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CHAPTER 21

HOW LOST

Holiness is voluntary. It is a moral state. But a moral action implies freedom of choice No one is praised or blamed, rewarded or punished, for doing that which could not possibly be avoided. But the holy are rewarded, the unholy are punished. Therefore a holy person is holy from choice.

But a voluntary state may be lost. The helm that can be turned in a right direction can also be turned in a wrong direction. The vessel that has been kept in the channel for years may at last, be run upon a rock.

One who has walked in the way of holiness for a season, may yield to temptation and turn aside. It is true that the longer one walks with God, the more securely he walks. The nearer a body moves to the sun, the stronger it is attracted towards the sun. But comets that come very near to the sun at times, finally take a turn and fly off into space. Those who get very near to the Lord are likely to press on and grow in grace; but they may fall, and get away from the Lord. David was, for years, a holy man, fully approved of the Lord; but he fell into sin. Paul was caught up into the third heaven where he saw things that language could not describe. Yet Paul was keenly alive to the fact that he might lose the grace he had received and be finally lost. His watchfulness was great and constant. He says,

I keep under my body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”—I Cor. 9:27.

It is evident then, that one who has experienced the blessing of holiness, can lose it. He need not; he should not; but still he may. There is a possibility that he may fall away.

In what relation does one stand to God who has lost the blessing of holiness? Can one lose the blessing of entire sanctification and still retain the blessing of justification? These are important questions which should be examined carefully.

When one falls into actual sin he loses both justification and sanctification. He falls into condemnation. He is no longer a saint; he becomes a sinner. If he gets back to God, he must come confessing his sins and seeking pardon.

Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”—Jas. 5:19, 20.

It is a brother who has erred. Not a false professor, but a real Christian. He is to be converted like any other sinner. If not converted, his soul is in danger of death.

Again one may lose the blessing of entire sanctification by giving way to doubts and unbelief. It is by faith we stand. Whatsoever ground we gain by faith we hold by faith. By unbelief we lose it. He who walks on the water by faith, goes down, as fear supplants his faith. One may also lose the blessing of holiness by failing to confess it. In the same degree that profession becomes indefinite, the experience becomes indefinite. Doubt lies at the bottom of this want of confession. Satan is ever ready to accuse a saint of God. But to hold his ground he must keep fully consecrated to God and confess out boldly all that God does for him.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony: and they loved not their lives unto the death.”—Rev. 12:11.

When one listens to the accusations of Satan and fails to bear a clear testimony of his being washed by the blood of the Lamb, he loses the blessing. The witness is gone. But he does not necessarily fall into sin. He may still be keenly alive to the fear of God. He may still watch against sin and have victory over it. He may still truly love God and faithfully endeavor to keep all His commandments. Such a person in losing the blessing of holiness has not lost his justification. He is still a child of God. He is sensible of what he has lost and strives to regain it.

To do this it is not necessary that he should throw up all profession of religion and begin anew. He is not unholy; but he is holy only in part. He should pray to be sanctified wholly. He should confess what he has lost. He should consecrate up to all the light that God has given him. He should exercise faith in the atoning blood to be again cleansed from all sin. He should make no delay, nor wait for some great crisis to occur—but should at once come to God to be saved to the uttermost.

Mr. Fletcher lost the blessing of holiness three times in immediate succession, by a simple failure to confess it. But he did not rest until he sought and found the grace, and was established in it.

If you lose any degree of grace, seek to gain it at once and do not wait till you have lost more till you make a vigorous effort to regain it.

Return unto me and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.”—Mal. 3:7.

“Can one lose the blessing of holiness without losing his justification?”

We answer this question again.

Without any degree of holiness one cannot be in a state of salvation. He who is destitute of holiness is not justified. Many appear to think that they can possess saving grace without any measure of holiness. This is a fundamental error. When God forgives, he says, with power, “Go, sin no more.” Such a change is wrought, instantaneously, in the moral nature of one whom God forgives, that from that moment he has power over his sinful appetites and passions. We must never lose sight of the great truth that

He that committeth sin is of the devil.”—I John 3:8.

In the popular religion of the day, this plain statement of the beloved disciple is completely disregarded. It is treated as though it were an interpolation, wholly inconsistent with the general teaching of the Word of God. But the whole tenor of the Scripture is in harmony with the teaching of St. John. There is not, when rightly understood, a contradictory passage in the Bible. St. Paul says,

And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”—I Cor. 6:11.

Notice the order, washed, sanctified, justified. This is God’s order in saving a soul. An unwashed sinner, wallowing in his sins, is not justified. When forgiven he is sanctified, not only in the sense of consecrated—that is set apart to do God’s will—but in the sense of made holy. Not only has he sanctified himself, but he is sanctified—that is, God has sanctified him, actually made him holy. From being a sinner he has become, in an important sense, a holy man. Being thus washed, and sanctified, he is at the same time, justified,—that is forgiven—and placed in a state of acceptance with God.

But mark! It does not say sanctified wholly—entirely. He is so far sanctified that he has power over sin. He is not under the dominion of any of his former sinful appetites or habits. Sin does not have dominion over him as it once did. But he feels sinful tendencies remaining in his heart. He has, at times, to repress pride, to keep it down. He does not yield to anger, but sometimes he feels it, and suppresses it. He comes to God, confesses and bewails these inbred sins and is cleansed from them. He reads, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” He believes for it to be done in himself—and it is done. He is sanctified wholly.

Can he be kept in this state? He can.

I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—I Thess. 5:23.

But our being kept in this state depends upon our meeting certain conditions.

1. We must steadily believe.

Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”—I Pet. 1:5.

2. Suitable confession.

With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”—Romans 10:10.

3. Obedience.

He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”—Heb. 5:9.

We see then that the blessing of holiness may be lost by doubting, by failing to confess what God has done for us, and also by actual willful disobedience. When one loses the blessing of holiness by transgression, as David did, he loses all. He is no longer justified. If he ever gets back to God it must be by repentance and confession. His prayer, in substance, must be,

Have mercy upon me. O God, according to thy loving kindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”—Ps. 51:1, 2.

In a case like this, when one loses holiness he loses justification. There is no controversy about this, all admit it. But when one loses the blessing of holiness by giving way to doubts and fears, under manifold temptations, the case is different. He has not willingly given up anything. The blessing is gone. He feels it—he laments it. He cries out, “O that I knew where I might find him!” When I was pastor of a church which held to the doctrine of holiness in theory, and persecuted those who enjoyed it, one of our members, a quiet, conscientious man, obtained the blessing of entire sanctification. He was as happy as he could be and continue in the body. He testified to the blessing, with great power. But when he attended his class meeting, and his turn came to speak, the enemy, transformed as an angel of light, suggested, “If you profess the blessing of holiness, your leader will not receive it, for he does not believe the doctrine, but if you say you are very happy you will confess the truth and no opposition will be aroused.” He followed the suggestion. But he had no sooner sat down than great darkness came upon him, which lasted several months. But all this time he was one of the most careful, conscientious Christians. He had lost the blessing of holiness, but he had not lost his justification. Then our answer to the question is, “It depends on how one loses the blessing of holiness whether he loses justification at the same time.” Sweeping declarations are seldom true. They need generally to be qualified. It is not best, unnecessarily, to discourage those who have lost some of the grace they once enjoyed. When they are on their backs the way to recover them is not to cut off their heads. Encourage them to hold fast that which they have, and to seek for more. Do not fall into the mistake that to be faithful, you must discredit the professions of those whose lives are in harmony with their professions, because they were not saved under your labors. God has many saints that you never saw nor helped. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Suspicion is no proof of piety. Be more ready to build up than to tear down, to lead on than to drive back.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”—Isa. 40:1.

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