissioned church no adequate power to reach it! Sin, and misery, and ruin, increasing in fearful ratio all around us, and we unable to roll back the burning tide! In God's name, let us bow ourselves into the dust. Let every faithful watchman lift up his voice. Let the alarm be sounded from land to land, from island to island, from continent to continent, until the notes of solemn warning shall fall upon the ear of every Christian in this world of sin! Pride, accursed pride! away with it! trample it into the earth; and down into the dust, O ye millions of Zion! God hath a terrible controversy with you; and if ye will not hear, if ye will not humble yourselves, he will certainly cast you off, and save the world by other hands.
3. Finally, it calls the church to fervent prayer. The church, the whole church; for what will it avail if only here and there a weeping few shall pour out their complaints before God? They may save themselves. They may save some far off and near. They may secure refreshing seasons, limited in extent and power. They may even save the general church from dissolution and divine renunciation. All this they may undoubtedly do. But this is not what the present age demands. The church and the world require a revival so deep and all-pervading as to shake the nations; so pure and glorious as to wrap the earth in a flame of light; so benign and penetrating as to enter all hearts, and move and mould all classes of society, all departments of education, all human governments; so divine as to challenge infidelity, grapple hand to hand with the dreaded power of sin, and roll back, with the force of Omnipotence, the advancing tide of human corruption.
And how shall this be done, but by the power of the Holy Ghost? The baptism from heaven will put this honor upon the church. It is the fire of God to consume iniquity. It is the might of Jehovah to conquer the world. And how long shall we repose in our weakness? How long shall we live without this transcendent divine energy? This very day God says to us, "Ask, and it shall be given you." Then let us ask. Let the myriads of the church commence the struggle of mighty prayer. To faith — firm, clear sighted, vigorous, combining faith God will give this baptism of fire.
And we see it coming. Already have we heard a voice from heaven to the church, saying, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall rise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." Let then the prayer begin, and be caught up by every tongue; let it extend from church to church, from land to land, until the fervent, persevering, universal cry shall be —
"Oh that it now from heaven might fall.
And all our sins consume!
Come, Holy Ghost, for thee we call;
Spirit of burning, come!"
But, a few earnest words to the brethren personally. "May we not, for a few moments, lay aside every thing but the honest consideration of the state we are in morally, before God, the call to a holy life, and the imperative duty of immediate attention to this call ? The searching eye of God is upon us. Probation is rapidly expiring, the judgment is at hand. Suffer us in humility to inquire, is the tendency to sin still in your nature? Do you feel it rising in opposition to holiness? Does it interfere with your faith, your hope, your love, your happiness? Have you been compelled to war with your own souls, when every ransomed power should have been on the Lord's side? Is it a fact, that after all, you have been only partly devoted to God — that you have vacillated between Christ and the world, heaven and hell — that you have been among the number, whose selfish, worldly lives have made bitter work for repentance, and brought doubt upon the very truth of that religion you have professed? Alas! how much cause for mourning do you now see in these unwelcome truths!
And what are your present views of that mode of life which has brought upon you so much weakness, suspicion, and peril? Do you look upon it all, even now, with indifference? Are you half inclined to resent the fidelity which has uncovered the source of these evils within you? Would you prefer to settle down again into quietude, with the hope that God will somehow, at some future distant time, deliver you from your inward depravity ? Be not grieved with us for our plainness and fidelity. In the love we bear to you and to the bleeding church of the Redeemer, let us say, you are almost, if not entirely, backslidden. Already contented with corruption in your heart! willing that inward foes to your soul, foes to your blessed Master should remain undisturbed! — ready, even with your own hand, to draw around your spirit the veil that has been lifted, to show you the deadly evils that remain there! — better pleased with the cry of peace, peace, when God has not spoken it, than with the solemn announcement that without holiness you cannot see the Lord; — wishing, and half expressing the wish, that the church might not be disturbed upon the subject of holiness; that she might be suffered to enjoy, without alarm, her carnal alliance with the world, in its fashionable pleasures and unholy tempers! Alas! these are not “the fruits of the Spirit.” Even the justified state, preserved in its life and power, abhors sin, and none so much as that which rises up from within the soul. Regeneration in its lowest state, loves holiness, and pants to be filled with it. But is it even yet too late for your souls to rally? May not the very fact that these truths are unwelcome to you, bring you to reflection, and send you again to that blood which is able to cleanse you from all sin? How, we beseech you, came your spirits thus indifferent to the work of entire purification? It was surely not always thus. No, we are certain there was a time when the very appeals at which you now affect to smile, would have melted you to tears. How have you reached this state in the church, mingling with her people, kneeling at her altars, listening to her instructions, enjoying her confidence, and perhaps her honors? There can be no mistaking the answer. By your own confession, you have neglected the command, " Go on to perfection." O, believe it, your only remedy is in the very thing you have begun to despise. O, rebuke, in agony of grief, on your knees, rebuke this anti Christian spirit! For Christ's sake plead for pardon, ere a sense of religion has wholly perished out of you. And when your evidence of the divine favor is again restored, then cry day and night, till the prayer is answered, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Heaven grant you, right early, an answer to your prayer. But if any of you conclude still to despise and oppose the doctrine of entire sanctification as a distinct work, and discourage those who, by prayers and tears, by essays and sermons, by precept and example, are struggling night and day to revive it in the church, let us entreat you to strive to do it, as far as possible, in the language, or at least in the style of the Scriptures. Show us your warrant from Heaven if you wish us to desist.
But these are not the prevalent feelings of those who are now sanctified in part. What relief to our hearts, dear brethren, that so many of you believe, in reality, that the work of holiness may be completed in this life; that though you have not yet felt its saving and renovating power upon your hearts, you admit its necessity, and would gladly welcome any message, or influence, from earth or heaven, calculated to stimulate your faith, and lead your soul into the ocean of perfect love.
We find you, it is true, surrounded by great and numerous difficulties. Darkness may brood over your spirits, and the way to entire salvation be covered with clouds and beset with obstructions. We know full well the misery of that dread suspense, of that vacillation between hope and fear; the torture of those sad defeats which so frequently result from well-meant but misdirected efforts to obtain the blessing. And the Savior knows them also; and you are sustained to this hour by his gracious sympathy. “He is " touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” What unspeakable consolation must it be to reflect, that he has been looking on, in all this struggle, not as a stern, relentless judge, but as a weeping, sympathizing friend! O, "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Difficulties indeed there are, but, thank God, there are none but what may be overcome — none but what have been overcome a thousand times, — immensely greater ones than any we know, were triumphed over by Enoch, who found the way to “walk with God” amid the darkness of the patriarchal age; by Elijah, who secured the blessing, and preserved his integrity, amid the bitter taunts and cruel persecutions of Baal's blasphemous prophets; by Paul, whose complete death to the world and life to Christ were reached through tribulations, which compelled prominent Christians to "take joyfully the spoiling of their goods," and look with calm delight upon all the horrors of martyrdom! No such obstacles as these obstruct our path. There is, it is true, much inattention to the great subject. But this can be removed by efforts made in the strength of grace. At once we can commence the investigation, by reading, meditation, conversation, and prayer; and we can so thoroughly and constantly persevere, as to make the mental exercise required habitual. Our prayers have not heretofore included, distinctly and importunately, as they should have done, the blessing of perfect love, for ourselves and others, but, by the aid of the Savior, we can begin the work of prayer upon this subject anew. "We can learn to use the prayers for holiness furnished us by revelation, and powerfully suggested by a sense of our wants. Faith is weak, but the Lord, in answer to prayer, will increase it, until it shall wax exceeding bold and take the blessing as by storm. Our efforts at reform have been superficial, and to a great extent misdirected, but surely they may henceforth be directed towards the renovation of the heart. Thus, by simple means, means entirely within our own reach, the struggle for holiness may become general in the church. Sermons, and prayers, and conversation will acknowledge its claims, encourage to seek it, and faith will speedily bring thousands into this glorious light and perfect liberty of the sons of God! O happy day! Is it near at hand? Would to heaven it might be so. Shall it be so? Every soul must answer for itself. What can you gain by delay? What have you ever gained by neglecting the work of entire consecration? How many hard struggles, how many defeats, how many hours of bitter regret have you brought upon yourselves by declining to appropriate entirely "the blood that cleanseth from all sin?" Alas! how grievous the error, to have followed the world more than that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord!" The glory of God calls upon the church to arise and put on her beautiful garments. The perils of contentment in a state of imperfect sanctification, sound their terrific alarm in the ears of Zion. The bliss and safety of holiness incite her members to come up at once to their exalted privilege. The wants of the world perishing around us reiterate the call. The scenes of death and the judgment day urge us, with overwhelming power, to the foot of the cross! What is our answer? To our brethren of all creeds, “who love our Lord Jesus Christ” we would say, in the name of God, help us if you can; but if you cannot, bear with us. Surely in our vigorous, constant, attacks upon all inward and outward sin we mean no harm; we do no harm to you, no harm to the world. We claim it as the most exalted mission of an immortal mind, to summon the church of the living God to the deep experience, and the practical demonstration of Christian holiness. To utter this summons intelligibly, sincerely, affectionately, constantly, is a work worthy of a seraph from glory. May Heaven grant this honor, yet to thousands who are now trembling with alarm, at every call to an immediate experience, profession, and practice of the faith of the venerated dead.
We protest it is no new doctrine we are preaching, it is no new struggle in which we are engaged, it is no new victory we claim, it is no new profession we make. God is our witness for how many ages this very faith has been the faith of the living church, how long and fierce has been its war with the coldness, the unbelief, the worldly-mindedness, the corruptions of men; and yet how many and how glorious have been its triumphs. To these very triumphs every bright spirit in heaven is indebted for his crown, and upon the success of this very faith the salvation of the world depends. This is the vindication of our zeal.
SECTION III. APPEAL TO THE LEADERS OF THE CHURCH.
In every church, some are the guides of others. By character or office they have prominence and influence. Upon such Christians rest high responsibilities. No merely natural qualities can fit them for their position. It is not amiableness of heart, sternness of intellect or elegance of bearing that they are called upon to teach. Of simple goodness — the highest style of goodness, they are to be models.
The leader of a class is constantly before his members, and the church, and the world, in the spirit and character which he actually possesses, and these are decisive of the influence he exerts. Profession is not certainly based upon reality. It cannot be relied upon to determine the reputation of the leader nor the tendency of his efforts. To make earnest and continued claims to a devout temper of mind, a strong sympathy with the wants and sufferings of others, and a lively desire for their religious prosperity, can in no sense answer, instead of inward and outward holiness. If there be cherished depravity — unpardoned sin, it will surely develop itself. Devout minds will see and be grieved at it. The church, and especially the class, will feel the chill of it. It is vain to vociferate and affirm. Even tears cannot supply the deficiency.
In the same proportion are the effects of remaining depravity. It is a relief to come before a class with a clear sense of acceptance with God, — with a heart melted to tenderness, under a sense of forgiving mercy and Christian love. A relief! — A blessing indeed, for which no language can make adequate expression. Happy would it be, if the church could be honored and blessed with such leaders only. There would be in such communion with God — in such representation of his divine prerogatives and power, a conservative, quickening influence, under which pure spiritual religion would everywhere revive and prosper. But alas! it cannot be claimed. Humiliating as is the fact, it must be acknowledged that multitudes of leaders go to their classes late or irregularly, because they attach paramount importance to secular avocations, — reluctantly, because they have no clear and quickening sense of divine forgiveness; — that they begin and perhaps continue their exercises in a cold, indifferent, mechanical style, because the power of divine love is not upon their hearts. To tell the evils that result from such unfortunate — we ought to say criminal misrepresentations of the spirit of our Master, is utterly impossible. There is the chill of faith, — the paralysis of spiritual life, — the fearful contagion of example, — the backsliding of members, — the thin attendance, — the weakness of the church, and the general suspicion of insincerity pervading the community. Eternity alone can reveal the harm to souls. It is surely worth while to inquire searchingly into the cause of such fatal tendencies, and if we are not mistaken they will develop themselves in a sound discussion of holiness as an element of success in the class leader.
1. We must consider the fact that every form of character exerts its own silent influence upon the minds of others. If the soul of the leader has been entirely consecrated to God — cleansed from sin, and filled with perfect love, in its numberless involuntary revealings, you shall see none of those earthly longings, those ruling creature attachments, those potent secular influences, which mingle so much of dross, "with the pure gold of the sanctuary." You will feel none of that worldly, selfish spirit, which degrades religion into so striking a resemblance to irreligion, which so nearly annihilates the distinction between the kingdom of light, and the kingdom of darkness. You cannot see nor feel them, because they are not there. By the blood of Jesus Christ — by the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire, they have been cleansed away. When you come into the presence of your leader, in the spirit that pervades his soul, that illuminates his countenance, that quivers upon his lip, sparkles in his eye, and trembles in his voice, you realize religion. There, in one instance at least, is a living demonstration, apart from all he says, of the existence and power of a spiritual Christianity. By its quiet, imperceptible agency, it inspires you with a dread of the world — an abhorrence of sin — a loathing of self. By its intrinsic charms, it attracts you to the Savior, and fills you with unearthly longings after "the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of peace." Deep solemnity rests upon the meeting. There is more of heaven than of earth in the class-room. The heart tenders and the eye weeps under a sense of the melting presence of God. The devout aspirations of the soul are kindled afresh, and whatever may have been the condition of the member when he came in, he goes out saying " My heart and my flesh crieth out for God — for the living God."
The personal effect of holiness in a leader is of the highest importance. It ought to be so in theory. It is so, in fact; as all men of experience in this department of Christian labor can fully attest. How easy to get full attendance in the class of such a leader. How often does the class become too large to remain together, and how difficult the task of division; with such fond and devoted attachments, do members cleave to a man whose worth is of God, and whose power is in his goodness! He may be a plain man — an illiterate man — a man in humble life; but he bears about him the charms of holy love, and there is a cord in the penitent heart striving for spiritual excellence, which responds to the influence of love.
And this faithful reflection of the Savior's image is not confined to the spiritual vision of the little class. It shines out with so pure and steady a light, that all the church and world can see it. Not by the intended exertions of the humble man, for that effect, — nor even to his own apprehensions, as a peculiarity in his case, elevating him above his fellow Christians, and giving him a conscious right to say to any of them, "Stand aside, I am holier than thou," — but by the simple fact that he is all the Lord's. God's grace has subdued and sanctified him. The divine image beams from his countenance. The Holy Spirit is soul to his body of Christian profession and outward forms. It is God — God alone whose light is seen — whose power is felt in the feeble worm of earth; and none more decidedly and perseveringly than he, denies all honor to self, all glorying to the mere mortal. The very spirit and fact of his consecration are in the renunciation of self, and the installation of his divine Master as the object of his adoration, and the ground of his glorying. You cannot grieve him more than to elevate his poor unworthy self to the place he has assigned to his Savior, and he is thus at once an example of perfect humility, and a guide to "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." It is in this divine union that the church, beholds him, and that he becomes a spiritual leader to the hosts of God. What would the church do without such guiding minds? Who would conserve the great cross-bearing, self-denying, humiliating, and saving doctrines of the gospel? Who would represent, exert, and diffuse her spirit and power? Who would give life and energy to her prayer meetings, and her benevolent operations? Who would sustain her reputation before the world when she is charged with insincerity, — with supporting an impracticable system, and commending to the people a standard of goodness, which never has been, and never can be, realized? Alas! we are deficient enough at all these points. But holiness alone vindicates us so far as we are capable of vindication. We repeat — a wider than a class influence is exerted by holiness in a class leader. The honor of his position is conceded to him. He is felt to be the man to be among the advance-guard of the army of God. His hands are clean — his heart is pure. He is able to command the confidence of his brethren, without a word to ask it, or an act to implore it.
And what power has such a man over the moral feelings, decisions and destinies of men? Apart from all he may say or do, he is a standing demonstration of redemption by Christ and of the truth of the gospel. Sinners of all grades believe in him, and infidels are confounded by him. While he lives and his presence is felt, no man dares to say the blood of Jesus Christ cannot cleanse from all sin.
2. There is much, teaching to do in the church of God — much besides what can be done by the regular pastors. The fathers must teach — ruling elders and deacons must teach — class leaders must teach the young, the inexperienced, all classes. For our convictions, and even the early endowments of conversion, are but the first lessons in the great art of a religious life. Great indeed, they are in themselves, great in their revelations to the soul — great in their implications and legitimate results — but still only “the first principles of the doctrine of Christ;” and there must be teachers to open up to the minds of disciples the mysteries of the kingdom. But are we not obliged to say to many who have been long in the way, and occupied responsible stations in the church — "When, for the time, ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat."
Listen for once candidly to the statements of members in a class meeting. Observe what defeats they acknowledge in conflict with the devil, — how little is known and appreciated of the power of God available to man in his trial state, — how imperfectly understood are the privileges and resources of Christians, — how completely the enemy might have been foiled by the armor of Christ, when he has been victorious, — what heights and depths of divine love have been just before them, which, however, they never have reached, never have thought of, — what growth in grace and evangelical power and usefulness has been easily at command, — what innumerable and pitiable stumblings over trifling obstacles, which, had they been mountains, might have been swept away by the energy of faith. Observe all this, and then the coming up again of sincere good desires, — the trembling utterance of noble resolutions, — the manifest aspirations for strength, and progress, and discoveries, which they know not how to reach. Then think of the eternal verity of those rich and available promises held out in the glorious gospel, to every one of these dear disciples, — covering every one of their lamentable failures; solving, with the clearness of light, every practical doubt which bewilders them, and applying with wonderful, even miraculous certainty, to the very exigencies of their numerous and fearful struggles.
And then listen to a "leader" attempting their instruction, whose experience carries him not a step beyond them, who has either never learned, or forgotten how to conquer, — who looks not into the crowded armory whence their weapons may be drawn, — feels not the power which he ought to offer to them, — knows not the road through which he ought to lead them over their difficulties, and on into the land of Beulah! What sad generalizing follows! What pitiable inadequacy in the instructions! What unskilful treatment of critical cases! What lamentable sameness and endless repetition of remark adapted, by the merest accident, if at all, to the cases of individuals! See how he leads them up to a particular point, and there stops, not knowing how or daring to take them over the place at which he himself has been accustomed to pause for years together; sending away his class with no new suggestions suited to special cases for the week to come, no advanced position gained — no fresh discoveries in the glorious world of realities before them; only to come back when the next class day arrives, to rehearse the same defeats and pause over the same difficulties to them insuperable!
Alas! what melancholy, what undeniable facts are all these! What wonder that the class room becomes a mere place of form or of dread and terror to these members — that its numbers so alarmingly diminish, and that so much ado with so little success, is required to maintain even the form and authority of so evangelical and time-honored an institution.
Take now a leader of deep experience, who has dared to confide in the divine assurance that "the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin" — who has counted the cost and renounced the world, parting forever with its carnal indulgences and sinful pleasures, — who has consecrated himself without reservation to God and his cause forever, and thrown himself with a power of faith that knows no denial, upon the blood that cleanseth, and by constant trust in Christ alone, has preserved alive the flame of perfect love; and mark the difference in his leading. With devout breathings after God, he listens to every word when a member speaks, observes the difference between what is said in mere form, by habit or from memory, and the true out-gushings of the soul — how far the member has proceeded — where stopped — what is the grand defect in his mental habits — the special difficulty in his way, the reason why he does not go beyond his present position and grow up into Christ. His reply is no senseless common place, but a palpable hit. This is your difficulty and this is your remedy. I have been where you are and in this way gained my victory, the very victory you require. What a flood of light is poured upon the darkened heart in a few words fitly chosen! How clear is the manifestation to the soul of a higher life — an attainable perfection in holy love! How difficulties vanish and the scheme of Salvation simplifies under the influence of deep experience, and he who came to class in doubt upon a particular point, goes away with a salutary and appropriate lesson. He who came disheartened goes away with his soul encouraged, and seeing what is for him, and how easily it may be obtained, he resolves to obtain it, and if his struggles do not immediately result in the highest realization of holiness, their effects are seen in the quickened conscience, the ardent breathing after a higher spiritual life, and the evident power with which he resists evil, and labors for God.
Under such a leader the whole class moves as by a common impulse onward in the divine life. The class room is no place of dreaded confinement for a tedious hour, but the loved scene of fresh consecrations and renewed baptisms of the Holy Ghost. The marked effect of holiness in the leader, is seen in the increased numbers and regularity of attendance, as well as in the growth in grace, and the vigorous Christian life of the members. This is not mere a priori probability. It is history — fully authenticated matter of fact, which we have all witnessed so frequently, that the mere statement must carry conviction to every reader. We know that whatever may be the importance of intelligence and character, and experience in a class leader, the grand difference after all is in holiness. Some who are really illiterate, are vastly better leaders than splendidly educated men, merely because they drink deeply from the fountain of life.
3. The members of a class are not only to be impressed and instructed; they are to be aroused, and in many instances, reclaimed from a guilty apostasy. By a long and careful observation, we are convinced that not more than about one-third of the members attend class from attachment to the institution, — because their hearts are warm in the love of God, which they long to tell to their companions in the way to heaven. And, excusing those who are providentially detained, one-half of the remainder perhaps attend with tolerable regularity, from a conviction of duty, or possibly, from fear of discipline, or, it may be, an unwillingness to grieve or offend the leader or preacher. But the other half, alas! are seldom or never present. They are busily engaged in the cares of the world; gaining a mere subsistence by constant and perplexing toil; accumulating wealth by industry or skill in trade; cultivating a growing and perilous attachment to the things that perish with the using, and absorbing their leisure in idle gossip or common sociality, as circumstances may suggest. What is to be done for these? Has the class-leader no mission to those who never meet him in class?
It would surely seem so; at least if we judge from the established habits of the greater number. The class days come and go, with no special change. The three, five, or twelve, are there; the feeling of sadness or mortification is endured; prayer and religious communion with the few, relieve the spirits, and inspire a little hope for the future, and the class is dismissed from care, and perhaps even from thought, till the day returns, or the leader's meeting demands the usual financial account. Not that there are never serious convictions of sad delinquency — never purposes of amendment. Frequently, no doubt, the leader says, in himself, I am really criminally negligent; there are A, B, and C, who have not been to class for months, I fear they are backsliding — I must go and see them; before another class day, I will surely do it. The moment comes when the call should be made. The time might be easily spared, but that inward shrinking — that unconquerable reluctance to bear a cross for Christ's sake, returns. It triumphs again. The duty is delayed, and thus the days, the weeks, and even years pass away, and the same monotonous call of the list goes on — the same ominous a is entered upon the book. The conference year closes with numerous expulsions, or the handing over to a successor of the "body of death" which has been thus accumulating through years of similar negligence.
What is the explanation of all this? Is there actually no remedy? Might not these dying ones be sought out and revived? Yes, surely. The Savior has shown us what is to be done. The faithful shepherd would "leave the ninety-and-nine" and betake himself to the wilderness, and the mountains, and give himself no rest, until "the lost was found." If the leader had the state of mind which his work requires, he would let no idle time go by; he would force every minor consideration to bow, until he had found the wandering, erring one, and exhausted every means in his power, to bring him back to the Redeemer's fold.
Whence this inward aversion to the outward mission of his office? Whence this controlling desire to be excused from duty — known, and felt, for months, and years? Alas, there is no disguising it. The remains of carnal nature give the only true — the sufficient explanation. It is this inward depravity which delays, apologizes, remonstrates, utterly refuses when God calls. The cross may never, in any state of grace, wholly disappear; but it may be borne with a heart of loving gratitude, for the sake of him to whom the heart, and life, and all, are freely and fully consecrated.
Let this leader but yield to the convictions which he has felt, times without number, struggling within him, that he ought to be holy — that he is without excuse for his delay in realizing the fulness of love, which the Savior died to purchase for him; let him part with the world in its lusts and attractions, and lay it upon God's altar freely and forever, and with it himself and friends, and call them no longer his, but God's to all eternity; let him bathe his soul in the ocean of the Redeemer's blood, and claim, by present prevailing faith, the full salvation which the gospel of Christ offers to every child of God, and rise up in the possession of that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord," and will he then shrink from the cross? With his heart melted, baptized, overflowing with "perfect love which casteth out fear," will he allow the souls to perish unwarned, which are committed to his care? No, he will not. It is impossible. He sees, in a new light, the worth of the soul. Its powers of endless enjoyment or suffering rise up before him with a magnitude and scope of interest he had never before thought of. New views of the preciousness of a sinner's ransom, of the priceless value of redeeming blood, and the inestimable importance of the divine glory, now fill and command his soul, and he longs to labor, and sacrifice and bear crosses for his Master. He has no inward aversion to duty. His will no longer rises up in rebellion against the will of God. His own will has sunk to deepest, profoundest humility, — is lost and swallowed up in the will of his heavenly Father. What melting, absorbing gratitude is inspired in his purified heart, by the intimation that there is an opportunity anywhere, to do a little for God — that he who reigns the Sovereign of the universe, will deign to use his humble services anywhere, in any labor, for the promotion of his glory. It is enough. Crosses and sufferings, persecutions and trials, are all rich in the blessing of exalted privilege, when endured for him whom his whole soul loveth. No lingering now — no conferring with flesh and blood — no seeking excuses to postpone the mission of love which is so plainly his duty in pursuit of a soul wandering upon the dark mountains, and in danger every moment of dropping into hell. He goes — goes before he has had time to estimate difficulties, and give place to the devil. And when he finds his absent brother, he is with him, not in a spirit of censoriousness and acrimony — not there to abuse and persecute him, to rouse his resentment by official denunciation and menace. Far from it. He is there breathing the benign and heavenly spirit of his Master. There to convince, to subdue and win the erring brother — there to bring the heart of living Christian sympathy into contact with that cold and formal piety or worldly death, and warm it into life again — there to show and cause his friend to feel the amazing power of holy love. And does he succeed ? Generally he does. In a large majority of instances he breaks down the spirit that was becoming hard and stubborn, and brings back to the fold the straying one. And what a thrill of joy his presence gives, when he is seen again in the class-room, by the little group he had long left to mourn over his loss. With united penitence and faith, with mortification and joy does he once more blend his prayers, confessions, and tears with those he once so dearly loved. He comes again and again, and finds at length, the well of water within him, springing up, into everlasting life. Others have been reached in the same way. They have heard the glad news, and been affected by it. God has laid to his helping hand, and soon it is rumored about that Brother A.'s class-room is filled. There is a revival in his class. The preacher goes in and catches, or, what is better, increases the flame. The work spreads from heart to heart, from class to class, until the whole church is on fire.
Surely this is no fancy sketch — no mere a priori reasoning. True it is a priori demonstration itself. It is as irresistible as the presence and power of a cause, in its legitimate effect. But it is not merely this, for who has not seen it again and again? Who has not marked the amazing power of grace, and especially of full salvation, to make a successful leader of a man of even small natural resources; and to send a man, who, in a state of only ordinary piety, had been idly lingering at home, while his members are backsliding, away from his class, out in pursuit of them, until he comes back rejoicing over the prodigal's return?
4. There is surely immense moral power in the influence of leading laymen. Under the authorized ministry lay-deacons and elders, trustees, stewards. Sabbath-school superintendents and teachers, colporteurs, exhorters and lay-ministers, as well as class leaders, stand out before the church as conductors of the sacramental host. If they are cold, selfish and earthly, how chilling and fatal is their influence upon the private membership! Indeed the presumption is, that they have attained this distinction not by superior abilities, or personal influence alone, but by eminence in piety. By this very fact they should have been pointed out as models for the great body of the church to follow. What wonder if unsanctified tempers and words and actions in them should be deemed an excuse for the same things in others! What marvel if a church whose secular as well as spiritual agents are worldly, haughty and severe in manner — subject the business and direction of God's church to the spirit of the world, rather than their temporal business to the spirit of Christianity, should become a worldly church, lose its power to conquer sin, and cease to be respected as a reforming and purifying agent in society!
Is it not time for these brethren to begin the work of self-examination? Deem it not strange if, when this work of honest inward investigation is completed, some of you — even you who ought to be masters in Israel, are not merely without the evidence of perfect love, but without the witness of adoption. Alas, what responsibility is here? Ostensibly leading the church of God to a heaven of holiness, but actually, so far as the influence of character and example can go, leading it to hell. May Heaven be merciful. How long shall this fearful accusation be true ? How long will you delay to return, with unaffected humility and penitence, like the Prodigal, to your Father's house, and thus, by humble confession and hearty reformation, in some good degree, undo the wrongs you have done, and lead the followers of your fearful example back once more to the foot of the cross?
Happy if, upon thorough comparison with the gospel standard, you find yourselves able to say, Abba, Father. Happy — and it is so with many, if you have been able so far to master your worldly tendencies and triumph over your inward corruption as to preserve the approbation of God, to resist within the church, in her temporal and spiritual leadership, the secularizing tendencies of the times.
But why must you be contented with these small attainments? Why should you retain these inward allies of your outward foes, and thus obscure “the light that is in you,” dim the luster of your example, and paralyze your strength for the conservative and aggressive battles of the church? Why should you not, from your advanced official position, be the very men to rouse the desponding, to encourage the faint-hearted, to warn the backsliding, and to lead on the hosts of God to the triumphs of full salvation? But this can only be well and powerfully done by the force of example. If you, leaders in the army of God, will but yield to your honest convictions of the necessity of inward purification — honestly and firmly resolve in the strength of grace to be henceforth wholly for God, make the entire consecration, throw yourselves, with living, conquering faith, upon the merits of Christ for the blood that cleanseth, gain the evidence of perfect love, and freely, humbly take the responsibility of entire salvation and a holy life, what sweet subduing joy, what melting triumphant love, will fill your soul, and what gracious saving influences will go out from your gushing tears, your rapturous smiles, your tender sympathy, your transparent teaching, your overwhelming appeals!
Thus come up the pleadings of this grand central idea of Chiistianity to the leaders of the church. What response shall be made to them?
SECTION IV. APPEALS TO THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.
Respected brethren, we trust you will pardon a few honest, affectionate words addressed to you by one who claims a place at your feet, — who is conscious of a profounder respect and a deeper love for you than it is in the power of language to express. While he trembles under the cross, he is compelled to bear it for the sake of his master.
1. Holiness must be preached — God has appointed a ministry for that very purpose, "He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." If, therefore, we who have been honored by this appointment, give no information that there is such a thing as “the perfecting of the saints,'' — do not tell what is to be done "for the perfecting of the saints," — hold out no encouragement, make no appeals, and perform no labor "for the perfecting of the saints," then, instead of bringing the people under our charge, "in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," they will remain children, "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive," and we shall be held responsible at the judgment.
Charitably as we regard the motives of all who stand upon the walls of Zion, we believe the solemn vows of that ministry which does not aim directly at the promotion of experimental and practical holiness are trifled with, in the fearful presence of him who will judge the quick and the dead. Philosophy is valuable so far as it removes the blindness from our spiritual vision, and reveals to our sight the true and the good. Polemics are in place when heresies obstruct the triumphant march of the King of kings. Rhetoric is available when it renders more transparent the medium through which the light of Heaven shines upon the world. Oratory is at home in the sacred desk, when it is the out-gushing of a soul filled with the Holy Ghost. But when any or all of these assume to supersede or embellish the message of God to dying men, they are a fraud upon the soul so grievous and cruel as to deserve the indignation of earth, and the wrath of Heaven. O, tell us, brethren beloved, what language within the power of man, deserves to supersede, or is able to embellish the Heaven-inspired summons, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," or the solemn, thrilling announcement — "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Have we held up so distinctly as that all could see it, this glorious truth? Have we called to our aid the power of the divine Spirit — the commands, the promises, the examples, the illustrations of the holy Scriptures, to make the duty, the privilege, and the way of holiness so plain, that no man who has listened to our ministry could mistake it? If this has been universally or even generally done, how are we to account for the apparent surprise, with which definite announcements of the doctrine, cogent arguments in its favor, and rousing appeals upon this subject, to the hearts of the people, are received in so many congregations of all denominations of Christians? Why say so many of our dear brethren, "we have not for many years heard it on this wise?" Why do those, who are inclined to be skeptical in relation to it, charge its faithful advocates with preaching a new and a strange doctrine in the church, though it is taught in the very style of the Scriptures — in the very language of the most eminent evangelical divines? Alas! the truth cannot be denied. The great privilege and duty of present salvation from all sin, is omitted in so large a number of sermons, as to leave many in doubt whether there be any such gospel, and grievously to discourage and mislead those whose spirits pant for full redemption. How many are permitted to live for years under the sound of a ministry in many respects evangelical, without even being told, in intelligible and encouraging language, that they may be saved from all sin in this life ! And how many who have now and then heard of the glorious truth, have heard it only to mourn that it was not designed for them now!
The great object of the gospel is to make men holy. Sin has corrupted their hearts, paralyzed their intellects, and perverted their wills. It has insinuated itself into their most secret thoughts and feelings, usurped the control of their passions, antagonized and broken down a thousand purposes of virtue, and exposed them to hell. This is all offensive to God. He stands directly opposed to sin, as such. It is not, therefore, any one form of it alone, that he seeks to destroy. To discriminate in his remedial work, would be to tolerate those forms of sin omitted in condemnation, and in offers of deliverance. This is impossible in him. It is against sin, as a principle, that he directs his efforts. True, he treats it in the concrete, — he points out and denounces special sins, and seeks in all conceivable modes to show its enormity, and dissuade men from indulging in it; — but in all particular instances, it is easy to see, that it is because it is sin that he levels against it sentence of condemnation. This reveals the general principle, and makes every special revelation against sin a general one. Hence, in the provisions of the gospel, he proposes to pardon, not a part, but all of our sins. He proposes "to cleanse us," not merely in part, but "from all unrighteousness." To accomplish this work, he appoints ambassadors — ministers of his grace, — and puts the Bible into their hands, as the great declaration of terms, upon which men may be saved from all sin. They are authorized to offer freely, pardon to the guilty, regeneration to the dead, adoption to the alien, sanctification to the impure. They are by no means at liberty to adopt any other standard. They may not refer to themselves as the rule, and offer only so much of salvation as they have themselves experienced. God never made poor man the measure of his proffered grace. If this were to be practically claimed, then there would be as many gospels as there are ministers, and the extent of the hearer's offered privilege would be the acquirements of the pastor. No, we must preach the whole gospel; we must "declare the whole counsel of God, whether men will hear or forbear," though, in our denunciations of all sin, we should severely condemn ourselves. We must preach holiness, though we feel that we are yet impure. He who does not, assumes the fearful responsibility of modifying the gospel, — of practically destroying the very soul of the gospel, and defeating its grand, ultimate aim. He assumes to make a gospel, as though it were for him to say what he will preach, as though he were the author of the message, or, having received it from the great Jehovah, he, a poor worm, will undertake to improve it, to select such parts of it as he prefers, and suppress the rest! — will inform the people of as much good news as he prefers, and keep back the rest! — will offer them apart of the glorious privileges of the gospel, and keep from them such as he does not realize in his own experience! — will offer them pardon and regeneration, but no perfected, finished holiness, — love, but never, distinctly, earnestly, and affectionately —"perfect love, that casteth out all fear." No, we make no gospel; we originate no message; we have no discretionary power as to what we will preach, what offers we will make, or withhold from the world. It is God's message, — every word of it his; and at the peril of souls, we may not add to it nor take from it one iota of what he has sent us to declare. We must tell guilty sinners, that if they "will seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near, he will abundantly pardon," — though morally dead, as generated men, they may be spiritually regenerated — " born again," — made alive through the power of the Spirit; — though "aliens and foreigners," they may be "brought nigh by the blood of Christ," — that " God will send forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, enabling them to cry Abba, Father; "and we must declare to the adopted, that "it is the will of God, even their sanctification;" — that it is their imperative duty to "love the Lord their God with all their hearts;" — that the "blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin." All this must be done, not by hints, — not timidly, — not so mixed and covered up as that men will not be likely to see these grand points in systematic and experimental theology, but so that they may have a definite view of them, and feel the power of their attractions and the full force of their respective and united claims; with such clearness, such pathos and energy, so often repeated and urged with tender expostulation and tears, — with such unction from God, such authority and power, as will move the great deep of the heart, fix every one of them distinctly in the mind, and draw out the whole being in earnest seeking for them.
This is all admitted theoretically; but is it practically, by ministers of the different evangelical churches? Do not thousands of them omit any such distinct and earnest reference to the privilege of entire sanctification, as would be likely to result in a well-directed struggle to obtain the blessing? Are not many alarmed when they see that by accidental glimpses of the doctrine, through their preaching, or otherwise, some of their people are beginning to groan for "full redemption in the blood of the Lamb?" and, especially, if any burdened hearts, after "strong crying and tears," after many days of fearful struggle, profess to be perfectly freed, — if there is a realization of this glorious privilege, is not great concern expressed, are not these beloved ones discouraged, cautioned or neglected, until Satan has great chance to insinuate doubts, and destroy their confidence?
This is making a gospel! It is withholding God's truth! It is, we tremble to say it, accepting the office of ambassador from God's eternal Spirit, and saying, at the same time, I will deliver only so much of this glorious message as I feel disposed, and suppress the rest! Not that our dear brethren think of it in this light, and formally determine upon so guilty a decision. Never! A man of conscience would sink to the earth under such a responsibility, if he were distinctly to feel it; and yet, from the most careful and charitable examination, extending through a series of years, and including large numbers, we are forced to the conviction that it is practically done! The slightest evidence to the contrary, from any source whatever, would give us the greatest possible satisfaction.
But this is all wrong. It must be so. We have no rights of this kind. We are invested with no such fearful prerogatives. We have never been to God and said, I will accept this commission, but I cannot declare the whole message. I will offer the world every thing you propose except holiness! I will insist upon all but "perfect love." I must admit of some remaining sin, in the heart. If any man comes into my pulpit and offers present deliverance from all unrighteousness to my people, I must oppose him! If any of the dear people committed to my care, begin to cry out for the blood of Christ to cleanse them from all sin, I must immediately assure them that there is no such thing provided for them! No! we have never said this. We should turn pale with alarm, if we were to attempt it. And so far as we have done it in practice we are overwhelmed with sorrow.
2. But there are reasons why holiness is not more faithfully preached. It is hard to raise the stream higher than the fountain. It is hard to preach what we have never experienced, and fear of the reproach, " Physician heal thyself," we doubt not, hinders many of us from charging home upon the members of the church, their remaining corruptions, — their neglect of ''the blood'' that "cleanseth from all sin," and their exposures to apostasy, and final ruin in consequence! We have often felt keenly convicted of criminal negligence, upon this point. We have seen that experimental and practical holiness was the great desideratum of the church, — that our people were weak, and unstable in the great work imposed upon them by the order of God; — that the more devout among them looked up to us for relief from the doubts and distress into which their impurities had brought them; and we have been aware that the gospel contained the sovereign remedy for all these evils, and that God had commissioned us to bring out that remedy distinctly and powerfully. But alas! if brought out in its own clear light, it would appear to be that very remedy which our own souls have so long needed, and which we have neglected! It would excite much wonder amongst those upon whom we urged it, that; we had never applied it to our own pressing wants! Every command to the disciples of Christ uttered by us from the word of God, “Be ye holy” would condemn us; every promise urged for the encouragement of seekers for the blessing, would excite the inquiry, why does not the preacher lay hold of the promises? Every description of the charms of purity, — of the moral splendors of holiness, would elicit surprise that the pastor is not attracted by them! Alas! how many have been deterred from preaching a present, rich, and full salvation, by the terrors which these interrogatories have inspired! How many have delayed to exhibit what they have known to be the truth of God upon this subject, long — very long, after their minds have been roused by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and by the evident and beseeching wants of their people, for no other reason than for fear of the reproach, "Physician, heal thyself!" And how many, not able to satisfy conscience by an utter oblivion of the great doctrine of holiness, have, for this very reason, preferred some indirect mode of presenting it, — making it merely incidental to a discourse upon other kindred topics, and adopting some less pointed and convincing language than that of the Scriptures; a mode which, with the mass of hearers, will never succeed in giving prominence and effect to any doctrine.
But it is not in the nature of mind to rest quietly under such palpable inconsistency. It must, in some way, find its equilibrium. If it cannot — if it does not bring its practice up to its principles, it will strain every faculty to bring its principles down to its practice.
And there is more or less of confusion, necessarily, in al] judgments formed of a heart-doctrine which has never fully occupied the heart. There may be a zealous inquiry into it, — an ardent longing to know it, — a fervent pleading with God for its inestimable blessings, which, if persisted in, and rightly directed, will surely lead to a clear view of the doctrine. And even without these, there may be a firm speculative faith in the reality of Christian holiness, but no just idea of its import, — no correct appreciation of the pervading tenderness and love, humility, sweetness and power, which it imparts to the soul. It must, therefore, be confessed, that, until we are ''sanctified wholly," our intelligence upon this great theme is something less than its reality, and extremely liable to be something different from it. Nothing is, therefore, easier to a mind in this state, than to originate doubts as to the just construction of those scriptures which teach it — to give plausibility to the suggestion, though it comes directly from the tempter, that it is something less than entire conformity to the will of God that the gospel requires and promises; and hence, that it is not so clearly a reason for condemnation, as we had at first supposed, — that we have not, for a long time, perhaps never, distinctly, forcibly, and feelingly urged upon the attention of our hearers, the duty of holiness. And how easy to follow out this train of reasoning! There are many other important doctrines of Scripture, besides the doctrine of Christian perfection, upon which it is our paramount duty to insist. And the great majority of gospel ministers, — good men beyond a doubt, give no prominence to this doctrine. They are probably judicious in this policy. It will be safer — more acceptable to the better class of hearers, and decidedly more convenient for us, as we now feel, to follow their example. We shall avoid the enthusiasm of perfectionists. We shall escape the cutting reproach "Physician, heal thyself."
How easy, after this, to pass blindly over those passages of holy writ which teach clearly the doctrine of entire sanctification, as a present, imperative duty, and an exalted privilege, — to dwell with secret pleasure upon those which seem to imply the difficulty, and improbability, if not the impossibility, of living without sin; and if the result is not confirmed skepticism, in regard to the richest provision of the gospel, and the best hope of mortals, it is, almost inevitably, increased obscurity of vision, indifference to the wants of the church, and a quiet resignation to evils which we see no way to cure!
From this, to open opposition, the transition is almost imperceptible, but we trust few of those we address have made this transition.
We can, however, thus see how it is that we have so little preaching on the subject of holiness. The want of experience renders it unpleasant to do it, and hard to do it truthfully and effectually!
3. Experience will furnish the impulse and power to preach the doctrine of holiness. It may be preached because we find it in the Bible, or because it is a recognized doctrine of the church, but then it may be more a matter of form than of feeling, — more of duty than of choice. But when the rich enjoyment of perfect love pervades the soul, it is a well-spring of purity in utterance, as well as in life. Holiness becomes the most natural, truthful, and energetic outward expression of the inner man. It is not, then, hard for the minister to bring himself up to the conclusion to offer perfect love to the children of God. He will not seek apologies for delaying to preach on the subject. The holy fire burns within, and it must flame out to the sight of the world. The blood that cleanseth from all sin is in the thoughts, and it is at once commended to the church. The sanctifying, witnessing Spirit, pervades the soul, and impels its action, and his divine energy is proffered to all who "hunger and thirst after righteousness."
Such is the constitution of mind that it can give force only to that which it feels to be true. Mere assent to a doctrine will impart no warmth, — no impressiveness to its announcement. It must, therefore, be far less effective where it is preached without the inward reality. Conviction of deep-felt sincerity in the preacher; of a warm and glowing love for the church; of an inward and powerful realization of the truth and paramount importance of the doctrine, will give great force to the preaching. We have all marked the difference, in effect, of these two modes of presenting truth. How often have we deeply regretted that the soundest principles of religion and the most fundamental practical teaching should suffer for the want of inward experience in the preacher, while the fresh and lively interest, the overwhelming pathos and power, imparted to the same instructions, by a deep and glowing experience, have fixed our attention, melted our hearts, and stamped indelibly upon our very souls, the truth of God. We must have the whole anointing to do this work. We can use nothing in the stead of it. We may argue in the use of the profoundest logic; we may adorn our discourses with all the beauty and grace of rhetoric; we may utter the very words and combinations of orthodoxy; we may vociferate until our strength of lungs is exhausted, but if the truth do not well-up from within us — if it be echo merely, it will so appear. There is no concealing the fact. It represents itself. It speaks to the ears of men in its own intelligible language; and all feel, if they do not say, “There is something wanting. The words are all very well, but they seem to be hollow, — empty, — powerless!" The presence and agency of God's Spirit in the preaching will remedy this, and just in proportion as its influence has been admitted and made effective in the soul. The experience of which we speak is the work of the Holy Spirit. The soul is sanctified wholly by the Holy Spirit, and his divine presence, — his pervading energy in the heart alone can sustain the soul in its higher, holier life. The living experience, therefore, implies this very presence, and secures its holy power, in the exertions which the soul makes to diffuse its own purity and joy. Ministers of God who in this state proclaim a full salvation, not only can say, "We speak that which we do know, and testify that which we have seen;" but a power from the living God, dwelling within them, will accompany, attest, and send home the truth that is uttered.
4. Experience in holiness gives peculiar interest and effect to all preaching and to other pastoral labors. It is not in the work of entire sanctification alone, as a distinctive work, that this amazing power reveals itself. It pervades the whole man. It deepens, extends, and imparts peculiar strength to his love for sinners, and gives to all his efforts to save them a sincerity, and earnestness, which it is hard to gainsay or resist. The converted man loves souls. The justified and regenerated minister goes out into the vineyard of God to save souls, but how often and painfully does he feel that there is so much of self mingled with his efforts, — so much of worldly motive, that he is compelled to weep in distress over his want of power! He feels the moral paralysis that resists the prompt, and bold, and decisive action which he knows the high obligations of his mission require. He remains in his study, or indulges in merely miscellaneous or desultory conversation, when he knows in his conscience he ought to be going from house to house, warning and praying for the people, and exerting every power of body and mind to save them from hell, merely because he has not the inward relish, the stern simplicity of aim, the singleness of eye, which he would gain in the full baptism of the Holy Ghost. Unsanctified human nature is reluctant to attack sin, — must be urged and argued with, and overruled by a sense of duty, to press on vigorously in the aggressive work of Christianity; and it is moreover dull in its vision of necessities, emergencies that exist and call for prompt and fearless action upon the part of the church, and especially the ministry. It hears no wailing of death coming up from the abodes of sin and wretchedness on earth, and from hell beneath. It sees no occasion of alarm for the world, or of haste to rescue its millions from perdition. He who is under its influence is a poor preacher, a poor pastor. His work of eternal moment hangs heavily on his hands. Diversion, recreation, entertainment of almost any kind, comes in as a real relief to his halting, doubting soul. O, what will become of such minister? when God shall arise to make inquisition for blood, when he shall search out the watchmen who were placed upon the walls of Zion to warn the people of danger, but who gave no warning, or spake so timidly, so seldom, so triflingly, that few believed them in earnest, and multitudes, in their very sight, rushed on unwarned to hell? There is blood in their garments — blood in their souls, which will cry for vengeance when the world is on fire.
But few, it is believed, of God's commissioned messengers permit themselves to be under its influence willingly. They resist it, and conquer it, and move on in despite of it, to rescue souls from death. They know, however, better than language can tell, how sore are their battles with remaining depravity, — how chilling are its effects upon the sympathies of their nature, — how paralyzing to the energies which they fain would use to break down the barriers of sin, and rescue its votaries from the perils of endless death, — how dark is the gloom which it throws around the burning truth of God, and not unfrequently around the prospects of their own immortal souls. They know — yes, alas! we all know; for we have had the sad experience. O, may God save us from the inward, deep, and secret cause of these dread calamities.
5. What cannot be done for the benefit of the world by a holy ministry ? Such a ministry carries with it its own demonstration. There is argument — there is power in holiness. Of all the great positions of the gospel, this is the evidence of fact, — the highest, most indubitable evidence of which a moral question admits. Would the preacher show the strength of human depravity? the marked distinction between his condition and character, his hopes and fears, his spirit and temper, and those of an unregenerate man, places it in the strongest possible light. Would he inspire his hearers with hatred to sin? he is himself an example of the deepest inward abhorrence of it; for he has abandoned it; he loathes it; he turns away from it, and spends his life to rescue men from it. Would he convince them of the efficacy of the Redeemer's blood? he is before their eyes, a living demonstration that it can "cleanse from all sin." Would he persuade them of the safety, the happiness, the triumph, of "this way?" he has given them the result of experience, in a mode so clear that they are compelled to confess it; for he has ventured his all upon it, and his soul rejoices "with joy unspeakable and full of glory." He carries with him a spirit which no man can either "gainsay or resist." Infidels quail before it. The sceptic pauses in his career of doubting the truth of Christianity, as he sees before him a Christian. The multitude tremble, with awe of some mysterious presence, when he prays. The disconsolate lifts his eyes in hope, saying, Surely there must be a way out of darkness. The young Christian is certain that there is a deeper work of grace for him. The faithful heart breathes afresh its longings for purity; and faith, and hope, and love rise in strength and power, as the seeker for holiness sees the living evidence of the truth of the doctrine, and the attainableness of the blessing. The whole church feels the moving, elevating power of such a ministry. A stationary position becomes impossible. The worldly, the trifling, the vain, who yield not to its reproofs, who cannot endure the severity of its scrutiny, and the moving pathos of its appeals, flee before it, and seek refuge in the world as it is, or in a church more accommodating to their sins. Social meetings increase in numbers and spirituality. Confessions are deep and sincere. Prayers are fervent and powerful. God reveals himself in the sternness of his law — in the fulness of his love. The preaching, which multitudes flock to hear, burns like fire in the hearts of guilty sinners. Tears of penitence flow. The sigh, the groan, the prayer, reveal the fact that “the arrows of the Almighty are within them.” The altar is thronged with mourners, and the shouts of triumph, mingling with the cries of distress, show how great is the power which is available to men. Onward, and still onward, the host of God advances, under the guidance of a man — a meek, humble, faithful, holy man, who dares to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Let no one say this is imagination. We have all seen and felt it.
My friend _______ , had been but a short time from college. He was a preacher, — a scholar, — a gentleman. He had been sent to a station in the midst of a wealthy community, where there were but few members of the church, and where moralists, infidels and speculators combined to support him. He preached constantly, learnedly, and, we presume, faithfully. Months passed, and no indications of good appeared. We met him at a camp-meeting. Holiness was the great theme of the meeting. We loved the young man, and sought an opportunity to converse with him. He felt that all was not right. He believed himself a Christian, and lived with fixed purpose to obey and serve God. But there was a want of power in his preaching. He could say good things, but they did not cut. He seemed to himself to be preaching into the air. He felt often the conviction, that he needed a deeper work of grace. He prayed, and wept, and tried, but, as it seemed, in vain, to rise; and still, he had no such power with God as he felt belonged to his sacred profession. We were in a prayer-meeting together, when he uttered with earnestness, but not with much emotion, the prayer, "O, Lord, sanctify my soul." We ventured to whisper in his ear such words of encouragement and advice as we thought his condition required. It was long before he melted down before the Lord; but when the struggle came on, it was a fearful one. His agony was terrible. He spoke of his unfaithfulness. He cried out against himself. He shrank with alarm from his inward impurities. With tears rolling from his eyes, and sweat gushing from every pore, he deprecated — covenanted — pleaded — agonized! It was the very wrestling of Jacob. He knew no defeat, — but the conflict was protracted. We left him, to meet other demands on our little remaining strength. How long he lay, a bleeding offering upon the altar of God, before the evidence of full salvation came, we know not. But he had been carried strengthless to his tent. We found him prostrate upon his couch, with his eyes closed, and his hands clasped, and with the brightness of an angel beaming from every feature. He wept, and shouted, and praised, with a voice so sweet, so changed, so humble and tender, that we would not have known him. The tears and sighs of the multitude within the tent, and the awe and terror upon the countenances of the wicked crowd about the door, told of an unearthly spirit, in the spectacle before them, and in the words which were uttered. We pronounced his name, to get his attention. He gently opened his eyes, and then raising himself, threw his arms about our neck, and in broken sentences, intermingled with sobs and praise, he told us the story of his deliverance. Oh, the triumph — the power — the glory of that hour! We shall never forget it. His evidence of entire sanctification was clear as the light. He was soon too much absorbed in the ravishing glories of full redemption, and in the contemplation of his manifested Savior, to give special attention to his dearest friends; and there he lay, drinking in the streams of life, holding converse with the Divine Anointed; and it was no illusion; his face shone with, the light of another world. All eyes beheld it, and, like Israel before Moses, when he descended from the mount of God, we stood awestruck, before the reflected glories of divinity.
The meeting closed, and "another spirit " was in our friend. He was humble, simple-hearted, and sweet as a child. But the power of Jehovah was in his preaching and his prayer. His hearers were amazed at the change in the preacher. The spirit of holiness burned and flamed out in every sermon. The word, like a two-edged, burnished Jerusalem blade, cut its way to the hearts of the people. Brave men wept like children. Strong men bowed themselves under a might which they could not see. Infidels trembled and stood aghast, before the divinity which spoke in the words and appeared in the movements of a man! The work was powerful, beyond all precedent in that vicinity. It swept like fire through that hitherto hardened and unbelieving community, bringing down infidel teachers, moralists and scoffers indiscriminately, before the altar of God. Whole families were converted, the church was firmly established. They "who were not a people," had become the strong and conquering army of the Lord; and all — let no one dare to doubt it, — by the baptism of fire, which, in answer to faith and prayer, had fallen upon the servant of God.
Nor is it a doubtful relation between this cause and effect. As the word of God is true, as religion is divine, it ought to be so — it can be no otherwise. We languish and toil with no marked results, because we take not the energies of the great scheme of salvation, to give efficiency to our labors. We gradually lose our hold upon the omnipotence of God, — depend upon our own strength and skill; and then wonder that we see not the results which belong only to divine power. We work with what little grace we have, and flatter ourselves that we are doing all we can; search every where out of ourselves for the cause of our failures, and look upon the success we have as ample excuse for not doing more, — the more which we might, and surely would do, if we were entirely dedicated to God. A holy ministry! Oh, when shall the world look upon the spectacle? When shall God and man witness the self-sacrifice — the ardor — the living power of a holy ministry? The Lord, for Christ's sake, hasten the time.
But these are not our appeals. They rise directly out of the fact, that holiness is the central idea of Christianity. This fact sustained by various indubitable evidences founded upon the word of God is before us. With what views and feelings is it contemplated? What disposition is to be made of it? Let the reader answer on his knees. Before the Searcher of hearts, let him renounce the world, and all carnal indulgence for ever. Let him seek to secure permanent reformation by the purification of the heart, through the blood of Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost; and having proved, by a living, triumphant faith, the blessedness of perfect love, let him obey till he dies, the great command, "but grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," and, in a heaven of unsullied holiness, he will prove the fulness of the Savior's beatitude. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Finally, we express the firm belief that this grand central sun will shine out with a light which shall be clear, steady, increasing and ineffably glorious, and at length fix upon itself the gaze of the world. It is destined to become the one attracting force which will produce and explain the unity, power and splendor of the universal church, when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”