Holiness Texts: Ezekiel 36:25, 26, 29
This series of posts highlights the primary Scripture texts cited by John Wesley and his earliest followers in defense and explanation of the doctrine of Christian Perfection. These are posted (as always) for information and possible discussion. It is not assumed that because Wesley or his followers said a certain thing, everyone else is somehow obligated to agree. The Scriptures are quoted below from the New American Standard Version of the Bible. They are followed by comments from Wesley himself, as well as some of his early followers: John Fletcher, Adam Clarke and Joseph Benson.
An introduction to this series is here: The Holiness Texts of John Wesley. Links to the other posts in this series may be found on the Wesleyan Theology Page or on the Bible Studies page, listed as “The Holiness Texts of John Wesley.”
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:25,26, NASB.
"Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you." Ezekiel 36:29, NASB.
John Wesley comments:
"V. 25. Sprinkle -- This signifies both the blood of Christ sprinkled upon their conscience, to take away their guilt, as the water of purification was sprinkled, to take away their ceremonial uncleanness and the grace of the spirit sprinkled on the whole soul, to purify it from all corrupt inclinations and dispositions.
"V. 26. A new heart -- A new frame of soul, a mind changed, from sinful to holy, from carnal to spiritual. A heart in which the law of God is written, Jer 31:33. A sanctified heart, in which the almighty grace of God is victorious, and turns it from all sin to God. A new spirit -- A new, holy frame in the spirit of man; which is given to him, not wrought by his own power. The stony -- The senseless unfeeling. Out of your flesh -- Out of you. Of flesh -- That is, quite of another temper, hearkening to God's law, trembling at his threats, moulded into a compliance with his whole will; to forbear, do, be, or suffer what God will, receiving the impress of God, as soft wax receives the impress of the seal.
"V. 29. I will also save you -- I will continue to save you. From all your uncleannesses -- Salvation from all uncleannessess, includes justification, entire sanctification, and meetness for glory. The corn -- All necessaries comprised in one."
"Thus hath the Lord fulfilled the things he spake by his holy Prophets, which have been since the world began; — by Moses in particular, saying, (Deuteronomy 30:6,) I 'will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul;' — by David, crying out, 'Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me;' — and most remarkably by Ezekiel, in those words: '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. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; — and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. — Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses. — Thus saith the Lord God, In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities, — the Heathen shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places; — I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.' (Ezekiel 36:25 etc.)
"'Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved,' both in the Law and in the prophets, and having the prophetic word confirmed unto us in the Gospel, by our blessed Lord and his Apostles; 'let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.' 'Let us fear, lest' so many 'promises being made us of entering into his rest,' which he that hath entered into, has ceased from his own works, 'any of us should come short of it.' 'This one thing let us do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, let us press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus;' crying unto him day and night, till we also are 'delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God!'"
"But the great question is, whether there is any promise in Scripture, that we shall be saved from sin. Undoubtedly there is. Such is that promise, (Psalm 130:8,) 'He shall redeem Israel from all his sins;' exactly answerable to those words of the angel, 'He shall save his people from their sins.' And surely 'he is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God through him.' Such is that glorious promise given through the Prophet Ezekiel: (36:25-27:) '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. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.' Such (to mention no more) is that pronounced by Zechariah, (Luke 1:73-75,) 'The oath which he swore to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies,' (and such, doubtless, are all our sins,) 'to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.' The last part of this promise is peculiarly worthy of our observation. Lest any should say, 'True, we shall be saved from our sins when we die,' that clause is remarkably added, as if on purpose to obviate this pretense, all the days of our life. With what modesty then can any one affirm, that none shall enjoy this liberty till death?"
"Q. 28. What do you think of those in London, who seem to have been lately ‘renewed in love?’
"A. There is something very peculiar in the experience of the greater part of them. One would expect that a believer should first be filled with love, and thereby emptied of sin; whereas these were emptied of sin first, and then filled with love. Perhaps it pleased God to work in this manner, to make his work more plain and undeniable; and to distinguish it more clearly from that overflowing love, which is often felt even in a justified state.
"It seems likewise most agreeable to the great promise: ‘From all your filthiness I will cleanse you; a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.’ (Ezekiel 36:25, 26.)
"But I do not think of them all alike: There is a wide difference between some of them and others. I think most of them with whom I have spoken, have much faith, love, joy, and peace. Some of these I believe are renewed in love, and have the direct witness of it; and they manifest the fruit above described, in all their words and actions. Now, let any man call this what he will; it is what I call perfection."
Adam Clarke comments:
"Verse 26. A new heart also will I give you] I will change the whole of your infected nature; and give you new appetites, new passions; or, at least, the old ones purified and refined. The heart is generally understood to mean all the affections and passions.
"And a new spirit will I put within you] I will renew your minds, also enlighten your understanding, correct your judgment, and refine your will; so that you shall have a new spirit to actuate your new heart.
"I will take away the stony heart] That heart that is hard, impenetrable, and cold; the affections and passions that are unyielding, frozen to good, unaffected by heavenly things; that are slow to credit the words of God. I will entirely remove this heart: it is the opposite to that which I have promised you; and you cannot have the new heart and the old heart at the same time.
"And I will give you a heart of flesh.] One that can feel, and that can enjoy; that can feel love to God and to all men, and be a proper habitation for the living God.
"Verse 27. And I will put my Spirit within you] To keep the heart of flesh alive, the feeling heart still sensible, the loving heart still happy. I will put my Spirit, the great principle of light, life, and love, within you, to actuate the new spirit, and to influence the new affections and passions; that the animal spirit may not become brutish, that the mental powers become not foolish. I will put my Spirit within you, so that as the new spirit may influence the new heart, so will MY SPIRIT influence YOUR new spirit, that each may have a proper mover; and then all will be pure, regular, and harmonious, when passion is influenced by reason, and reason by the Holy Ghost.
"And the cause shall be evidenced by the effects; for I will cause you to walk in my statutes — not only to believe and reverence my appointments relative to what I command you to perform; but ye shall walk in them, your conduct shall be regulated by them. 'And ye shall keep my judgments;' whatsoever I enjoin you to avoid. And ye shall do them - ye shall not only avoid every appearance of evil, but keep all my ordinances and commandments unblamably.
"Here is the salvation that God promises to give to restored Israel; and here is the salvation that is the birthright of every Christian believer: the complete destruction of all sin in the soul, and the complete renewal of the heart; no sin having any place within, and no unrighteousness having any place without.
"'But where are they that are thus saved?' Ans. Wherever true Christians are to be found. 'But I know many true Christians that have not this salvation, but daily mourn over their evil hearts?' Ans. They may be sincere, but they are not true Christians; i.e., such as are saved from their sins; the true Christians are those who are filled with the nature and Spirit of Christ. But I will ask a question in my turn: 'Do those you mention think it a virtue to be always mourning over their impurities?' Most certainly. Then it is a pity they were not better instructed. It is right they should mourn while they feel an impure heart; but why do they not apply to that blood which cleanses from all unrighteousness, and to that Spirit which cleanses the very thoughts of the heart by his inspiration? Many employ that time in brooding and mourning over their impure hearts, which should be spent in prayer and faith before God, that their impurities might be washed away. In what a state of nonage are many members of the Christian Church!"
— Clarke's Commentary.
Joseph Benson comments:
"Verse 25. I will sprinkle clean water upon you — The expression here alludes to those legal purifications which were made by sprinkling water upon the unclean persons: see Numbers 8:7, and 19:13. But the cleansing intended is plainly that of the soul, by the blood of Christ sprinkled upon men’s consciences to take away their guilt, (see Hebrews 9:14, and 12:24,) and by the grace of the Holy Spirit sprinkled on the whole soul, to purify it from all corrupt inclinations and dispositions; both which blessings are received by faith in Christ, and in the promises of God made through him: see Galatians 2:16, and 3:14; Acts 15:9. From all your filthiness — Filthiness, as the apostle expresses it, of flesh and spirit; from all unhallowed appetites, passions, and dispositions; from all impurity of heart and life; from every thing contrary to the mind of Christ, the image of God, or the divine nature; and from all your idols will I cleanse you — From all internal as well as external idolatry; from putting that trust in the work of your own hands, or in any creature, which you ought to put only in your Creator; or from setting your affections on any person or thing in preference to him, who is your Redeemer and Saviour, your Friend and Father, your portion and treasure, your God, and your all. Observe, reader, sin is of a defiling nature; idolatry particularly is so; it renders sinners odious to God, and unhappy in themselves; but when our guilt is pardoned, and our corrupt nature sanctified, then we are cleansed from this filthiness; and there is no other way of being saved from it. This God promises to his people here, in order to his being sanctified in them, verse 23. We cannot sanctify God’s name, unless he sanctify our hearts, nor live to his glory, but by his grace.
"Verses 26, 27. A new heart also will I give you — A new disposition of mind, excellent in itself, and vastly different from what it was before; a frame of soul changed from sinful to holy, from carnal to spiritual; a heart in which the law of God is written, Jeremiah 31:33; a sanctified spirit, in which the almighty grace of God is victorious, and turns it from the world to God, and from all sin to all holiness; a state of mind which is the supernatural gift of God, and not wrought in any man by his own power. And I will take away the stony heart — The hard, senseless, unfeeling, inflexible heart; the heart unapt and averse to receive any divine impressions, and to return any devout affections. Out of your flesh — That is, out of you. And I will give you a heart of flesh — A soft and tender heart, that has spiritual senses exercised, and is conscious to itself of spiritual pains and pleasures; a heart of quite another temper, hearkening to God’s law, trembling at his threats, moulded into a compliance with his whole will; disposed to do, to be, or to suffer what God wills; receiving the divine impress as soft wax receives the impress of the seal. I will put my Spirit within you — My enlightening, regenerating, and sanctifying Spirit; that Holy Spirit which is given to and dwells in all true believers; and cause you — Sweetly and powerfully, yet without compulsion; to walk in my statutes — In all my ordinances and commandments, and that from judgment, choice, and affection. For our spirits, when renewed by God’s Spirit to a disposition conformed to his holiness, readily comply with his will in all things, concur with his designs, and become workers together with him. And ye shall keep my judgments, and do them — Ye shall be willing and able to perform all acceptable obedience, and to live a life of universal holiness and righteousness."
— Benson's Commentary.