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In Chapter Two we have shown that perfect salvation is taught in the Bible and what it is. In this chapter we shall show that it is the “second grace,” a religious experience subsequent to regeneration.
Christ commanded His disciples saying, “Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). This is equivalent to Paul’s command to the Ephesians, to “put on the new man which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” That is, put on the perfect likeness of god. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
The above command was addressed to God’s children. Mark the language, “your Father which is in heaven,” it therefore enjoins an attainment beyond sonship. “The disciple is not above his Master, but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master” (Luke 6:40). According to this, some disciples may be perfect, and others not: hence, there are two phases of Christian experience.
The margin reads thus: “The disciple is not above his Master; but every one shall be perfected as his Master.” A disciple is a Christian (Acts 11:26), is one who “denies himself, takes up his cross and follows Jesus” (Luke 14:26-27, 33). Then we have the order clearly defined. First, a disciple or Christian; second, “Be perfected;” and this exalted state is not the privilege of a few only, but “every one shall be perfected.” Of course, this is the work of God; it was to make them like Jesus in moral nature, which involves a change of nature that the hand of the Lord only can do: hence, the perfecting of the saints is a divine work.
At Corinth , Paul’s preaching seems not to have been appreciated by the church. They regarded him as “weak,” foolish,” and even beside himself. “Howbeit,” says the Apostle, “we speak wisdom among them that are perfect” (1 Corinthians 2:6). Every man preaches from the stand-point of his own experience and will be appreciated by those in the same state of grace; to them it will be wisdom; but foolishness to all who occupy a lower plane of Christian experience. The language of Canaan is only understood by those who have reached the land; and wherever Paul had the privilege of preaching to these—the “perfect”—his words were fraught with “wisdom;” while to the unsanctified Corinthians, his preaching was “foolishness.”
Here, again, we see two forms of saving grace. Paul was such a thorough holiness preacher that he could not well feed these “carnal babes in Christ” who had continued so long in the first stage of salvation, that, like many at present, they had become spiritual dyspeptics; unable to assimilate good, strong Gospel meat. To all such I would say with Paul, “This also we wish, even your perfection” (2 Corinthians 13:9).
The same feature of the Apostolic church is seen at Philippi . In his Epistle to this church, the Apostle speaks of two kinds of perfection; one of which he disclaims and the other he professes.
That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death, If by any means, I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but his one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. (Philippians 3:10-16)
It seems to me that no candid reader with ordinary acumen can fail to distinguish between the two perfections here brought to view, and discover the meaning of each. You see that the perfection Paul denies having attained is the “prize” at the end of the race; his eyes were fixed on a glorious “resurrection from the dead:” for this he “counted all things but loss;” and pressed forward with all the energies of his soul. There is no more reason for saying that Paul was not free from sin because he was not perfect in the sense of having “finished his course” and obtained his crown than for attributing sin to Christ; for, says He, “Behold, I cast out devils, and do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected” (Luke 13:32).
The Scriptures speak of different kinds of perfection as absolute, resurrected, legal, Adamic and what we may term Christian perfection: hence, it is that perfection is both affirmed and denied in the Scriptures with respect to the same individuals. Thus God recognized Job as being “perfect and upright” (Job 1:1) while Job himself says, “If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse” (Job 9:20).
David says, “I have seen an end of all (legal) perfection, (for) thy law is exceeding broad;” and yet, he calls on all men to “mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace” (Psalm 119:96; 37:37).
It is thus that Paul seems to contradict himself in the Epistle to the Philippians. The explanation is easy. “Legal perfection is disclaimed, while evangelical perfection is claimed. In other words, perfect love-service can be rendered; while perfect law-service is beyond the power of man in this life” (D. Steel).
While Paul was not perfect as a victor, he was perfect as a racer. “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” While the flaming sentinel prevents our return in all particulars to the “Paradise lost,” and the flesh detains us from entering the Paradise of heaven; the God of all grace has commissioned His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost to “come down and open the gates of a new Paradise of love made perfect, love casting out all fear, love fully shed abroad in our hearts” (Steel). Or rather, we may say that God has graciously extended a branch of the heavenly glory to this earth, a “border land” of heaven itself, where the soul dwells in sinless rest and the eternal sunshine of God’s approving smile.
The term perfection is the best word in the English language for expressing that state of spiritual wholeness into which the soul has entered, when the last inward foe is conquered, [rather destroyed] and the last distracting force is harmonized with the might love of Christ, and every crevice of the nature is filled with love, and every energy is employed in the delightful service of the adorable Savoir, and the soul is as “dead indeed unto sin” as the occupants of the Stone Chapel graveyard are to the tide of business which rolls along the streets of Boston.
However fractional the man may be in all other respects he is in one sense an integer; love pervades the totality of his being. Early in divine revelation do we find Jehovah pointing to this state saying to Abraham, “Walk before me and be thou perfect,” and to Moses, “Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord.” In many other places the same Hebrew word is used in describing character; but three times it is unfortunately translated by sincerely or in sincerity, twenty times by upright and uprightly, once by undefiled, as “blessed are the undefiled, (perfect) in the way;” and once by sound; “Let my heart be sound (perfect) in thy statutes.”
Forty-five times the Israelites are commanded to bring sacrifices without blemish; and every time the word should have been translated perfect. God thus teaching by impressive symbols that the heart of the offerer must be perfect before God.
Leviticus is the book of all the Old Testament wherein is typically taught the need of inward cleansing, whose end is holiness, whose tabernacle is holy, whose vessels are holy, whose offerings are most holy, whose priests are holy, and their garments are holy, and whose people are holy, because their God is holy.
Opening the New Testament we find the Greek word “teleios,” perfect, descriptive of fitness for the kingdom of God dropping from the lips of Christ and from the pen of Saint Paul seventeen times while the cognate noun, perfection, is twice used, and the verb, to perfect, fourteen times. This examination shows that the Spirit of inspiration had a deep design persistently followed from the book of Genesis to the Epistle of John. That is to set forth the holiness of the service demanded of us and the perfectibility of the Christian under the dispensation of the Spirit. For this perfection is not on a level with man’s natural powers but is the work of the sanctifier through the mediation and blood of Jesus Christ, who “by one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” By one offering He has procured the sanctifier, who, so long as the world shall stand, is able by His office of cleansing to perfect believers and present them complete in Christ Jesus. (Daniel Steel, in his new and excellent work, entitled Mile Stone Papers.)
These lines contain so much light on the subject and so well expressed that I have thought it well to quote this at length.
Returning to Philippians 3, we find two classes of Christians recognized in that church, possessing two different “attainments” in grace; not different talents, nor diversity of Spiritual gifts, but two distinct “attainments” in the way of salvation. “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect,” etc. Language could not more clearly assert the perfection of the Apostle and part of the church, while the other part had not “attained” thereto. Now it must be claimed that God did more for the former class in regeneration than the latter or that an additional work had been wrought in them; for a difference now exists; some are perfect, others not.
Some may say that all had but one work wrought in them, but some had grown to perfection: but of perfection by growth, the Christian world has never had a single instance. We have seen that growth does not change the nature, but perfection is a change into the nature of Christ; hence, attributed to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the cleansing blood of Jesus. Saint Paul depended upon God alone to “reveal” unto these non-perfected Christians, the light of his promises that through these they might “cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and Spirit; perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
We have met some people who look upon the perfecting of members of their church as a great disaster to the body. The Devil, wishing a vigilant committee to keep men out of “this grace” that proves so fatal to his kingdom, has secured their services by making them believe that this experience would divide and destroy the church. Many of them are doubtless sincere and are to be pitied. But, it seems after all, that these two distinct states of grace did not interrupt the peace and prosperity of the church at Philippi ; they still walked in “love as brethren” and whereunto they had attained “by the same rule.”
And He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints. (Ephesians 4:12)
Among the duties of the ministry, that of perfecting the saints stands foremost, being pre-eminent in importance. How eager the apostles were to visit all the churches to “perfect that which was lacking in their faith” that God might “stablish their hearts unblameable in holiness;” that they might “know what is the hope of His calling and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
Paul declares that especially for this work was he “made a minister;” hence, he says, “I rejoice in my suffering for you and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church.” He repeats that this special ministry was given to him for you, and “to fulfill the work of God; (or to teach you the fullness in the Word of God), even the mystery which hath been hid from ages, and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints; to whom, (the saints), God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Whom, (as a perfect Savior) we preach, (to His body, the church) warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; (for every one “shall be perfected as his Master”) whereunto, (in this special calling of “perfecting the saints”) I also labor, striving, according to His working, which worketh in me mightily. (Colossians 1:23-29)
This shows that the burden of the apostolic ministry was to lead the church into the grace of perfection, which they did, not only by preaching Christ our “sanctification” but also laboring mightily to help them into the experience.
The Gospel does not contemplate the perfection of sinners, but “saints”—holy ones—such as have been regenerated, separated in general from a life of sin to the service of God; for unless holy in a degree they could not “perfect holiness.” Love must first exist before it can be “made perfect.” The perfection of a saint is necessarily distinct from that moral change by which we become saints; hence, the perfect renovation of the soul is a second work.
We will now hear Peter on Perfection:
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)
There are, to my mind, two misapprehensions of this text, which I wish to correct. First, some have inferred from it that our perfection must be indefinitely postponed until we shall have suffered a while; possibly until near the expiration of life. This interpretation conflicts with the whole tenor of the Bible. With God salvation is always “now.” “Behold now is the accepted time.” “Go on to perfection.” “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:1, 12). Paul in setting the Canaan of perfect rest before the Hebrew brethren in chapters 3 and 4, admonishes them “as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear His voice harden not your hearts..” (Hebrews 3:7, 14). Do not refuse the call, but “let us therefore labor, (in the Greek, hasten) to enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:11). “Now the God of peace . . . through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect” (Hebrews 13:20-21). “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). Such is the uniform voice of God to His church in the wilderness. There is no interregnum fixed between “first love” and love enthroned or “made perfect” except that which depends upon our privilege to hear and slowness to believe the call. Just as soon as we “are Christ’s we are Abraham’s seed, and heir according to the promise,” and “have boldness and access with confidence” into our “inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith.” But why did Peter say, we have to “suffer a while” before made perfect? The words “a while” are from “oligon” and literally means a little; the idea of time is not essentially in the word, it simply expresses diminution. It is rendered little fifteen times in the New Testament, small five times, and few fourteen times. When connected with time, that idea is properly indicated by another word: as “oligon kairon,” little season—“short time” (Revelation 12:13). Or by a prefix as “prosoligon” “little time” (James 4:14). Once, besides the instance in Peter, it is rendered “a while,” Mark 6:31, where it would be more properly rendered a little.
James McKnight renders it “after ye have suffered a little;” also the direct translation from the Greek in the Emphatic Diaglott. The idea intended by the Holy Spirit is that after we suffer a little—suffer the “crucifixion of our old man,” the “destruction of the body of sin”—God will perfect us. The utter destruction of self is the only road to the perfect Christ life in the soul. With Paul we must “suffer the loss of all things;” for he only that will “loose his own life shall find it” gloriously saved in God.
The second idea drawn from this text of which I wish to speak is made intelligent to your minds by transposing the text as follows: “But the God of grace, who hath called us after that ye have suffered a while, unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, make you perfect, (now) stablish, strengthen, settle you.” Though this interpretation is sustained by good scholarship, I am compelled to dissent from it. The main object doubtless has been to remove the apparent delay in the work of perfection and thus harmonize the text with present perfection as uniformly taught in the Word. But we have seen that no elapse of time is expressed by the true text at all.
My second objection is the incongruity of a present call to the enjoyment of a future possession. If we apply the “eternal glory” to our future heaven, which we cannot enter until the close of this life, then it is not true that “God hath (now) called un unto” (eis—literally into) it. The Lord does not call us into heaven until we leave this world. In the light of the numerous Scriptures presented in the preceding chapter, the “eternal glory” into which we are called is identical with the perfection that He immediately promises.
Some may stagger at this view because it is called “eternal glory.” But what of that? Is not perfect holiness the eternal glory of the saint? Does not Christ Jesus “by one offering perfect forever them that are sanctified?” Here is eternal perfection attainable now, which corresponds with the “eternal glory” into which God hath even now called us.
But again where is this eternal glory of which Peter speaks? In heaven? No, it is “in Christ Jesus,” the preposition rendered “by” is “en,” its literal force and primary meaning is “in,” by which it is rendered over two thousand times in the New Testament. James McKnight, Philip Doddridge, and the German version all render it “has called us to (or unto) His eternal glory in Christ Jesus;” this produces perfect harmony in the text, the call unto, being in the present tense, the glory being in Christ Jesus, is also available now.
Arise, shine, for thy light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1)
The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me. (John 17:22-23)
The above is literally translated “that they may be perfected into one” in both the Bible Union and Emphatic Diaglott versions. Here is perfect harmony between the words of Peter and the prayer of Jesus. The former identifies the call to “glory in Christ Jesus” with perfection, and the Lord Himself gives us His glory, which constitutes our perfection.
Observe again that this glory unto which we are called is, saith the Lord, “I in them, and thou in me.” This identifies it with the promise: “And my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23) and also with that which was spoken by the mouth of the prophet.
Thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. (Isaiah 60:18-19)
Our glory, being the eternal God, is necessarily an “eternal glory.” And this is not said particularly of the church in heaven, but when “thy people shall be all righteous,” and when “they shall inherit the land” ( Canaan or holiness).
The Savior gave this unifying glory to the church that the “world might believe,” and the Prophet attributes the same results to it.
A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one, a strong nation; I the Lord will hasten it in His time. (Isaiah 60:18-22)
Read also in the first of this chapter, the same grand effects flowing out of the glory of the Lord upon the church, “Then thou shalt see and flow together”—“be one”—and, in harmony with the prayer of the blessed Redeemer, “that the world might believe,” the Prophet says, “The abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.” Hence, we see that it is in this world that God becomes the “everlasting light” and “eternal glory” of His church, which being “seen upon her” attracts the nations “like doves to her windows,” still open to the penitential throng who enter and “shew forth the praises of the Lord.”
In this connection I must again call your attention to 2 Peter 1:3-4, where we have “godliness,” “glory,” and “the divine nature,” joined together as one and the same thing; not reserved in heaven for us, but “given unto us” even now through “exceeding great and precious promises;” hence by faith. This glory is not entered through death, but “through the knowledge of Him that hath called us” and the operation of “His divine power” by which we “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust;” that is, we are wholly sanctified—cleansed from the moral infection of this fallen world.
Now we have no more reason to locate the glory of 1 Peter 5:10 in the future state than that of 2 Peter 1:3. And we do less violence to the latter by excluding virtue from the church on earth than glory; for, mark you, the call is not to “virtue” now, and “glory” hereafter, but “He hath called us to glory and virtue.” The glory precedes the virtue, and this is the correct order; for it is only when “the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon” the church that her virtue “goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth.”
I will cite but one more parallel passage, “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth “whereunto (unto which sanctification) he called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Here it is impossible to misapprehend the identity of sanctification and the glory of the Lord. He called you unto sanctification to the obtaining of glory. This proves that we obtain the glory of the Lord in the experience of sanctification.
Now, two things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other: in the above text, sanctification is equal to glory, in John 17:22-23 and 1 Peter 5:10, perfection is equal to glory, and in Hebrews 10:14 we learn that sanctification and perfection are equal to each other—are the same. Thus we find the divine testimony on the second grace harmonizes with mathematical precision. Having seen that, Peter and Paul three times declared that God “hath called us” (even now) unto the “glory of the Lord Jesus Christ” and each time supplement the call with promises of “sanctification,” “perfection” or the “divine nature,” and that it is placed before virtue, and identified with the indwelling of God (Isaiah 60:19) and the Comforter, the Spirit of God (1 Peter 4:14) and is promised by Christ Himself as the grace of perfection, the cementing power and world-saving salt of the church.
I think we should begin to have “the eyes of our understanding enlightened; that we may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” For even now God desires to “make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had (by regeneration) afore prepared unto glory, (not departed saints, but) even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (Romans 9:23-24).
In the light of those Scriptures, I think we are prepared to appreciate the united call and promise of God in 1 Peter 5:10, where the Holy Ghost has set forth in one blessed experience “eternal glory,” “perfection,” stablishing, strengthening and settling grace. These latter terms beautifully harmonize with Paul’s description of higher Christian grace. He calls it a spiritual gift to the end ye may be stablished, and the “heart stablished unblameable in holiness.” Also “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience (no more impatience) and longsuffering with joyfulness,” and “that ye be rooted and grounded in love.”
This most glorious renovation and illumination of the soul, Peter announces to his Christian brethren of “like precious faith” as an altitude of religious experience, which some of them at least had not yet reached; and, as if anticipating the prevailing skepticism, touching the perfectibility of the saints in this life and the fact that it is a distinct work of grace subsequent to pardon, the Holy Spirit declares that the infinite God Himself, even “the God of all grace,” would most assuredly “make these believers “perfect” and “settle” them down as immovable “pillars in the temple of their God, to go no more out.” Therefore, dear reader, if you deny that God will do a work in the Christian by which he is made perfect, you directly contradict the Holy Spirit.
I conclude this chapter by citing some texts in Hebrews. This Epistle is, I think, the most sublime treatise on perfection ever written. It is usually attributed to Paul, and addressed to his “brethren,” to such as had made a “profession of Christ Jesus,” and had been inducted into the first “principals of Christ” (Hebrews 3:1, 6:1). Hence, they were converted Christians and of the “household of faith. They had entered the course, but were not yet prepared to run. A certain “sin” with its accompanying “weights” still adhered to their souls (Hebrews 12:1).
Alas, how many are at this time making sad failure in their race for the prize because of the same encumbrances. How can men “run with patience: when yet possessed with the “old man” whose very nature is murmuring, fretting and impatient.
This inherent sin the Emphatic Diaglott translates, “close girding sin;” Conybear and Howson, “the sin that clingeth closely round us.” Truly this sin adheres to the soul with dreadful tenacity; being bred and born in us, we bring it through the washing of regeneration and suffer its dire contrariety all through the Christian life unless laid off by the power of God in a second application of the cleansing blood.
It seems almost enough to cast a gloom over heaven and earth to see the multitudes—doubtless a majority of the annual converts—fall a prey to the adversary, through this foe, all for the want of having perfection presented to them as a definite experience accessible now by faith.
“Go on to perfection” is the command of the Captain of our salvation as soon as we enter His ranks (Hebrews 6:1). Much confusion exists in the great army as to how this imperative order should be carried out. Some mistake it for a voice from the “terrible” summit of Sinai.
Accordingly they start in the direction of “ Jerusalem which is in bondage” vainly hoping to work it out. Others who “are dull of hearing” mistake “go” for “grow,” these are waiting for the Creator to change His established laws so that development in degree will purify the nature.
Another extensive class dishonors the Omnipotent God our Savior, by an indefinite postponement until the “king of terrors” shall contribute his aid in its accomplishment.
All these parties are without a single witness to the correctness of their theory. But “God has not left Himself without witness.” Therefore their way is not His way.
Has the Holy Spirit left any occasion for all these divergences? Has He commanded us to go to perfection without marking the place or directing the way? Surely not. The goal is clearly pointed out in chapter 10:14, “For by one offering, He (Christ) hath forever perfected them that are sanctified.” The state of Christian perfection is induced by the work of sanctification. But how are we sanctified? Answer: “Wherefore Jesus also, the He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12).
But again, what is it to be sanctified by the blood of Christ? Answer: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us (God’s children) from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Therefore, sanctification, which renews the soul in the perfect “image of Him that created it,” is not a development, but a divine work of cleansing; and, having been preceded by the gracious work of justification it is, therefore, a second work, and in the fear of God, dear reader, you cannot deny it.
I will conclude this chapter with one more quotation from this rich and wonderful mine of truth. The holy Apostle closed his Epistle with the following earnest prayer.
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
O, that every believer would from the heart respond to this “amen” and at once “present his members for sanctification.” One of the majestic features of God’s Holy Book is its beautiful and exact harmony. We have just seen that perfection is by sanctification, and that through the blood of Christ; and here the Apostle cuts the matter short and attributes perfection at once to the “blood.” This language is so full and perspicuous that comment can scarcely evolve anything that does not lay upon its very face.
The following questions will call up the several points of truth it contains in connection with other texts.
1. Question. Who are to go on to perfection?
Answer. Disciples, saints, or members of “the church of the first-born which are written in heaven,” who had “come to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant and to the blood of sprinkling.”
2. Question. By what operation are they made perfect?
Answer. By sanctification. Hebrews 10:14
3. Question. Who is to do this work?
Answer. “The God of peace” “Through Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 13:12-21
4. Question. When may Christians be made perfect?
Answer. “Now.” Hebrews 13:20
5. Question. What is the procuring cause of the grace of perfection?
Answer. Christ’s “own blood,” even the “blood of the everlasting covenant.” Hebrews 13:12-20
6. Question. What are its practical fruits in believers?
Answer. They are “perfect in every good work to do His will.”
7. Question. Does the God of peace perfect Christians by correcting their external life only, or by an internal work?
Answer. By “working in them that which is well pleasing in His sight,” even by “working” or “creating” in them that “new man” or holy nature, which only inclines “to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Hebrews 13:21; Ephesians 4:24; Philippians 2:13) He “makes the tree good,” “Creates unto good works that we should walk in them,” and “purges out the old leaven that the whole lump may be new.” Perfection, then, is an internal work.
8. Question. How can we know that we have attained this state?
Answer. “He hath given us of His Spirit that we may freely know the things that are given us of God.” He bears witness to more than one thing; first, to the fact that we are the ‘children of God,” then, we read “that Christ, by one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified; whereof (of which perfection) the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us.” (Hebrews 10:14) It assures the heart of pardon and also perfection. The same truth is declared in 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”
“He therefore that despiseth, (the call) despiseth not man, (who preaches it) but God, (who is its author, and) who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit.” Some, it appears, disbelieved, or disregarded the converts call unto holiness; and the Apostle, having received the seal and testimony of the “Eternal Spirit: to the absolute verity and divinity of this crowning work of salvation, is able to assure them in the most positive manner that, in rejecting it, they not only ignore His witnesses, but also despise the Father of mercies Himself; and by their hard hearted unbelief make Him a liar. Let all who “oppose themselves” in this “holy calling” heed this solemn warning “lest happily ye be found even to fight against God.”
Do you say that our supposed testimony of the Spirit to moral perfection is but the product of our own fancies? I answer; can we distinguish between the communications of our fellow man and the operations of our own mind and not between the voice of God and our own thoughts? Is man more wise than his Maker? Shall not He who created the human mind know how to hold intelligent converse with it? When divinely assured of your pardon and acceptance with God, was there any lack of perspicuity in “the words that the Spirit speaketh?”
Could all the logic and sophistry of earth and hell for a moment baffle your consciousness of the fact that God had spoken peace to your soul? And if the first direct overture of God, even to a darkened sinner, is recognized with such absolute certainty, is not the familiar voice of God, speaking in the consciousness of His own child still more cognizable? Do you presume to know more of others than they do themselves that you dispute their intuitive knowledge by the light of the Holy Ghost?
Again, have you such amazing knowledge of the divine Spirit that you can set metes and bounds to His operations and confidently say that He is unable to assure the soul of a believer that he is entirely sanctified from inbred sin and made a holy temple of God ?
I appeal to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, our adorable Savior, He who will soon be our Judge, if the Scriptures do not emphatically teach that the Spirit witnesses to our perfection as well as adoption. Therefore, the credibility of those who attest the perfecting grace of God is as well grounded as those who confess His pardoning mercy. Yea, it is with special reference to this higher grace that we are called and qualified to be the Lord’s witnesses on earth.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Now he that despises this call and the testimony of those who have received the glorious fullness “after that they believed,” despiseth not man, but God.”
Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. (Acts 13:40-41)
But if you persist in setting aside the testimony of all God’s anointed, who have advanced beyond your own experience, will you, dear reader, stand with me before the oracles of God and hear their infallible verdict. In all candor, I ask you if the Scriptures do not uniformly place a period between regeneration and perfection, and declare the latter to be a work wrought in us by the power of God and through the sanctifying and cleansing blood of Christ? It therefore inevitably follows that the “perfecting of the saints” is a second work; to dispute this fact is but to controvert the voice of inspiration; and he that is at war with the Bible cannot be at peace with the God of the Bible. The Bible so abounds in declarations of the distinct purifying grace that no less than three times is the idea crowded into the single passage at the close of Hebrews. First, God is to do it; hence, it is a work. Second, it is through the blood, and the blood cleanseth, which is a moral change—a work of grace. Third, it is expressly declared to be an internal work of God. But, with all this many, “whose eyes are blinded by the god of this world,” declare they cannot see one proof text in the whole Volume of inspiration.
At that time, Jesus answered and said: I thank thee, O, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. (Matthew 11:25)
“But,” beloved reader, “we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we this speak,” of such who “have left their first love.”
Blessed Jesus! I would be
Perfectly conformed to thee;
Washed in thine own precious blood,
Wholly sanctified to God.
Thou alone hast power, I know,
Full salvation to bestow,
And I trust thy gracious will,
This petition to fulfill.
J. Q. Adams