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by A. B. Simpson.
"And the very G.o.d of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray G.o.d your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calls you who also will do it" (1 Thess. 5:23, 24).
The prominence given to the subject of Christian life and holiness is one of the signs of our times and of the coming of the Lord Jesus. No thoughtful person can have failed to observe the turning of the attention of Christians to this subject within the past quarter of a century and along with the revival of the doctrine of the Lord's personal and pre-millennial coming. The very opposition which these two subjects have received and the deep prejudice with which they are frequently met emphasize more fully the force with which they are impressing themselves on the mind of our generation and the heart of the Church of G.o.d. The only way we can often know the direction of the weather-vane is by the force of the wind, and the stronger the wind blows against it, the more steadily does it point in the true direction. And so the very gales of controversy but indicate the more forcibly the intense interest with which the hearts of G.o.d's people are reaching out for a higher and deeper life in Him, and are somehow feeling the approach of a crisis in the age in which we live.
These two truths are linked closely together in the pa.s.sage above. The former is the preparation for the latter, and the latter the complement of the former. Let us turn our attention, in prayerful dependence upon G.o.d and careful discrimination, to the explicit teachings of this pa.s.sage respecting the scriptural doctrine of sanctification; and may the Holy Spirit so lead us and sanctify us both in our thoughts and spirits that we will see light in His light clearly, and our prejudices will melt away before the exceeding grace of Christ and the heavenly beauty of holiness.
I. THE AUTHOR OF SANCTIFICATION, "THE VERY G.o.d OF PEACE."
1. This name implies that it is useless to look for sanctification until we have become reconciled to G.o.d and learned to know Him as the G.o.d of Peace. Justification, and a justification so thoroughly accepted as to banish all doubt and fear and make G.o.d to us "the very G.o.d of peace," is indispensable to any real or abiding experience of sanctification.
Beloved, is this perhaps the secret cause of your failure in reaching the higher experience for which you long? "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Are there loose stones and radical difficulties in the superstructure of your spiritual life, and is it necessary for you to lay again the solid foundations of faith in the simple Word of Christ and the finished work of redemption? Then do so at once. Accept without feeling, without question, in full a.s.surance of faith, the simple promises, "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life," "Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out," and then take your stand on the Rock of Ages and begin to build the temple of holiness.
2. The expression "the very G.o.d of peace" further suggests that sanctification is the pathway to a deeper peace, even the "peace of G.o.d which pa.s.ses all understanding." Justification brings us peace with G.o.d, sanctification the peace of G.o.d. The cause of all our unrest is sin. "The wicked are like the troubled sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my G.o.d, to the wicked." But on the other hand, "Great peace have they that love Your law and nothing will offend them." So we find G.o.d grieving His people's disobedience and saying, "Oh, that you had heeded my commandments, then your peace would have been as a river and your righteousness as the waves of the sea." Sanctification brings the soul into harmony with G.o.d and the laws of its own being, and there must be peace, and there can be in no other way. Furthermore, sanctification brings into the spirit the abiding presence of the very G.o.d of peace Himself and its peace is then nothing less than the deep, divine tranquillity of His own eternal calm.
3. But the deeper meaning of the pa.s.sage is that sanctification is the work of G.o.d Himself. The literal translation of this phrase would be "the G.o.d of peace himself sanctify you wholly." It expresses in the most emphatic way His own direct personality as the Author of our sanctification. It is not the work of man nor means, nor of our own struggling, but His own prerogative. It is the gift of the Holy Ghost, the fruit of the Spirit, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the prepared inheritance of all who will enter in, the great obtainment of faith, not the attainment of works. It is divine holiness, not human self-improvement or perfection. It is the inflow into man's being of the life and purity of the infinite, eternal and Holy One, bringing His own perfection and infusing in us His own will. How easy, how spontaneous, how delightful this heavenly way of holiness! Surely it is a "highway" and not the low way of man's vain and fruitless mortification. It is G.o.d's great Elevated Railway, sweeping over the heads of the struggling throngs who toil along the lower pavement when they might be borne along on His Ascension pathway, by His own Almighty impulse. It is G.o.d's great Elevator, carrying us up to the higher chambers of His palace without our laborious efforts, while others struggle up the winding stairs and faint by the way. It is G.o.d's great tidal wave bearing up the stranded ship until she floats above the bar without straining timbers or struggling seamen, instead of the ineffectual and toilsome efforts of the struggling crew and the strain of the engines, which had tried in vain to move her an inch until that heavenly impulse lifted her by its own attraction. It is G.o.d's great law of gravitation lifting up, by the warm sunbeams, the mighty iceberg which a million men could not raise a single inch, but which melts away before the warmth of the sunshine and rises in clouds of evaporation to meet its embrace until that cold and heavy ma.s.s is floating in fleecy clouds of glory in the blue ocean of the sky. How easy all this! How mighty! How simple!
How divine! Beloved, have you come into the divine way of holiness? If you have, how your heart must swell with grat.i.tude as it echoes the truths of the words you have just read! If you have not, do you not long for it and will you not now unite in the prayer of our text that the very G.o.d of peace will sanctify you wholly?
II. THE NATURE OF SANCTIFICATION.
What does this term "sanctify" mean? Is there any better way of ascertaining than tracing its scriptural usage? We find it employed in three distinct and most impressive senses in the Old Testament.
1. It means to separate. This idea can be traced all through its use in connection with the ceremonial ordinances. The idea of separation is first suggested in the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis, and there, probably, we see the essential figure of sanctification. G.o.d's first work in bringing order, law, and light out of chaos was to separate, to put an expanse or gulf between the two worlds of darkness and light, of earth and heaven. He did not annihilate the darkness, but He separated it from the light, He separated the land from the water, He separated the waters of the sea from the vapors of the sky.
And so we see Him in the spiritual realm immediately afterwards, separating His people. He separated the family of Seth from the worldly race of Cain. He separated Noah and his family from the unG.o.dly world. He separated Abraham and his seed from an idolatrous family. He separated Israel from Egypt and the surrounding nations. The very meaning of the word "church" is "called out" or "separated," and to each individual the same call comes still, "Separate yourselves," "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you and you will be my sons and daughters." "Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord."
Sanctification then means our voluntary separation from evil. It is not the extinction of evil, it is the putting off, the laying aside of evil, the detaching of ourselves from it and placing an impa.s.sable gulf between. We are to separate ourselves not only from our past sins but from our sin, as a principle of life. We are not to try to improve and gradually ameliorate our unholy condition, but we are to put off the old life, to act as if it were no longer ourselves, and separate from our sinful self as the wife is divorced from her husband, and as the soul is separated from the body by the death of the body. These are, indeed, the two figures used by the Apostle in describing this separation in Romans. We are to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin just as much as though we were no longer the same person, and the old heart was no longer that true self.
And so with respect to every manifestation of evil, whether from within or from without, to every suggestion and temptation, to every impulse that is not of G.o.d, we are to refuse it, to be in the att.i.tude of negation and resistance, our whole being saying "no." We have not to annihilate the evil or to resist it in our own strength but simply by a definite act of will to separate ourselves from it, to hand it over to G.o.d and renounce it utterly, to give Him the absolute right to deal with it and destroy it; and when we do so, G.o.d always follows our committal with His almighty power and puts a gulf as deep as the bottomless grave of Christ and a wall as high as the foundations of the New Jerusalem between us and the evil we renounce. We separate ourselves, and G.o.d makes the separation good. This is the first decisive step in sanctification, an act of will by which we renounce evil in every form in which it is made manifest to our consciences and brought into the light, and not only evil in its manifestations but the whole evil self and sinful nature from which each separate act has sprung.
And we separate ourselves also from the world and its embodiment of the old natural condition of things and the kingdom of the prince of evil. We recognize ourselves as not of the world even as He was not of the world. We put off, not merely that which is sinful, but that which is merely natural and human so that it may die on the cross of Jesus and rise into a supernatural and divine life; for "if any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creation, old things have pa.s.sed away, behold, all things have become new." And so the Holy Spirit leads us to a deeper separation, not only from the evil but from the earthly, lifting us into a supernatural life in all respects, and preparing us, even here, for that great transformation in which this corruptible will put on incorruption and this mortal immortality, for as the first man was of the earth, earthy, even before he fell, so will he give place to the second man who was made a living spirit and who has lifted us up into His own likeness.
What then, beloved, is the practical force of this thought? It is simply this, that, as G.o.d shows you your old sinful self and every evil working of your own fallen nature, you are definitely to hand it over to Him, with the full consent of your will, so that He will separate it from you and deliver you wholly from its power, and then you are to reckon it in His hands and no longer having control over you, or, indeed, in any sense to belong to you. And as He leads you further on to see things that might not be called sinful and yet are not incorporated into His life and will, that from these, also, you separate yourself and surrender them to Him, that He may put to death all that is apart from Himself and raise up in a new and resurrection life our entire being. You will thus see you are delivered from the death struggle with evil and the irrepressible conflict with self, your part being simply to hand Agag over with your own hands for execution, and gladly consent that the Lord should slay him utterly and blot out the remembrance of Amalek forever. Beloved, have you thus separated yourself for G.o.d to sanctify? Yours must be the surrender. G.o.d will not put His hand on the evil until you authorize Him with your glad consent. Like Joab's army of old, He encamps before your city and sends you the message that Sheba must die or the city perish, but your own hands must deliver him over. Have you done so or will you do so? Will you not now with glad consent lay your hand upon the blessed Sin-Offering's head, and transfer your sinful heart, and the dearest idol it has known, to Him "who was made sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of G.o.d in him"?
2. Sanctification means dedication. It is not only to separate from but to separate to. The radical idea of the word is, set apart to be the property of another. And so the complement of this act which we have already partly described is this positive side in which we offer ourselves to G.o.d for His absolute ownership, that He may possess us as His peculiar property, prepare us for His purpose and work out in us all His holy and perfect will. This is the meaning of the appeal made by Paul in the 12th chapter of Romans, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of G.o.d that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to G.o.d, which is your reasonable service." This is the meaning of those oft-repeated expressions where we are spoken of as G.o.d's peculiar people, which literally means, a people for a possession. This is the very ground on which the Scriptures appeal to us to walk in holiness, because we are not our own; we are bought with a price and should glorify G.o.d in our bodies which are G.o.d's. It is true that G.o.d has bought us, but here again His infinite condescension refuses to compel our surrender, and will accept nothing but a voluntary gift. So, gladly constrained by love, we feel it a privilege to belong to Him and have Him stoop to take us in our worthlessness and be responsible for all the risks of our momentous existence.
This is what the term consecration properly means. It is the voluntary surrender or self-offering of the heart, by the constraint of love to be the Lord's. Its glad expression is, "I am my Beloved's." It must spring, of course, from faith. There must be the full confidence that we are safe in this abandonment, that we are not falling over a precipice or surrendering ourselves to the hands of a judge, but that we are sinking into a Father's arms and stepping into an infinite inheritance.
Oh, it is an infinite privilege to be permitted thus to give ourselves up to One who pledges Himself to make us all that we would love to be; moreover, all that His infinite wisdom, power and love will delight to accomplish in us. It is the clay yielding itself to the potter's hands that it may be shaped into a vessel of honor, and suited for the Master's use. It is the poor street orphan consenting to become the child of a prince that he may be educated and provided for, that he may be prepared to inherit all the wealth of his guardian. How ashamed we may well feel that we ever hesitated to make such a surrender, or that we ever qualified it with any condition but His good and perfect will! Beloved, have you made this full surrender? If so, how gladly your whole being says "Amen" to all that we have said to the blessedness of being only the Lord's! If not, let it be done this moment and at His feet of love flatten yourself as a whole burnt offering and cry, "Take my poor heart and let it be, Forever closed to all but Thee; Seal Thou my breast, and let me wear Thy pledge of love forever there."
3. Sanctification means filling. The literal translation of the old Hebrew word to consecrate is "to fill the hand." It suggests the deepest truth in connection with sanctification, namely, that Christ Himself must be the substance and supply of our new spiritual life and fills us with His own Spirit and holiness. After the most sincere consecration, we are but an empty possibility which He must make real. Even our consecration itself must look to Him for grace to make it faultless and acceptable. Even our will must be purified and kept single and supremely fixed on Him, by His continual grace. Our purity must be the imparting of His life; our peace, His peace within us; our love, the love of G.o.d shed abroad in our hearts. Our very faith, which receives all His grace, must be continually supplied from His own Spirit. We bring to Him but an empty hand, clean and open, and He fills it. We are but a capacity and He is the supply. We give ourselves to Him fully, understanding that we do not pledge the strength or goodness required to meet our consecration, but that we take Him for all, and He takes us, fully recognizing the responsibility which He a.s.sumes to make us all that He requires and keep us in all His perfect will as we let Him through the habit of a full surrender. What an exquisite rest this gives to the trusting heart and what an infinite grace on His part to meet us on such terms and bear for us so vast a responsibility!
In the upper portion of our metropolis many of our citizens may often have noticed, especially in the past years, a great number of miserable shanties, standing on the choicest sites, perhaps on the corner of a splendid new avenue, looking out on a magnificent prospect, but the house was utterly unworthy of the site. Suppose that a millionaire should want to purchase this site, and that the owner should begin, before giving possession, to repair the old shanty for the new owner, putting fresh thatch on the miserable roof and a new coat of whitewash on the dirty walls. How the purchaser would laugh at him and say, "My friend, I do not want your miserable old wreck of a tenement fixed up like this. At the best it will only be a shanty when you have done all you can to it and I will never live in it. All I want is the ground, the site, and when I get it I will raze the old heap of rubbish to the foundations, and dig deep down to the solid rock before I build my splendid mansion. I will then build from the base my own new house according to my own magnificent plan. I do not want a fragment of your house, all that I require is the site."
This is exactly what G.o.d wants of us and waits to do in us. Each of us has a splendid site for a heavenly temple. It looks out upon eternity and commands a view of all that is glorious in the possibilities of existence, but the house that is built upon it now is a worthless wreck, it is past improving. Our patching and repairing is worse than waste, and what G.o.d wants of us is simply that we give Him the possibilities of our life and let Him build upon them His own structure, that temple of holiness which he will make His own abode and which He will let us dwell in with Him as His happy guests in the house of the Lord forever. From the very foundations, the work must all be new and divine. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, and the true att.i.tude of the consecrated heart is that of a constant yielding and constant receiving. This last view of sanctification gives boundless scope to our spiritual progress. It is here that the gradual phase of sanctification comes in. Commencing with a complete separation from evil and dedication to G.o.d, it now advances into all the fulness of Christ, and grows up to the measure of the stature of perfect manhood in Him, until every part of our being and every part of our life is filled with G.o.d and becomes a channel to receive, and a medium to reflect His grace and glory.
Beloved, have we learned this blessed significance of sanctification and taken G.o.d Himself as the fulness of our emptiness and fountain of our spiritual life?
Then, indeed, have we entered upon an everlasting expansion and ascension, and forever more these blessed words will deepen and broaden in their boundless meaning: "Thou of life the Fountain art, Ever let me take of Thee; Spring Thou up within my heart, Rise to all eternity."
A SANCTIFIED SPIRIT.
Having seen the source and meaning of sanctification, let us next trace its sphere and extent. "I pray G.o.d to sanctify you through and through" is the meaning of this verse. And then Paul specifies the threefold division of our human nature, the spirit, the soul, and the body as respectively the subjects of this work of grace. The Divine Trinity has its counterpart in human nature, at least in some feeble measure. Man has been called a trichotomy or a triplex nature, and there seems good ground to claim that this division is recognized in the Scriptures. In the original account of man's creation the body is first distinctly mentioned --"the Lord G.o.d formed man out of the dust of the ground." Then we have the soul and spirit clearly distinguished in the words which follow, "G.o.d breathed into man the breath of life and man became a living soul." We have first the breath of spirit of the Almighty imparted into man's higher being and then the physical principle const.i.tuting him a living soul.
Again in the account of our Lord's childhood we have the same division. "The child grew," His physical life; "waxed strong in spirit," His spiritual; "filled with wisdom," His intellectual or soul life. Again in 1 Cor. 2, the apostle Paul very clearly distinguishes between the soul and the spirit in man. The psychical man, that is, the soul-man, he tells us, "does not receive the things of the Spirit of G.o.d neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned, but he that is spiritual discerns all things." The psychical man, therefore, is the man of the soul, the spiritual man is the man of quickened spirit. It will be noticed that in this pa.s.sage he begins with the spirit and gradually descends to the soul and body as the subjects of sanctification. This is quite instructive and significant.
The other day in speaking to our builders, they remarked, "We always work from the top story downward and end with the bas.e.m.e.nt, and so we never go back over our finished work, or need to soil the floors that have been cleansed and completed." And so in G.o.d's great house, He works from the top downward. So it is in the growth of the tree. Let it add a thousand layers, you will find that not one is laid on from the outside but each of them has a separate growth from the innermost pith of the tree. The tree's life is from within, outward. So in the tabernacle, the great symbol of spiritual truth, in the account given us in the book of Exodus, we find Jehovah beginning in the Holy of Holies in the Ark of the Covenant, and traveling outward until He has traversed the sanctuary with all its sacred vessels, and reached the external court, with its laver and altar of sacrifice.
Beautiful type of the work of sanctifying grace; the holy Shekinah of the divine spirit and the indwelling Christ in the innermost chamber of the spirit, and spreading their heavenly life and influence abroad through every part until they penetrate every faculty of the soul and every organ of the physical being with their transforming and consecrating power.
I .WHAT IS THE SPIRIT?.
In a word it may be said that the spirit is the divine element in man, or perhaps more correctly, that which is cognizant of G.o.d. It is not the intellectual or mental or aesthetic or sensational part of man but the spiritual, the higher nature, that which recognizes and communicates with the heavenly and divine.
1. It is that in us which knows G.o.d, which directly and immediately is conscious of the divine presence and can hold fellowship with Him, hearing His voice, seeing His glory, receiving intuitively the impression of His touch and the conviction of His will, understanding and worshiping His character and attributes, speaking to Him in the spirit and language of prayer and praise and heavenly communion. It is, also, directly conscious of the other world of evil spirits, and knows the touch of the enemy as well as the voice of the Shepherd.
2. The spirit is that which recognizes the difference between right and wrong, which loves the right and thinks, discerns, chooses in harmony with righteousness. It is the moral element in human nature. It is the region in which conscience speaks and reigns. It is the seat of righteousness and purity and sanct.i.ty, it is that which resembles G.o.d, the new man created in righteousness and true holiness after His image. Every one must be conscious of such an element in his being and feel that it is essentially different from the mere faculties of the understanding or the feelings of the heart.
3. The spirit is that which chooses, purposes, determines and thus practically decides the whole question of our action and obedience. In short, it is the region of the will, that mightiest impulse of human nature, that almost divine prerogative which G.o.d has shared with man, His child, that very helm of life on whose decision hang the whole issues of character and destiny. What a momentous force it is, and how essential that it be wholly sanctified! As it is, or is not, sanctified, the life is one of obedience or disobedience, and when the will is right, and the choice is fixed, and the eye is single, G.o.d recognizes the heart as true and pure, "If there be a willing mind it is accepted according to what a man has and not according to what he has not."
4. The spirit is that which trusts. Confidence is one of its attributes and exercises. It is the filial quality in the child of G.o.d which looks in the Father's face without a cloud, which lies upon His bosom without a fear and puts its hand in His with the abandonment of childlike simplicity.
5. The spirit is that which loves G.o.d. It is not now the human emotional love of which we speak, for that belongs to the lower nature of the soul and may be most fully developed in one whose spirit is still dead to G.o.d in trespa.s.ses and sins; but it is that divine love which is the direct gift of the Holy Spirit and the true spring of all holiness and obedience. It is nothing less than the love of G.o.d shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and its appropriate sphere is the human heart.
6. The spirit is that which glorifies G.o.d, which makes His will and honor its supreme aim and loses itself in His glory. The very conception of such an aim is foreign to the human mind and can be only received by a spirit which has been born again and created in the divine image.
7. The spirit is that which enjoys G.o.d, which hungers for His presence and fellowship and finds its nourishment, its portion, its satisfaction, its inheritance in Himself as its all and in all.
This wonderful element of our human nature is subject to all the sensibilities and susceptibilities which we find in a coa.r.s.er form in our physical life. There are spiritual senses and organs just as real and intense as those of our physical frame. We find them distinctly recognized in the Scriptures. There is the sense of spiritual hearing, "He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches," "Blessed are your ears, for they hear," "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me." There is the sense of vision, "Your eyes will see the King in his beauty and the land that is very far off," "Looking unto Jesus,"
"Beholding as in a gla.s.s the glory of the Lord," "Having eyes they see not,"
"He has sent me to open the blind eyes and turn them from darkness unto light and from the power of Satan unto G.o.d." There is the sense of spiritual touch, "That I may apprehend, (or, grasp with my hand) that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus," "Who touched me," "As many as touched him were made perfectly whole."
There is the sense of taste, "He that feeds on me will live by me," "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good," "He that comes to me will never hunger, and he that believes on me will never thirst." There is the sense of smell. Very definitely is it referred to in the 11th of Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him and will make him of quick smell in the fear of the Lord." The spirit is a real subsistence, and when separated from the body after death it will have the same consciousness as when in life, and perhaps intenser powers of feeling, action and enjoyment.
Such is a brief view of this supreme endowment of our humanity, this upper chamber of the house of G.o.d, this higher nature received from our Creator, and lost, or, at least, degraded, defiled and buried through our sin and fall.
II. WHAT IS IT FOR THE SPIRIT TO BE SANCTIFIED?.
It is indispensable, first of all, that it be quickened into life. Naturally it is dead, and the work of regeneration quickens it into vitality as a newborn life, inbreathed, given from heaven as unto us in the first creation, as from the very lips of G.o.d. So, in one sense, the unregenerate soul is not spiritually alive. Its faculties are alive, its animal life is active, but spiritually it is dead in trespa.s.ses and sins. When "By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin," not only did man become subject to physical death but spiritual death reigned also. Thank G.o.d for the grace of G.o.d revealed in the gift by grace. Jesus Christ, whereby He has delivered us from the bondage of death and enables us to reign in life by one, even Jesus Christ.
But now what is a sanctified spirit?
1. It is a spirit separated.
Have you ever looked upon the dark, cold ground in early spring, through which if you drew your hand, it would chill and defile your fingers and perhaps it was mixed with the manure of the barnyard and the crawling earth worms that burrowed in it? Yet, have you never seen, growing out of that dark soil, a little plant or flower, with roots white as the driven snow, and leaf as delicate and petals as pure as a baby's dimpled cheek, separated by its own nature and purity from the dirty soil that was all around it and could not even stain it?
So the spirit born of G.o.d is separated in its own divine nature from its own self and the sinful heart, and the very first step of sanctification is to recognize this separation and count ourselves no longer the same person, but partakers of the divine nature and alive unto G.o.d as those who have been raised from the dead. And as such we are to separate our spirit from all that is not of G.o.d; not only from sin but from the world and from self and our whole old natural life. All our spiritual instincts, senses and organs are to be separated from evil and intuitively to turn away from even the touch and approach of temptation. We are to refuse to hear with our inward ear the stranger's voice, to see with the spirit's eye the fascinating vision of temptation, to touch in spiritual contact any unclean thing, to taste even the forbidden joy, and by the quick sense of smell at once recognize and turn from the unwholesome atmosphere, and as evil of any kind is revealed to the spirit, it is to renounce it and to ask G.o.d to separate it from it and to put the gulf of His presence between the soul and the sin.
And it must be separated ever from the spirits of others, and, indeed, from any human spirit that could control it apart from the will of G.o.d. All the aspects of the spirit which we have already referred to must be separated. The higher consciousness that knows G.o.d must be separated from all other G.o.ds but Him. The moral senses that know right must separate from all wrong. The will must be separated from the choice or inclination of all but His will. The power of trust must be voluntarily separated from every thought of unbelief or distrust. The power to love must be wholly separated from forbidden love. The aim and motive must be separated from all that is not for His glory, the source of its pleasure must be purified and the spirit separated from all joy that is not in harmony with the joy of the Lord. Beloved, is your spirit thus separated, cleansed, and detached from everything that could defile or distract you from the will of G.o.d and life of holiness?
2. A sanctified spirit is a dedicated spirit.
Its powers of apprehension are dedicated to know G.o.d and to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. His Word is the object of its deepest study and meditation, and His attributes and His glory the theme of its most delightful contemplation. To know G.o.d and to be filled with His Spirit and to be ever in His presence is its highest aim. Its will is dedicated to G.o.d. It chooses Him deliberately as its portion and its sovereign Lord, and delights to abandon itself to His entire possession and to His perfect will. It is this element of a single heart and a supreme choice of G.o.d which const.i.tutes what the Scriptures call a perfect heart, and which they affirm of many a Christian whose steps were not always perfect. Every moral sense in the sanctified spirit is dedicated to G.o.d. It chooses His standards of right and wrong and desires above all things to bear His image and be conformed to His nature.
Its power of trusting is dedicated. It is determined to trust G.o.d under any circ.u.mstances and in spite of all feelings, as an act of will that chooses to believe His Word notwithstanding every discouragement and temptation. A spirit that thus chooses G.o.d will be sustained by the very faith of G.o.d Himself imparted to it.
Its love is dedicated and its power of loving. It chooses to love G.o.d supremely and to love all as G.o.d would have us to love, regarding every human being in the light of G.o.d and His will, and adjusting itself to every relationship in such a manner as to please G.o.d. It is dedicated to the glory of G.o.d. It accepts this and not the applause of men nor its own pleasing as the true end and purpose of life and lays itself a living sacrifice on His altar.
And, further, it is dedicated to enjoy G.o.d. It chooses Him as its portion, its happiness, all and in all, and consents to find all its satisfaction in Him and Him alone, whether it be in the loss of every other channel of happiness or by His filling all the springs of life with Himself.
A dedicated spirit is thus wholly given to G.o.d, to know Him, to choose His will, to resemble His character, to trust His Word, to love Him supremely, to glorify Him only, to enjoy Him wholly and to belong to Him utterly, unreservedly, and forever. All its senses, susceptibilities and capacities are dedicated to Him. It yields itself to Him to be made by Him all that He would have it to be and to have His perfect will wrought out by it forever. It chooses to hear only what He would speak, to see only what He would have it behold, to touch only at His bidding and to use every power and capability in and for Him only. It regards itself henceforth as His property, subject to His disposal and existing for His great purpose regarding it. It is consecrated not so much to the works, or the truth, or the cause, or the church., as to the Lord. And this is done gladly, freely, without fear or reservation, but as a great privilege and honor to be permitted thus to belong to so great and good a Master, and have Him undertake so uncongenial a task as our sanctification and exaltation.
This dedication of our spirit can be made in the very first moment of consecration and before we have a single conscious experience or feeling answering to the dedication we make. As empty vessels, as bare possibilities with nothing in us yet but the entire consent of our will to be all that the Lord would have us, we yield ourselves to G.o.d according to His will.
This act of dedication should be made once for all, and then recognized as done and as including every subsequent act which we may ever renew as we receive more light in detail respecting His will concerning us.
It is possible for us, once for all and not knowing perhaps one thousandth part of all that it means, to give ourselves to G.o.d for all that He understands it to mean, and to know henceforth that we are utterly and eternally the Lord's as certainly as we will know that we are the Lord's after we have been a million years in glory.
And yet, after this one comprehensive act of dedication it is quite proper for us, as new light comes to us and we become conscious of new powers or possibilities we can lay at His feet, to say our glad "yes" to His claim as often as it is renewed. Yet this is only the working out in detail of the all-inclusive consecration that we made at first.
Beloved, have you thus dedicated yourself and your spirit to G.o.d, and will you henceforth dare to reckon yourself all the Lord's, and as each new chamber of your higher nature opens to your consciousness, will you gladly put the key of it in His gracious hand and recognize Him as its Owner and Guest?
3. The sanctified spirit is a spirit filled with the presence and the Spirit of the Lord.
What it gives to Him is only a possibility. It is His presence that makes it a reality. Even when dedicated it is but a vessel, empty and meet for the Master's use. It is He who fills it and pours it out for the supply of the needs of others or to satisfy the desire of his own heart. Even the consecration which we make to G.o.d, the very act of dedication itself, has to be made perfect by His grace. We cannot even yield ourselves to Him in a manner that is without imperfection, but we can choose to be His, and then He will come into our dedicated will and make the living sacrifice worthy of His holy altar.
We can lie down upon that altar in full surrender and because He, the great Burnt-Offering, offered Himself to G.o.d for us, once for all, we too can become to G.o.d a sacrifice of sweet-smelling savor. This was, really, the meaning of the Burnt-Offering of old. The offerer did not offer himself, but touched the spotless lamb and it became the perfect offering. So with our hand upon the head of Christ, our consecration is accepted in Him, and He comes into our will and our spirit, and so unites Himself with us that the sacrifice is acceptable and complete. And so, again, our knowledge of G.o.d and fellowship with Him are dependent upon His own grace to be made effectual. We dedicate our spirit to G.o.d, and then He reveals Himself to us, opening the eyes of our understanding, showing us the person of Christ, unfolding His truth to our spiritual apprehension, and making us to see light in His own light.
It is wonderful how the untutored mind will thus often, in a short time, by the simple touch of the Holy Spirit, be filled with the most profound and scriptural teaching of G.o.d and the plan of salvation through Christ. We once knew a poor girl, saved from a life of infamy and but little educated, in a few days rise to the most extraordinary acquaintance with the Scriptures and the whole plan of redemption, through the simple anointing of the Holy Spirit. We simply give to Him our spirit that it may know Him and He fills it with His light and revelation.
So, again, we choose to be transformed to His image, but we cannot create that image by our own morality or struggles after righteousness. We must be created anew in His likeness by His own Spirit, and stamped with His resemblance by His heavenly seal impressed directly upon our heart from His hand. And thus He does become to us our holiness, for Christ is made unto us our sanctification, and we are made the righteousness of G.o.d in Him. We turn from the sin, choose to be holy, and G.o.d fills our proffered hand with His own spotless righteousness.
So, again, our faith is but the filling of His Spirit and the imparting of the faith of G.o.d. We choose to trust and He makes that choice good by enabling us to believe, and to continue in the faith grounded and settled, and so living by the faith of the Son of G.o.d. Our love is but a purpose on our part, the power is His; for when we choose to love He sheds abroad that love within us and imparts to us His own Spirit and nature which is love. All our struggles will not work up one throb of genuine love to G.o.d, but He will breathe His own perfect love into any heart that chooses to make Him the one object of affection. We cannot love our enemies but we can choose to love them, and G.o.d will make us to love them. Often have we known consecrated characters placed in circ.u.mstances where they were obliged to come in contact with uncongenial companions whom they could not love; but, choosing at His bidding to act in the spirit of love, G.o.d has so inbreathed His very heart, that without a struggle they could adjust themselves to this relationship and meet the uncongenial a.s.sociate, or even enemy, with quietness, and even tenderness, and a holy desire for his highest good.
So, again, it is with His joy in us. And so, likewise, the power to glorify Him is nothing more nor less than simply this, to let G.o.d Himself be manifested in us and so glorify Himself, as others see Him reflected through us. Sanctification is thus G.o.d's own life in the spirit that is yielded up to Him to be His dwelling place and the instrument of His power and will. So also of our spiritual senses of which we have spoken. They are sanctified when they become the organs of G.o.d's operation, when our spiritual ear is quickened by His Spirit, our spiritual eyes opened by His touch, our spiritual taste, and touch, and smell, made alive by His own quickening life within us.
Now, beloved, have you ever learned this wonderful secret of regenerated spirit and G.o.d's Spirit, the Guest and Occupant of that consecrated abode?
Will we ill.u.s.trate this somewhat lofty conception by a simple ill.u.s.tration? Here is a common leather case which represents the body. Within it is a silver casket, which stands for the soul. We touch a spring and it opens and discloses an exquisite golden locket, which we will consider as the symbol of the spirit or higher nature, and within that golden locket is a place all set with precious gems for a single picture.
Is it empty in your spirit or is it filled with some other face, or is it dedicated to and occupied by your blessed Lord? Is it His shrine and His home and has He accepted it and made it the seat of His glorious abode and throne of His blessed kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost? Or are there some who read these lines who have not yet even learned the meaning of their own spirit and do not know whether it has yet been quickened from the dead and prepared to be the seat of Christ's indwelling? All that they know of life consists in the physical organism, their mental faculties and their human affections. They have a keen, quick, human life, all aglow with emotion and mental activity, but the spirit, alas, alas! is so dead and cold that it has not even caught the grasp of these higher thoughts that we have been contemplating.
Ah, beloved! there is one world that you have not yet entered, and that is the eternal world to which you are hastening. The life you are living can never introduce you to the sphere of heavenly beings, for "flesh and blood cannot inherit eternal life, nor corruption incorruption." Your physical life will wither like the flowers of summer, your mental endowments will rise to the highest human rank, but will not touch the joy of that celestial realm. You must have another nature before you can enter the kingdom of heaven. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of G.o.d."
Just suppose for a moment a man going to a great musical festival in Germany. He enters the great Concert Hall but he does not know a single word of the language spoken nor has the faintest germ of musical taste. To him the words are unmeaning gutturals, and the notes a jargon of confusing noises. He could understand a problem in mathematics, he could discourse with them with eloquence in English on questions of politics or philosophy, but he is out of place, he does not possess the key to their society or enjoyment.
And so let us suppose the highest intellect of earth entering the society of heaven. To him their songs and joys would all seem as incomprehensible as the conversation of a cultivated home circle would be to the little dog that sits at their feet or the canary that sings in the window. It belongs to a different race and cannot touch their world. Nor could such a man have one point of contact with these heavenly beings. It would be another world, a world unknown, a world as barren as a wilderness; and from its scenes he would be glad to hasten to find some congenial fellowship. He cannot reach its range because it is a spiritual race of beings, and he has but an intellectual nature. And, on the other hand, they would have as little in common with him as his range is infinitely below theirs.
We can imagine the porter of yonder gates asking him what he knows, and he begins to tell them about the lore of cla.s.sical culture, the mythologies of Greece or the monuments of Egypt. The angel smiles with pity and answers, "Why, these splendid memories of which you speak are not worthy of comparison with the world in which we dwell. The grandest temple of Egypt would not make a pedestal for one of the stairs of heaven." Perhaps he tells them of astronomy, the distance or magnitude of the stars. "Why," the angel answers, "we have no need of these dim and distant calculations here. There is not one of yonder worlds we have not visited and we could tell you ten thousand times more of its mysteries than you have ever dreamed of, but the glories of these cannot be compared with the glory of Him who sits upon the throne, whom you have not eyes to see, or the sweetness of these redemption songs which you cannot even hear because you have not ears to hear. One thrill of the rapture we feel you cannot ever know because your heart has not been quickened in one heavenly chord. You do not belong here. You live in the lower realm of mind alone, but this is the Home of G.o.d and those who have received His nature, His Spirit, and are admitted as His children to dwell in His presence and share His infinite and everlasting joy.
Beloved, this is the high calling which is given to every one of Adam's race who has heard the gospel. You may become a son of G.o.d, you may receive a new spirit which can know and enjoy Him, and that spirit can be so sanctified, so cleansed, so enlarged, so filled with Himself, as to be able to reach the highest sublimity of His grace and glory and joy. Will you separate it from all that defiles and dwarfs it? Will you dedicate it to Him to be exalted to its highest possible destiny and will, henceforth receive Him to be its life and purity, its satisfaction, its nature, and its ALL and in ALL?
These four short lines of simple poetry express the depth and height of holiness, namely,as a great need and an infinite supply for that need in G.o.d. Beloved, will they express, henceforth, your emptiness and your divine filling?
In the heart of man-A cry; In the heart of G.o.d-Supply.
A SANCTIFIED SOUL.
We have already seen that in the threefold division of our being the spirit represents the higher and divine element, that which knows, trusts, loves, resembles and glorifies G.o.d. What then is the soul as distinguished from the spirit and the body, and what is meant by a soul wholly sanctified?
I. THE NATURE AND ATTRIBUTES OF THE SOUL.
It is not necessary for us to descend into all the depths of psychology and attempt to a.n.a.lyze the manifold attributes and faculties of that wondrous consciousness which G.o.d has placed within the breast of every human being. It is enough for the present to observe that every one of us is conscious of, at least, the following four great cla.s.ses of mental endowment, namely, the understanding, the tastes, the affections and pa.s.sions, and the appet.i.tes.
1. The understanding. This is the seat of intelligence. Many and varied are the chambers in this house of many mansions. Perhaps the first is that which the philosophers have called perception, that which fixes its attention upon objects and becomes directly cognizant of things and thoughts. Next might be named the faculty of intelligence, of acquiring knowledge, of understanding truth and relations, and reasoning, thinking and concluding. To this department also memory belongs, that wondrous attribute which recalls the past and stores up forever the impressions and sensations of the mind to be the source of joy or pain. Imagination follows next, the faculty which gives the soul the power of ignoring s.p.a.ce, of bringing the distant near, of peopling the empty void with the creations of an ideal world, which to the vivid fancy seems as real as the material forms around it. As the correlative of Memory, Expectation looks out upon the future with the magnifying gla.s.s of Imagination and springs forward on the wings of Hope, until time and sense are forgotten in the prospect of the bright vista that opens before. Amid all this, as the helm of character and the driver of the fiery coursers of the soul, sits reason or judgment, the faculty of comparing or concluding, of weighing instructions and deciding courses of action. Sometimes it is called commonsense, and sometimes the exercise of the judgment. All these are but a few of the mental qualities of which each of us is conscious, and which const.i.tute the leading attributes of the soul. When we think how much they have to do with every interest of human life, it is not necessary to show how important it is that they should be sanctified so as to be guarded from error and perversion and used for their highest ends, for our welfare, the good of others and the glory of G.o.d.
2. The tastes follow next in order. Each of us possesses certain special talents and mental inclinations and adaptations. The result of this is that one man is a born musician, another has a genius for painting, another is a natural architect or sculptor, another a great inventor, another a traveler, and another a poet or writer of fiction.