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A Criticism of Dr. James Mudge's "Growth in Holiness Toward Perfection"

The Author's Experience.

WE are pleased with the frankness of the personal testimony of the author respecting advanced Christian experience. This is commendable. Many have no marked transition in their experience after justification; others, if they have it, are not free to declare this wonderful work of God. Not so with our author. His experience of sanctifying grace, quite fully narrated, does not confirm the Wesleyan theory of Christian perfection. This negative testimony would have more weight were we assured that the conditions of that theory had been perfectly fulfilled. There are experiences of regenerating grace which do not accord with the doctrine of instantaneous justification attended by the witness of the Spirit. We ascribe this to some failure to meet the conditions. Our brother's experience was largely, if not wholly, under the influence and impelling power of the doctrine which he now rejects. Whether the new doctrine of his book would have motive power sufficient to induce believers to seek definitely for a partial sanctification remains to be seen. By this we mean that the Christian public have not seen this fact, although the author may have seen it in the churches which he serves. If the book contains any testimony on this point it has escaped our notice.

There are normal experiences of Justification, and there are abnormal ones also, which are demonstrated to be genuine by a godly life. The same is true of entire sanctification. The experience of the author of this book, which is abnormal to the Wesleyan pattern, should be universally received as illustrating the wonderful variety in the operations of the Holy Spirit. But when an abnormal experience is generalized, and made into a doctrinal theory antagonizing that under which the normal experiences occur, it is natural and reasonable that there should be opposition to such an attempt. This accounts for the many criticisms of the book entitled
Growth in Holiness, while there were no criticisms of the author's experience when it was previously published and widely read, and "many glorified God" in him. Experiences are God's work and are always orthodox; theories are of man's devising and are sometimes erroneous. The doctrine of Christian perfection in this life, "the formal principle of Wesley's theology and the inmost spirit and essence of Methodism" (Dr. Warren), may be erroneous, and the doctrine of successive partial sanctifications never extinguishing depravity may be true. By their fruits let them be judged. Let the latter theory be substituted for the former when it has raised up more saintly men and women, and has communicated a mightier upward impulse to our common Christianity throughout the whole world.