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It is a subtle artifice of Satan to try to get us to make the performance of one duty answer for the performance of another duty equally plain and important. This is a point that needs to be well guarded.
If you would be holy you must live holiness. This is of the utmost importance. But when the false teachers tell you that this can take the place of a profession of holiness do not listen to them.
Profess holiness, if you have holiness. No matter how unpopular it may be, confess out all that the Lord does for you.
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”—Rom. 10:10.
Mark. It is with he mouth that confession is made. Keep up the confession until you reach eternal salvation.
The word “sanctify”is one of the words of Christ. It will not do to be ashamed of it. Christ prayed for His disciples,
“Sanctify them through thy truth.”—John 17:17.
If the prayer is fully answered, you dishonor Christ by confessing that it is answered in part. That is not the way men do in business. When a request is fully met they acknowledge it fully. If Christ not only forgives you, but sanctifies you, then it is not enough to say that you are forgiven. That is not the whole truth.
An indefinite profession will lead to an indefinite experience. The eye that is not used grows dim. The faith that is not professed, for fear of giving offense, vanishes.
“From him that hath not,” so surely that he cannot profess it, “shall be taken away even that which he hath.”—Matt. 25:29
Profess out clearly and definitely all that God does for you. Only see to it, as an old writer says, “That the bottom of your life is on a level with the top of your profession.” Let the most objectionable things that you do be perfectly consistent with the highest profession that you make.
If you enjoy it, and live it, by all means profess it. If God sets this great light in the soul no one has a right to cover it up. Let it shine. Confess all that Divine grace does for you. No one can long retain this great blessing without letting it be known that God bestows it upon him. He would have others encouraged to come to Him for the fullness of grace, and so He would have those upon whom He bestows it declare His faithfulness.
“All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.”—Ps. 145:10-12
A holy heart is pre-eminently the work of the Lord. It is a creation which His power alone can effect. It is the glory of His kingdom. Nothing demands a greater exercise of Omnipotence than to make a depraved human heart holy. Wherever this mighty act has been performed, the saints of God should make it known. They should freely and explicitly confess it, to the glory of His name.
But professions, of themselves, amount to nothing. Unfounded professions are common. They are probably not made, in many cases, willfully; but in general, once had a good foundation, and are kept up from habit, and from the vain hope that the blessing is not lost, but only the witness of it. These professors are aware that their strength is gone; but they still think it best to make as strong a show of resistance as possible; as Lee kept McClellan at bay by pointing long wooden cannon toward his camp. That there are those who really enjoy the blessing of holiness we have no doubt. Precious humble souls, they are walking in all lowliness before the Lord. May your numbers be multiplied, and your graces be strengthened and increased!
There are others whose professions are not well founded. This is evident from their fruits. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit.
Some are wanting in temperance. Their appetites have the ascendency over them. They do not keep their bodies under. Deprive them of their tobacco for a single day and they are miserable. It does not seem to me that we have a right to profess holiness if the deprivation, in the providence of God, of any particular thing to eat or drink makes us wretched. If the Lord gives us enough to keep soul and body together, we should accept it with thankfulness, and go on our way rejoicing.
Temperance—in the original ”εγκρατεια“—signifies self control, having the mastery over one’s appetites, and if you have not this mastery, do not profess holiness until you obtain it. God can give it to you. Seek it earnestly. It may cost you a conflict, but the victory will be worth resistance even unto blood.
Some are wanting in self-denial. They profess to have renounced themselves—their own righteousness and ease, and interests, and yet they seem to forget that this renunciation amounts to nothing, unless it embraces particulars. It would puzzle them to tell wherein they deny themselves of any coveted gratification for Christ’s sake. We heard recently of some precious saints in affluent circumstances, who, after giving all they could for the relief of the starving Lancashire sufferers, deprived themselves of the use of butter, that they might have more to give. In some form or other, self-denial must be practiced daily if the blessing of holiness would be retained.
Some are wanting in non-conformity to the world. Satan has convinced them, and alas! they were but too easily convinced, that to gain an influence over worldly, gay professors, and lead them into the blessing of holiness, they must not be too strict, but must conform to worldly fashions to a degree that the Spirit of God would not allow, if they listened to His dictates. O, what a fearful mistake is this! To have God receive us we must come out and be separate. There is but one mediator between God and man, and none, that we read of, between the church and the world; and he who assumes to occupy that dubious position will, at the last day, notwithstanding all the wonderful works that he has done, hear Christ say, “Depart from me, I know you not.” The heaviest blows that have been ever inflicted upon Christianity, have been given by this class of persons. Without designing it perhaps, they have, by little and little, lowered the standard of the Gospel, until the church has become deluged with a tide of worldliness that threatens to sweep away the last vestige of spiritual life. The Church grew strong and multiplied under the cruelties of Nero and Domitian; but from the effects of the patronage of Constantine it has never recovered unto this day.
It is distressing to hear persons professing holiness when decked out in “gold and pearls and costly array,” and to hear them say with a show of great self-complacency when their inconsistency is hinted at, “O my conscience does not condemn me,” just as if their conscience were a substitute for the explicit word of God.
Some are wanting in humility. They may be plain in their apparel, but there is about them an appearance of pride and self-conceit. They are forward and positive in expressing their opinions, and seem to think that nothing is done right in which they do not participate. Let us remember, beloved, that perfect love is never found only in connection with the deepest humility. Do not take up more time in meetings than belongs to you. If you are a minister, and occupy your hour in preaching, do give the people an opportunity to witness in the social meetings, and do not yourself occupy half the time. Such a course does not savor of humility. There may be others who have not the gift of utterance that you have, who have yet a much richer experience in the things of God; it would do you and others good to listen to them. If you have true humility, one effect will be to make you “swift to hear and slow to speak.”
Others are wanting in love. They may be rooted and grounded in doctrine, but not in love. They cannot bear much. They are quick and sensitive. In their intercourse with their families there is what sounds and looks very much like fretfulness. Little things chafe, annoy and irritate. This cannot be where true holiness is enjoyed. It produces a calm quiet and evenness of temper that makes itself felt everywhere, and especially in the family circle. We may be firm and decided with our children without being cross. Anything like scolding will not only hurt us but hurt them. If necessary to use the rod of correction, do not spare to use it, but let it be in love.
Let us, beloved, search ourselves. We may be right. Whatever our trials, God is willing and desirous to give all needed grace. “Hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering,” and then live up to your profession.
It is of no use to profess holiness unless you enjoy it in your life. That you had it once, is no evidence that you have it now. You may still be orthodox in your doctrines, strictly moral in your life, faithful in the performance of all the common, outward duties of religion,—nay, you may even be devoted to the advocacy of holiness, without truly possessing this grace. “Were a man,” says Wesley, “as harmless as a post, he might be as far from holiness as heaven from earth.” Holiness is our complete renewal in the image of God,—the perfect love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost given unto us, so that we love God with all our heart, and mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourself.
It is not merely victory over sin,—this is given to every pardoned soul,—but it is deliverance from sinful tempers themselves. The old man is not simply bound,—he is cast out with all his goods. There is not merely a calm, emotionless surrender of ourselves,—a “laying of our all upon the altar,” but there is a dying out of self which can no more take place without deep emotion, than can natural death come upon a strong man without painful struggles. The animal life does not contend more stoutly with the king of terrors, than does the sinful life with the King of grace. The old man does not die until compelled to. The death struggles, whether more or less protracted, are real, and not imaginary or figurative. Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ;”and so does every one say, who has experienced inward holiness. But crucifixion is death, and a painful death. No one can give up all his cherished plans, and dearest associations, to follow Christ fully in the path of humility, reproaches, persecutions and afflictions, without a pang. When he makes this surrender, he will know it. But it must be made, if the joys of full salvation would be experienced. When sinful self ceases to live, then Christ comes in and takes possession. The heart emptied of sin, is filled with the Spirit. A peace, which passeth all understanding, continually reigns. The ransomed believer now rejoices in Christ with “joy unspeakable, and full of glory.” No words can express the rapture of his soul. Standing upon the tops of the mountains, where he is fanned by the breezes of Paradise, and ravished by a sight of the celestial city, he shouts aloud the praises of God; or, lying low in the valley of humility, he feels “A sacred awe that does not move, And all the silent heaven of love.”
His heart is full of gratitude and praise, and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth speaketh.
There is, we are aware, an experience called holiness, very different from this. The professor, in nine cases out of ten, one who has lost his first love, and who, therefore, needs to repent like any other sinner, is persuaded that he needs the blessing of holiness. He is told to deliberately consecrate himself to the Lord,—to “lay all upon the altar.” When this is done, he is taught that he must believe, upon the authority of God’s word, that the sacrifice is now accepted; that “the altar sanctifies the gift,” and that he now enjoys the blessing of holiness. If he urges that he does not feel any different,—that he has not experienced any change, he is assured that he must live by faith and not by feeling, that he must honor God by believing His word. The next and last step is to make a profession of holiness, and this must be kept up henceforth. Such a process, involving no mortification of pride, but rather gratifying it by giving one a reputation for piety, becomes popular wherever presented. Many pass through it, profess holiness, and deceive themselves to their soul’s undoing. They say they are “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; “ when, in reality, they are “poor and miserable, and blind and naked.” They are as full of self as ever, conformed to the world, willing to receive honor of men, and ready to compromise whenever fashion demands it. They wink at popular sins, or boldly apologize for them. We have seen such men, with their golden spectacles, and gold or silver beaded canes, shutting out of meetings for holiness all testimony against slavery in the church,—and women adorned in “gold, or pearls, or costly array,” pleading for worldly conformity, because their hearts are set upon these things!
Such persons enjoy holiness? Why, according to the Methodist standard,—and such are found among Methodists, they are not scripturally awakened, much less converted or sanctified! The “General Rules” of Methodism say that “we know that God’s Spirit writes on truly awakened hearts,” the necessity of avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as “Laying up treasure on earth,”—but these would make gain of godliness; “Softness and needless self-indulgence,”—but these indulge self, in eating, drinking, dress, and conversation; “Reading those books that do not tend to the knowledge or love of God,” such as novels, and the light literature of the day; “The putting on of gold and costly apparel,” but these say their “conscience does not condemn them” for doing so. Yet, you profess holiness! Why, according to the standard of your own church, you are yet an unawakened sinner? You may occupy a high official or social position, may have written a book on the subject of holiness you may be justly entitled to the gratitude and respect of the church but all this does not prove that you are now in a state of salvation. If you do not “deny yourself and take up your cross daily, submitting to bear the reproach of Christ, to be as the filth and offscouring of the world, and looking that men should say all manner of evil of you falsely, for the Lord’s sake,” you have not, the Methodist Discipline says, “really fixed in your soul,” even “a desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from your sins!” This is the decision which Methodism pronounces upon your condition. And is it not the Bible view of the ease? Has not the light that was in thee become darkness? O, be honest with yourself! You confess to a loss of power. This is so striking that, blinded as you are, you cannot fail to perceive it. But if the power is gone, the purity is gone, the Holy Ghost, the sanctifier, is gone! Rouse from this state of stupid insensibility. Bewail your loss. Humble yourself deeply before God. Obtain pardon while you may. Then press on to full salvation. Remember that, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Resolve to have the real thing if it takes your life. There is an awful warning to those who have been living in the way of salvation, and have enjoyed many works of the Divine favor, and are full of honors, in the record that is given of one, once a favorite of heaven.
“It came to pass, that when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God.”—I Kings 11:4.
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