God has provided a salvation for us that is perfect in every particular, and that satisfies both the heart and the mind. It makes its possessor 'more than conqueror' over the world, the flesh and the devil, and enables him to do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. It is altogether worthy of its Author. It is a 'great salvation.' It is not a mere set of beliefs, nor a poor pitiful little profession, but a full, joyous, super-abounding, all-conquering life. Glory to God! This is the more abundant life. Jesus said: 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly' (John x. 10). Praise the Lord, this life is mine, and has been for fifteen years.
And now, for the sake of those who have not obtained this crowning blessing, I wish to point out some of the hindrances to its reception and the reason why so few comparatively, have it.
1. Many are ignorant of it. Vast multitudes of professing Christians have never heard of a second work of the Holy Spirit that purifies the heart and perfects it in live. It is strange to say, an unpopular theme and is not much spoken of outside Salvation Army Holiness Meetings, and so God could say today, as He did of old, 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge' (Hos. iv. 6). But this ignorance is due, not altogether to the fact that it is a subject little spoken about, but also because so few people go to God's Word for their standard of life and experience. It is all written out there so plain that a fool need not err; but most professors of religion prefer to take their standard from the people round about them rather than from God's Book. Paul says of such folks; 'But they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise' (2 Cor. x. 12). And they never will be wise, unless they cease looking at poor, perishing men and look to Jesus only. Wisdom is from above, and must be sought from God Himself and from the study of His word, and not from the conduct of the people about us.
II. Unbelief. Many are familiar with the Word of God, but they have not an appropriating faith. They read the exceeding great and precious promises, but it never occurs to them that on the fulfillment of the conditions they can have and will have the things promised. It is said of these people: 'But the word preached did not profit them. not being mixed with faith in them that heard it' (Heb. iv. 2). Instead of crying to God to bring their experience up to the standard of the Bible, they explain the Bible down to the level of their experience, and so never receive the glorious revelation of Jesus to their hearts and the fullness of grace therein promised.
III. Some, seek the wrong thing. They expect the blessing of full salvation to bring deliverance from temptations, infirmities, natural consequences of broken laws and the like. I once heard an educated minister pray, 'Lord save us from our impurities and infirmities.' My heart said 'Amen' to the first part, but not to the latter. Full salvation delivers always from impurity, but not always from infirmities in this world. God uses our infirmities to bless us. Paul gloried in his infirmities because, through them, the power of Christ rested upon him (2 Cor. xii. 9-10). We read also that Jesus was 'touched with the feeling of our infirmities' (Heb. iv. 15).
Infirmities and temptations are incorporated by our Heavenly Father into His educational and disciplinary for us, and are for our highest good and we need not expect to be entirely free from them while we are in the body If we were free from them we could not enter into the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus, nor sympathize with our brethren, and that would be an immeasurable loss to us. It is because Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, and was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, that He is able to sympathize with and succor us when we are tempted (Heb. ii. 18). And it is only as we enter into the common temptations and trials and are afflicted with the common infirmities of humanity, that we can be touched with tender sympathy for, and be largely used in blessing, humanity. Thus, we should not seek for an experience that will save us from these things, but rather should do as we are told, and 'count it all joy' when we 'fall into divers temptations' (Jas. i. 2).
Nor does this experience of full salvation save us from the natural consequences of broken laws. A man may be enjoying the fullness of God's salvation but if he ignorantly break the laws of finance or health he may expect to go into bankruptcy or lose his health as surely as the vilest sinner. And this does not argue at all at his Heavenly Father is displeased with him morally, or that he has lost any measure of his salvation.
Nor does this experience enable us to please everybody and appear perfect to all men. Our hearts may be as pure as the heart of an archangel, and we may love with a perfect love, and yet our conduct may be misjudged and we be accounted by others as being anything but fully saved. The brethren of Jesus did not believe on Him (John vii. 5) and His critics called Him a glutton and a wine-bibber. His servants will hardly be above their Master, but should rejoice to be as their Master.
There are two reasons for this. One is that we 'have this treasure in earthen vessels' (2 Cor. iv. 7) -- that is, the love of God in our hearts may be perfect and His salvation complete, but because of our natural infirmities we may not be able to fully express in our conduct the holy affections and tender sympathies of our hearts. Just as clear water in a blue bottle will look blue, or in a yellow bottle will look yellow, so the pure, crystal-like salvation of God in our hearts takes on the color of our earthen vessel.
The other reason is that, just as when you look at a landscape through smoked glasses everything looks smoky, so the eyesight of many people is so distorted and blurred by sin, by prejudice, by unbelief, that even if our conduct be perfect, they, looking at us through the medium of their own sinfulness. will criticize us as they criticized our Lord before us. This being so, we need not expect the experience of full salvation to make us appear perfect in the eyes of men, but must content ourselves with having a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man, and in having His assurance that our ways please Him.
Others are seeking a sort of 'third heaven' experience, similar to what Paul had, in which they will see visions, hear voices, be visited by angels and constantly have tumultuous and rapturous joy. Like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, they say, 'Master, it is good for us to be here,' (Luke ix. 33), not knowing that Jesus wants to lead them down into the valley to cast out devils. Far be it from me to discourage any soul from seeking any experience mentioned in the Bible! Has not my own heart almost burst with fullness of joy and love? and cannot I, in the Spirit, say with Paul, 'Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?' (I Cor. ix. 1). Truly, the revelation Jesus gave me of Himself is unutterable, but I got this revelation not by seeking some marvelous experience, but by humbling myself to walk with Him, to wait for His counsel, to do His will and to believe what He said. Then He came to me and took up His abode in my heart. He has shown me, however, that although I am to have His joy, holiness does not consist so much in rapturous, sublimated experiences, as in lowly, humble, patient, trustful love.
But while some people put the experience up among the clouds, others leave it down among the fogs, and so fail to get it. They think that it consists in simply being free from condemnation, forgetting that a justified man is not condemned. For instance, a man has been condemned about the use of tobacco, or a woman about the feathers in her hat. Each feels that such things are not consistent with a Christian life, and, after a struggle with pride and habit, yields and casts away the offending thing. Of course there is now no longer any condemnation, and that soul feels justified; but it may not yet be sanctified, and it is not, unless, when the tobacco and feathers went out and off, the Holy Ghost came in, destroying every root of bitterness and sin out of the heart. Holiness is a thing of the heart; it is the purging away of the dross of the soul; it is the renewing of our whole nature so that we are made 'partakers of the Divine nature' (2 Pet. i. 4). It makes 'the tree good.'
My little eight-year-old boy had the nature of holiness revealed to him by the Holy Ghost. Some time ago he professed to get saved, and I think he did get saved, though he is not so saintly as I feel confident he yet will be. One evening, not long since, however, he said to his mother: 'Mamma, I'm tired of living this way.' His mamma, of course, queried, 'Why, darling, what's the matter now?' 'I want to be good all the time,' said George. 'You tell me to go and do things, and I go and do them, but I feel angry inside. I want to be good all the time.' The next morning, as soon as he woke up, he said, 'Mamma, I want you to put that text, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," in my text book.' And then when he prayed he pleaded the prayer of the royal Psalmist,' Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me' (Ps. cxxxix. 23-24).
Now, holiness makes one good all the time; not only in conduct, but also in character; not only in outward act, but also in inward thought and wish and feeling, and those who are content with anything below this, will miss the blessing.
IV. Another hindrance is the failure to rightly 'consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus who was faithful . . .' (Heb. iii. 1-2), and to appropriate the grace He offers us.
The other day an earnest Christian woman was complaining to me at her breakfast table about her pride and her temper, which she had found unconquerable. I suggested that she should consider Jesus, and asked her how she could be proud in the presence of His deep humility. I requested her to imagine Him, the King of kings, the Lord of life and glory, humbling Himself and meekly carrying His Cross up Calvary, amid the mocking crowd, while she walked by His side or followed His train in pride, with high and haughty head. She saw the point, and while we were at family prayers, she said she could never forget that lesson in humility. If people would but study the life and spirit of Jesus, and gladly let His mind be in them, the subject of holiness would be greatly simplified. Paul said: 'Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus' (Phil. ii. 5), and then he goes on to show us that this mind is one of deepest humility, which led Jesus to empty Himself of His glory and humble Himself to die on the Cross as the vilest of men, and it is this humble, self-forgetful, loving mind Paul pleads with us to have.
Holiness is not some lofty experience, unattainable except to those who can leap to the stars, but it is rather a lowly experience, which lowly men in the lowly walks of life can share with Jesus, by letting His mind be in them. Bless God for ever!
Hindrances To Obtaining The Blessing
Holiness has not legs and does not go walking about visiting idle people, as a lazy Christian seemed to think who told me that he thought the experience would "come" to him "some day." A sister aptly remarked: "He might as well expect the hall to come to him."
The fact is, there are hindrances in the way of holiness with most people; but you that are seeking the experience must put from you, for ever, the thought that any of these hindrances are in God, or in your circumstances, for they are not, but are altogether in yourselves. This being true, it is the extreme of folly to sit down with indifference and quietly wait, with folded hands, for the blessed experience to come to you. Be sure of this, it will not come, any more than a crop of potatoes will come to the lazy fellow who sits in the shade and never lifts his hoe, nor does a stroke of labor through all the spring and summer months. The rule in the spiritual world is this: "If any would not work, neither should he eat," and, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. vi. 7).
Therefore, the part of wisdom is to begin at once, by a diligent study of God's word, much secret prayer, unflinching self-examination, rigid self-denial, hearty obedience to all present light and a faithful attendance at the meetings of God's people, to find out what these hindrances are, and, by the grace of God, to put them away, though it cost as much pain as to cut off a right hand or to pluck out a right eye.
Now, the Bible tells us -- and the testimony and experience of all holy people agree with the Bible -- that the two great practical hindrances to holiness are: First, imperfect consecration; and, second, imperfect faith.
Before a watchmaker can clean and regulate my watch, I must give it unreservedly into his hands. Before a doctor can cure me, I must take his medicine in the manner and at the time he requires. Before a captain can navigate me across the trackless ocean, I must get on board his ship and stay there. Just so, if I would have God cleanse and regulate my heart with all its affections, if I would have Him cure my sin-sick soul, if I would have Him take me safely across the ocean of time into that greater ocean of eternity, I must put myself fully into His hands and stay there. In other words, I must do what He tells me to. I must be perfectly consecrated to Him.
A Captain knelt with her soldiers, and sang: "Anywhere with Jesus I will go," adding: "Anywhere but to H____, Lord." Her consecration was imperfect, and today she is out of Salvation Army work. There were some things she would not do for Jesus, and therefore Jesus would not cleanse or keep her.
The other day, a poor backslider told me that he knew, at one time, that he ought to give up tobacco. God wanted him to do so, but he held on to it and used it secretly. His imperfect consecration kept him from holiness and led to his downfall, and today he walks the streets a common drunkard, on the open road to Hell.
In his heart was secret disloyalty, and God could not cleanse or keep him. God wants perfect loyalty in the secret of your own heart, and He demands it, not only for His glory, but also for your good; for, if you can understand it, God's highest glory and your highest good are one and the same thing.
This consecration consists in a perfect putting off of your own will, your disposition, temper, desires, likes and dislikes, and a perfect putting on of Christ's will, Christ's disposition, temper, desires, likes and dislikes. In short, perfect consecration is a putting off self and a putting on Christ; a giving up your own will in all things and receiving the will of Jesus instead. This may seem well-nigh impossible and very disagreeable to your unsanctified heart; but if you mean business for eternity, and will intelligently and unflinchingly look at this strait gate through which so few enter, and tell the Lord that you want to go through that way, though it cost you your life, the Holy Spirit will soon show you that it is not only possible, but easy and delightful thus to yield yourself to God.
The second hindrance in the way of him who would be holy is imperfect faith. When Paul wrote to his corps of Salvationists in Thessalonica, he praised them for being "ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia," and added, "in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad" (I Thess. i. 7, 8). That was the best believing corps in all Europe, and so real and sturdy was their faith that they could endure much persecution, as we see from chaps. [[i. 6 >> Bible:1 Thes 1.6]], [[ii. 14 >> Bible:1 Thes 2.14]], and [[iii.[2-5 >> Bible:1 Thes 3.2-5]]; so that Paul says, "We were comforted over you, in all our affliction and distress by your faith" (iii. 7 >> Bible:1 Thes 3.7]]). Strong faith that, but it was not perfect, for Paul adds, "Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith" (iii. 10 >> Bible:1 Thes 3.10]]). And because of their imperfect faith they were not sanctified; so we find the Apostle praying, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly" (v. 23 >> Bible:1 Thes 3.23]]).
All who are born of God and have the witness of His Spirit to their justification know full well that it was not through any good works of their own, nor by growing into it, that they were saved, but it was "by grace through faith" (Eph. ii. 8). But very many of these dear people seem to think that we are to grow into sanctification, or are to get it by our own works. But the Lord settled that question, and made it as plain as words can make it, when He told Paul that He sent him to the Gentiles to "open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me" (Acts xxvi. 18). Not by works, nor by growth, but by faith were they to be made holy.
If you will be holy you must come to God "with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. x. 22), and then, if you will wait patiently before Him, the wonder-work shall be done.
Consecration and faith are matters of the heart, and the trouble with most people is there; but, no doubt, there are some people whose trouble is with the head. They fail to get the blessing because they are seeking something altogether too small.
Holiness is a great blessing. It is the renewal of the whole man in the image of Jesus. It is the utter destruction of all hatred, envy, malice, impatience, covetousness, pride, lust, fear of man, love of ease, love of human admiration and applause, love of splendor, shame of the Cross, self-will and the like. It makes its possessors "meek and lowly in heart" (Matt. xi. 29), as Jesus was; patient, kind, full of forbearance. pitiful, full of tender compassion and love; full of faith, benevolent and zealous in every good word and work.
Now I have heard some people claim the blessing of holiness because they had given up tobacco, feathers or something of that sort; while they were still impatient, unkind or absorbed with the cares of this life. The result was, they soon got discouraged, concluded there was no such blessing, and became bitter opponents of the doctrine of holiness. Their trouble was in seeking too small a blessing. They gave up certain outward things, but the inward self-life was still uncrucified. The gold miner washes the dirt off his ore, but he cannot wash the dross out of it. The fire must do that, and then the gold will be pure. So the laying aside of outward things is necessary; but only the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire can purify the secret desires and affections of the heart and make it holy. And for this you must earnestly seek by perfect consecration and perfect faith.
There are other people who fail to obtain the blessing because they are seeking something altogether distinct from holiness. They want a vision of Heaven, of balls of fire, of some angel; or they want an experience that will save them from all trials and temptations and from all possible mistakes and infirmities; or they want a power that will make sinners fall like dead men when they speak.
They overlook the verse which declares that "the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned" (I Tim. i. 5); which teaches us that holiness is nothing more than a pure heart filled with perfect love, a clear conscience toward God and man, which comes from a faithful discharge of duty and simple faith without any hypocrisy. They overlook the fact that purity and perfect love are so Christ-like and so rare in this world, that they are in themselves a great, great blessing.
They overlook the fact that while Jesus was a great Man, King of kings and Lord of lords, He was also a lowly Carpenter and "made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant ... and humbled Himself" (Phil. ii. 7, 8). They overlook the fact that they are to be as Jesus was, "in this present world," and that "this present world" is the place of His humiliation, where He is "despised and rejected of men"; a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief"; with "no (outward) beauty that we should desire Him" (Isa. liii. 2, 3). "In this present world" His only beauty is that inward "beauty of holiness" (I Chron. xvi. 29), that humble spirit of gentleness and love, that "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (I Pet. iii. 4).
Is your soul hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of perfect love? Do you want to be like Jesus? Are you prepared to suffer with Him and to be "hated of all men for His name's sake" (Matt. x. 22)? Then, "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset" you (Heb. xii. 1); present your body "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. xii. 1), and "run with patience the race which is set before you, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith" (Heb. xii. 1, 2). Come to the Lord with the same simple faith that you did when you were saved; lay your case before Him, ask Him to take away all uncleanness and to perfect you in love, and then believe that He does it. If you will then resist all Satan's temptations to doubt, you will soon find all your hindrances gone, and yourself rejoicing "with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (I Pet. i. 8).
"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. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it" (I Thess. v. 23, 24).