'As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.' (1 Peter i.15, 16.)
When we set up standards for life and character we must be quite clear that our teaching fits in with God's purpose as revealed towards His people. Therefore, when we enforce the doctrine of personal Holiness, there is no reason more weighty than that which Peter gives us in the verses quoted, namely, that God calls us to Holiness.
The statement I have read seems to me to show that it is a mistake to suppose that personal Holiness is left optional. Many people go to Meetings, and, when they are shown the teachings of the Bible about Holiness, they recognize that it is a state of being cleansed, filled with the love of God, and kept by the indwelling Holy Ghost. They see it as a very desirable thing and a possible experience. But, somehow or other, they sit and listen, come and go, and seem to have the idea that it is quite left to themselves whether they should obey the call and claim this blessing or not.
Some talk as if there were two roads to Heaven; I mean the sinning and repenting life; falling down and getting up again; persevering in their journey with just enough religion to make them want to save their souls from going to Hell, in contradistinction to the experience of the saintly man or woman who says, 'By God's help I am going to live a life without sin! I am going to have my heart fully sanctified, and walk in the will of God.'
Some, I am afraid, even go so far as to deliberately say, 'Holiness is a very good thing if you want it; but I am not quite prepared for this, or to give up this, that, and the other. I think I shall get on very well as I am. If you want the blessing I am glad to see you go in for it.'
That is what I mean when I talk about people regarding the matter as if it were optional; and I like these words of Peter's because they show us a direct command: 'Be ye holy, for I am holy'. They fit in also with the other injunction: 'Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing'.
It is a grand and glorious privilege to have a clean heart; to have God Almighty coming and taking full possession of you; and to have His Holy Spirit day by day, filling your heart with love and keeping you in Divine fellowship. But I want you also to realize that it is a binding duty upon every follower of Jesus Christ to seek to become holy.
I think it was John Wesley who said something to the effect that professing Christians who had not got the blessing of a clean heart, or were not earnestly seeking to be delivered from sin, could not consistently be regarded as Christians at all. I do not put it as strongly as that; but I do, from deep conviction, say this to you, that every Salvationist, and other persons who, in Meetings of this kind, are taught that the will of God is that they shall be delivered from all sin, that they shall live a life of purity and Holiness, that they shall walk in the enjoyment of a Full Salvation, and yet are not willing to follow the light, and do what they know God wants them to do, are probably heart-backsliders, and in a fair way to backslide altogether.
I tell you, God has called you, not unto uncleanness, not to remain in a state of impurity, but to Holiness; and he that despiseth that calling despiseth not man, but God. Therefore, I beg of you not to imagine that, with clear light as to your duty, and the possibility of Full Salvation, you can either take it or leave it, and yet remain in the favour of God.
Then these verses are very useful because they set the standard for our personal spiritual condition. Need I explain what I mean by this? Let your minds turn to weights and measures, and you will see my meaning exactly. If you went to a draper's shop, and asked for so many yards of material, you would not be satisfied by his guessing the quantity -- you would want it measured by the yard-stick, the proper standard of measurement. So with weights. If you ask for so many pounds of sugar or potatoes, it would not be for the shopman to say to you, 'Will that do for you? Put another in? All right! Will that do?' You would say, 'Please weigh them properly according to standard'.
Now it seems to me that in spiritual character we must have something by which we can measure and compare ourselves, and Peter gives us just such a standard when he says, 'As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy'. The standard is the character of God.
If Peter had said, 'As He is almighty, so be ye almighty', or, 'As He is infallible, so be ye infallible', then at once you would know that the standard was altogether out of your reach, and could not be realized. But, if you are a Christian at all, your inmost conviction tells you that to be holy is a reasonable requirement, and the law of consistency endorses it.
As you study your Bibles you will find many references to this standard of conformity with the Divine character, and will quickly see that nothing short of that can satisfy. It is not only the standard that exists in the Divine mind, but the world rightly expects that we, as Christian men and women, shall be holy. I know the world is very often disappointed, and that, unfortunately, the failures of some so-called Christian people are used as an excuse for disregarding the claims of God, but the world is right in expecting us to live holy lives.
That passage of Peter's contains a significant reminder in the sentence, 'Be ye holy in all manner of conversation'. Now, that word, 'conversation', has a much broader meaning in old English than the sense attached to our common use of it, generally limiting the word to mean intercourse between each other by speech. Here it really means the whole manner of living.
To me it is a matter of unspeakable joy to think that there is no right association, no duty, and no proper relationship in life that cannot be wholly sanctified and have God's smile upon it. Your eatings and drinkings, your speakings, your workings, your dressings, your courtings and marriages, also many other things, such as business and recreation, can all be sanctified, and the functions performed in harmony with the profession of Holiness and the maintenance of a clean heart.
But do not miss the true inwardness of this command: 'Be ye holy, for I am holy'. It is this -- we cannot live up to the true standard, we cannot fulfil life's obligation, without a sanctified heart.
The General very frequently says, with reference to the failures of certain classes of people who call themselves Christians, that they make the mistake of supposing that they can keep the holy law of God with an unholy heart. The thing is absolutely impossible, and I should only be deluding you if I told you otherwise.
We sometimes say that in Heaven there is, and ever will be, an unwavering fulfilment of the highest will of God. But what secures that condition in Heaven? Do you think it is the absence of a personal Devil? Not only that -- although the hope of it counts for a good deal with some of us. Do you think it is the absence of wicked surroundings and temptations from evil men and women? Not only that. Do you think it is the possession of things that produce unfailing pleasure and satisfaction? Not only that. It is just the fact that every heart is confirmed in its perfect acceptance of the Father's will, and is in the fullest conformity with the holy law of a holy God. There are many other things that go to make up Heaven, but without that there can be no Heaven at all.
Did you repeat the Lord's Prayer this morning? If so, you came to that little sentence, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven'. Now, I ask you, do you really mean that? Do you honestly want that for yourselves? Because, unless you can put yourselves in line with that petition, unless there is a compliance with these words of Peter's, 'Be ye holy, for I am holy', you can never get that prayer answered.