In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul regards mankind under the two divisions of the Gentile and the Jew, and proceeds to show that both classes alike had failed in their efforts to attain to righteousness and salvation.
The Gentile, it is true, had not been favored with an outward revelation, but he had been permitted to behold the outward universe, and to know that it had a Creator "of eternal power and divinity." He had also had a conscience within him, and so much light as rendered him an accountable being, with a sense of obligation to a supreme power, and furnishing another proof of the existence of a personal God. But the Apostle tells us that they, the Gentiles, did not like to retain God in their knowledge. They wickedly extinguished the light which He had given them, because they were not willing to give up their immoralities. And as their hearts became more corrupt, their intellects also were darkened, and in their senselessness they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the baser image of "birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things." They sank into the grossest idolatry and licentiousness and all wickedness. This picture drawn in colors which shock our sensibilities, in the first chapter of Romans, is confirmed by the authentic writings of heathen historians, and this in all particulars, Paul says, "They are without excuse, because they did not live up to the light which they had received, obscure and imperfect as it was."
And how was it with the Jews? The advantage was, indeed, to them much every way, but chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. They had an outward revelation, and with it a knowledge of that law of God, which is holy and just and good.
But they had failed, if possible, more grievously than the Gentiles themselves. They had received the law by the disposition of angels, as Stephen told them and had not kept it. They had had far more light than the Gentiles, but they had fallen into the same sins as they. They prided themselves on the law, and looked with contempt upon the Gentiles, and condemned them for their immoralities, and yet were guilty of similar immoralities themselves. They talked loudly about the words of the law. "Do not steal." "Do not commit adultery," and yet violated these very commands themselves. Jesus in His scathing denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees, compared them to whited sepulchres, looking well outwardly, but within full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness: and He warned His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy, and the leaven of the Sadduces, which is infidelity, and the leaven of the Herodians, which is worldly mindedness.
The cause of failure was the same, both with Jew and Gentile. It was something that had occurred long before the division into Jew and Gentile had an existence. It had occurred, in short, when man fell. From fallen parents our entire race had inherited a fallen nature, that is to say, a natural proclivity towards sin. There is a disposition in all mankind to yield to temptation, some in one direction, some in another, and thus to say yes to Satan, while they also say no to God. This bias towards evil is sometimes called depravity or original sin. It is called by Paul "Our old man," "the flesh," "the carnal mind," "the body of sin," and "sin that dwelleth in me." A good and convenient name for it is inbred sin. It is sin in the heart as distinguished from sin in the act. It is the inward cause of which our outward sins are the effects. It is the evil root of which our outward sins are the bitter fruits.
Now, it was the inbred sin in the hearts of the Gentiles which caused them to quench the light of the knowledge of God, which they must have had for, at least, a generation or two after Noah came out of the ark, and which made them blind to the light even of natural religion, notwithstanding before their eyes the heavens were declaring the glory of God and the firmament was showing His handiwork, day unto day was uttering speech, and night unto night was showing knowledge. They forsook the knowledge of God, and He left them to their own reprobate minds, the result being that they sank into the grossest idolatry and the most beastly sensuality.
The Jew had the unspeakable advantage of an outward revelation. He received through Moses the law of God, which showed him what God desired him to be and do, and what he ought to be and do, but which conferred upon him no power for being or doing what it required. It is like a looking-glass placed before a child to show him that his face is soiled, but having no power to cleanse that face. It was like a plumb- line applied to a leaning wall, which shows how far it deviates from the perpendicular, but which has no power to make it upright. Nay, it even comes to pass that in consequence of inbred sin, the law multiplies offences. It causes sin to abound. We find even in most children a disposition that impels them to do and to have just what they are told they must not do and have. That is to say, when the law comes in, inbred sin rises in rebellion against it.
The workings of the sin that dwelleth in us is most vividly described by Paul in the seventh chapter of Romans. Over the real meaning of this chapter, there has been much discussion and wide differences of opinion. Some writers think that this is the best experience of the great apostle of the Gentiles, and they draw consolation from this fact, as well as argument, in favor of continuing to sin in thought and word and deed as long as they live. Others think that the apostle is not here describing a Christian experience at all, but the struggles of a Jew who is seeking the favor of God by keeping His law, but finds his attempts to keep it all in vain, the hindrance being inbred sin. I freely admit that it is not what even a justified experience ought to be, for God has assured us through His apostle, John, that He that is born of God doth not commit sin, and, therefore, notwithstanding the presence of inbred sin in the heart of the justified and regenerated believer, yet such a one, by watchfulness and prayer, may be kept from acts of sin and from becoming a backslider. But in point of fact, the seventh of Romans does describe what, in many cases, is the experience of the converted Christian.
For there are many who even after a clear conversion and a joyful sense of God's favor, with the witness of the Spirit to their adoption, yet do yield to temptation under the pressure of inbred sin, and so pass weeks, or months or weary years in what is called an up-and-down experience, not becoming confirmed backsliders, but sinning and repenting, delighting in the law of God after the inward man, but often yielding to the demands of the law of sin, which is in their members, not losing their sonship, but losing their communion and their joy, often like Peter weeping bitterly over their transgressions, but finding that while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.
I said that such a process, unsatisfactory as it is, might go on for years. It ends either in complete religious declension amounting, sometimes, to apostacy on the one hand, or infinitely better, in the entire sanctification of the heart and complete deliverance from inbred sin. And in these days of enlightenment, when the doctrine and experience of holiness are so plainly taught, and so generally diffused among the children of God, it is, at least, doubtful whether a soul can continue long in a state of justification, which means that it will either go forward to the experience of entire sanctification, or else it will fall into back-sliding as did some of the Corinthians, or into legality as did the Galatians.
Now, legality is nothing more nor less than Judaism. It is seeking salvation after the pattern of the Old Testament, and not after that of the New. It is a matter of works, and not a matter of faith. It inquires "What good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" It is the child of the bondwoman and not that of the free. It is Ishmael and not Isaac. It is Sinai and not Calvary.
And so it happens that many Christians are simply good Jews. They may even possess circumcised hearts, and may yet serve the Lord in the spirit of bondage, as did good Jews of old. They fail to realize that they have been called unto liberty, which liberty does not, by any means, signify license; it does not signify the liberty of making our own choices, but the liberty of accepting gladly and submissively God's choices; it does not mean the liberty of doing either right or wrong as we may prefer, but the liberty of always preferring to do right and never wrong, and so to spend our years on earth, doing right in all directions, and doing wrong in none. This, beloved, is the glorious liberty of the children of God.
After the birth of Ishmael, we may well suppose that Hagar's chief employment in Abraham's house was to look after the said Ishmael, to care for him and to restrain him. Mark, it was never her business to care for or to restrain Isaac. He was the child of promise, the child of faith, the son of the lawful wife and the free woman, and when Ishmael's persecuting spirit broke forth at the weaning of Isaac, then the command was "Cast out the bond woman and her son." Both must go together or stay together. Ah! beloved, when inbred sin is cast out, there is no more need of the law either to restrain or constrain. Perfect love casts out fear; it also casts out sin, and becomes the motive power of the whole spiritual man. "The love of Christ constraineth us."
So Paul shows us that both Gentiles and Jews had failed to attain unto the law of righteousness, because of inbred sin, which caused the former to put out the light which they had, and the latter to fall short of keeping the law, which was their only hope of salvation, but which was never intended by its Divine Author to save men, but to show them how utterly incapable they were of saving themselves.
But Paul does not leave them there. After putting both classes of the human family into the same position of failure and condemnation, and declaring that there is no difference, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," he adds, "Being justified fully by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." When man's helplessness and inability have been sufficiently demonstrated, then God comes to his rescue. "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all."
Thus in the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle teaches the great doctrine of justification by faith and the consequent peace of reconciliation, the "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." But he goes farther than justification, and shows us that sanctification, also, is by faith and not by works. He will not be satisfied with anything less than the death of our old man, and the death of inbred sin is precisely the experience of entire sanctification. "Knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that, henceforth, we should not serve him."
But we are wholly unable to destroy or do away with the body of sin by any resolution or will-power or effort of our own. Sin will not go dead at our bidding, nor can we become dead to sin by wishing or striving to be so. Again, we are brought face to face with our helplessness, but the apostle solves the problem for us by directing us to resort to the process of reckoning. "Likewise reckon ye, also, yourselves to be dead, indeed, unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord." Ah! now, our help is laid upon one that is mighty. "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God." What we reckon, with the sublime reckoning of faith, Christ can make real and true. We have only, therefore, to reckon ourselves to be dead, indeed, unto sin, and leave to Him to make the reckoning good. But we must not fail to reckon ourselves alive as well as dead. And to be alive to God means, in this connection, to be responsive to every intimation of His will, to love Him perfectly, to be, to do and to suffer joyfully all that He may determine concerning us, in short, to be sanctified wholly. Oh, beloved, what a blessed reckoning is the reckoning of faith! How vastly does it transcend all the reckonings of logic or mathematics. For, by it, we experience a continual deadness to sin, and a continual holiness of heart and life.
For it must be clearly understood that Paul is not asking us to fancy, or imagine, or hypothecate. He is not telling us that if we believe a thing to be true, the believing will make it true. He is not persuading us to reckon without factors and with no result. The factors in his direction are God's promises and commands, alike in the Old Testament and in the New, urging His people to be holy, and promising to make them so, and our acceptance of the provision He has made for our cleansing, by faith, and then by the reckoning alluded to, the result is secured.
In foggy or cloudy weather, mariners at sea are often compelled to resort to what they term dead-reckoning. Sometimes for days together, the sun is hidden by clouds, and no observation can be taken with the usual instruments for determining latitude and longitude. Then the captain ascertains by the compass what direction he is pursuing, and by the log, the rate at which the ship is sailing, and thus by marking out his daily advance on a chart, he is enabled, with astonishing accuracy, to determine when and at what point he will sight the shore toward which the voyage is directed. What he reckons becomes real, when he tells the passengers, "Within five minutes, we ought to see the Irish coast," followed within the specified time by the cry from the lookout, "Land, ho!"
To the Christian believer, the Bible is both compass and log and chart. Sometimes, he enjoys the witness of the Spirit clear as the sunshine, assuring him that he is going in the right direction, and informing him as to his whereabouts in Christian experience, but when not thus favored, he can still move on by faith, he still has his compass and his chart, and he can still employ the dead-reckoning, and go forward with a holy trust that in due time he shall land in the heavenly port. Praise the Lord.
To comment in detail upon all that the great apostle of the Gentiles has written in reference to entire sanctification would require a volume instead of a single chapter. I must, therefore, content myself with a few selections, and leave the reader to pursue the subject for himself in the inexhaustible mine of the Pauline Epistles.
In Romans 6:13, we have the best description of consecration that is to be found anywhere. "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." And, again, in the 19th verse, "For as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity, unto iniquity; even so, now, yield your members servants to righteousness, unto holiness."
Here, the apostle clearly teaches us that consecration is not the same thing as entire sanctification. The one is an act proceeding from man to God, the other is an act proceeding from God to man. It is man who consecrates; it is God who sanctifies.
Perfect consecration is an entire surrender of a personal human being to a personal God. The term members may well be understood to include all bodily organs and powers, all mental faculties and sensibilities, and all appurtenances, such as time, money, influence, culture, health, and, in short, the whole personal, individual man, with all his belongings. The surrender must be complete, absolute, unreserved and forever. Body, soul, spirit, time, talents, possessions, all that we have and all that we are must be His, wholly His, and His to all eternity.
Such a consecration cannot be made by any one who is not already a Christian believer. Paul informs us, explicitly, that he is not calling upon sinners "dead in trespasses and sins," to consecrate themselves, but upon converted persons, "those who are alive from the dead." How thankful we ought to be that he has settled that point forever. Sinners may repent, but only Christians can consecrate. Whatever surrender the sinner may and must make in order to be saved, the believer must make a broader, deeper, fuller, more complete surrender of a different character and for a different purpose. In repentance, the sinner gives himself away as a dead sacrifice, and his purpose is to receive pardon and life. In consecration, the Christian yields to God his living and regenerated faculties and powers, and his purpose is that he may be sanctified wholly, filled with the Spirit, and used to the utmost extent of his capacity for the glory of God.
Consecration does not mean the giving up of our sins, or vices, or depraved appetites, or forbidden indulgences. We cannot consecrate our alcohol, or our tobacco, or our opium, or our card-playing, or dancing, or theater-going to God. He wants none of these things. All actual and known sins must be abandoned at conversion. Our consecration is for a deeper work, that is to say, for the removal of inbred sin, which, after all, is not accomplished by our consecration, though that is an essential preliminary, but by the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire.
The essence of consecration is in the sentence, "Yield yourselves unto God." When you yield yourselves, you yield everything else. All the details are included in the one surrender of yourself. Changing the emphasis, we may read again, "Yield yourselves unto God." Consecration is not to God's service, not to His work, not to a life of obedience and sacrifice, not to the church, not to the Christian Endeavor, not to the missionary cause, nor even to the cause of God; it is to God Himself. "Yield yourselves unto God." Your work, your service, your obedience, your sacrifice, your right place and your allotted duty will all follow in good time.
Consecration is the willingness, and the resolution and the purpose to be, to do, and to suffer all God's will. Its essence, already given in the words of Paul, is given also in the words of the Saviour. "Not My will but Thine be, done," which is beautifully versified by Frances Ridley Havergal, in the couplet,
"Take my will and make it thine,
Consecration being a definite transaction, and made once for all, does not need to be repeated unless we have failed to keep it. To consecrate over and over again is like a husband and wife marrying over and over again. We are consecrated just as we are married. The vow is upon us, and in the force of that vow, we walk all our days. All we have to do is to remember day by day that we are wholly the Lord's, and see to it that nothing is taken from the altar. Those who have kept their consecration complete should testify to its maintenance upon all suitable occasions, and never deny it by word, deed or silence.
Many years ago, I saw a form of consecration in an English periodical, which is here given very slightly modified, and which has been adopted by many. Let all my readers unite with the author in entering into this personal yielding to God.
I am willing
In this connection, we may add that when the consecration is complete, it becomes, comparatively, an easy matter to believe. Entire sanctification like justification, and, indeed, all other gospel blessings and experiences, is to be received by faith. But so long as the surrender to God is not complete, faith refuses to act.
When all obstructions are removed by an act of heartfelt and sincere consecration, then it becomes as natural and as easy to believe as it is to breathe, after everything that hinders breathing is removed from the air passages. We hear much complaint among Christians of a want of faith. If they only had more faith, they imagine that all would be well. When the disciples of old asked Jesus to increase their faith, He told them, in effect, to use what they had. If it were only a mustard- seed faith, He assured them that it would remove mountains. And we may justly conclude that the difficulty with most seekers after entire sanctification is not in a want of faith so much as in an incomplete surrender. The carnal mind dies very hard. It attaches itself to one worldly thing or another, and refuses to be sundered from what it loves, and while this is the case, the individual cannot believe that God gives him the unspeakable blessing of heart purity. But when all the preliminaries have been attended to, and there is nothing else needed but to trust in Jesus, then faith can appropriate His promises, and in so doing realize their fulfillment.
Another class of seekers is very much concerned about the witness of the Spirit to assure them that the blessing has been received. Probably in these cases the very point that has not yet been consecrated to God is the feeling, or the witness, which they so much desire. "It often happens," says Dr. G. D. Watson, "that a patient, who has been cured of some contagious disease, has to have a certificate on leaving the hospital. In such a case the certificate does not cure him, but certifies that he is cured. How absurd for a patient just entering the hospital to clamor for his health certificate before receiving the doctor and taking the remedies. In like manner, it is useless for a seeking soul to be clamoring for the witness and waiting for the feeling before receiving Jesus and fully trusting Him for the cure. We are not to trust in the experience, but the Saviour who imparts the experience."
Let us now return to Paul. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, second and third chapters, he tells us of three classes of persons: the natural man, the spiritual man, and the babe in Christ. The natural man, he tells us, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Such is a description of the unregenerate wherever and whenever they are found. Their standard of judgment is not that of the Holy Spirit. They are blind to the truth of God and deaf to the story of salvation. Being without spiritual life they are, of course, without spiritual judgment. And yet, just such persons are in all our churches, and the number is by no means small. And often it strangely happens that these are the very individuals who are noticeably forward in expressing their opinions on the right way of managing a church. Fine and costly edifices, artistic music, entertainments and theatricals, eloquent preaching or lecturing, something to be proud of and to draw the crowd -- these are the things which in their view make the church of their choice a success; but as for the conversion of sinners, as for the spread of the gospel at home and abroad, as for the sanctifying of believers, as for the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness unto them. What they need is a deep and pungent conviction, a true repentance, a living faith and a sound conversion. May God hasten it in His time.
"He that is spiritual," says our apostle, "judgeth or discerneth all things, yet he himself is judged or discerned of no man." The spiritual man is the man who has been baptized with the Spirit and filled with the Spirit, and in whom the Spirit abides as an ever-present Guide, Comforter and Friend. In short, he is the man who is wholly sanctified and saved to the uttermost. I should not, of course, affirm that such a one is always remarkable for depth or soundness of judgment, for, as his religion is in his heart rather than in his head, the heart may be perfect while the head may be weak. And yet holiness, or rather the Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart, does have a wonderfully illuminating influence upon the understanding. And the spiritual man, however many things he may be ignorant of, does understand the condition of the natural man, because he has been there, while he is not understood by the natural man because the latter has not been where he is. And the same is true of the relation of the spiritual man to the carnal Christian or babe in Christ. He, also, is understood by one who has the Spirit, while he is himself incapable of judging or discerning the position of the latter.
Paul assures the Corinthians that they are "yet carnal," and still he asserts that they are "babes in Christ." Such persons, and their name is legion in all denominations of Christians, are not wholly natural, neither are they wholly spiritual. They are babes in Christ, and, therefore, they may thank God that they are in Christ. They are converted, they are believers, they are disciples, they are justified; but they are not wholly sanctified, and not wholly delivered from the carnal mind. Their state is a mixed one, partly spiritual, partly carnal.
Oh, let such as these make an immediate and complete and irrevocable consecration to God, and let them ask for the baptism with the Holy Ghost and receive Him by faith in His sanctifying and empowering offices, that so they may become, not partly, but wholly spiritual. Oh, that spiritual men and women may increase and abound in all our churches. Amen.
In 2 Corinthians, 7:1, the apostle of the Gentiles bases the experience of entire sanctification on the glorious promises of God. "Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." To cleanse ourselves is shown by the Greek tense to be an act done definitely and once for all. It means, therefore, to put ourselves under the conditions of cleansing by a definite act of consecration to God. It means to place ourselves in co-operation with the Holy Spirit, who is distinctively the Sanctifier and Cleanser. It means, also, that we are to seek and find the baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire, in order that our hearts may be purified by faith, and then to continually avoid all sources of temptation and all incentives to evil, so far as we may; and continuously realize and experience the holiness which Christ has instantaneously wrought in our souls through His Holy Spirit. Filthiness of the flesh signifies undue indulgence of sensual appetites, as in gluttony, drunkenness and licentiousness, which was probably very prevalent at Corinth. Filthiness of the spirit is illustrated by idolatry and pride, nor must we forget that the spirit is often polluted also through pampering the body.
Paul's wonderful prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21, has been so admirably treated of by Dr. Daniel Steele, that I shall content myself with referring the reader to his book on "Love Enthroned," page 123, and pass on. A single remark, however, may properly be made. That prayer, undoubtedly, embodies all that we mean by entire sanctification and the filling of the Spirit and more.
In 1 Thess.5:23, we have another prayer of the great apostle in which entire sanctification is expressly petitioned for. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." The very form of the expression in the first clause indicates that it is possible to be sanctified wholly and possible to be sanctified partially. All Christians are cleansed from the pollution of sins committed, that is to say, from the pollution they have acquired by actually sinning. And thus the Corinthians are addressed by Paul as sanctified, although, manifestly, many of them were not holy in heart and life. On the other hand, the apostle prays that the Thessalonians may be sanctified wholly, although as a church they were already in a healthy and prosperous condition, the only exception being a few members who were too neglectful of their outward business and too much disposed to be busy-bodies. So we may conclude, without hesitation, that all Christians are partially sanctified, while many good Christians are not wholly sanctified.
But provision was made in the gospel for the entire sanctification of all believers, otherwise Paul would not have prayed for it. And not only for their entire sanctification as a definite, instantaneous act of God, as shown by the Greek tense, but, also, for their continual preservation in blamelessness, though not in faultlessness, until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And lest they should stagger through unbelief he adds, "Faithful is He that calleth you. You are not to do it. He will do it for He is able."
And this experience extends to the whole man, the spirit which takes hold of and communes with God, the soul with its emotions, affections, desires and volitions; the body with its appetites and its powers all made holy and preserved holy. Glory!
One more citation only and I will leave the reader to his own researches in the rich storehouse of the Pauline writings. Taking it for granted that Paul is the author of the Hebrews, let us read chapter 7:25 of that profound epistle. "Wherefore, he is able, also, to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." To the uttermost refers, undoubtedly, not only to time but to quantity. It means entirely, perfectly, altogether, through and through. And if he is able he is also willing. Oh, that all my readers, with the writer, may praise God now and evermore for salvation from the uttermost to the uttermost. Amen.