So far as I am acquainted with the Methodist people, both in these kingdoms and in America, they do hold entire sanctification to be an after-work, and not usually given in the same moment with justification. That sanctification begins when we are justified, they allow; but that the Holy Ghost always cleanses the soul from all sin “in the moment of the new birth,” they do not admit.
You inquire, “Why do you make such broad distinctions between justification and sanctification?” I answer, because the Scriptures make such distinctions. The terms are used with a distinct meaning, and not as mere synonyms. The one implies what God does for us; the other, what he works in us. Pardon of sin is the sense of the first; purification from all sin, the meaning, in full, of the latter. You say, “Are we not regenerated the moment we are justified? and what is regeneration but making a new creature in Christ Jesus; old things having passed away, and all things become new? 2 Cor. 5:17. And is this anything short of sanctification? Are we not, therefore, cleansed from all sin when we are justified?” To this I reply, If you “aim at being critical,” you must not confound regeneration with justification, any more than with sanctification. Justification is to account just, and implies, in theology, pardon and deliverance from condemnation, through faith in the merits of Christ; regeneration is to renew, or make new, and implies, the “new birth,” or a “new creature,” as expressed by our Lord and St. Paul.
That we are regenerated the moment we are justified is admitted: but, you will readily perceive one imports an act of God’s sovereign mercy towards the sinner; the other, a work wrought by God in the sinner. Each, then, has its distinct meaning and application.
“But,” you inquire, “will you persuade me that sanctification can be wanting when we are thus regenerated?” No, no more than I would attempt to “persuade” you that day has not begun, although the night has departed. But, surely, I might be allowed the opinion, without contradicting my own admission, that there is a great difference between morning-dawn and sunrise, — between sunrise and the heat and brilliancy of noon-day. Sanctification, I allow, is inseparably connected with justification and regeneration; it exists with these as the light of morning co-exists with day; but entire sanctification is usually an after-work, and differs from its commencement in regeneration as sunrise differs from the morning dawn, — as the blaze and glory of noon differ from sunrise. In this respect, then, we may say, with the inspired penman, “The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
You add: “Indeed, I heard you myself make some admissions, in chapel, in favor of my sentiments.” I did so; and show me a person who, since his regeneration, has rejoiced evermore, prayed without ceasing, giving thanks to God for everything; who has always, since then, enjoyed that “perfect love which casteth out fear;” then I should have no hesitancy in supposing that such an one was sanctified entirely throughout soul, body, and spirit, in the moment of his regeneration; but I would exhort him to press after higher degrees both of holiness and love; assuring him that this is his privilege, not only through time, but throughout eternity.
But plain matter of fact shows that it is not thus with the vast majority of Christians; — even those who are really such; — of whose conversion we have no doubt. How is it with yourself? Has the blood of Christ cleansed you from all sin? Does it now cleanse you? Do you doubt? But do you entertain any doubts whether you are now in a state of regeneration? If not, then, it is clear, you yourself possess the one without the other, — regeneration, without entire sanctification. Are you sure this was not the case “in the moment” of your “regeneration”? This, I am aware, is reducing the matter down to a question of personal experience, nor will you, I hope, object to this; because you are too well acquainted with these deep things of God to suppose they are to be considered entirely apart from, or independent of, Christian experience.
You inquire, “Can you give me any satisfactory reason why we are not all cleansed from all sin, the moment we are justified?” I know not that I can. I only appeal to “plain matter of fact.” The causes may be various, as are the education and temperament of men. Much may depend upon the degree of penitential sorrow or faith exercised by the believing penitent.
You go on: “Read, my brother, Acts 4:31-33, and tell me whether you doubt these happy primitive believers were made perfect in love just then. Do you pause? Why not, then, at once admit that entire sanctification co-exists with justification? If in their case, why should it not be thus with all new converts?”
I dare not quibble, else I would perplex your questions by demanding proof. I prefer, however, to reply: I have already admitted, in part, what you claim; — that it is not improbable some new converts (and I think I have known some myself) are entirely cleansed from sin in the moment of justification. But I must beg leave to assert, that the experience of a vast number of new converts, as well as that of old Christians, goes to show that this is not God’s usual method. He pardons and regenerates all who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe the Gospel; afterwards, he reveals unto them the remaining corruptions of their nature; when, after feeling a painful conviction of want of conformity to God, deep humiliation for the same, and earnest desires after purity, they are enabled, at length, to put forth that faith by which the apostle says we are purified, and cleansed from all unrighteousness.
As it respects those believers of the primitive church to which you have directed my attention, I allow, with Mr. Fletcher, that “it is not improbable that God, to open the dispensation of the Spirit in a manner which might fix the attention of all ages upon its importance and glory, permitted the whole body of believers to take an extraordinary turn into the Canaan of perfect love, and to show the world the admirable fruit which grows there; as the spies sent by Joshua took a turn into the good land of promise before they were settled in it, and brought from thence the bunch of grapes which astonished and spirited up the Israelites who had not yet crossed Jordan.” Now, while I fully agree with the above admissions of this eminent divine, I also heartily concur with other qualifying sentiments, which stand connected with the same passage: “It may he asked here, whether the multitude of them that believed, in those happy days, were all perfect in love. I answer, that, if pure love had cast out all selfishness and sinful fear from their hearts, they were undoubtedly made perfect in love; but, as God does not usually remove the plague of indwelling sin till it has been discovered and lamented, — and, as we find in the two next chapters an account of Ananias and his wife, and of the partiality and selfish murmuring of some believers, — it seems that those chiefly who before were strong in the grace of their dispensation arose then into sinless fathers; and that the first love of other believers was so bright and powerful, for a time, that little children had, or seemed to have, the strength of young men, and young men the grace of fathers. And, in this case, the account which St. Luke gives of the primitive believers ought to be taken with some restriction. Thus, while many of them were perfect in love, many might have the imperfection of their love only covered over with a land-flood of peace and joy in believing. And, in this case, what is said of their being of one heart and mind, and of having all things in common, &c., and great grace resting upon them all, may only mean, that the harmony of love had not yet been broken and that none had yet betrayed any of that uncharitableness for which Christians, in after times, became so conspicuous.”
You should also remember, that the memorable occasion to which you have directed my attention was the second great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The first is recorded in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles — all who were in that upper room were filled with the Holy Ghost, and immediately afterwards thousands were awakened and converted. Now, it is not stated that these were all “filled with the Holy Ghost.” But, shortly after, Peter and John were going up to the temple to pray. Peter, beholding a cripple sitting at the gate that was called Beautiful, turned and healed him. The multitude, seeing this, ran together; — all were astonished to behold the man upon whom the miracle had been wrought. Peter seized this opportunity of honoring his Lord, and preached unto them Jesus. The great power of God was present, and about five thousand persons “believed;” — that is, were justified through faith in Christ, But it is not stated they were, at that time, filled with the Holy Ghost; that came as a second blessing, quite distinguishable from the first. The next day they assembled together to hear an account of Peter’s trial and acquittal. At the conclusion of the address of Peter and his companions, the entire church broke forth into thanksgiving and prayer. Suddenly “the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost;” — a proof they were not all filled before. A large number of the eight thousand converts saved since the hour of the first outpouring of the Spirit, in the upper room, on the day of Pentecost, were now made perfect in love, and filled with God.
The following passage is worthy of note: “Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” Here, you will observe, the apostle calls these persons “new-born babes;” — persons lately “born of God.” These he exhorts to lay aside all malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, and evil-speakings. Now, they could not lay aside what they did not possess. The elements of all these sinful dispositions existed, it would seem, in their hearts, and awaited a fit occasion to develop themselves. Yet he calls these babes new-born; — really regenerated persons! St. Paul, when writing to a similar class of persons, calls them “babes in Christ.” If this means anything, it surely implies that they were regenerate persons, yet these, it appears, were, in some degree, “carnal;” — that is, they were not wholly cleansed from sin. Though they were “babes in Christ,” yet the remains of the carnal mind had not been entirely destroyed. They had yet in their hearts strong propensities to “strifes and divisions,” and manifested them, it is to be feared, too strongly in their outward conduct. But these evils were held in so much restraint, that, in the opinion of an inspired apostle, these persons had not forfeited their title to being “babes in Christ.” I think I Thessalonians 5:23 will set the matter in a yet clearer light: “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.” Does not this imply, lst. That they were then in the enjoyment of a justified state? Without justification, you are aware, there can be neither regeneration nor sanctification; — no, not even in part. 2nd. That sanctification had commenced in their souls? This is clear, as he prays for its completion: “The very God of peace sanctify you WHOLLY;” — you are yet but sanctified in part; — in such a state, perhaps, as Mr. Fletcher supposes many of the Christian converts to have been shortly after the day of Pentecost:– “Many might have had the imperfection of their nature covered over by a land-flood of peace and joy in believing.” These Thessalonian converts, then, were but partly sanctified; — but “new-born babes.” He prays that they might be sanctified wholly; and that their “whole spirit and soul and body” might “be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And adds, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” As much as to say, “This great work has not been carried to the highest state of perfection in your soul; but it is the intention of God to perfect, in your soul, body, and spirit, the work which he has so graciously begun.” Consider also 2 Corinthians 7:1. “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.”
“Dearly beloved,” — this is tender; it shows, also, how confident the apostle was that they were in the enjoyment of the grace of God. “Having these promises,” such as those mentioned in the three verses which conclude the previous chapter. “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh spirit;” a state not at all consistent with entire holiness; — inward defilement, or propensities, which, if yielded to, would defile the spirit, and pollute the body. “Perfecting holiness in the fear of God;” having obtained that holiness without which no man can see the Lord, endeavor to perfect it; that is, to carry it forward to as high a degree of perfection as it is possible to arrive at while in the body.
I consider these few passages of the word of God as good and convincing as many. They establish a plain doctrine of Christian experience; and the Bible does not contradict itself.
A passage in the sermon of the Rev. Richard Watson, on Romans 8:16, beautifully true, and well expressed, is often brought forward by those who deny entire sanctification to be an after-work but it does not prove their point; neither was it his intention, I am persuaded, to convey any such meaning. He designed to guard us against false impressions, as substitutes for the “witness of the Spirit,” and not to teach that the believing penitent is always wholly sanctified in the moment of justification. He says: “Where the Spirit of God dwells, as the Spirit of adoption, he dwells as the great author of regeneration, as the source of all holy principles and feelings; — our justification and sanctification are thus inseparable. The Spirit of God dwells with all his graces, when he dwells at all.
‘He sheds abroad a Saviour’s love,
And this enkindles ours!’
“He enables us to love God, by showing that God loves us; and thus, when he comes to the heart of a believer, as a witnessing and comforting Spirit, he comes as the Spirit of holiness.”
That you have misapprehended his meaning is evident, as the following quotation from the works of this great divine will show: “That a distinction exists between a regenerate state and a state of entire holiness, will be generally allowed. Regeneration, we have seen, concomitant with justification; but the apostles, in addressing the body of believers in the Christian church, to whom they wrote their epistles, set before them, both in the prayers they offered on their behalf, and in the exhortations, they administer, a still higher degree of deliverance from sin, as well as a higher growth in Christian virtues. Two passages only need be quoted to prove this: 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Corinthians 7:1.”
Your objections to this doctrine, dear reader, only prove that you yourself do not enjoy purity of heart. Yet you make admissions which are of no small importance to my argument. You allow that the blood of Christ has not cleansed you from all sin; that, neither at the time of your conversion nor since, have you been perfectly conscious of such a state of soul; and yet, you “have no doubt that God, for Christ’s sake, has pardoned all your sins,” and that your “present state is that of justification.” Surely, my brother, were you to “reason from analogy” till doomsday, the voice of your own experience must ever cry down your “reasonings,” even from their “loftiest climaxes,” to listen to its convincing testimony.
You enjoy, then, a sense of pardon and regeneration without entire sanctification; why may it not be wanting in the moment of regeneration?
Consider the following passages: “Being justified by faith.” (Romans 5:1.) “Purifying their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9.) Observe, here are two distinct blessings recognized, pardon and purity; both of which are obtained by faith, — the only medium of salvation revealed in the New Testament. In that memorable prayer of our Lord, in John 17, we have those words: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” But afterwards, to Saul of Tarsus, he said: “Sanctified by faith that is in me.” We are sanctified, then, through the truth; that is, by a belief of the truth; — for, until a man believes a state of entire sanctification attainable, he cannot, it is reasonable to suppose, obtain such a great salvation; — by a belief of the truth; — truth apprehended and appropriated by faith. Hence our Saviour says: “Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24. There is no justification but by faith — no sanctification or purity without faith. Faith is not a passive, but an active, state of the mind. Active faith is always effectual. When genuine, it is always distinct, and put forth for some particular object. Bartimeus cried, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” Eyesight was what he wanted, and his faith was fixed upon Christ for the gift. “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”
“Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight — thy faith hath saved thee; and immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God.”
The leper, who fell down and worshipped Jesus, had faith for a particular blessing — to be cleansed from his leprosy: “Lord if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”
“I will, be thou clean,” was the voice of mercy which met the request of faith.
The woman who had an issue of blood twelve years came behind him, saying, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” This was faith, and for that distinct blessing. She reached out her trembling hand; but so jostled and pressed was that hand by the crowd, she could but just touch the hem of his garment. It was enough — she was healed in a moment; and the approving voice of her Lord fell upon her ear, and quieted all her agitations: “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” A favorite question of our Lord, to those who desired any distinguished mercy, was, “Believe ye that I am able to do THIS!” — not everything that you can think of, for that is not essential to the cure; but whether I am able to do THIS. “If thou canst BELIEVE, all things are possible to him that believeth,” was another saying of our Lord. A particular faith for a particular blessing was what Christ required, and that which he honored. This sort of faith, when exercised for justification or sanctification, is denominated by the apostle saving faith, or the faith through which we are saved. Ephes. 2:3 Pardon and purity are two distinct things, for the obtaining of which, it would appear, there are two distinct acts of faith required. In other words, faith is the condition: and where the condition is not complied with, the blessing is withheld. More might be said, but I know not that I could set this matter in a clearer light; and there is a danger, you know, of darkening counsel by a multitude of words. Please to observe further: The state of mind which usually accompanies that faith which obtains pardon, differs widely from those feelings which generally attend purifying faith. The contrast, in fact, is as great as what is observable in those two fine hymns in the Wesleyan Hymn Book:-
“Father, — if I may call thee so,-Regard
my fearful heart’s desire;
Remove this load of guilty woe,
Nor let me in my sins expire!
“I tremble lest the wrath divine,
Which bruises now my sinful soul,
Should bruise this wretched soul of mine
Long as eternal ages roll.
“To thee my last distress I bring:
The heightened fear of death I find:
The tyrant, brandishing his sting,
Appears, and hell is close behind!
“I deprecate that death alone,
That endless banishment from thee!
O save, and give me to thy Son,
Who trembled, wept, and bled for me!”
“Come, Holy Ghost, all-quickening fire,
Come, and in me delight to rest;
Drawn by the lure of strong desire,
O come and consecrate my breast!
The temple of my soul prepare,
And fix thy sacred presence there!
‘If now thy influence I feel,
If now in thee begin to live,
Still to my heart thyself reveal;
Give me thyself, forever give;
A point my good, a drop my store,
Eager I ask, I pant for more.
“Eager for thee I ask and pant;
So strong the principle divine,
Carries me out with sweet constraint,
Till all my hallowed soul is thine;
Plunged in the Godhead’s deepest sea,
And lost in thine immensity.”
A sense of the vengeance due to sin, and an intense desire for forgiveness, are, as you will perceive the predominant feelings of the one; a consciousness of present pardon, attended by an eager desire for purity, prevails with the other. The faith of the former looks towards the Lamb for pardoning mercy, while that of the latter longs for perfect purity, and grasps at all the fulness of God.
Many are the anxieties and sorrows which distract the penitent sinner. I most cases, it is quite as much as he can do to rely by faith upon the merits of Christ for pardon. Faith exercised for purity, is much less embarrassed, in the case of one seeking full salvation. Hence, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that if the faith by which we are purified requires a distinct exercise of the mind, it is therefore not confounded with the faith which obtains pardon, but is rather an after effort. Hence, perfect purity is not usually given with justification. If salvation from indwelling sin becomes the happy experience of any one, he is bound, I should suppose, to profess it on all proper occasions. But if the blessing has been received as distinct and separate from justification, he is enabled to do so with greater satisfaction, both to himself and others. “If jewels,” says an old divine, “are bundled up together, their riches and worth are hid; they must be viewed and considered one by one, —then their value will appear.” And, I may add, not infrequently the history of each jewel is particularly interesting.
I have met with very few (and I have conversed with many thousands of Christians, on both sides of the Atlantic) who professed to have received entire holiness in the same moment with justification, or regeneration. There is nothing more common than to meet with persons who profess to enjoy a sense of justification, consequently regeneration, who candidly admit they do not enjoy purity, or entire sanctification. They freely admit that, though sin has not dominion over them, yet its existence in the heart is a matter of humiliating and sorrowful consciousness. To retain perfect purity requires a continual acting of faith upon the leading promises of the Gospel. Those who are faithful to justifying grace have to apply to the cleansing blood more frequently than in cases where only a fear of having sinned impels the soul to the blood of sprinkling for pardon. The temptations to doubt concerning one’s purity are much more intricate and perplexing than those regarding the forgiveness of sins. The most holy and devoted persons are more frequently compelled to approach the cleansing blood by faith, for the evidence of purity, than for that of pardon. Such an approach is made through the exercise of a distinct and naked faith, in a distinct and naked promise; such as, “What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” By a naked faith, I mean, with Mr. Fletcher, “a faith independent of all feelings, in a naked promise; bringing nothing with you but a careless, distracted, tossed, hardened heart, just such a heart as you have got now;” not unlike what Lady Maxwell describes: “I have often acted faith for sanctification,” said that holy woman, “in the absence of all feeling, and it has always diffused an indescribable sweetness through my soul.” Those, I think, who have been brought to seek this blessing after having been made partakers of pardoning love, and have obtained it by a separate act of faith, find it, generally, easier to believe, and have a greater aptitude to exercise this particular faith, than those who received it with regeneration. Yet, why you should insist upon instantaneous purity, in the moment of regeneration, and deny it to the sincere adult believer, I cannot divine. I fear your mind is greatly confused upon this subject. Endeavor, my dear friend, to get clear and consistent views upon the subject.
I will not conceal the pleasure I feel, because I believe you are earnestly panting after full conformity to God. If, however, you continue to entertain the opinion that the separation of sin from the soul is a gradual, not an instantaneous work, it will not only perplex your mind, but much retard the work of God in your soul. “Constant experience shows,” says Mr. Wesley, “the more earnestly believers expect this, the more swiftly and steadily does the gradual work of God go on in their souls; the more watchful they are against all sin, the more careful they are to grow in grace, and the more punctual their attendance on all the ordinances of God; —whereas, the contrary effects are observed whenever this expectation ceases. They are saved by hope, by hope of a total change, with a gradually increasing salvation. Destroy this hope, and the salvation stands still, or, rather, decreases daily. Therefore, whoever will advance the gradual change in believers, should insist upon the instantaneous also.”
I remember reading another passage in the writings of this eminent divine, which I think may be of use to you at this juncture of your Christian experience: “Does God work this great work in the soul gradually or instantaneously? Perhaps it may be gradually wrought in some. I mean in this sense: they do not advert to the particular moment wherein sin ceased to be, but it is infinite desirable, were it the will of God; that it should be instantaneously; that the Lord should destroy sin by the breath of his mouth, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. And so he generally does, —a plain fact, of which there is evidence enough to satisfy any unprejudiced person. Thou therefore look for it every moment, in the way above described, in all good ‘works, whereunto thou art created anew in Christ Jesus.’ There is no danger; you can be no worse, if you are no better, for that expectation; for, were you to be disappointed of your hope, still you lose nothing. But you shall not be disappointed of your hope; it will come, and will not tarry. Look for it every day, every hour, every moment. Why not this hour—this moment?. Certainly you may look for it now, if you believe it is by faith. And by this token you may surely know whether you seek it by faith or by works. If by works, you want something to be done first before you are sanctified. You think, I must first be or do thus or thus. Then you are seeking it by works unto this day. If you seek it by faith, you expect it as you are; and if as you are, expect it now. It is of importance to observe that there is an inseparable connection between these three points, —expect it by faith, expect it as you are, and expect it now. To deny one is to deny them all. To allow one is to allow them all. Do you believe that we are sanctified by faith? Be true to your principle, and look for the blessing just as you are, neither better nor worse; as a poor sinner that still has nothing to pay, nothing to plead, but Christ died. And if you look for it as you are, then expect it now; stay for nothing. Why should you? Christ is ready; and he is all you want. He is waiting for you; he is at the door. Let your inmost soul cry out,
‘Come in, come in, thou heavenly guest,
Nor hence again remove;
But sup with me, and let the feast
Be everlasting love.'”
You believe, and very properly too, that we are pardoned in a moment; because, if a sinner is forgiven before death, it must be in a moment: or, if I may use the term to which you object, instantaneous: there must, in the nature of the case, be a last moment when he is still unpardoned, and a first moment when he is pardoned. But we claim the same for the believer, with regard to the instantaneous work of sanctification. The argument is short. If sin cease before death (and a moment after would be too late), then it is clear that it must cease instantaneously. There must be a last and a first moment, as in the case of a justified person. This is bringing the matter within a very narrow compass, as most controversial points should be, but it is most plain. The approach to holiness may, indeed, be gradual, but its establishment in the soul must take place in a moment, whether in the article of death or years previously to that point. If God can cleanse the soul a moment before death, why not an hour, a month, a year, or fifty years? That we are justified by faith and sanctified by faith you have already seen. If, then, the instrumentality be the same, why not the effects? If we are pardoned by faith, and in a moment, why not purified by faith in a moment?
Perhaps the reader asks, “How do you account for the fact that so few of the Methodists profess to receive, or enjoy, the blessing of entire sanctification?” I cannot answer this better than in the words of Mr. Fletcher: “1st. Because they do not see the need of it; because they still hug some accursed thing or because the burden of indwelling sin is not yet become intolerable. They make shift to bear it, as they do the toothache, when they are still loath to have a rotten tooth pulled out. 2d. If they are truly willing to be made clean, they do not yet believe that the Lord both can and will make them clean, or that now is the day of this salvation. And, as faith inherits the promises of God, it is no wonder if their unbelief misses this portion of their inheritance. 3d. If they have some faith in the promise that the Lord can and will circumcise their hearts, that they may love him with all their hearts, yet it is not the kind or degree of faith which makes them willing to sell all, to deny themselves, faithfully to use the inferior talent, and to continue instant in prayer for this very blessing. 4th. Frequently, also, they will receive God’s blessing in their own preconceived method, and not in God’s appointed way. Hence God suspends the operation of his sanctifying Spirit, till they humbly confess their obstinacy and false wisdom; as well as their unbelief, and want of perfect love. It may be with the root of sin as with its fruit; some souls parley many years before they can be persuaded to give up all their outward sins, and others part with them instantaneously. You may compare the former to those besieged towns which make a long resistance, and the latter resemble those fortresses which are surprised and carried by a storm.” Read the above over and over again; perhaps the specifications may include some one or more of your own hindrances.
In relation to the depth of conviction necessary to entire sanctification, I know of no particular standard laid down in the Scriptures, as to “the depth of our convictions of indwelling sin, in order to obtain deliverance from it.” One thing only is recognized in the New Testament as absolutely necessary for the attainment of purity, and that is faith: ” Purifying their hearts by FAITH.” Acts 15:9. “Sanctified by FAITH.” Acts 16:18. If there be time and opportunity, Mr. Wesley thinks there may be many “preparatory feelings;” otherwise, God may sanctify without them. Faith is the only revealed condition; but that must be sincere. Faith lays hold of the promises of God, and puts undoubting confidence in his veracity. Christ has said, ” What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24. Observe, “desire;” this is an indispensable condition, and genuine faith certainly implies it; without it, the mind is dead and motionless, and in this state saving faith can have no existence. Desire, as some one has said, is to the soul as spurs to the horse, as sails to the ship. Desires are, among all classes of men, the sails of the mind, by which they are carried forward to that which they like best. When “DESIRE” is sincere, it includes much, —all, in fact, that a sanctifying God requires. It is like thunder and rain, it always comes in clouds, clouds of preparation. If you have desire, you are prepared; leave all the rest to the Holy Spirit; —I mean as to the “depth, painfulness, softness, and earnestness,” of your heart convictions. These may not come at your bidding; they are dependent upon numberless circumstances; and frequently they are quite independent of anything of the kind, but are wrought by the same Spirit, immediately and independently, as it pleases him. Only show the sincerity of that “desire,” by renouncing and forsaking everything that you know to be contrary to purity. For, be assured, the Holy Ghost never sanctities a heart that gives indulgence to sin. To this desire, in accordance with the promise, add prayer, —whatever “ye desire when ye PRAY.” To this add. FAITH; that is, “BELIEVE that ye receive; a better definition of sanctifying faith you could not find. Then, he who has promised, and who cannot lie, will fulfill the desire of your heart, and will honor your faith, —“and ye shall have.” Christ will honor his own veracity, and will stand by it, to the very uttermost claims of faith, that is, till you are “cleansed from all sin, and filled with all the fulness of God. Never forget that faith is the only absolute condition of obtaining all that Christ purchased for you at Calvary; and that you may now be saved to the uttermost.
By James Caughey