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CHAPTER 2

HOLINESS NOT UNDERSTOOD

The Bible has much to say about holiness. It is an attribute of God. (Ps. 60:6; Rev. 4:8, et al). We are commanded to follow it. (Heb. 12:14). To worship God in the beauty of holiness. (Ps. 29:2). Without it no man shall see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14). It is the one thing needful. There are many things which are convenient and useful; but this alone is indispensable to our welfare both in this world and in the world to come.

It is important, then, that we have correct ideas of its nature. If we would hit a mark we must know where to aim. If we would attain an excellence we must know what it is. He who would search for diamonds, must know diamonds when he finds them.

Upon first view, it may seem that men are pretty well agreed as to what constitutes holiness. But, on reflection this will be seen to be a mistake. Upon this point there is a wide diversity of opinion. Such is the imperfection of language and such the constitution of particular minds that the same words often fail to express the same idea to different persons, even when they are equally candid. But take holiness in its most tangible form—take it as exemplified in the lives of holy persons, and it is not generally acknowledged to be holiness. It is usually called by almost any other name than holiness. In God’s sight, Job was a holy person. He says,

Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil?”—Job 1:8.

But even his friends labored to convince him that he was a wicked man. Eliphaz says to him,

They that plough iniquity and sow wickedness, reap the same.”—Job 4:8.

Bildad takes up the accusation and reminds him that

The hypocrite’s hope shall perish.”—Job 8:13.

Zophar asks him,

Should thy lies make men hold their peace?”—Job 11:3.

And even Elihu exclaims,

What man is like Job, who drinks up scorning like water? Which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity, and walketh with wicked men.”—Job 34:7-8.

This was the opinion which his friends had of him, as expressed to his face. Of course the judgment of his enemies was much more unfavorable.

Our Saviour exemplified holiness in its most perfect form. In His life, His conversation His spirit, and in all His actions He was holiness personified. He gave the most unmistakable proofs of disinterested love to all mankind. Yet the popular verdict concerning Him was,

Behold a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.”—Matt. 11:19.

Christ told his disciples that they must not expect to be appreciated any better than He was.

If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”—Matt. 10:25.

From that day down to the present, holiness in the disciples of Christ has been recognized by but few, even of those who call themselves Christians. John Wesley stated clearly, defended ably, and exemplified in his life the doctrine of holiness. Whitefield for burning zeal, and simple devotion to the cause of Christ, has not had a superior since the days of St. Paul; yet the Rev. Sidney Smith, a clergyman of the same church as that to which Wesley and Whitefield belonged, and a writer of great celebrity, but expressed the estimate in which they were held by their fellow clergymen, when he said: “They were men of considerable talent; they observed the common decorums of life; they did not run naked into the streets or pretend to the prophetical character; and therefore they were not committed to Newgate. They preached with great energy to weak people, who first stared, then listened—then believed—then felt the inward feeling of grace, and became as foolish as their teachers could possibly wish them to be;—in short, folly ran its ancient course;—and human nature evinced itself to be what it always has been, under similar circumstances. The great and permanent cause, therefore, of Methodism, is the cause which has given birth to fanaticism in all ages—the facility of mingling human errors with the fundamental truths of religion.”

In our day we see that which we deem essential to holiness purposely omitted in instructions upon this subject. Popular sins are, to say the least, silently tolerated. During the war of the rebellion, [Civil War] in a popular meeting for the promotion of holiness, in the city of New York, Rev. D. F. Newton thanked the Lord for President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. He was at once called to order for introducing a topic calculated to disturb the harmony of the meeting. There are many works on the subject of holiness, written in the days of slave-holding to circulate among slave-holders, and not a word to be found in them condemning the practice. The same spirit which led to silence respecting the sin of slave-holding in the days when all the popular churches welcomed slave-holders to their communion, today utterly ignores the existence of sins which God’s word plainly condemns; but which the leading churches openly tolerate. That which encourages what God forbids is not holiness. The name of a thing does not give it its nature.

There is a powerful secret society, spreading itself throughout the country, composed largely of unbelievers, to which, however, many ministers and church-members belong. This society is thoroughly anti-Christian in its character. To pray in the lodge in the name of Christ is declared by the highest Masonic authority, to be a violation of the fundamental principles of Masonry. The members bind themselves by the most horrid oaths to submit to be murdered, and to conceal, and even commit murder under certain circumstances. Of these facts any intelligent person can easily satisfy himself beyond the shadow of a doubt. Yet in many meetings held for the promotion of holiness, to point out these hindrances to the work of holiness would be considered impertinent and fanatical.

Again the persecution to which the saints of God have always been subjected shows that holiness is not recognized when seen. The word declares,

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”—II Tim. 3:12.

This persecution varies in its form with the prevailing spirit of the age. But whatever shape it assumes, persecution never assigns as its reason, the godliness of its victims. Their obstinacy, or contumacy, or disloyalty, or heresy is assigned as the cause of their sufferings. Christ was put to death as an impostor. Luther was excommunicated as a heretic, and Wesley and Whitefield were hunted as fanatics. Their persecutors were the professed children of God, and they believed it to be a zeal for holiness which instigated their opposition to those who furnished bright examples of holiness in their lives.

On the other hand, there are those who make holiness comprise attributes which are entirely beyond the reach of a human being in our present condition. They give a meaning to the term which the Scriptures do not warrant. According to their standard, a holy person cannot make a mistake in judgment, either through ignorance or misapprehension. He must not only do right as he understands it, but do right as they understand it, under all circumstances. They measure others by their own infallibility. They make no allowance for lack of judgment or for imperfect training. He who professes holiness, must be according to their views, beyond the reach of unfriendly criticism. In addition to all this, he must never fall. Should he ever afterward manifest any disposition contrary to his profession, it is then assumed that all along he was either deceived or hypocritical. If he lost holiness, the conclusion is not only that he never had holiness, but that no one ever did or ever will! In short holiness is pronounced unattainable because some who appeared once to have attained it did not persevere to the end.

Thus a false standard of holiness is raised, and then holiness is declared to be an impossibility, because no one is found to come up to this imaginary standard. We are told to aim our arrow at the sun, and then are ridiculed because we fall short of the mark. The moral perfections of God are presented as our standard, and then we are gravely told that we cannot attain it

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