J. A. Wood


SECTION IX.

THE EVIDENCES OF PERFECT LOVE


95. What is the character of the evidence of a state of entire sanctification?


It is just as strong, positive and reliable as can be given to substantiate any fact. Indeed it is the very strongest of all evidence.

1. The testimony of consciousness. This testimony we can no more doubt than we can doubt our existence. No testimony is more certain than this. By it we know we live and breathe, love or hate, sit or stand, or walk, and that we are joyful or sorrowful, happy or wretched. The sanctified soul may be as clearly and fully conscious of purity as the unsanctified is of impurity. While on the one hand pride, anger, unbelief, love of the world, are matters of positive consciousness, on the other hand love, peace, humility, patience, faith, are equally so. Indeed, conscience usually speaks louder and clearer in the latter case than in the former, because it has received more gracious energy. Sin paralyzes; grace quickens.

2. The testimony of God — "The witness of the Spirit." This testimony is divine, direct, and positive. The Holy Ghost is the witnessing Spirit.

(1) He speaks first to the sinner's heart. Every convicted sinner has the witness of the Spirit, testifying to his guilt, condemnation, and exposure to the displeasure of God.

(2)He speaks to every justified soul. Every truly regenerated soul has, or may have, the witness of the Spirit, testifying that he is born of God, and in a state of justification.

(3) He speaks to every sanctified soul. Every truly sanctified soul has, or may have, the witness of the Spirit, testifying that the blood of Jesus Christ hath cleansed him from all sin. Now, while all this testimony is given by the infallible Spirit, the latter testimony is given under more favorable circumstances, and, consequently, is quite as clear and strong, if not more so, than either of the others.

We sum up this testimony as follows:

1. The convicted penitent sinner may know by the testimony of his spirit, and the witness of the Holy Spirit, that he is guilty and unsaved. This testimony is stronger and clearer than in the impenitent.

2. The justified soul may know, and be equally certain, by the testimony of his spirit and the witness of the Holy Spirit, that God has regenerated his nature, and pardoned his sins. This testimony is stronger and clearer than that of the convicted sinner.

3. The sanctified soul may know with equal certainty by his spirit, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit, that God has cleansed his heart from all sin. This testimony is still clearer and stronger than that of the merely regenerated. The inferential and corroborating evidences are equally as strong for the fully sanctified as in either of the other cases.

96. Did Mr. Wesley teach that we may have the same evidence that we are sanctified that we have that we are justified?

To the question, "But how do you know that you are sanctified, saved from your inbred corruption? " Mr. Wesley replies: "I can know it no otherwise than I know that I am justified. 'Hereby know we that we are of God,' in either sense, 'by the Spirit that he hath given us." We know it by the witness and by the fruit of the Spirit." — Plain Account, p. 118.

Bishop O. C. Baker says: "We have been accustomed to believe that our standard authors have presented the doctrine of Christian holiness
in a very perspicuous light; and if they have never declared that it is the privilege of the sanctified believer to enjoy the direct witness of the Spirit, so far as their influence goes, it would check the panting soul from seeking after the direct evidence of internal purity. May God grant that we may know by happy experience that the doctrine is true, and that the pure in heart enjoy the comforting indwelling of the Holy Spirit, assuring us that sin in us is all destroyed." Letter in "Guide," 1844.


97. Ought any one to believe that he is sanctified wholly before he has the witness of the Spirit?

Mr. Wesley says: "None, therefore, ought to believe that the work is done till there is added the testimony of the Spirit witnessing his entire sanctification as clearly as his justification.." — Plain Account, p. 79.


This position of Mr. Wesley is safe, and applicable as a general rule; and yet, perhaps, there may be some exceptions to it, as in those cases where God may be pleased to hold the soul for a season, after the work is done, to a naked faith in his word, before the Spirit's witness is given. If we do not mistake, this has been the experience of some of the clearest witnesses of perfect love. Perhaps the same may be true in some cases of justification.

98. What is the witness of the Spirit?

It is a sweet, inward persuasion of the Spirit, that God, for Christ's sake, has either pardoned my sins and regenerated my soul, or that the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed it from all sin.

Mr. Wesley gives the following answer: "By the testimony of the Spirit I mean an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God immediately and directly witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God: that Jesus Christ hath loved me and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I even I, am reconciled to God." — Sermons, vol. i. p. 94.


99. Is the witness of the Spirit to regeneration and to entire sanctification different?

They differ only in the facts to which the Spirit give his testimony in the two cases. In the one case, it is a delightful and decisive persuasion that God has pardoned our sins and converted our souls. In the other, it is a delightful and decisive persuasion that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.

Bishop Foster says: "the difference of the Spirit's witness in the work of justification and entire sanctification is not in the manner so much as the thing which is witnessed to. It is given in which the same way; it is the same Spirit the phenomena are much the same but the testimony itself differs. — Christian Purity. p.148.


100. Is the evidence of sanctification, or the witness of the Spirit, always clear at first?

"Indeed, the witness of Sanctification is not always clear at first, (as neither is that of justification:) neither is it afterward always the same, but, like that of justification, sometimes stronger and sometimes fainter. Yea, and sometimes it is withdrawn. Yet, in general, the latter testimony of the Spirit is both clear and as steady as the former." Plain Account. p. 119.


101. Is it our privilege to possess the witness of the Spirit without any intermission?

"Some have the testimony both of their justification and sanctification, without any intermission at all, which, I presume, more might have, did they walk humbly and closely with God"Wesley's "Plain Account." p. 122.


102. Is true evangelical faith usually accompanied with the witness of the Spirit?

It is. When real faith is exercised, and the work of entire sanctification fully wrought, the witness of the Spirit may be expected, and it is usually apprehended then with greater or less distinctness. Although the witness of the Spirit is usually given in connection with saving faith, yet it may not always be distinctly apprehended as such at the time. It may please the Lord to withhold it temporarily sometimes in order to teach important lessons, and discipline and test the faith of the believer. St. John says, "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself."

103. Can the witness of the Spirit be retained while any sin is committed or allowed?

Mr. Wesley says: "It is inevitably destroyed, not only by the commission of any outward sin, or the omission of any known duty, but by giving way to any inward sin; in a word, by whatever grieves the Holy Spirit of God." Sermons, vol. i. p. 94.


104. Are there certain fruits which necessarily flow from a pure heart as evidence of holiness?

"There are certain fruits which flow from sanctification, which must exist where the work itself exists, to assert it, and certain other and counter-fruits, which must necessarily exist where it does not, to declare its absence. Now, these fruits, if carefully considered, must constitute a most important branch of evidence in the case." — Foster's Christian Purity, p. 158.


The experience carries much of its evidence with it, so that the saved know it. They feel it, they confess it and they diffuse it abroad in the sweetness of their spirit, and in the purity if their lives.

105. By what fruit of the Spirit may we know that our hearts are cleansed from all sin?

"By love, joy, peace, always abiding; by invariable longsuffering, patience, resignation; by gentleness, triumphing over all provocation; by goodness, mildness, sweetness, tenderness of spirit; by fidelity, simplicity, godly sincerity; by meekness, calmness, and evenness of spirit." — Plain Account, p. 94.

Dr. Macknight says: "The fruit of the Spirit is
love to God and man; joy occasioned by that excellent affection; peace with all men; the patient bearing of injuries; a soft, sweet manner of speaking; a beneficent disposition; fidelity to engagements, promises, and trusts; calmness under provocation; temperance in the use of meats and drinks.”


106. What are the fruits of inbred sin, and how does it manifest itself in the heart?

The fruits of inbred sin are pride, anger, self-will, jealousy, covetousness, peevishness, impatience, hatred, variance, emulations, strife, envyings, unbelief, and such like. These do not reign in the justified believer, but keep up more or less of a warfare within the soul; "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other." Inbred sin manifests itself to the consciousness of the partially sanctified by clinging to the appetites and tendencies of the soul and seeking and struggling for unlawful indulgence. Hence the risings of anger, pride, self-will, &c.

107. Is the emotional experience in the moment of sanctification various?

There is doubtless as great a variety as in justification and regeneration. Some are exercised in one way, some in another; some have one class of emotions, and some another. Sometimes there is an unusual illumination of soul. Sometimes, a sweet resting and sinking into Christ. Sometimes great joy and ecstasy, though this is not the general experience. Sometimes there is an astonishing increase of faith, and assurance that all sin is gone. Sometimes an overwhelming sense of the divine presence. Sometimes the cleansing energy comes in a mighty torrent, and sometimes in a gentle breeze. Glory to God! although there is a diversity of operation both with respect to the divine and human spirit, yet the blessed results are the same. Let us never mark out a way for God, but seek the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost, until it comes just as he is pleased to manifest it.

Let the prayer of your heart be, —

"Come as thou wilt — I that resign —
But O, my Jesus, come."

Sanctified souls are inclined to name the blessing after their principal sensations, harmonizing with their emotional experience.

  1. One person realizes principally a marked increase of faith, and he calls it "the rest of faith."
  2. Another is conscious of a deep, sweet resting in Christ, and he calls it "resting in God."
  3. Another is permeated with a sense of the divine presence, and filled with ecstatic raptures, and calls it "the fullness of God."
  4. Another feels his heart subdued, melted, refined and filled with God, and calls it "holiness."
  5. Another realizes principally a river of sweet, holy love flowing through the soul, and he calls it "perfect love."
  6. Another is prostrated under the power of the refining and sin-killing Spirit, and calls it "the baptism of the Holy Ghost."
  7. And another realizes principally a heaven of sweetness in complete submission to God, and he calls it "entire sanctification."
  8. While another may feel clearly and strongly conscious of complete conformity to all the will of God, and calls it "Christian perfection." If genuine, the work wrought in each case is essentially the same.


108. Will Christian perfection make all persons act just alike, and appear to equal advantage?

Christian perfection removes all sin, and makes the soul perfect in love; but it is no part of its office to destroy personal distinctions or innocent peculiarities. It will give a good, sincere, pure heart; and, other circumstances being equal, it will invariably impart, in all respects, real and manifest superiority. In the essentials of Christian character it will make any man superior to what he was without it.

109. Will a state of entire sanctification clearly evidence itself by the absence of all sin?

It will; and any sin, whether of motive, of will, of the desires, or of the life, negatives its existence. Men may know as surely that they are in a sanctified state as that they are in an unsanctified state, and may know it in the same way — by consciousness and by the testimony of God. Those who are pure in heart, and filled with the Holy Spirit, obey God decidedly, constantly, unhesitatingly, unreservedly, cheerfully, and easily: to such the will of God is supreme — the end of all controversy. The question of obedience is never raised, but is settled.

110. Will entire sanctification enable me to pray, believe, and rejoice every moment, even in the severest trials?

It will, doubtless, so far as it is naturally, or perhaps I should say physically, possible. While the soul may have seasons of heaviness, sore conflicts, and protracted trials, which are often very necessary, it may still possess a heaven of peace, and love, and light in its ocean depths. This enables the sanctified soul to pray, and believe, and rejoice, every moment, or to "rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks."

"I worship thee, sweet will of God
And all thy ways adore,
And every day I live, I seem
To love thee more and more."

111. Are deep grief and sorrow of soul incompatible with perfect love?

They are not; and although grace in the depths of a sanctified heart secures abiding peace, light, and love, yet it does not exempt from occasions of grief and sore trial. It affords grace to endure all things, even joyfully, through the presence of God. The sanctified soul is never without comfort. It has in the fullest sense the "Comforter."

Mr. Wesley says: "Nay, the mind itself may be deeply distressed, may be exceeding sorrowful, may be perplexed, and pressed down by heaviness and anguish, even to agony, while the heart cleaves to God by perfect love, and the will is wholly resigned to him. Was it not so with the Son of God himself? — Plain Account, p. 73.

Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers says; "Satan suggested I ought not to have felt any grief; but the Lord teaches me I may
feel grief very sensibly and keenly, consistent with pure love and entire resignation.”


We must let the idea of holiness stand alone in our minds — separate entirely from all accidents of joy or sorrow, or indeed any other state of the emotions. If the soul is now consciously disentangled from every sinful affinity, and in a state of present positive concurrence with the will of God, that is holiness.

The purest of men are sometimes in heaviness of spirit; they often wade through deep waters of affliction sometimes they pass through fiery trials from sickness or poverty, or from the bereavement of friends, and they may be grieved, depressed, and afflicted; but they are not without grace, and comfort in the Holy Ghost. The quiet of their spirit is untouched, and they are never destitute of peace.

112. What is the rest which the sanctified soul enjoys?

The Saviour says,"My peace I give unto you." "The work of righteousness [holiness] shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever."

  1. It is not a state in which we do not sympathize with the joys and sorrows of others.
  2. It is not a state of exemption from physical or mental suffering.
  3. It is not a state of exemption from the Christian warfare, or a state of inglorious ease from labor and Christian duty.
  4. It is a state of settled and complete satisfaction in God, he being "all in all " to the soul.
  5. It is a state of rest from the former servitude to doubts, fears, and inbred sin.
  6. It is a state of rest, in which the tumult of the heart has been hushed into calmness; and fear, and discord, and doubt have given place to quietness and assurance.
  7. It is a state of deep and permanent quietude and assurance in respect to all our interests, temporal and eternal.
  8. It is a state of sweet rest from all conflict between the will and the conscience. "The body of sin has been destroyed," and the soul has peace with itself inward quietude. "It will feast your souls with such peace and joy in God (says Wesley) as will blot out the remembrance of everything that we called peace or joy before."


"Now rest, my long-divided heart;
Fixed on this blissful center, rest;
Nor ever from thy Lord depart
With him of every good possessed."

113. What are the natural and necessary indications of a pure heart?

A pure heart differs vitally from an impure one in the fact that its expressions of goodness are natural and spontaneous, the fruit of a gracious nature, and not unnatural and forced.

The Saviour says, "Ye shall know them by their fruits." The streams partake of the nature of the fountain. The heart gives character to the life by a law of necessity. It breathes itself through all our activities, and a pure heart will be indicated, —

  1. By pure and holy conversation. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." If the heart is right, the conversation will be sweet, truthful, humble, heavenly, and holy.
  2. By opposition to all impurity. A pure heart loathes sin, and has no affinity for it. It shrinks from it instinctively as a worm would from a fire.
  3. By watchfulness. The love of purity begets watchfulness against impurity. The pure heart is watchful instinctively.
  4. By reluctance to mingle with the gay, the vain, and the worldly. It has no moral affinity for such society, and no taste for such associations. The charm of the world has been broken. The pure heart has tastes, motives, communings, and enjoyments totally dissimilar to the worldling.

This perfect love is a foretaste of the bliss of heaven. Thomas Moore refers to it:

Go, wing thy flight from star to star,
From world to luminous world,
As far as the universe spreads its flaming wall,
Take all the pleasures of all the spheres,
And multiply each through endless years,
One minute of Heaven is worth them all!

114. Is it not very difficult to retain the clear light of full salvation?

We answer, No. It is less difficult than to retain the continuous light of justification and neglect full salvation. In order to retain justification, we have to live obediently, and that can be done more easily with a pure heart than with an impure one. All things considered, the easiest religious life is the fullest and least obstructed religious life. A little religion is more difficult to retain than a heart full. Full salvation includes clear light, a submissive will, strong faith, nearness to God, intense spiritual affinities, worldly charms broken, and healthful activities, all of which combine in making the religious life natural and easy by the grace of God.

A purely religious life is more of a sweet divine charm than a tedious service, and more easy than difficult to the soul fully saved. The nearer we get to Christ, the more strongly we are attracted toward him, and the difficulty or easiness of a Christian life is as we follow Christ closely or afar off.

115. Does entire sanctification secure the "full assurance of faith"?

It does; and is we believe, the only grounds for "the full assurance of faith." It cuts the knots of doubt and uncertainty, and makes the evidences of Christian experience strong, and the path of duty plain.

Inbred sin — the discordant antagonism of grace in the partially purified heart — is fruitful of more darkness, doubts, and uncertainty than all other causes. The heart, when cleansed from all vile and degrading passions, such as leanings to pride, envy, jealousy, impatience, and unsanctified fear and uneasiness, has rest and abiding assurance. This assurance is greatly important. Massilon, the French bishop and pulpit orator, said: "You cannot serve God with pleasure, only when you serve him without reservation. From the moment you make him entire master of your heart, hope, confidence, and joy will spring up in the depths of your soul."

"To be assured of our salvation," (said St. Augustine) "is in arrogant stoutness; it is faith; it is no pride; it is devotion. It is no presumption; it is God's promise." With this experience and assurance, we can say with Rev. James Brainerd Taylor, "I have been in the fountain and am clean; " or, like Alfred Cookman, "Alfred Cookman washed in the blood of the Lamb." Bishop Latimer said to Ridley, "When I have the assurance of faith, I am as bold as a lion. I can laugh at trouble. Without it, I am so fearful a spirit that I would run into a very mouse-hole." This assurance has been illustrated by saints in all ages. The martyrs, standing in this clear light, and gazing on the glories of Christ, forgot the fagots and fires kindling at their feet. St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, a disciple of St. John the evangelist, was full of this assurance and of the Holy Ghost. His zeal was as quenchless as an angel's, and his faith triumphed over death in its most appalling forms. While the wild beasts were ready to be let loose upon him to tear him in pieces, he boldly declared to Trajan, the Roman emperor, "that he would rather die for Jesus Christ than rule to the ends of the earth."

Mary Dyer, who was hung in Boston, in 1660, for being a Quaker, was so filled with assurance, that on her way to the gallows she said:

"This is to me an hour of the greatest joy I could enjoy in this world. No eye can see, no ear can hear, no tongue can utter, and no heart can understand, the sweet incomes, or influence, and the refreshings of the Spirit of the Lord, which now I feel.”


116. Is an entirely sanctified state a blissful one?

Holiness is bliss itself! — conscious purity — soul harmony! Supreme delight in God, and the object of its delight always present. Loving God with all the heart and soul is the highest bliss of which our nature is capable. The pure heart can triumphantly say —

"I love thee so, I know not how,
My transports to control
Thy love is like a burning fire
Within my very soul. "

In reading the gospels and epistles we are struck with the joyousness, hope, and triumph, mentioned of believers everywhere. The words which we see most frequently are "Love," "Joy," "Peace," "Praise," "Thanksgiving," "Joy unspeakable and full of Glory." The primitive church was a "royal priesthood," "a holy nation," going to Mount Zion with songs and triumph and not a company of weeping, doubting, fearing, trembling, groaning professors.

O the blessedness of full communion with Christ, and his lovely image shining upon our hearts! Holiness secures a moral standpoint, where "Immanuel," "God with us," "The Rose Of Sharon," "The Lily of the Valley," "the brightness of the Father's glory" is clearly apprehended, and his charming glories are poured upon the soul. The life of Christ in the entirely sanctified, is a life of love, pure, boundless, changeless love. This experience once possessed and established in the soul, carries the peace, the triumph, the serenity of heaven with it. It has been beautifully said, "The opening of the streets of heaven are upon the earth." Even here we may enjoy many a sweet foretaste of coming bliss.

"God is love," — infinite love! Who can fathom it?

"Yes, measure love, when thou canst tell
The lands where seraphs have not trod,
The heights of heaven, the depths of hell,
And lay thy finite measuring rod
On the infinitude of God."