by A. W. Pink
Normal Christian experience is a progress in practical holiness. Where there is life there is growth, and even when growth ceases there is a development and maturing of what is grown, unto increasing fruitfulness or usefulness. We say "normal," for even in the natural (which ever adumbrates the spiritual) there is such a thing as stunted growth and arrested development-alas that we so often see examples of this among the Lord's people. Yet those very failures only emphasize the fact--testified to by every Christian conscience--that we ought to go on "from strength to strength" (Psa. 84:7), that we should be "changed into" the image of the Lord "from glory to glory" (2 Cor. 3:18), that is, from one degree of it to another. That such progress is our duty is clear from many passages: "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more" (1 Thess. 4:1).
It seems strange that there are those who not only repudiate in toto any such thing as "progressive sanctification," but who are bitterly opposed to those who contend for the same, even though our contention be scripturally and soberly conducted; stranger still that those very men belong to the same denomination as John Gill. They know quite well that those whom they condemn do not advocate any refining of the old nature or spiritualizing of the old man, nor have the slightest leanings to the evil dogma of fleshly perfection. Nevertheless, they continue to misrepresent and denounce them. It is quite true that the believer possesses a sanctification which is absolute and perfect, admitting of no degrees or improvements. Yet that does not alter the fact that there is another sense in which the believer's sanctification is a relative and imperfect one, and that the pursuit of holiness is to be his chief quest. Why confuse two totally different aspects of the subject, and refuse to recognize they both exist?!
"The adjuncts or properties of sanctification. First, it is imperfect in the present state, though it will most certainly be made perfect; where the work is begun it will be performed. Sanctification in Christ is perfect, but sanctification in the saints themselves is imperfect: it is perfect with respect to parts, but not with respect to degrees. Sanctification, as a principle, which is the new creature or new man, has all its parts; though these are not grown up to the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ, as they will do. Where there is one grace, there is every grace, though none perfect. There is a comparative perfection in the saints when compared with what they themselves once were, and others are; and when compared even with other saints, for one saint may have a greater degree of grace and holiness than another: 'let us therefore, as many as be perfect' (Phil. 3:15); and yet the greatest of those was not absolutely perfect, even the Apostle himself, who said so in Philippians 3:12" (John Gill).
That sanctification in the best of men is imperfect appears unmistakably from various considerations. First, from the continual wants of the saints. In this life they "hunger and thirst after righteousness" which shows they are not yet filled. They own themselves to be "poor and needy" (Psa. 86:11): their strength is feeble, and they constantly require fresh supplies of grace to subdue sin, resist temptation, perform duties, and persevere in faith and in obedience. True, the grace of God is sufficient for them, yet they are bidden to seek it (Heb. 4:16; James 1:5). Second, it appears from the confessions of the same: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect" (Phil. 3:12). Third, it appears from the defects of their graces. Let us ask those who repudiate "progressive sanctification," Is your faith such that there is no need for it to be increased--your love, hope, patience, meekness, goodness, self-control, such that there is no room for improvement?
But though our practical sanctification be imperfect, it is progressive: "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18). Various figures are employed in Scripture to set this forth. The increase of grace in the believer was likened by Christ to "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." The Apostle John distinguishes the various stages of Christian growth by likening young converts to "little children," whose knowledge is small and strength weak; then to "young men," who are strong and vigorous and have overcome the Wicked One, and then to "fathers" in Christ, who are mature and fruitful (1 John 2:13, 14). At first, light and discernment is very dim, like the sight of the man whose eyes Christ opened: he saw men like trees walking, but later all things clearly (Mark 8:24, 25). There is such a thing as growing in grace, increasing in the knowledge of God, becoming more fruitful. To admit this, is to grant a progress in practical holiness.
An increase of holiness should be desired and sought by us above everything else. What a high price should we set upon closer conformity to Christ. How diligently should we hide God's Word in our hearts that we sin not against Him. How earnestly and frequently should we pray for the cleansing of our hearts and the renewing of a right spirit within us. Heavenly grace is to be prized above all the comforts, honours and riches of this passing world. The approbation of God is to be greatly preferred to the good opinion of men. Trials and afflictions are to be valued if they promote (as they should) our practical sanctification. If we are willing to take bitter medicine for the removal of bodily disorders, shall we murmur at bitter experiences sent for the purging of our lusts? If we can bear the pain of lancing a festered limb, shall we fight against the knife of the Great Physician when He would let out some of our corruptions? Let, then, growth in grace be made the chief business of life, no matter what temporal sacrifices it involves.
"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:9-11). Those prayers recorded in Scripture are the outbreathings of holy men, expressing their deepest longings after those things which the Spirit in them deemed to be most excellent. Here the Apostle besought God on behalf of the Philippian saints. First, for those graces in them which are the inward springs of holiness: love, and knowledge and judgment. Second, that they might perform their duties with sincere hearts and God's approval to the end of their course. Third, that they might be increasingly fruitful.
"That your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment" (v. 9). Why is love first. Do not faith and knowledge, in the order of nature, go before "love"? Must we not know and trust a person before we can love him? Ah, it is the springs of holiness which are here in view, and love is the more immediate, for "faith worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6). "Provoke one another unto love and to good works" (Heb. 10:24) is the order: stir up the principle of love till it be enkindled, and good works, as the flame, will arise. We are predestinated to be holy before Him in love (Eph. 1:4)--holiness arises from love, and therefore is love the fulfilling of the Law. It is love which makes the Divine commandments to be "not grievous" unto us (1 John 5:3). Let us, then, see to it that our hearts be inflamed with the wondrous love of God for us.
The Apostle adds "that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge" (Phil. 1:9). Generally Christians have to pray that their love might keep pace with their knowledge; but here Paul prays that their knowledge might be equal unto their love. Usually, the believer's intelligence is ahead of his affections; it was, it seems, otherwise with the Philippians. No doubt the reader has observed that there are, broadly speaking, two sorts of saints: affectionate souls, whose hearts are warm toward Christ and his people, but less intelligent in spiritual things; others more knowing, yet less passionate, though equally Christians. The primitive times give instances of each. The Corinthians were very intelligent (see 1 Cor. 4, 5), but they were short in love (1 Cor. 8:2, 3). The Thessalonian and Philippian saints were a more simple and affectionate sort of Christian, whose love exceeded their knowledge--hence this particular prayer on their behalf.
There is nothing more painful to behold than Christians, who are truly sincere in love and warm in zeal of God, falling into wrong courses through lack of needful light, by which to distinguish between truth and error, duty and sin, bringing dishonour upon the Lord and being a stumblingblock to their fellows. Yet so it sometimes happens: if there are those who possess much light and knowledge, who are not so exercised about the sincerity of their heart and the uprightness of their walk as they ought to be-there are others whose affections are warm and who are conscious of their sincerity, yet largely ignorant of God's revealed will, nevertheless confident that their course is right, and unwilling to study the Word or listen to those who desire to teach them the way of the Lord more perfectly. It is the part of wisdom to be slow in engaging in any new course, for once we are committed to it, pride makes it very hard to acknowledge we are wrong.
Love, then, needs the adjunct of light. Our affections require directing if they are to issue in righteousness. A longing to please God is the first essential; willingness to be instructed by Him therein is the second. Therefore Paul here prayed for the Philippian saints that their love might "abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment," that is, that they might ever be able to distinguish between right and wrong and discern their duty in every case, however dark and doubtful or disputable it might appear. That "knowledge" is only obtainable through the Scriptures, and effectual by the Spirit's powerful application of the same. There is much fanaticism on this point today, which though having a pious sound is most dishonouring to God. We have personally heard more than one assert very emphatically that they were "prompted by the Spirit" to do a thing God has expressly forbidden. My reader, the Holy Spirit never prompts one to do anything which is contrary to the Scriptures, so a knowledge of them is essential if we are to ascertain whether our "prompting" be of the Spirit or the restless urge of the flesh.
The Apostle adds to knowledge "and in all judgment," or as the margin gives (preferably, we believe) "sense." This is where he places the emphasis--"in all sense"--to denote this is of the greatest importance: such "knowledge" as has sense added to it. Thomas Goodwin very helpfully suggested that this term has a threefold force. First, as added to "knowledge" the two words together signify the same as the term faith. What is "faith" but a spiritual perception of spiritual things? As God has placed in our bodies senses suited to the material objects we come into contact with, so at regeneration He communicates that which is suited to the spiritual realm. There is no bodily sense but what faith is expressed by it: "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psa. 34:8); "My sheep hear My voice" (John 10:27); "which our hands have handled" (1 John 1:1)--all referring to actions of faith.
Second, by "sense" is meant experience, which is a distinct thing from faith, as is clear from Romans 5:1-4. "Tribulation worketh patience" or submission to God, "and patience, experience." Did we not find in our afflictions that, after we had submitted to God (humbly bowed to His rod), He either delivered us from them or manifestly supported us under them? Thereby faith was strengthened against the next trial, for experience breeds "hope" or a confidence that God will conduct us safely through this wilderness and land us eventually in Canaan. Experience, then, is an acquired knowledge based on sense. The possessor of it has learned for himself the reality of God and the sufficiency of His grace. Contrariwise, just so far as the tried Christian turns from God to self or the creature for help, will he discover how worthless it is to lean upon an arm of flesh. It is thus "by reason of use" that we learn to have our "senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14).
Third, by "sense" is meant those deep and blessed impressions on the soul, over and above the light of faith or knowledge by ordinary experiences. Such impressions truly are sense rather than knowledge, as all find who are favoured with them. They are therefore said to "pass knowledge" (Eph. 3:19) and are entitled "the peace of God which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). The same is hinted at in Romans 5. First, the believer through being justified by faith, has peace with God (v. 1). Later, his passing through tribulations develops his graces; patience is strengthened, hope is kindled, "and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit" (v. 5). This assurance of God's love, then, is not apprehended so much by knowledge, as it is shed abroad--not in the understanding, but in the heart! So too "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8): a high and heavenly sense of Christ is what is meant--compare John 14:21.
"That ye may approve things that are excellent" or (margin) "try things that differ" (Phil. 1:10). An increase in love, knowledge and sense issues in an enlarged ability in the understanding to discern, judge of, and approve spiritual things: there is more discretion to choose that which is best. What is here mentioned has reference to the capacity to detect counterfeits and contrary, with the additional idea of the judgment relishing, closing with and cleaving to that which is perceived to be good. The same term occurs again in "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:2)--i.e., not only discern the will of God in its truth from falsehood, in all the latitude of it, but approve it. There is a variety and vastness in the duties commanded (and the sins forbidden), and to discern this, especially the spiritual part of them, calls for much holiness of heart and discernment of mind.
As there is a double meaning to the term "approve" (discern and esteem), so the objects approved may be understood in a twofold way. First, as "the things that are excellent," which agrees with "approve." Second, "things which differ" which corresponds to "try" or "discern" between good and evil. An increase of holiness in the heart enables the understanding to distinguish more readily between true and false doctrine, wherein so many go astray. Not only so, there is a choosing of and cleaving to the former, and a rejection of the latter. So very much depends upon the state of our hearts; where that is healthy and the understanding properly enlightened, there will be wisdom in matters doctrinal and prudence in matters practical. "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8) is the sure consequence of "love abounding yet more and more."
"That ye may be sincere" is the next consequence which follows from increasing holiness. Sincerity is opposed to what is counterfeit: "sincerity and truth" are joined together in 1 Corinthians 5:8. That is sincere which is genuine, right, true. "Sincere" (according to the derivation of our English word) means without mixture of wax; there is no pretense or mingling of the false with the true. In connection with piety, sincerity signifies a right intention Godwards. In 2 Corinthians 1:12 we read of "godly sincerity": a sincerity of which God is witness. It is joined there with "simplicity," which is explained in "if thine eye be single" (Matt. 6:22)--the same word. We cannot, as the whitewashed worldling desires, serve two masters or mix fleshly craftiness with spiritual purity. Sincerity, then, is uprightness of heart, purity in its motives, aiming solely at the pleasing and glorifying of God.
"And without offense till the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:10). The word for "offense" signifies the mistreadings, stumblings, and bruisings of the feet in walking. As in "sincerity" the intention of the mind is compared to the ("single") eye, so our actions are likened unto steppings. To be "without offense" is to avoid such ways as would induce others to sin or be occasions of stumbling. It is to give no scandal. Second, it is to refrain from any action contrary to the principles we profess before others: hence we find Paul blaming Peter and others for their departing from the Truth of the Gospel and "not walking uprightly" (Gal. 2:14). Third, it is to keep from anything contrary to that light which the conscience has received to walk by. Now in order to this blameless walk we need to "exercise" ourselves (Acts 24:16), and promptly confess and seek cleansing (1 John 1:9) wherein we have failed.
"Being filled with the fruits of righteousness" is the final issue of increased holiness. Now a tree is said to be full of fruit when all its branches are laden therewith; a Christian is full of fruit when all the faculties of his soul and members of his body are active in obedience to God. As there is a superfluity of evil flowing from the unregenerate, so there should be an abounding of goodness from the regenerate: "unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work" (Col. 1:10). One virtue is to be added to another: 2 Peter 1:5-7. To be holy "in all manner of conversation" (1 Peter 1:15) is the standard at which we must aim; and that, not occasionally and spasmodically, but at all times, and that unto the very end of our earthly course--"till the day of Christ."
"Which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. Those fruits are "by Jesus Christ," first, because of our union with Him, as branches in the Vine. Second, because their life is that of the Spirit, which we have received from Christ. Third, because they are performed by motives drawn from Christ and are patterned after the example He has left us. Fourth, because it is for His sake God accepts them. And they are unto the "glory and praise of God" so far as that is our aim in them. Here, then, is what we understand by "progressive sanctification" or increasing holiness: our love for God and His principle waxing stronger and stronger, directed by spiritual knowledge and confirmed by spiritual perception--the result being that we have an enlightened understanding to perceive more clearly the path of duty, a heart that rings true before God, and a walk that is without scandal; making us fruitful both inwardly and outwardly, thereby honouring Christ and pleasing God. (For part of the above we are indebted to Thomas Goodwin).
As there are some who deny that there is any such thing as "progressive sanctification," so there are others who go to an opposite extreme and contend for the attainment of "entire sanctification" in this life, teaching "sinless perfection" in the flesh; yea, there have been and still are numbers of professing Christians who claim they have lived for so many years without the commission of any known sin. This book would lack completeness were we to ignore this phase of the matter, and as the present stage seems to be the best one for considering this somewhat vexed question, we have decided to canvass it, ere proceeding further with our present aspect. Is it possible for a Christian to reach the point where he can live in this world without sinning?
Those who answer the above question affirmatively differ considerably among themselves as to what sin is, as to the standard and rule of holiness (i.e., what law we are now obliged to fulfill), and as to the means whereby this perfection may be attained. We will not take the space to describe all the various brands of this error, but rather concentrate upon that which is most likely to affect some of our readers. As can readily be supposed, all "perfectionists" have low and defective views of both sin and holiness. This at once appears in their designating transgressions of God's Law "mistakes of ignorance," "infirmities," while Romanists distinguish between "mortal and venial sins." John Wesley taught that entire sanctification in this life consists in "a state in which perfect faith in Christ and perfect love for God fills the whole soul and governs the entire life," so that "all inward disposition to sin as well as all outward commission of it, is excluded."
That no man, whatever his advantages and attainments may be, does arrive at sinless perfection in this life is clearly asserted in Scripture. "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" (Prov. 20:9). "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Eccl. 7:20). "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17). "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after . . . Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended" (Phil. 3:12, 13). "For in many things we offend all" (James 3:2). "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). These Divine testimonies are decisive and prove that we are utterly deceived if we suppose we are living without sin.
When, then, we read "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not . . . Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:6, 9), it is certain the Apostle did not affirm that every true Christian, or any one of them, is free from sin in this life, for he would not expressly contradict what he had said in this same Epistle (1:8). No, his evident meaning is that none who is truly born of God and united by faith to Christ sins as do the unregenerate, or as he himself did before he passed from death unto life. He no longer lives in sin: he makes it not his trade and practice--rather does he now live a life devoted to Christ, though attended with much imperfection and defiled by much sin.
In like manner, those passages which speak of saints as "perfect" must be interpreted in harmony with the general tenor of Scripture. Such a verse as "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight" (Isa. 38:3) signifies sincerity as opposed to hypocrisy. Accordingly such "perfection" as is mentioned in Scripture is explained as denoting uprightness: "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1)--elsewhere Job disclaims any pretentions to sinless perfection: "If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse" (9:20). In a number of places in the New Testament "perfection" signifies maturity, in contrast from those who are babes and the inexperienced. He who carefully and impartially studies his Bible will discover that saints are not said to be "perfect" in any higher sense than these. Paul said emphatically, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect," yet immediately after he spoke of himself and others as being "perfect" (Phil. 3:12, 15): he must use that term, then, in two different senses, otherwise he would contradict himself.
"First, the Scriptures never assert that a Christian may in this life attain to a state in which he may live without sin. Second, the meaning of special passages must be interpreted in consistency with the entire testimony of Scripture. Third, the language of Scripture never implies that man may here live without sin. The commands of God are adjusted to man's responsibility, and the aspirations and prayers of the saints to their duties and ultimate privileges, and not to their personal ability. Perfection is the true aim of the Christian's effort in every period of growth and in every act. The terms 'perfect' and 'blameless' are often relative, or used to signify simple genuineness. This is evident from the recorded fact. Fourth, that all the perfect men of the Scriptures sometimes sinned: witness the histories of Noah, Job, David, Paul" (A. A. Hodge).
"Independent of what passeth in the day in those chambers of imagery within me, were I to be judged for what takes place in the watches of the night in my sleeping hours, even in those things which some may deem involuntary and perhaps venial, yet even here I find it good to confess guilt before God. I know not what the advocates of sinless perfection may think of this statement. It is possible they may assert that no responsibility is attached to any supposed or real criminality in sleep. And, indeed, I am not anxious to go into the inquiry, whether it be so or not. It is simply of the facts themselves for which I contend. Sure I am, that in a multitude of instances, while my body takes rest in sleep, there is another part of me, a thinking faculty, which doth not sleep, and which is not infrequently most busily engaged in thoughts and words and actions. And, indeed, at times so engaged in evil, as I should blush to communicate to the nearest and dearest earthly friend I have. It becomes an important question with such as those who insist upon sinless perfection to answer, from whence do such things arise? I stay not to determine the point as to my responsibility from them. Let that part of the subject be set aside. But it should seem to be a self-evident truth, that if evil were not within, such circumstances of evil could not be produced. They are the words of my Lord which saith 'Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies' (Matt. 15:19).
"Precious Lord Jesus! How can I with such views of indwelling corruption, take confidence from any inherent holiness? Should I not tremble at the very thought of Thine inspection, if my acceptance before Thee is dependent upon the least atom of worth in me? If Thy Word be 'quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow'; if this be a 'discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,' how 'naked and open must be everything' to Thy knowledge 'with whom we have to do' (Heb. 4:12, 13). And should my Lord, as an almighty spiritual anatomist, cut down to the backbone of my frame, and throw open at one view the whole inward structure, shouldest Thou, great God! make bare the privy chamber of my heart, the depth of which, and the workings of which, I myself cannot explore, but where all my 'secret sins are in the light of Thy countenance' Lord! how should I stand before Thee in the discoveries Thou wouldest make, 'whose eyes are as a flame of fire'? And can I, can any man, in the consciousness of such things, be led to advocate the cause of sinless perfection? The question rings through all the chambers of the conscience, and the walls of the heart reverberate the solemn sound, and echoes to the inquiry 'How shall man be just before God? How can he be clean that is born of a woman?' (Job. 25:4).
"When I look back to the days of old, when I consider the years of many generations, when I read the groans and self-reproaches of the greatest servants of the Most High, not in the days of their unregeneracy, but many of them years after a saving work of grace had been wrought in their heart, I ask myself the question, did these men indeed feel what they have said; and, under such impressions, could any one have made them believe the doctrine of sinless perfection? Nay, hath God the Holy Spirit, in the history of those faithful followers of the Lord given a single instance in all the Bible of such an one? Gracious Lord Jesus! I desire to lay low in the dust before Thy Divine majesty, under a conscious sense that 'in me, that is in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing.' Yea. Blessed Lord, let me go softly all my days under a deep sense of it, learning more and more my own nothingness, that I may therefrom, under God, know how to value more and more Christ's fullness, suitableness, and all-sufficiency. And if the daily workings of my heart do but endear my Lord the more to me, I am content to be indeed nothing, yea, worse than nothing, so that Christ may be glorified" (Robert Hawker, 1820--a few words altered by us).
Let it be clearly understood that we are not advocates of sinless perfection. While it be true, blessedly true, that the Law has been satisfied by the Lord Jesus for the justification of all His people, yet its righteous requirements upon us have not been abated one iota, for every Christian is under binding obligations to love the Lord with all his heart and his neighbour as himself. He is called upon to be holy in all manner of conversation, to lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset him and to run the race set before him. He is commanded to mortify his members which are upon the earth, to make no provision for the flesh, to abstain from all appearance of evil, to seek the glory of God in everything which he does. Sin is never to be courted or allowed, but resisted and forsaken. The Christian is obligated to follow the example Christ has left him and walk in His steps. He is to constantly aim at sinless perfection, and forgetting all past failure strive for a complete conformity to Christ.
Everything in us and from us which is contrary to God's holiness is criminal. Every falling short of the perfect standard He has set before us is sinful, and is to be confessed by us. But it does not follow from this that any Christian has, does, or will in this life fully conform to the Divine rule of duty. For that, the believer is wholly dependent upon God's sovereign grace. He is no more holy than he is made so by omnipotent operations of the Holy Spirit--and though God requires him to be perfectly holy, yet He is under no obligation, by promise or any other way, to make the Christian perfectly holy in this world. His requiring of holiness does not imply any such obligation on His part, nor has He given any promise to that effect in the new covenant. But He has promised to preserve His people in holiness so that they shall not apostatise, and He has promised to make them perfectly holy at their glorification, so that they shall never sin again for all eternity.
As to the particular degree of holiness and the particular exercises of it in each Christian, God orders it as He pleases, to answer His own all-sufficient purpose. To one there is given five talents, to another only two. The Redeemer is able to make every believer perfectly holy at his first conversion, so that he should never be guilty of another sin. And had that been the wisest and best, it had been so ordered. Remember that God's thoughts and ways are high above ours (Isa. 55:8), and the wisdom of this world is foolishness with Him. We may be certain, however, that it is most wise and best that none of the redeemed should be perfectly holy in this life, even though we were quite unable to now see any of the reasons why the redeemed are still in such an imperfect state and in so great a degree sinful, or the wise (if to us, mysterious) ends which are answered thereby. A few of these shall now be mentioned.
First, if believers were now perfectly holy, they would not be so fit to live in this disordered, sinful world. There would not be that analogy of one thing to another which is observable in all the works of God, and which is proper and wise--i.e., every creature being fitted to its particular environment: fish to water, birds to air, etc. This is not a world suited to be the dwelling-place of immaculate beings. But it does furnish a suitable scene and state of discipline to form and train the redeemed for a state of perfect holiness and happiness in another world.
Second, if Christians were perfectly holy in this life, it would not be a state of trial, as it now is. Their temptations would be neither so many nor strong. Satan could not have so much power and advantage to harass them, seeking to seduce them; and their danger would not be so great and apparent. Consequently, they would not have the opportunity for the exercise of such graces as humiliation and repentance for their repeated sins, loathing themselves for the same, mortifying their lusts, longing for deliverance, and exercising faith and patience through such dark and disagreeable circumstances as now they have, and by which Christ is honoured and themselves prepared for rewards in His kingdom.
Third, such a state of imperfection is both suited and necessary to teach them more effectually and make them feel by abundant experience the total depravity of fallen human nature, the evil character and odiousness of sin, the inconceivable and inexpressible deceitfulness and obstinacy of their own hearts, and their absolute dependence upon the sovereign grace of God to prevent their destruction and save them. Thereby are they enabled to perceive more clearly and appreciate more deeply the atonement which Christ has made for them, and the exceeding greatness of His power which preserves such wretches. Thereby they learn such lessons to better advantage in this state of imperfection and sin than they could in a state of perfect holiness.
Fourth, the power of God is much more conspicuous and sensible in maintaining a small degree of holiness in the heart of a Christian in the midst of the opposition with which it and he is surrounded and assailed, than in making him perfectly holy at once. In this way the weak Christian, in the midst of strong temptations and powerful enemies, constantly exercising all their cunning to devour him, is upheld by the omnipotent hand of the Redeemer, and the little spark of holiness implanted in his heart is kept alive and burning, notwithstanding there is so much within and without tending to extinguish it. This is as great and wondrous a miracle as the preservation of a spark of fire year after year in the midst of the sea. The Christian is by his very situation and experience made in some measure conscious of this, and exclaims, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9).
Fifth, the wondrous condescension, goodness, tender love, infinite longsufferance of the Saviour are also exercised and manifested by His constant care of believers, though they be so imperfect and sinful, and offend in many things, and are often guilty of that which in itself is sufficient to provoke Him to give them up. There is much more opportunity for Him to act out and display His grace and forbearance, than if they were perfectly holy from the time of their conversion. This was illustrated by His attitude toward the first of His New Testament disciples. What selfishness, ingratitude, stupidity, and unbelief they manifested, yet how tenderly and patiently did He deal with them. Thus He treats all His disciples while in this life. They are, in measure, conscious of this, and love Him all the more for it--though they grieve bitterly over their sin and failures.
Thus the wisdom and goodness of God appear in so ordering it that no man, even the most eminent saint, shall be perfectly holy in this life, but that all the redeemed shall in this world be very imperfect and sinful, for the reasons mentioned above and the ends which are answered thereby. More might be added, yet the half cannot be discovered by us now. A clear and full view of the infinite wisdom and goodness of God in this is reserved for the future state, when the saved shall review all the dispensations of Heaven and ways of Him who is "wonderful in counsel and excellent in working." Should the carping objector exclaim, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" The answer is, "God forbid." Nor will those considerations exert any evil influence upon those whose hearts are right toward God--rather will they be the more thankful for the few rays of light which they cast upon a dark problem.
But to turn to the more immediate aspect of our theme. Though the believer be not perfectly sanctified in this life, he does make progress in holiness. This is clear from our Lord's words "every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2). Every living branch in the Vine grows in grace and fruitfulness; or, to express it in another way, he advances both in the work of mortification and of vivification. Most frequently such growth is likened unto that of trees (Psa. 92:12; Hosea 14:5, etc.), and it must be borne in mind that they grow both downwards and upwards: by the deepening of their roots and the spreading of their branches--the one unseen, the other apparent to the eye. But it is this very fact which most deeply exercises an honest heart, for so far from progress in holiness, he can perceive only retrogression: and instead of increasing fruitfulness, the decay of many of his graces.
The Christian's growth in grace is a mystery to be apprehended by faith rather than by sight. Our spiritual life is maintained by faith much more then the discerning of the increase of it. Yea, the spiritual life (strange and paradoxical as it sounds to carnal reason) is advanced by contraries: by falls and dissertations, and therefore is discerned by faith rather than by sense, for "faith is the evidence of things not seen." Moreover, the Christian's desires for grace grow larger, and his sense of want more acute (and this is a growth in itself), which hinders a perception of his progress: "There is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches" (Prov. 13:7). Again: there are great differences among Christians in the matter of growth. Some are planted in a congenial soil (under an edifying ministry), but with others it is quite different. Some are more shielded from temptations. Some grow without intermission (Col. 1:6), others leave their first love. Some die early, and therefore God fits them for Heaven the sooner. Some are most fruitful in their early days (like Isaac), others (like Solomon) bring forth most fruit in old age.
At the close of the last chapter we pointed out that the present aspect of our subject is one which deeply exercises many of God's people. It is with the desire to remove some of their difficulties and to throw light upon their problems that we devote another chapter thereto. Let us begin by mentioning several things which do not denote progress in personal and practical holiness. First, growth in grace is not an advancing in outward profession and ostentation, so that men shall "think of me above" what I am indeed (2 Cor. 12:6), but in inward and substantial godliness. When the roots of a tree do not strike deeper into the earth, yet its branches continue to spread, that is not true growth, for a strong wind will blow it over. Many people in Christendom are like that: there is a great spreading abroad outwardly and a plentiful show of leaves, but the fruits of vital piety are lacking.
Second, progress in holiness consists not in an increase of gifts or enlarged abilities for public service, but an increase in graces. The Corinthians grew fast in gifts, so that they were enriched "in all utterance and in all knowledge . . . so that they came behind in no gift" (1 Cor. 1:5, 7); nevertheless, the Apostle told them that they were but "babes" and "carnal" (1 Cor. 3:1, 3). And therefore did he point out to them "a more excellent way" (12:31), which (as Chapter 13 shows) was the presence and exercise of true grace, even love to God and love to our brethren, an ounce of which is of more real worth than a ton of gifts--for "though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass" (13:1). Ah, my reader, you may not be able to pray in public as some do, you may lack their readiness of speech when talking of Divine things, you may not be sought after to occupy positions of prominence in the church, but if you have a tender conscience, an honest heart, a gentle spirit, a forbearing disposition, you have that which is far more valuable than any gifts for public use.
Third, an increase in fruitfulness is not to be measured by the success we have in our service to the Lord. If He has called you to preach the Gospel, and you now obtain fewer souls for your hire than was the case in former years, that is not (necessarily) to be taken as a proof of your spiritual decay. It is true that the conversion of souls under the labours of the Apostles is called "fruit" by Christ Himself (John 15:16), and it is also true that God generally makes the most use of those whose hearts and lives are the holiest. Yet it was through no recorded failure on his part that John the Baptist must "decrease" that Christ might "increase." Older ministers are often required to give place to younger ones, but this is not because of a decay of grace in them. If the minister's heart be large in its desires and he is faithful in his endeavours to do good, God will reckon more fruit to him than to others who are less faithful but more successful.
Fourth, growing in grace and the bringing forth of more fruit is not to be measured by the largeness or smallness of those opportunities we have for the doing of more or less good. Some that have the most grace are often stationed in isolated places and are largely unknown to their fellow Christians. Some have larger opportunities when they are young and less when old, and yet they bring forth more fruit before God then than formerly, because He accepts the will for the deed. The public labours of the Baptist were ended when he was cast into prison, yet he brought forth precious fruits by not envying Christ because He secured his disciples, but rejoiced that the work of God went forward--more grace was expressed therein than in many sermons. So Paul spent much of his later life in prison, yet the fruit he brought forth there was quite as valuable as his preaching.
Fifth, increasing holiness is not to be measured by our inward comforts and joy, but rather by the more substantial qualities of faith, obedience, humility, and love. Very often it happens that the fragrant blossoms of ravishments fall off when the fruits of meekness, patience, and lowliness come on. What matters it though the gloss wear off, if the material be strong and substantial? Young Christians grow like new instruments: they have more varnish than the old, but they are not so sweet and mellow in sound. Often the decrease of joy is a means of increase of sincerity: lack of peace causes more exercise of faith, just as the taking away of floats compels the beginner to swim. One that has the assistance of floats and the stream with him, appears to swim as well as another with more experience and strength--but remove the floats from him and pit him against the stream, and his progress is not so swift, yet is it more sure.
Sixth, there is great danger of being deceived over inward affections, for even when they be drawn out unto Christ, yet their appearance may be greater than the reality. So often in a young Christian there is warm affection, yet much of self in it: great zeal, yet not a little of the energy of the flesh. He enters into duties more eagerly at first, but more spiritually later. New objects being set before him draw out after them the old nature as well as the principle received at regeneration. It was thus with Israel of old. They were obedient to Moses' call, and sang Jehovah's praises after their deliverance at the Red Sea; yet it was not long before the mixed multitude lusted after the fleshpots of Egypt, and only the spiritual were satisfied with the heavenly manna. When fire is first kindled there is more smoke, but after the flames come that control all into a narrower compass, the fire hath more heat in it. The believer's affections become purer, less mixed with the vapours of self-love as he grows in grace.
Seventh, we must not seek to determine our progress in holiness by any one grace or the performance of any particular duty, but take in the entire extent and latitude of character and conduct. One who has grown much in grace may be less in some kinds of duties than he was when a babe in Christ. Probably we then spent most of our available time in praying, reading, and meditating. Because we spend less time in them now, that is no proof of our spiritual decay: there are other duties to be performed which in earlier days were neglected, but are now made conscience of. To have more time available for prayer and reading is most delightful to a spiritual soul, yet the faithful discharge of business or domestic responsibilities is more profitable to others and more pleasing to God, if He has so appointed them. The mother who is faithful in the home honours God just as truly and fully as the most self-sacrificing missionary.
But let us turn now to the positive side and note some of the indications in and characters of an increase in holiness. First, we grow when we are led on to exercise new graces, and so "add" one to another as 2 Peter 1:5-7 enjoins. As our knowledge of Scripture increases, affections are awakened answerable to the truths newly discovered to us. At first the Christian does not exercise all the graces of the new man, though all are in him. As in the natural we first live a life of semi-consciousness, then one governed by the physical senses, and then one of reason, it is much the same in the spiritual. There are various "grades" or "standards" which Christians go through, as children at school rise from inferior to the higher. First we are placed under the Law and have heart exercises awakened by its requirements; then under the Gospel other affections are stirred into activity.
Second, we are increasing in holiness when the same graces advance, as when the Christian's love grows "fervent" (1 Peter 4:8). Faith at first is like a tiny mustard seed, but afterwards it develops into a tree. An awakened sinner often casts himself upon Christ much as a drowning man clutches at a passing spar: later, he has a more intelligent perception of His suitability and worth; until he attains unto "full assurance of faith." Thus in godly sorrow: when from mourning for sin because it is contrary to God's holiness, we go on to mourning over sin as grieving to Him who loves us, we are growing in grace. So when we have more strength to resist temptations. So in prayer: when our petitions are more for spiritual blessings than for material mercies, when we learn to plead with God in a Scriptural manner, when we pray much for others.
Third, we are increasing in holiness when the duties we perform and the fruits we bear are more ripe, that is, more spiritual, and less juicy, that is, emotional. Though they grow now in size or number--we pray not more nor longer--yet they are more holy, or more savoury and solid. It is a mistake to measure spiritual growth by the multitude of our performances: God prizes quality far more highly than He does quantity. When one is sick or aged, he is obliged to be less in active duties, but increased spirituality in those he can engage in, more than makes up for this. One short prayer put up in faith, with a broken heart, is in God's sight more fruit than a long one or a day spent in formal fasting; in the same sense that the "widow's mite" was more than all the other gifts cast into the treasury.
Fourth, an increase of holiness is indicated by the soul's becoming more firmly rooted in Christ, and this makes the fruits more acceptable unto God. By being more rooted in Christ, we mean the believer's living more out of himself and in Christ. At our conversion we were emptied of self-righteousness, and as we grow in grace we become emptied of our strength, wisdom, abilities, so that we recognize with increasing clearness that without Him we can do nothing. So of our service. "Not I, but Christ in me" is our ready acknowledgement. Consequently when "growth in grace" is mentioned "and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18) is at once added by way of explanation--for there can be no real growing in grace except as we increase in the vital and experimental knowledge of Christ. As to "worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3) are the surest signs of grace, so of genuine growth.
Fifth, the more we bring forth fruit in season, the more fruit we may be said to bear, for it is the timeliness of them which enhances their value. In the natural, fruit which is forced by artificial means is never so wholesome as that which is ripened normally by the sun. There is a time for everything. To be studying the Bible when I should be taking needful recreation, to be praying when I should be discharging other duties, to regale myself by happy fellowship with other Christians when I ought to be visiting the sick, or attending to the public means of grace when home duties plainly call for my attention, is to bring forth untimely fruit. So to rebuke when I should comfort, or comfort when I should rebuke: "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (Prov. 25:11). In Psalm 1 the righteous man is said to bring forth fruit "in his season." Young Christians are often set on good works by the Devil which they are not yet qualified to perform.
Sixth, when we grow more constant in performing duty, more even in a godly course, and more settled in our spiritual affections, it is a sure sign that we are growing. Youth is more unstable than maturity, more given to change. The young believer is more influenced by his emotions than his judgment, and therefore more easily carried away by religious excitement--and more quickly discouraged when things go wrong. The development of patience and perseverance is a clear mark of spiritual growth. To go by fits and starts, to be much in duties for a while and then almost abandon them, to be on a mountain top one day and down in the valley the next is a character of immaturity and weakness. But being not weary in well-doing in the face of opposition, to continue pressing forward despite many failures, to go on seeking grace notwithstanding many refusals, denotes growth.
Seventh, we may be said to be increasing in holiness when, although difficulties increase and opportunities lessen, we continue faithfully therein. An orchard which produces fruit in a cold and uncongenial season, though it be less in quantity and quality, is really for it (relatively) to yield more than if the year had been a warm and propitious one. The Lord takes into account the times and circumstances in which our lot is cast: "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience" (Rev. 2:2). Fidelity to Christ means far more in such an evil day as ours than if we were in the midst of a Heaven-sent revival. Little is regarded by God as much as when His child has had to stand almost alone, when his strictness has been almost universally scoffed at by modern religionists.
Our object in this chapter is to resolve a case of conscience, rather than handle the subject of spiritual growth in either a doctrinal or hortatory manner. Instead of discoursing upon progressive holiness in general, or seeking to urge believers thereto, we have sought to indicate, both negatively and positively some of the marks of growth in grace that an exercised soul might be able to discern more clearly his actual condition. It is most important that we should be able to judge rightly of our case and not flatter ourselves on the one hand, nor deprecate ourselves on the other: some are more tempted to the former, others to the latter. It is easy to make a mistake and jump to a wrong conclusion. As in the physical realm many suffering from insidious diseases suppose they are healthy, while others who are sound and vigorous imagine they are ill, so it is spiritually.
While it is the duty and privilege of the Christian to ascertain what progress Divine grace is enabling him to make in his spiritual course, and to be assured he is not a fruitless branch of the Vine, yet God does not intend that he should be satisfied with his attainments or fall in love with himself. Far from it--rather is it His design that he should live more and more out of himself, upon Christ. And it is for this reason that He suffers the most spiritual of His people to be constantly plagued by indwelling sin, and sees to it that they are kept continually busy in fighting the weeds that are ever threatening to crowd out the flowers and fruit in the garden of their souls. Should they become at all self-complacent, He will soon stain their pride by withholding the dews of His Spirit, and then their graces speedily wilt and wither. In such a case they are hard put to perceive any fruit at all.
In addition to all that has been said above, let it be pointed out that subsequent growth in grace is not nearly so apparent to our senses as first conversion is. That is a radical change from death unto life, from being brought out of darkness unto God's marvelous light, from no grace at all to the beginnings of grace in us--whereas that which follows is renewing of the life already received, additions of light, and further degrees of grace. To be translated out of a prison to a kingdom as Joseph was, would affect him far more than to have a new kingdom added to him later, as Alexander had. The very newness of grace in the first instance makes a much stronger impression upon the heart and understanding than do the later additions of it. When one takes up any art or science, growth is prompt, because everything we read thereon is novel; whereas later, the same things are met with again and again, and that which is new is harder to discover, though now he learns more perfectly what he previously knew.
Again: time must be allowed for growth and the discovery of it. "When for the time ye ought to be teachers" (Heb. 5:12), implies that a sufficient space had elapsed for them to have passed the infantile stage. The sun's rising is slow and by degrees, so that its progress cannot be perceived till after its motion for an hour or so. Let it be remembered that things most excellent have the slowest development. Bulrushes, and the weaker kind of plants shoot up swiftly, but oaks and other more solid trees grow very slowly. Moreover, there are great differences in the pace of growth even among the same specie of trees or animals; so it is spiritually. God has appointed the measure of growth in all His people, yet they are brought to the fullness in very different times and ways.
Growth in mortification is evidenced by our denying self more and more, by the things of this world making less of an appeal upon us, and by a steadier and more regular watching over our hearts. Such work is new to us at first, and the putting forth of unaccustomed efforts is always more taxing than actions we are used to; but as the habit is formed, the strain is not noticed so much. Moreover, an increase of spiritual (not intellectual) light exhibits filthy corners in the heart hitherto unsuspected; consequently, the farther one proceeds with God the more spiritual his conflict becomes. When the believer resists not only the grosser worldly and fleshly lusts, but also makes conscience of pride, self-confidence, impatience, unworthy motives, the weakness of his faith and the sparseness of his love, then is he indeed growing in grace.
Growth in vivification is evidenced in further supplies of grace and the effects they produce. It may be asked whether every new degree of grace affects the whole of our souls, or if it be confined to one faculty? The answer is the former, for as every new degree of light (as the sun rises) shines throughout the whole hemisphere, so new grace is diffused throughout the entire man--understanding, conscience, affections, and will--just as it did at our conversion. But may not one grace grow more than the other? Growth in our bodies is proportionate, one member together with another; so our graces all languish or thrive together. But some graces are exercised more, and so abound more: just as though our two arms both grow, yet through employing the right one more constantly, it becomes stronger than the left.
It may be of interest to enquire whether this increase in grace be only by the normal and spontaneous development of the graces, or by a new addition to them? The latter: just as a cloth comes out a deeper colour each time it be dipped in the dye, every new degree of grace is by a fresh act of creation put forth by God. Therefore when David, being fallen, prayed for an increase of grace, he cried, "create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psa. 51:10). He who begins the work, by the same power, perfects it. Every new degree of grace is called a fresh conversion: "when thou art converted" said Christ to Peter (Luke 22:32) who was converted already. It is God who "giveth the increase" (1 Cor. 3:7). Yet, as pointed out in previous chapters, our concurrence is required. (For much in the above we are indebted to Thomas Goodwin).
Ere seeking to open up this final phase of our many-sided subject, we had better make quite clear the relation between it and what has preceded. The believer possesses now a sanctification which is absolute, complete, and inalienable. He was sanctified by God the Father from all eternity, when chosen in Christ and blessed with all spiritual blessings in Him (Eph. 1:3, 4). He was sanctified by God the Son at the completion of His redemptive work upon the Cross (Heb. 13:12). He was sanctified by God the Spirit at regeneration (2 Thess. 2:13). Now this should, and does, produce radical effects in his life, though these effects vary considerably, both in specie and degree, in different cases; which variations are, in their final analysis, to be attributed unto the sovereignty of God's grace. Looking at the same thing in another way, we may say that this grand blessing and gift which is the believer's, entails definite obligations which he is required to discharge, and those obligations are what we are about to contemplate.
The ideas of the natural man here, as everywhere, are at direct variance with God's. People, generally, suppose that holy conduct makes a saint; whereas God's way is to make saints, and then demand from them holy conduct. An attentive reading of the New Testament Epistles will discover abundant confirmation of this. For example, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25): since the Spirit has regenerated us, our responsibility is to walk in newness of life. "I therefore . . . beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (Eph. 4:1): we do not become saints by walking worthily, but because God has sanctified us in Christ Jesus, He bids us conduct ourselves suitably to such a high privilege. "Now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8). That is the Divine order--an inestimable privilege is conferred, and then we are called upon to make a fitting response thereto.
As this is a point of first importance, and one which is woefully subverted in some quarters today, we beg the reader to bear patiently with us while we labour it a little further. "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints" (1 Cor. 1:2). As we learn from the chapters that follow, the Corinthians were in a low spiritual and moral condition, and were acting most unworthily of their high calling--nevertheless, they were saints, and addressed as such. They were "saints" or "sanctified ones," not because they were perfect people, but because they had been sovereignly and supernaturally called of God: yet, alas, their conduct was most unsaintly. Theirs was, indeed, an extreme case, yet, for that very reason, it forcibly illustrates the point we are now pressing: God makes saints and then He bids them avoid everything incongruous therewith--"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints" (Eph. 5:3).
Not only are the saints exhorted to avoid everything contrary to their high calling, but they are to cultivate all that is consonant therewith: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy (saints) and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, etc." (Col. 3:12). "Keep thyself pure" (1 Tim. 5:22), not "make thyself pure" emphasises the same thought. "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness" (Titus 2:3); their practical conduct should conform to their standing in Christ. Believers are, even now "A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation," yet that did not hinder the Apostle from saying, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:9, 11): yes, it was because they were "strangers and pilgrims," and not in order to become such, that they were exhorted to act accordingly.
Men, in their fancied wisdom, may conclude that it had been much more conducive to holy living, to have concealed the wondrous truth of the believer's completeness in Christ, and have left him to struggle on, stimulated by the thought that there is much for him to do and attain unto before he is qualified to enter into everlasting Glory. As, but "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God," and sad to say, His wisdom is foolishness to them. It is the very revelation of the exceeding riches of His grace that exerts the greatest influence upon the renewed heart. And therefore, God had not only made known the completeness of His people's sanctification in Christ, but He uses the same to promote their spiritual purity: "And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:3 and cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-15).
Practical holiness is promoted by nothing but the improvement or use of evangelical principles and motives. It is men's misunderstanding of the true way of practical sanctification--by the exercise of faith and love--which has caused them to decline from the Truth and accept the Papist, Arminian, and Antinomian errors, wherein Satan appears to their natural understandings as an angel of light. The believer's living unto God is not by his own power, but by faith's appropriation of the strength of Christ. Many suppose that the doctrine which we are here inculcating makes Christians careless of good works. Not so: it makes them careless of seeking to do them by their own natural power, and in a way of slavish fear, and it makes them careful of relying on the grace of God, and heartily desirous of doing that which is pleasing in His sight.
Yet that ancient objection is still made by those who imagine that the only effectual method of enforcing holiness is by telling people their ultimate salvation depends entirely on their own conduct and the determinations of their own will--supposing that to assure Christians they are already delivered from the wrath to come by their faith in Christ, thus freeing them from all terrors of Hell, is to leave them without any argument or motive of sufficient force to produce practical holiness. Whereas the truth is that if Christians have no better security against the wrath to come than from their own behaviour and use of their wills, they, conscious of the deceitfulness of sin and of their own hearts, and of all the temptations and dangers attending their course, might indeed see reason for terror and dread, but in a manner and degree far from being favourable to inculcating holiness.
It is true that fear has its place and use for the restraining of sin, yet the proper principle of true holiness is love, and the faith which works by love. But if the believer has nothing to look to for securing him against damnation but the exercise of his own will and the aids and assistance which he is free to use or neglect, then there will be cause for continual terror, such terror as has torment, and which is altogether inconsistent with that love which is the mainspring of holiness: 1 John 4:18. How differently has the Divine scheme of grace mixed and tempered things for the advancement of holiness! Though the salvation of God's people be secured upon the most solid foundation, yet there remains much for them to fear with regard to sin and its consequences, with regard to the terrible chastisements, both inward and outward, which God visits upon the iniquities of His people.
Yet the Christian has, at the same time, a sure and well-founded hope, a strong consolation, a blissful prospect, and the most attractive motives which tend to increase love to God, and to His sovereignty and holiness, and to strengthen his heart in labouring for conformity to it. Thus we may perceive the wisdom of that scheme which, while placing the curb of fear upon the unholy and unruly passions of the heart, supplies motives which contribute much to the advancement of love and strengthening of the hearts of Christians in their course. By Divine grace they have the greatest cause for that love which is the source of all acceptable obedience, yet a godly fear which is subservient to that love, having its root mainly in love itself. The grace of the new covenant has provided for the promotion of good works in a manner and degree far beyond what the Law of the old covenant produced.
Practical sanctification is absolutely demanded of those who are sanctified in Christ. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that everyone of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness" (1 Thess. 4:3, 4, 7). Those words, and there are many such in the New Testament, can only refer to our practical sanctification in daily life. We need to be much on guard here, lest in seeking to avoid the error of evacuating our perfect standing as God's holy ones, we fall into that other which evades the force of God's call to holiness of life. And let it be emphatically stated that the standard of practical holiness is the holiness of God Himself, and nothing lower. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48); "Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).
The nature and extent of this calling to practical holiness is set forth in passage after passage. "But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation" (1 Peter 1:15); "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversations and godliness?" (2 Peter 3:11). There is a special need in these days of factitious morality, and of false sentiments as to what constitutes evangelical holiness, to turn to the Word of God, that we may search and try ourselves and our ways by its unerring standard. Men, even Christian men, are ever prone to select virtues which they esteem, and vices which they condemn--and the selection made by each individual is too apt to consist of virtues to which he is, or imagines himself, much inclined, and of vices to which he has, or thinks he has, little or no inclination. But the holiness of God demands he does not deal with a selection of virtues and vices: He requires holiness in everything.
The standard of holiness which God sets before us is, like Himself, perfect, and He will not lower it a single degree to meet our infirmities. He claims the whole being and requires holiness in every thought, word, and deed. "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31); "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17); "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4:11). Nothing short of an all-embracing holiness will measure up to the standard God has set before us. It is not only the outward life, but the inward also which is exposed to His searching light (Heb. 4:12, 13). Unto all the exercises and emotions of the heart, its motives and purposes, its affections and sufferings, God presents the claims of His holiness.
It makes nothing against the Scriptures quoted above that other passages in God's Word (like Rom. 7:14-25; Phil. 3:12, 13) just as clearly show that none actually attain unto God's standard in this life, that our practical holiness falls far short of the perfection to which we are called, and is so often interrupted in its progress because the medium of its action and manifestation is weak and imperfect, and is tenanted by the "flesh," which ever lusteth against the spirit. On the one hand, we must steadily decline to lower God's standard, confess the sad failure of our life and the many imperfections of our walk, no matter how humiliating this may be. It is because sinless perfectionists have such slight views of the enormity of sin, and such an inadequate conception of that holiness which God requires, that they are so easily deceived.
Christian reader, it is just because our sanctification in Christ is eternally complete and absolutely up to the satisfaction of God's thoughts and heart, that we are called to the pursuit of perfect holiness, and are to be satisfied with nothing less. It is just because of this that we can never reach a point at which we may cease the pursuit: the goal of today must be the starting-point of tomorrow, and so till the end of our earthly pilgrimage. "Follow peace with all, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). In those words the Holy Spirit has not hesitated to predicate eternal destiny upon the presence or absence of personal holiness; not because it rests on that, but because in the new creation there is never life, without life's action--in God's husbandry, there is never root without fruit in some measure.
Practical sanctification, or holiness of heart and life, of character and conduct, is, then, a reflection or manifestation of that perfect sanctification which the believer has in and through Christ; yet it is now but a dim reflection at best, because obstructed by the flesh, which remains unchanged to the last. It is because of our consciousness of the dimness to this reflection that we so often become discouraged and distracted. A sincere soul is much troubled over his conformity to Christ, and is so often made to wonder whether the root of the matter be in him at all. Let it be said, then, for the comforting of such, that holiness is more longed after than realized in this life; yet this statement requires to be guarded, lest those not entitled to it should draw consolation therefrom. Not a few have a vague and general wish for holiness in the abstract while having no relish for it in the concrete and the details of what is involved in a close walking with God.
The Israelites of old were well pleased with the abstract idea of serving the Lord, and avowed their purpose of doing so: they said, "The LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for He is our God. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for He is an holy God; He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins" (Josh. 24:18, 19). Certain of the Jews said to Christ, "Lord, evermore give us this bread" (John 6:34), yet when He told them what it was to have the Bread of Life, they were offended. Ah, when it comes to the actual point of treading the Narrow Way, of watching and striving against sin both within and without, or rowing against the stream of the flesh, of diligently using all those means which are necessary for communion with God--they falter, murmur, and do nothing.
These vague and idle wishes after holiness which many religionists have are but hasty and ill-considered, and not deliberate and serious. The hearing of a powerful sermon, or the reading of an impressive article produces a real but evanescent effect, and for the moment such people are quite carried away. The commendations of holiness, and the representations of its imperative necessity convinces the mind, and they assent thereto, and promise themselves they will now make the pursuit thereof their chief business. Their emotions are stirred, the Word is received willingly, and they "consecrate" themselves afresh to God. But alas, their "goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away" (Hosea 6:4): only that of which God Himself is the Author will survive the testings of time and endure for eternity.
The experience of such people is not bottomed in grace, and therefore they have no spiritual sincerity to sustain them. Their desires after holiness are but empty wishes, unaccompanied by diligent and laborious efforts. "The desires of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour" (Prov. 21:25). It is like saying, O that I had a lovely garden, and then refused to spade, plant, and weed it. Or, O that I were in such a place, and then were too lazy to journey there. The wishes after holiness of this class are not steady and lasting, but are quickly crowded out by lusting after other things. They are not prepared to "buy the Truth" (Prov. 23:23). But he who truly thirsts for God and yearns to be conformed to His image, will put forth his utmost endeavours after the same. The language of the regenerate is "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD (enjoy fellowship with Him) all the days of my life" (Psa. 27:4).
"LORD, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, Thou wilt cause Thine ear to hear" (Psa. 10:17). How comforting is this for those lowly ones who sincerely yearn after personal holiness! Their very yearning is a prayer, which reaches the ear of Him who will not quench the smoking flax. "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him: He also will hear their cry, and will save them" (Psa. 145:19). And again, "The desire of the righteous shall be granted" (Prov. 10:24). Yes, not only does God hear the spiritual desire of His distressed child, but, in due time, He will fulfil it: that is a promise for faith to lay hold of, for its accomplishment is not in this life, but in the next. Meanwhile, our duty is defined in that word, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Psa. 37:4)--meditate upon His wondrous perfections, seek communion with Him, honestly endeavour to please Him.
Since God has promised to grant the desire of the righteous, how important it is that the Christian should watch against the abatement of his spiritual longings. If a man loses his natural appetite, his body soon languishes; so it is with the soul. True, we can neither give ourselves an appetite nor retain it, but we can do those things which will greatly impair it, and it is our responsibility to avoid whatever is injurious to our health--true alike naturally and spiritually. It is the Christian's duty to do as those who would keep in the fire: cherish the spark, blow upon the embers, add more fuel to it. On the one hand, we must guard against those things which would chill and quench our love for God; and on the other, we must "strengthen the things which remain" (Rev. 3:2).
Because they have been perfectly sanctified by Christ, and because they have been made saints by the Holy Spirit, believers are called upon to lead saintly lives, that is, to yield unto God the throne of their hearts and aim at His glory in all their conduct. Therein does the practice of sanctification actually consist. It is the fitting response which the Christian is required to make unto the amazing grace that has been shown him. Negatively, he is to avoid everything which is contrary to and inconsistent with his high calling in Christ. Positively, he is to seek after and cultivate whatever will manifest and adorn the same. God claims the entire being, and demands holiness in every thought, word, and act. The standard of personal holiness which He has set before us is one of flawless perfection, and at this we must constantly aim.
At the close of the last chapter we pointed out how important it is that the Christian should watch against the abatement of his spiritual longings, and avoid whatever tends to dampen his love for God and dull his appetite for spiritual things. Let us now mention some of the things which bring deadness upon the soul and greatly hinder the practice of sanctification. First, the committing of sins which have not been duly repented of. Where sin is not fully repented of, it is allowed (condoned), and therein the Holy Spirit is resisted and grieved. Consequently, He withholds both His comforts and His grace, and the believer's strength is greatly reduced. God will not be trifled with, and when He is offended thus, He smites the heart with deadness and hardness, so that the spiritual life is much impaired and power for holy living is considerably reduced. Learn, then, to stand in awe not only of great, but smaller sins.
Second, slackness in the performance of duties, especially neglect of those means of grace whereby the Christian is kept healthy and fresh in living unto God. Slothfulness and carelessness more often steal in upon believers than positive outbursts and commission of sin. They are more insidious, less likely to be judged by them, and are frequent causes of deadness of heart. This sluggishness of soul is most reprehensible, for it is a despising of the means God has appointed for our good. To expect grace from God when we turn from the channels through which it flows, is to tempt Him or act presumptuously. To lie upon a bed of ease, and then say Christ must do it all, is a species of hypocrisy. When the Spouse sleeps, Christ withdraws (Song 5:6). Grace was never intended to incite to idleness. The fact that God works in us is the very reason why we must work (Phil. 2:12, 13).
Third, ingratitude or lack of thankfulness for those spiritual benefits we have already received. God requires to have His gifts acknowledged, therefore does He often stay His hand and suspend the influences of His grace where His bounty be not owned. "Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving" (Col. 2:7): the way to grow in faith is to be thankful for what we have received--and not, under a pretence of humility and modesty, deny that we have any! To bless God for the grace he has already bestowed is an effectual means of retaining it and of having more added to it. But if you are ungrateful and querulous, be not surprised if deadness and discouragement of heart come upon you.
Fourth, fleshly indulgence and flirting with the world is a great hindrance to the practice of holiness. Just so far as we gratify the flesh, we are straitened in the spirit, and to the extent that we seek comfort and satisfaction from the world, do we deprive ourselves of the grace and joy there is to be found in Christ. An immoderate use of earthly things, an inordinate affection for human objects, an unequal yoke with unbelievers, brings deadness upon the soul. How much, then, we need to make that prayer our own: "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken Thou me in Thy way" (Psa. 119:37). The Spirit is grieved when we become addicted to vain pleasures, and therefore as sensuality increases the vitality of grace in us decays.
Other things injure the life of practical holiness, but we name only two more. Pride in spiritual attainments. When we take credit to ourselves for our growth in grace or victories over sin, the Spirit is grieved and His operations cease. "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 4:6). He is jealous of His honour, and will not divide it with us. The garland we put upon our own heads soon withers, and those gifts we become puffed up with are quickly blasted. By humiliating falls God teaches us to ascribe all glory to Himself. Heavy troubles, temporal reverses, family bereavements, the loss of health dampen our spirits and retard the wheels of spiritual action. Therefore we find the Psalmist praying "I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto Thy word" (Psa. 119:107).
Probably there are not a few of our readers ready to exclaim, In the last few sentences you have placed your finger closer to the seat of my trouble than in any of the previous points. It is the difficulty of the way, the trying nature of my circumstances, the unsuitable environment in which I am placed that really makes it impossible for me to live a saintly life and be a fruitful Christian. Ah, my friend, that is no valid excuse. The heavier be the pressure upon us, the more it should drive us to our knees. The deader we feel ourselves to be, the more earnest should we cry unto God for Him to quicken us. Was it not so in the case of the Psalmist? True, he was "afflicted very much," yet he did not give way to despondency and conclude his situation was beyond relief. No, he turned unto God and sough fresh supplies of grace.
"If one is placed in circumstances quite decent and honourable, yet not conducive to holiness, where does sanctification count in one's life?" This question was recently sent us by a reader who was much interrupted while writing us, and apologized for the wording. But the thought is quite intelligible: let us express it in a variety of forms. If one be placed in circumstances where there is nothing to encourage striving after a closer walk with God, how can he expect to thrive like those who are more congenially situated? If one be obliged to work day after day among a company of the godless, and even in the home meet with opposition and ridicule, will not the fruits of the Spirit be necessarily chilled? If one has so many domestic duties to perform that there is scarcely any time available for the cultivation of personal piety, and when at night she is too exhausted to read with profit, how can one expect to grow in grace?
Let us begin our answer to these very pertinent inquiries, by affirming that there are no "circumstances" which are uncongenial to the cultivation and exercise of personal holiness, no environment or situation in life which is unsuitable to a close walking with God. We quite understand what is in the mind of the above questioner, and fully appreciate the force of his difficulty--but he is failing to take into account several vitally important considerations, and it is his very failure in overlooking these considerations which will make him the more surprised at the answer we have given. Well can we imagine some saying, Ah, you would not be so quick to affirm that no circumstances are uncongenial to personal holiness if you had to live your life as and where I am compelled to live mine.
Bear with us for a few moments, dear friend, and seek to weigh impartially what we now write. Take first the Divine side of the matter. Is it not God Himself who regulates all our "circumstances"? Most certainly it is, for it is written "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36). Then it is God, and not blind fate, not a fickle "fortune" (or misfortune), who has placed you in the very situation which you now occupy! He is the One who planned from all eternity the very environment which you are now in: to believe otherwise is virtual atheism! Moreover, if you are His child, then He always has in view your highest and ultimate welfare: "For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28), and that "all things" includes your unpleasant "circumstances"!
Now let us turn to the human side of the matter, by which we mean the response which you ought to make to what has just been pointed out. Your first duty is to exercise faith in the above passages, and recognize God's shaping hand in your present lot. Your second duty is obviously to humbly submit and be content with what God has appointed, and not chafe and murmur at it, for that is nothing but a species of rebellion against the providential will of God. Not only will it not help you, but it is folly to envy those whom you suppose are more favourably situated for the cultivation of holiness: every situation has its own (relative) disadvantage and difficulties--you little know of the temptations which the "favourably situated" ones encounter!
Your third duty is to humbly but earnestly beg God to sanctify the "circumstances" to you. He is able to bring good out of evil, to make a real blessing what now seems to be a serious hindrance. Nothing is too hard for God to accomplish: He can bring a clean thing out of an unclean, He can make the desert to rejoice and the wilderness blossom as the rose; He can make the feeble mighty and bring the dead to life. Surely, then, He is well able to sanctify to your soul the most trying situation, the most unpropitious environment, and make fertile to you its sterile soil. The fact is, dear reader, that that very lot you find so hard to bear only provides a suitable opportunity for you to prove the sufficiency of God's grace.
Ah, that is the very essence of the matter. If you definitely and diligently seek grace from God and are then enabled to be submissive, trustful, humble, patient, unmurmuring, thankful that your lot is not far worse than it is, then you are bringing forth the fruits of holiness! Are we not told that "a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Peter 3:4)? Yes, valued by Him more highly than some of the showier gifts which others are permitted to exercise in the pulpit. All plants are not the same, nor do they all thrive equally well in the same kind of soil. Likewise, there is great variety in the graces of the Spirit, and different environments are needed for their cultivation and manifestation. Shall the fern complain because God placed it in a damp and shaded nook? Shall the water lily murmur because a pond rather than a garden be its dwelling place?
Alas, you say, how that condemns me! How sadly have I failed to see God's will appointing and His hand shaping my circumstances. I am almost, if not quite as blind, as the grossest skeptic. Of course I am quite familiar with the words "All things work together for good to them that love God," but I have never applied them to the unpleasant details of my life. And oh! what complaining, impatience, unbelief, rebellion, I am guilty of! Truly I am like "a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke" (Jer. 31:18). I must admit how often I have envied those whose path appeared to be much smoother and easier than mine, and it does seem to me that if I had more leisure or a stronger body, and close contact with those who are spiritually minded, I would make better progress.
As for the third duty you mentioned, I have begged God to sanctify trials to my heart, to give me strength to carry the cross, to make a blessing to me those things which I find most unpleasant. O how earnestly and frequently have I besought Him for grace to be meek and quiet, content and unmurmuring, patient and trustful. But alas, I cannot have His ear, for I often find the more I pray the more trying things become and the worse I am. I acknowledge that I am a complete failure and feel utterly discouraged. I know not what more to do, and can only cry out "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). Tell me, is there no remedy, no relief to be obtained, no way in which I can obtain deliverance from my sinful self?
It is just at this very point that the religious quacks of the day so often obtain a hearing, and persuade distressed Christians to give a trial to their remedy. Struggling against the power of indwelling sin, often tripped up by Satan, brought to seriously question their regeneration, at their wit's end to know what to do for relief, certain preachers will assure them that God has provided for just this contingency. Varying somewhat in their terms (according to the particular school they belong to), they will tell such an one whose experience we have described above that he or she has been "justified" but not yet "sanctified," and that if "the second blessing" be sought and obtained, a tremendous difference will follow. Or, the distressed one will be informed that what he needs is the "filling" or "baptism of the Spirit," or that "the higher life," or "the victorious life" is what provides the grand panacea for all his ills.
Let us take the "second blessing" people first. This blessing is referred to by them as "entire sanctification," "perfect love," and "complete cleansing." They insist that it is a second work of grace wrought in the believer, as definite and distinct as what took place at his conversion. They teach that the first blessing bestows the pardon of sin, whereas the second removes the root of sin, purifying the heart from all corruption. They claim that those who enter into this second blessing may live a life which is without spot or blemish, wholly acceptable unto God. Its leaders affirm that they are entirely delivered from evil inclinations, all inward pollutions, that temptations only come to them now from without, and that the fiery darts of the Wicked One fall harmlessly against the shield of their faith. They are pure internally and victorious externally: filled with perfect love, peace and joy.
This second blessing is entered into by the seeking soul "laying his all upon the altar," unreservedly consecrating himself to God. He must believe without the slightest doubting that the Lord is able and willing to perform this work of grace in him and eradicate the sinful nature from his being. He is told that just as surely as the Lord sent down fire from Heaven and consumed the sacrifice which was placed upon the temple altar of old, so the Holy Spirit will now come as a flame of fire and burn up his evil propensities root and branch. He is informed that the secret of the whole thing lies in the exercise of childlike faith. Having placed his all upon the altar, he must be fully assured that God has accepted his sacrifice, and totally ignoring the evidence of his senses and feelings, he is to believe the great work is done, that he is now entirely sanctified, that sin has been eradicated from his being, and he must now thank God for it and testify to his fellows that the second blessing is his.
What shall we say of these things? First, that they are an utter delusion, a religious mirage which mocks the weary traveler across the desert of time. They promise that which is unfulfilled and unattainable in this life. Second, they cruelly raise hopes in the heart of distressed people, the dashing of which leaves them in a far worse state than they were before. These poor souls have implicit confidence in their teachers, and carry out their instructions to the letter, and when they find the result is not what they were told, they blame themselves--for their lack of faith, etc. In the course of our experience we have met with numbers who have honestly and earnestly sought this "second blessing" of "entire sanctification," only to meet with disappointment and then sink into abject despair. Some of them (known to us personally) ended in the madhouse, while others committed suicide. Third, such teaching is directly contrary to the Word of God, and therefore is to be shunned as a plague.
A few words now upon the "higher life" teaching. While not so extreme and pernicious as the former, it is nevertheless delusive and disappointing. There are various schools with different terms to describe their "blessings." But that which is common to them all is this: God has provided something far better for His children in this life than that which merely accompanies conversion, something which if sought and received will lift them above the level occupied by so many Christians, which will deliver them from an up-and-down experience, from doubting and mourning, and make them overcoming believers. Though the "flesh" be not eradicated, they will now live constantly in the Spirit, though the sinful nature be not removed, they will have complete victory over it; though they are yet feeble and fallible creatures, the Spirit will so fill and energize them that they shall possess wondrous "power for service" and become successful "winners of souls for Christ."
And how is this wondrous change brought about? What must one do who is keenly desirous of entering into this blissful experience? Various answers are returned. Some say we must wait upon God and continue in earnest prayer, pleading Christ's promise, as the disciples did the 10 days preceding Pentecost. Others say at conversion we simply accepted Christ as our Saviour, and that now we must surrender to Him as "absolute Lord and Master of your life, so that never again will you question His authority, or disobey His commands." Still others tell us that the reason why we have failed so sadly hitherto is because we have attempted to resist the Devil and overcome sin in our own strength, but that if we now receive Christ in His fullness, turn the battle completely over to Him, and trust Him moment by moment, we shall be more than conquerors.
What shall we say to these things? First, that they are entirely without Scriptural warrant. Where is there any record in Acts of the Apostles revisiting their converts and telling them of something far better than what became theirs at conversion? Where is there anything in the Epistles (some of which were addressed to churches in a very low spiritual state!) exhorting the saints to seek a "baptism" or "anointing" of the Spirit? There is none! Second, to talk about first accepting Christ as Saviour and then surrendering to Him as Lord betrays a deplorable ignorance or perverting of the Scriptures: He must be received as Lord before He becomes the Saviour of any--the New Testament uniformly refers to Him as "Lord and Saviour" (2 Peter 3:2, 18), never as "Saviour and Lord!" Third, the closing sentences of the last paragraph are absurd: where is the truly born-again soul who seeks to overcome sin in his own strength? A prayerless Christian is a contradiction in terms. The very fact that he is a Christian ensures that he has learned of his own powerlessness (Phil. 3:3), and that he now seeks grace and help from God.
Surely if ever there were a saint who fully surrendered the throne of his heart to the sceptre of Christ, who was filled with the Spirit, and who had entered into God's best for him in this life, it was the Apostle Paul. Was, then, he completely free from sin? Did he fully measure up to the standard of holiness God has set before us? Were there no faults and failings in his Christian life? Witness the sharp contention between him and Barnabas (Acts 15:39), and remember that it always takes two to make a quarrel. Hear him acknowledging "without were fightings, within (not all was perfect peace, but) were fears" (2 Cor. 7:5). Observe his vacillation in 2 Corinthians 7:8: first, determining to sharply rebuke their sin, then sorrowing because he had done so, lest their feelings had been unduly hurt, and then regretting that he had been sorry. If any reader be inclined to give ear to the errors we have mentioned above, we beseech him to candidly test them by the Apostle's own experience in Romans 7:14-24 and Philippians 3:11-14.
From The Doctrine of Sanctification by A. W. Pink