Just how did you feel at the time you were sanctified? I have heard some tell of how the holy fire of the Spirit seemed to go all through them. Others have told of a deeper, more complete peace. Some have shouted for joy. Others have wept for joy. And I am wondering how one ought to feel. Can you tell me? And how can I know that I am consecrated? Every teacher of entire sanctification that I ever heard says that the consecration must be complete; but how am I to know when it is complete? I have consecrated over and over, but I do not feel certain that all, really all, is given up. Might there not be some self-will left that I do not know of? Please help me.
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Probably it might not be wise to tell you just how I felt when the Lord sanctified me and made me whole, because it might tempt you to want the experience in the same way it came to me; and, besides, while the blessed experience is, in its essential features, the same in each case, yet each person has his own feelings and personal experiences along with it. These experiences are suited to each one's need; they follow the trend of one's natural disposition, and are a source of pleasure to us. The really important thing is to be wholly sanctified.
When Israel under Joshua arrived at the Jordan River, they were commanded by the Lord to "sanctify" themselves and prepare to cross over. This command to "sanctify yourselves" points to the perfect consecration that must be made before the sanctifying power falls upon us. Crossing the Jordan signified to them leaving the wilderness life forever behind them and entering upon a new life on the Canaan side. And in order properly to enter upon that new experience they were asked by God to set themselves apart by a solemn purification and consecration of themselves.
To begin with, then, let us consider what a consecration is, and next we shall consider the evidences of its being perfect and acceptable to God.
Several words and phrases cover what is meant by consecration, as "abandonment," "surrender," "lay all on the altar," "die," "subject the will to the will of God," "let Christ have his way."
"Abandonment" here expresses the idea that from now on your soul, your life, your interests, your time, talents -- your all -- are no more your own, but are abandoned to the will of God. You know how some people abandon themselves to a life of vice; they know no limit, but give themselves entirely over to it. Well, you are to abandon yourself to a life of holiness and service to God.
Did you ever see a potter at work on a piece of clay making a vessel of it? He gathers up a lump of clay and lays it on the wheel. As it turns and turns He builds up whatever it is that He wishes to make. The clay being inanimate, dead, yields absolutely to the potter, who makes of it whatever He pleases. This illustrates the abandonment you are to make -- though with this difference: you have a will and reason, and your abandonment is to be the yielding of yourself to God because your clearest reason and most mature judgment tells you that such is best. From now on, instead of willing to do your own will, you are going to submit to God's will; for the most blessed thing in the world is the will of God.
Just here is where you may be tempted to draw back; for something may whisper, "Why, if you abandon yourself what will become of you? Maybe God would require of you something very hard for you to do. Is it not dangerous thus to yield?"
To illustrate this, suppose you are the mother or father of a boy. Like all boys, yours has given you more or less trouble by wanting his own way. There has been more or less of a battle of wills, his will against your will. You feel, and rightly, that your experience gives you a better idea of what is good for him than his experience gives. Suppose he were to come to you tomorrow and say: "From now on, Mother, I will do anything you want me to. I abandon my way and will for your way and will."
What would you do in that case? Would you make up your mind that now is a good time to put hardships upon him and make life as miserable as you can for him? "Indeed not," you would indignantly say.
Well, then, can the great God, who is love, take advantage of His children and, when they give all to Him, lay heavy and grievous burdens on them because He can? Just as you, when your boy yielded, would love him all the more and do all you could to make life pleasant even if there were some hard things in it, so God seeks to lighten the load His consecrated children must bear. To abandon yourself to God is an act of highest intelligence and wisdom.
"Surrender" implies the cessation of rebellion. Of course the sinner, to be converted, must surrender, and does surrender. And you have already surrendered in that way. Yet there is a self-life or a self-will that shrinks more or less from the will of God until we enter the Canaan of entire sanctification. This rebellion takes on the form of refusing or objecting to some of the Lord's ways with us. For instance, we may feel a call to special service -- to the ministry, or to the missionary service, or to personal work -- and we may have mapped out an entirely different life for ourselves and ate to submit to God's leadings.
Surrender of the will is a part of the consecration. There can be no inner soul-rest so long as our wills pull us one way and God's will pulls us another. When Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden light He meant it is easy if we pull with Him, not against Him. How can two walk together except they be agreed? Then lay your will down; or, rather, actively, enthusiastically, delightedly will that God's will be done in and with you.
"Lay all on the altar" is a favorite expression with many teachers of full salvation and the victorious life. The figure comes from the sacrifices made under Moses' law. Every Israelite had to offer sacrifices. The main thing about the sacrifice was, whether sheep, goat, lamb, dove, or something else, it had to be a perfect, unblemished sacrifice. God would not accept any lame, maimed, blemished, or otherwise marred sacrifice. It had to be the best of its kind. After it was brought to the priest and dedicated to the Lord, it was laid on the altar and consumed. It was the Lord's. The one offering it had no more to say about it whatever.
Then on God's altar you should lay all -- time, talents, earthly goods, soul, body, and will. Once when Abraham had made a sacrifice, birds came to steal it. Abraham was careful to drive away the birds. A beautiful figure is found in Abraham's action. We might say that after you have laid all on God's altar you may need to guard the offering; for the birds of self-will, pride, unbelief, and evil desire may carry off your sacrifice.
"Die" is a favorite expression with other teachers of perfect holiness -- die to self; die out to God; die to all but Jesus. The figure is full of vital meaning. Mrs. Cleaveland, in her delightful poem on the river of death, pictures the clergymen of various denominations as losing all their distinguishing marks as they cross the river, and over on the other shore not one can be told from another so far as sectarian peculiarities are concerned. This is even true of entire consecration, or crossing the Jordan into Canaan; for in Canaan there is a delightful absence of sectarian conflict; every one is too busy doing the will of God.
Dying is used to express consecration because some felt that the consecration was so acute that it seemed they had to suffer the pains of death. Others have not so felt. Whatever the feeling, there must be the dying.
Two women, one a widow and the other her daughter, lived together. They were both devout. The younger woman became sick, and grew worse and worse. At last all hope of life was gone, and mother and daughter began praying that the dying girl might have "dying grace."
The condition for obtaining this grace consisted in an absolute submission to die, a yielding of all to God's will; as she met the condition, so she received "dying grace." But the sequel was unexpected. While one receiving dying grace was supposed to die, this young woman lived and got well. But her "dying grace," as they termed it, was still hers. One day she spoke of it to her mother and said: "Mother, I am coming to believe that 'dying grace' is the grace we need to live by." And it is.
This young woman had made the deathbed consecration. God had accepted the sacrifice, had poured out His grace, and the young woman was sanctified wholly; and that was exactly what she needed to live by. She had died to self.
Now, how shall you know that all is given up and the sacrifice acceptable to God? This may well engage our attention.
First of all, remember that your will is your own, and that you yourself know what your intentions are. Whenever you decide to go to town to buy a hat or coat, you have no trouble in knowing your mind, do you? Of course not! And you can be just as sure of your mind or will in the matter of consecration to God.
You might begin this way: I desire to be wholly the Lord's: my will I desire to surrender; and my life I wish to be lived for God. Since the Lord in His Word has said, "By the mercies of God ... present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1), you may rest assured that God only awaits this surrender, and will be glad to accept it.
Now, do not only desire to be consecrated, but at once begin to count yourself the Lord's, permanently, irrevocably, for time, for eternity. Some, in the earnestness and intensity of their souls, in the solemn hour of their complete and definite surrender or consecration have written it out on paper, in the form of a will, and, signing it, have called on angels and God to witness the solemn act of their souls. But whether it is written out on paper or be simply the unchangeable determination within the heart, the point must be come to when all is yielded. There must be a final "yes" to God; the gift must be deposited on the altar, and from henceforth you are to consider yourself wholly the Lord's no matter how you feel about it. It must amount to a transaction, like the signing of a deed, or a contract, and when it has come to this point where you do actually hand yourself over to the Lord, body, soul, and all to be His forever, then you are to count the offering complete and the die cast forever.
Should you be tempted to investigate whether you "feel" that you are all consecrated, remember that your feelings have nothing to do with it. Your will is master here. As your will goes, you go.
"When thy soul is on the altar laid,
Do you lay all on the altar? "Whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?" (Matthew 23:19). If you have everything on the altar, your feet, like the priest's in Joshua's day, are dipping into the brim of the Jordan. You are ready to pass over. Just pass on over! Call the transaction closed. Your heart feels a deep security in handing all over to God, and there is the witness of your own soul that you have, now, given up all and God accepts the offering.
What next? Ask God to purge your soul until He is satisfied concerning its purity. Ask Him to kill all the things which displease Him, and destroy the last remains of inbred sin. Ask Him to restore the image of God in your soul, to come in and possess His temple. Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit, to let the Comforter take up His abode in you and abide with you forever. Swing wide open your heart's door to the Spirit. Believe that God does what He promised to do; believe He sanctifies you wholly. Since you are His, you are to trust Him to carry on this work in His own way. It is yours to yield and to believe. And we are "sanctified by faith" (Acts 26:18). Our hearts are purified by faith (Acts 15:8, 9). Let your faith wrap its arms around God's promise, and the work is done. Oh, marvelous grace of God!