We would now address those who are sincerely and earnestly seeking perfect love, but who fail to understand the exhortation to a full surrender to Christ, and to have no will of their own. We are so created that we must regard our own welfare. Self-love is implanted in our natures. If it could be destroyed, there would be nothing to which God or man could appeal. Neither threatening nor promise would move such a soul. More-over, self-love has the approval of Christ in his epitome of the moral law. He makes it the measure of our love to our neighbor. "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
But selfishness differs from self-love in this, that self is exalted into the supreme law of action. The well-being of others and the will of God are not regarded. This is the self that is to be crucified. Says St. Paul, "I am crucified with Christ; it is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me," (Gal. 2:20, as punctuated by Alford.) The former ego of selfishness has met with a violent death having been nailed to the cross, and Christ has taken the supreme place in the soul. The very fact that the death was violent implies that it was instantaneous- a very sharply defined transition in St. Paul's consciousness. There is some one last rallying point of selfishness, a last ditch, in which the evil ego trenches itself. It may be some very trifling thing that is to be exempted from the dominion of Christ--some preference, some indulgence, some humiliating duty, some association to be broken, some adornment to be discarded. "Reign, Jesus, over all but this," is the real language of that unyielding heart. This trifle, held fast, has been the bar which has kept thousands out of that harmony with the Divine will which precedes the fullness of the Spirit.
But when this last intrenchment of self-will has been surrendered to Christ, he is not long in taking possession. The fullness, as well as the immediateness, depends on the faith of the soul in the Divine promise. For there is a difference between the subjugation of the rebel and his reconstruction in loyal citizenship between the death of sin and the fullness of Christian life. But the great distinctive and godlike feature of man is his free will. The memorable event, the pivotal point on which destiny, heaven or hell, hinges, is the hour of intense spiritual illumination, when sin is deliberately chosen-the soul saying, "Evil, be thou my good"--or voluntarily rejected. Submission to Christ is an act of faith. It could not be possible without confidence in his veracity and goodness. Hence justification and emergence into the "higher life" frequently take place when the only preceding act which impressed itself on the memory was not an act of faith but of surrender, which is grounded on trust as its indispensable condition.
Some writers on advanced Christian experience magnify the will, and say to inquirers, "Yield, bow, submit to the law of Christ;" while the evangelist of the Wesleyan Type says, "Believe, believe Christ's every word." Both are right. Perfect trust cannot exist without perfect consecration. Nor can we make over all our interests into Christ's hands without the utmost confidence in his word. Hence crucifixion with Christ implies perfect faith in him, not only when he is riding in triumph into Jerusalem amid the huzzas of enthusiastic men and the hosannas of willing children, but when the fickle multitude are crying, "Crucify him." From the beginning Jesus intimated that discipleship must be grounded on an acceptance of himself, stripped of all the attractions of riches or honour. To know him after the flesh, is to know him from some selfish and worldly motive; it is to fail to know him in that way which insures eternal life.
To an enthusiastic scribe who has just seen the glorious display of power in the healing of Peter's wife's mother and the casting out of demons, and who was taking only a romantic, rose-colored view of discipleship, prompting the thoughtless promise, "I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest," Jesus replied, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Let him who follows me know that he is following a pauper fed at the tables of friends, and soon to be buried as a beggar at their expense. "If any man will be my disciple let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me." Here, over the very gateway of the kingdom of Christ, stands chiselled the stony words, "Crucifixion of self." The requirement looks toward the highest spiritual life. The higher the degree of life the higher the required consecration.
Hence, love made perfect requires as its antecedent that perfect surrender which, in the strong language of St. Paul, is crucifixion with Christ. The difficulty with average Christians is that they faint beneath the cross on the via dolorosa, the way of grief, and never reach their Calvary. They do not by faith gird on strength for the hour when they must be stretched upon the cross. They shrink from the torturing spike and from the spear aimed at the heart of their self-life. This betokens weakness of faith. But when the promise is grasped with the grip of a giant--no terrors, no agonies, can daunt the soul. In confidence that there will be, after the crucifixion, a glorious resurrection to spiritual life and blessedness, the believer yields his hand to the nail, and his head to the thorn crown. That flinty center of the personality, the will, which has up to this hour stood forth in resistance to the complete will of God, suddenly flows down, a molten stream under the furnace blast of Divine love, melted into oneness with the "sweet will of God." After such a death there is always a resurrection unto life. An interval of hours, or even of days, may take place before the angel shall descend and roll away the stone from the sepulchre of the crucified soul, and the pulsations of a new and blissful life be felt through every fiber and atom of the being. It is not the old life that rises, but a new life is breathed forth by the Holy Ghost. The believer can then truly say that he is "dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ."
"He walks in glorious liberty,
To sin entirely dead.
The Truth, the Son, hath made him free,
And he is free indeed.
"Throughout his soul thy glories shine,
His soul is all renewed,
And deck'd in righteousness divine,
And clothed and filled with God."
He who enjoys this repose is brought so intimately into sympathy with Jesus Christ that he is all aflame with zeal, and aroused to the utmost activity to save lost men. As a venerable preacher, widely known, quaintly expressed it, "I enjoy that rest of faith that keeps me in perpetual motion."
We come now to the practical question, "How may I enter into this rest, this resurrection with Christ, this Divine freedom?" If you ask this question in sincerity, it evinces that you have the first condition requisite for its attainment-a sense of spiritual bondage. Till you realise the indwelling of sin-the great spiritual despot-you will make no efforts to secure the intervention of the great Emancipator. The second requisite is, that you believe that he is "mighty to save;" that "he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him." So long as you doubt that Jesus is a complete Saviour, you will be reluctant to yield yourself to him. You must believe that "the blood of Christ cleanseth from all unrighteousness," before the Holy Spirit will apply the blood of sprinkling to your heart. We are not bound to explain the necessity of this faith. It seems to be the only doorway through which God enters into the soul to set up his kingdom. Every spiritual blessing enters the soul by the same avenue. It cannot enter through the senses, which apprehend only the material world. It cannot be grasped by the reasoning faculty, which apprehends only relations. It is not an object of the natural intuitions, or the faith faculty. The grounds of this faith are the Divine promises; its object the Lord Jesus Christ.
But this faith itself has its subjective conditions. The chief of these is the complete surrender of self, the entire submission of the will to the law of Christ- the law of love and the entire consecration of all to him. The sinner's submission at his conversion is different from the believer's surrender before entire sanctification. The one seeks only pardon, the other the glory of his king-Jesus Christ. Hence the great transformation called entire sanctification, or the shedding abroad of perfect love, is possible only to one who completely identifies himself with Christ, discarding all separate purposes and selfish ends. The coming of the abiding Comforter into the consciousness of the believer is promised only to those who ask in the name of Jesus. This signifies not only by the authority and through the merit of Jesus, but for the promotion of his glory. Many seekers after this great treasure of "rest in Jesus," or "the higher life," or "perfect love," or "complete holiness," fail at this point. Selfishness or the desire for happiness, instead of a desire to add luster to Jesus' crown of glory, is the vitiating element which renders their faith of no avail. Self-love, the measure of our required love to our neighbor, is lawful and right. But selfishness, which has interests distinct from the honor of Christ and the advancement of his kingdom, never elevates but always degrades the soul. As genuine heroism always regards some object beyond self--for which to sacrifice and devote itself to destruction, if need be--so true faith goes beyond self, and apprehends Jesus Christ's glory as its object of desire. It is at this point that the seeker of purity finds his severest tests. It has been said that it is a long road to the end of self. But the illumination of the Holy Spirit will, in a very short time, show to the sincere and importunate soul the end of that long road. He can carry a lighted candle through our souls, and in a few moments uncover the idols of which we ourselves may have been unconscious. He will make demand after demand, till he has exhausted self.
A friend of the writer, travelling abroad, became sick in Paris. He sent for the most eminent physician in the city, who, after a careful diagnosis, informed his patient that he was attacked with a fatal fever then prevailing in the French capital. Said he to him, "You will soon lose your reason, and then sink into a state of insensibility, from which it is not certain that you will rally. But I will do my best to carry you safely through the deadly disease. Make your will, and deposit it with me. Put into my hands your trunk and its key, your watch, your purse, your clothes, your passport, and every thing else which you prize." The sick man was thunderstruck at such demands by an entire stranger, who might administer a dose of poison, and send the patient's body to the potter's field, and appropriate the surrendered treasures to his own use. A moment's reflection taught him that the demand was made out of pure benevolence, and that it was more safe to trust himself and his possessions to the hands of a man of high professional repute than to run the risk of being plundered by the hungry horde of hotel servants. He surrendered all his goods and himself into the charge of the physician. He sat by his bedside, saw his prophecy fulfilled, reason go out in delirium, and intelligence sink into stupor. He watched the ebbing tide of life with all the solicitude of a brother. At length he saw the tide turn, and detected the first faint refluent wave which was to bring the sick man back to the shores of life. He recovered, and found his purse and all his treasures restored to him.
Thus must you do if you would avail yourself of the skill of the all-healing Physician, Jesus Christ. Make your will, and give it to him. Commit your purse to his keeping. A consecrated pocket-book always attends a sanctified heart. Without this attendant, the heart-work is not real and genuine. Put yourself, your possessions, your reputation, your future, into Christ's hands by an act of consecration, and then BELIEVE that he will do his work without any assistance from you. You cannot improve your own condition. You cannot expel the dire disease of sin from its hold upon your very vitals. Jesus only can free you.
"His precious Blood both wounds and heals,
When faith the balm applies,
My peace restores, my pardon seals,
My nature sanctifies.
His precious Blood the life inspires
Which angels live above,
And fills my infinite desires,
And turns me all to love."
My first word of advice to you who are indifferent to the subject, yet are willing to be convinced and incited to seek perfect love, is to gain a clear intellectual view of your spiritual need, and of your wealth of privilege in Christ Jesus, whom you have already claimed as your pardoning Saviour. Understand that he came, not only that you might have spiritual life, but that you might have it more abundantly. When you sought forgiveness you looked away to Calvary, and saw by faith Jesus crucified; now that you are seeking the fullness of the Spirit, lift your eyes above the summit of Calvary, even to Jesus glorified on the mediatorial throne. The glorification of the Son of God opens a new dispensation in the unfolding of the Gospel. Previous to that great event in the heavenly world, Jesus had power on earth to forgive sins; but since he has mounted to his Father's throne, and by his hand has been crowned with the royal diadem, it has pleased him to give proof of his continued interest in all believers by sending down the fullness of the Holy Ghost. To this Jesus distinctly referred when he stood among the jubilant priests sounding their trumpets in the last great day of the feast of tabernacles, and made this wonderful promise: "He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his inmost self shall flow rivers"-not brooklets, vanishing in the drought-"of living water." That Jesus was speaking of some future dispensation of blessings to believers, St. John, guided by Divine inspiration, distinctly declares: "But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." In the gift of the Holy Ghost the Gospel dispensation culminated. John the Baptist, when Jesus came to be baptised, saw this privilege of believers towering above all other blessings, an event in the future history of the Son of man eclipsing all other events, the end and aim of his incarnation, atoning death, glorious resurrection, and triumphant ascension, that he might mend the severed link between God and man by the fusing, unifying power of the Holy Spirit. "After me comes one who shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." The Comforter came on the day of Pentecost--came to stay. His work is not an indefinite and general operation, but an individual transformation.
2. Though you live in the dispensation of the Spirit, the benefits of his presence are to be appropriated to you by faith. You say that you have always been told to believe, and that you find it difficult. I will not blame you. Sometimes faith preached to young Christians with no exemplification or simplifying of the act, is as inappropriate as to set a bushel of wheat before a half-starved sucking babe with the invitation to eat. You cannot believe without an object of faith. He stands forth before you in the Gospels, Jesus the Son of God. You cannot believe without grounds or evidences. They are found in the Gospels, in the miracles and sinless character of Jesus Christ, and in the effects of his Gospel in human hearts and lives, and in its beneficent influence on the nations which have received its blessed light.
The evidences of Christianity are the gift of God to you. In this sense, faith is the gift of God. But to receive their convincing effect you must study them with a candid mind, willing to follow wherever the truth leads. If you would have faith in Christ, become familiar with his character and his teachings. It may be that we have four gospels in order that the Son of God, in the perfection of his manhood and the splendor of his Godhead, may pass four times before your eyes. As he who would be a perfect orator or poet is exhorted by Horace "to handle the Grecian models with a daily and a nightly hand," so must the believer who aspires to be a perfect Christian sit before the great Exemplar by day and by night. An enduring faith is largely grounded by the intellectual grasp of the truth. There is a sense in which we must know in order to believe. A man's character must be favorably known to the banker before he will intrust him with his money. The more we know of Jesus by the study of his fourfold biography, the deeper and broader the foundation for our faith in his promises.
It also greatly assists our faith to know what marvelous effects have followed it in the history of the Church, especially in the opening chapter-the Acts of the Apostles. Trace again and again the triumphant march of our holy faith from Jerusalem, conquering the inveterate prejudices of Jew and Gentile, as narrated by St. Luke in the Acts. You will find that faith is contagious. Association with some capacious soul who embraces the amplitude of the promises, and holds fast to them with an unrelaxing grasp, helps the feeble sinews of spiritual infancy to grow strong. St. Paul is such a soul. He is a spiritual giant. He is accessible to you all. His enthusiastic ardor, his invincible faith, which neither stripes nor prisons, plotting Jews nor riotous Gentiles, could shake, will be a tonic to your spiritual weakness. Lock arms with him and walk through his epistles till you catch his gait and measure up to his titantic strides, as he boldly approaches the throne of grace in the name of the ever living High Priest. "What part of the Bible do you read the most?" said a Scotch minister to an old woman of remarkable faith in God. "The glorious epistles," was the quick reply. On this strong meat all the giants of the Church have fed. You will find St. Paul's later epistles especially adapted to enlarge your view of your privilege under the dispensation of the Spirit. It is very evident that the great apostle grew in grace mightily between the day when the scales fell from his eyes in Damascus and the day when he penned the epistle to the Ephesians. But do not rest satisfied with an intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures.
3. While making this acquaintance with the grounds of faith, endeavor to appropriate to yourself every promise of spiritual grace. St. Paul made the promises and atoning blood of Christ his own private property. Here was the secret of his Herculean strength of faith. "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of (in) the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." He did not exclude others, but he was sure to include himself, and to insist, not on a fraction of Christ, but a whole Christ, to be as completely appropriated to himself as if he were the solitary son of Adam for whom atonement had been made. Rutherford, whose name is precious to all devout Scotchmen as ointment poured out, and whose letters are indeed a garden of spices for the walks of believers, had evidently learned this secret of appropriating faith. He often, with special earnestness, besought the Father to distribute "the great loaf, Christ," to himself and to his flock. Let me advise you to practice writing out the promises of the Lord Jesus, especially the promise of the abiding Comforter, which Jesus styles the promise of the Father, and insert your own name in the place of the whosoever, or any man, or other general term. This treatment of the promises seems to be the best antidote for that general and indefinite faith which accredits them as true for the mass but not for the individual. In this way most of the promises are thrown away by believers, as the threatenings are thrown away by unbelievers. But when we write our own name in them, and bring them to the throne of grace, we are impressed as never before with the thought that the promise must be fulfilled to me personally or it is a failure. You will be astonished to discover how much your spiritual aspirations will be quickened, and your suit at the mercy-seat intensified, by so simple a device as this. Thus I have given you advice concerning faith such as the great commentator Bengel gives for searching the Scriptures. "Apply thyself wholly to the text: apply the subject wholly to thyself."
After you have fixed your faith on some promise of full salvation, you are to believe that the fullness is for you. You must believe that God is able to give it to you, and that he is willing to fulfill his word now, for today is the day of salvation. "Then," says Mr. Wesley, "God will enable you to believe that he doth it." But you say, "I don't realize any change." Do you not see that you are looking for some token that God is true? You must trust his naked word. The nobleman was told by Jesus, "Go thy way, thy son liveth." He did not ask for some sign that the promise was true; but he believed the word of Christ, and acted on that faith. To wait till you feel the change before you believe, is to walk by feeling and not by faith. It is to put the consequent before the antecedent, the effect before the cause. You are not commanded to feel, but to trust. To feel the change is to know it. To wait for knowledge is to walk by sight. In an important sense knowledge originates in faith. We cannot know that we are the sons of God till we have trusted the promises up to the moment when the Spirit of adoption cries in our hearts. "Abba, Father." After that hour our sonship is a matter of knowledge.
If I have not attained perfect love, the promise of the Abiding Comforter, who shall be the Sanctifier, and glorify Christ to my consciousness as mine, wholly mine, is a subject of faith. It is our duty to insist on the truth of Christ, and to say that he does now keep his vow. When it pleases him to reveal Christ to you as your complete Saviour, your faith on this point will be lost in sight, and your faith will reach up and claim some higher blessing yet unattained. On this Jacob's ladder you will climb up to heaven. This faith, which insists that God doeth the work now, must proceed upon the assumption that you cannot make yourself better by waiting. If perfect love is by faith, it must be now, just as I am. These three must always go together: faith, now, and just as I am. There are also three other things which constitute the creed of the legalist: works, some future time, when I have made myself better.
But you ask the question, Is every believer prepared to believe for entire sanctification and the fullness of God? No. If he has no earnest, insatiable desire for it he cannot believe. Nor can he till he has made an entire surrender of himself deliberately, and forever, to Christ. He must be willing that he should subvert all his plans, and enter into all his present being and future history. In other words, entire consecration is as necessary to sanctifying, as repentance is to justifying, faith. While you are consecrating yourself, various tests will be presented to your mind. Some of these will be suggested by the Holy Spirit. You must abide them. Others may be suggested by Satan to defeat your purpose. He may thrust some strange or unreasonable and absurd duty forward as a test. How am I to treat these suggestions of the adversary when unable to discriminate them from the suggestions of the Holy Ghost? You should declare your willingness to do all the will of God as it shall be made manifest by the word, the Spirit, providence, and reason conspiring. The suggestions of Satan will disappear when our willingness to obey God fully appears.
The suggested tests of the Holy Spirit will continue to press themselves upon our attention, and demand our compliance after God has given us conscious acceptance. Rev. A. B. Earle was deeply impressed, when seeking the witness of adoption, that he ought to go on a mission to Africa. He struggled against it for some time, and at last said, "I will do God's will in Africa or in any other country on earth." Since that moment the call to Africa has ceased. There was no providential opening, but a wide field for evangelism in America, for which thousands of redeemed souls will thank God through eternity. It is evident that Satan was pressing this deadly mission upon him to drive him from his purpose of full consecration. It is always safe to say in such cases, "O Lord, I will do thy will as interpreted by thy word and thy providence." We have now pointed out a stone against which thousands have stumbled in their approach to the blessing of the fullness of the Spirit, and we have now endeavored to show you how you may avoid it.
4. In urging your suit, rest wholly on the name of your indorser, Jesus Christ. In his address (John :14-16) in which the pearl of perfect love is again and again promised in the coming of the abiding Comforter, Jesus inserts in every promise the condition, "in my name." This means that we are to identify our plea with the glory of Christ. We cannot fail when we pray for the same blessing for which he intercedes in our behalf. We are sure that selfishness does not underlie our petition when our aim is the glory of Christ only. When we thus use the name of our High Priest, we clothe ourselves with his merit. The name of Jesus is like the signet ring of an absent monarch, purposely left behind to authenticate the acts of his ministers. It transfers his power to them. So has Jesus transferred to our hands the key that unlocks the treasury of heaven, and secures the outpouring of the anointing that teacheth and abideth. "The greatest gift that men can wish or heaven can send."
5. Do not fail, when urging your plea, to remember that you have rights with God the Father in Jesus' name. You could not claim his mediatorial work and merit. But since this work has been done, you may now stand on the high platform of rights with God, and claim in Jesus' name all that he has purchased for you. He has invested you not only with a right to the tree of life, but to all that prepares you to pluck and eat its fruit. Again, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The word "just" is a jural term, implying rights on the part of the believer and obligation on the part of God; the obligation not only of veracity, expressed by the word faithful, but also the obligation of justice. He will not wrong us by withholding the greatest blessing purchased by his Son, and sacredly kept by the Father till the hour we come in that influential name and claim our heritage.
"Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown through Christ my own."
6. Faint not. Jesus, in his parables of the unjust judge and of the man awakened by his friend at midnight, and in his interview with the Syrophenician woman, emphasizes intensity of spirit, importunity, and perseverance in prayer. Especially is the unspeakable gift of the fullness of God to be obtained by persistent and prevailing prayer. Take with you into your closet Charles Wesley's wonderful portrayal of a struggling and victorious soul, "Wrestling Jacob," and make its intense expressions the vehicle of your earnestness- its bold demands, its unshaken purpose, its high resolve, the spirit of your plea-and you must sooner or later prevail. God yields to a thoroughly determined soul! The violent take the kingdom of heaven by force. You will find that this earnestness cannot be aroused except upon the plea which says, "Now, Lord, just as I am, fill me with thy perfect love." If you drop the "now," and say at some time, you will find the sinews of your effort paralyzed, and your vehement desire cooled down to indifference.
7. Be patient. "I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry." The Psalmist proved the truth of the adage that the patient waiter is no loser. "For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise," that is, the thing promised. From lack of "the patience of hope," thousands have failed to grasp the prize of "love divine, all love excelling," made perfect in the hearts, as a distinct and glorious work of the Sanctifier. You cannot fail if you persevere. The struggle may be only an hour; it may be a month or a year. Some, after wandering as long as the children of Israel in
"Sorrows and sins, and doubts and fears,
A howling wilderness,"
have emerged at last into this land of promise. Such invariably see that they might long, long before have had their portions assigned to them on the mountain of God by their great Joshua, if they had obediently trusted him.
You will meet with the advice to cease all effort, and to subside into quietude and stillness; to do nothing yourself, but let Christ do all for you. It is true that you can do nothing meritorious to improve your condition. It is also true that you must work the work of God, that is, which he requires. "And this is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent." This may require high and strenuous effort to keep yourself on the divine altar, to keep down doubt, and to hold unwaveringly to the word of God. The kind of stillness which Wesley recommended, you will be safe in practicing-
"Restless, resigned, for God I wait;
For God my vehement soul stands still."
The faith that brings us into the "valley of blessing so sweet," comes out of a furnace of desire, glowing with sevenfold ardor. It is not in harmony with the nature of the human sensibilities that this intensity of desire should be awakened and sustained in a state of passivity. Endeavor intensifies desire.
I cannot leave this subject without pointing out another rock over which many stumble in seeking both justification and perfect love. I refer to what, for lack of a better name, I call tentative faith--believing just by way of experiment. There is unbelief at the bottom of any such acts of the mind. Christ does not receive people who surrender to him just by way of trial, to see what blessings he will bestow, what rapturous joys he will inspire. There is no complete surrender possible with this mental reservation, the purpose to take back your consecration if the results are not satisfactory. As true marriage must consist in a union of hearts for life, in order to the enjoyment of the highest bliss of that sacred institution, so must the marriage of the soul to Christ be an everlasting union, the farthest possible remove from the caprices and criminally reserved rights of free love, coquetting with Christ today and the world tomorrow. Ye who fully purpose an eternal wedlock with Christ for better or for worse, approach the glorious Bridegroom in the utmost confidence that he will array you in a robe of clean linen, and present you unto himself as his faultless bride with exceeding Joy-joy in his own bosom, Joy thrilling your spirit, and gladdening all the angels who witness the nuptials.
"He comes! He comes! The kingly Christ
from heaven's eternal shores;
His uncreated freshness fills
His bride as she adores."
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