After twenty years of careful criticism and observation, the author responds to the call for another edition of this work, with much gratitude to God, and with increased confidence in all its main positions. In a most thorough revision he has not felt called upon to change one of them.
Let these positions be here formally stated: —
1. The essential depravity of the natural man is not completely remedied or removed in regeneration or the new birth.
It is not necessary, nor is it possible, to define this depravity in words. It is, in fact, a "heart deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;" "an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." It is embodied in the reason for the statement that "the evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth evil things."
The evidence that this "evil heart " is not entirely removed in the new birth is from Scripture, in self-consciousness and in the general experience of Christians. It is amply sustained by history, and is fully and variously stated in the body of this work. The argument is of the nature of fact, and I believe entirely unanswerable.
2. Next, entire sanctification is provided, and offered to all believers in Christ. This is argued at length in the book. Let us consider that the terms of this provision represent no physical fact. They are striking symbols.
Let us look at the blood symbol. "Almost all things are by the law purged with blood." The blood of the sacrifice symbolized the atonement, in which provision for cleansing was made. The Gospel cries, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ . . . purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
Now let it be understood that the blood which cleanseth is not the literal blood shed by Jesus on the cross ; but the blood symbol signifies the life of Jesus given to atone for our sins, according to the Scriptures. Nor is the cleansing physical or literal. It is nevertheless real — actual — as the symbol implies. Whenever it occurs it points to the merits of Christ's death, and the power of his meritorious blood. The merit is universal; it is all-powerful; it is everywhere present. So that every one cleansed is cleansed by or through blood, "the blood of Christ," as the merit on account of which men are sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
Though, therefore, the work of sanctification is commenced in conversion, and we speak in the only language we can get of the remains of carnal nature, the roots of bitterness, the frequent uprising power of "original sin,” being "the corruption of the nature of every man that, naturally, is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually," we are shown by the blood symbol, a meritorious offering providing amply for our cleansing from all sin. And it must be done, entirely completed, before we get to heaven. For there we must be ready to join in the song : "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever."
Let us now turn to the water symbol. The washing of water, as of a defiled garment, teaches the divine provisions for cleansing us from all sin. Witness the ceremonial ablutions required by the law. All utensils of tabernacle and temple service were to be made ceremonially pure by frequent washings or baptisms. The allusion of the sign (the washing of human bodies in pure water) to the thing signified, the cleansing of the soul, is distinctly specified: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
See, then, that revelation by this symbol also struggles to show us how completely pure we are to be if we "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."
Now let us come to the fire symbol. Remember this symbol in the burning bush; in the pillar of fire by night, which went before Israel; in the shekinah, which blazed on the mercy-seat beneath the wings of the cherubim. Isaiah saw the Lord "high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple; "and the seraphim from above cried, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts." Then he exclaimed: "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips ... for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Then came a flaming seraph, "having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." Zechariah heard from the Lord that in all the land two parts of the people should be cut off and die; but further words were spoken: "I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried." Then "they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God." John said: "I indeed baptize yon with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I ... he shall baptize yon with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." The Pentecost was coming. The descending baptism of fire was to accompany the holy Comforter, and show his purifying power. The glad hour had come. "They were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." "Tongues like as of fire;” — “All filled with the Holy Ghost." Behold the fire symbol and the thing signified — the cleansing baptism of the Holy Ghost — brought distinctly into our view on the grandest day of apostolic times.
How more definitely, with what more overwhelming evidence, could our gracious Lord have responded to our heart-yearnings for perfect purity? How benignly has he shown us by the blood that the atonement is ample for our cleansing: by the water, that this holy power may be applied to our complete purification ; and by the fire, that our dross is to be all consumed! Then let him speak, "Be ye holy," for all things are ready.
3. In this work I have endeavored to show the loss and peril to the Church from the neglect of this great work of grace, so amply provided for all true believers. This sad fact needs no further amplification here. Let the chapter on "The Central Idea Neglected" be read; let heart examination go on at home, and every-where, by the light of the Spirit; let history tell its own stories of earthliness, weakness, and defeat in the struggles of the Church, and we shall need to say nothing in addition. Let all men oppose sin, but holiness never — God forbid!
4. Another of our strong positions is, that all Christians sanctified but in part may receive this baptism of love — "perfect love" — by the faith which appropriates the cleansing blood, and calls down the baptism of the Holy Ghost. I wish now to say, with more emphasis than I have said before in the book, that while we must ask in faith, asking is not receiving; asking must not be substituted for receiving. Let not the invited guest who has entered the hall of abundance begin to beg for his meal when the tables are loaded with all he can desire. At the command of his Lord, let him sit down and eat. Cease from struggles, cease from self, cease from every thing, and lean your soul with perfect confidence on the bosom of Christ. Trust him without reservation for all he has for a poor, helpless sinner, and you shall presently feel the power that cleanses from all sin.
5. Let not holiness be taken out of its proper connections. Read what we have said on ''Beware of Schism," and much before and after, that you may fully realize that this grace is organic in a vital system, every part of which is fundamental to the whole. Advance with it all together. Give to each experimental doctrine its true distinctness and position. Perfect love is the center — the very heart — of the system, but you must not tear it out. Let it be your joy to move forward with the power of every truth and every grace of the Gospel, and take care of all souls, from the vilest to the best, from the weakest to the strongest; and do this every week, every day. Thus let all be brothers and companions in all Church work.
6. As to profession, I need not repeat either counsels or caution. That work of grace is not worth professing which right-minded people will not perceive without the profession. But that experience may, with perfect propriety and with great profit, be humbly and tenderly mentioned, which is known by its spirit and fruits without a word.
With these closing words this book is once more submitted to the honest judgment of the Church, with humble prayer to God for his blessing.