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Holiness And Sanctification PDF Print E-mail
Written by R.Anna Phillips   

Zion's Landmark--March 1, 1902

Not long since I received the following letter from Danville, Va., which will speak for itself: "I have an impression to write what the Lord in his goodness has done for me for the consideration of his people. There is so much said about holiness and sanctification that I want to write some of my experience. I am fully aware there are very many who hoot at the idea of one who claims so much; and I am fully aware there are some who do not understand what is meant by the terms. I do not think they mean we never do anything we regret, or make an error.

But I do believe we can attain to a state wherein we feel no condemnation. It is written there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. And is it, not the spirit that governs the man or woman? Whatever we do or say is received in some sort of spirit, and to the man that can discern, a thing is no sooner said than we know what manner of spirit actuated the speaker. If we will read the scriptures carefully and prayerfully, we will see there is a great deal said about holiness, sanctification and perfection. Now what do you suppose it is there for? Surely not to fill up the book. And as much as lieth in us, let us live according to its teaching. We, the Baptists, profess to believe that God has all power in earth and in heaven. He can do all his pleasure. He certainly has not commanded us to do more than he can enable us to do. The word says, "Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." And it says he will give strength as our day. God has power over our flesh as well as our spirit, and it says if we ask we shall receive; but if we refuse and rebel the sword shall devour us, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. We only have peace and rest in obedience; and like David we can only use such things as we have proven. If we have not proved this thing, how can we use it or get any sweetness out of it? The word says we are to be satisfied with honey out of the rock. We should not sit down and say, 'I will get so and so if the Lord intends I shall have it.' If we want anything or need it, surely it is worth asking for; and we certainly would honor the Lord more to ask and receive, than to go around saying, 'I am so sinful the Lord thinks best not to give me what I need, lest I misuse it: so I will be satisfied--if I am to be saved I will be saved anyhow.'

"Now, sister Phillips, I want you to say if you can fellowship what I have written. I ask this of you because I think you surely are a child of God; and I believe you will deal honestly with me. If you find error you will please, in a Christ-like manner, tell me, for Jesus' sake? When we were children we spoke and acted as such: now what does it mean by saying, 'When I was a man I put away childish things?' It surely does mean something. And if we cannot be free from sin, why does it tell us we are free? I believe these things are for the children of God. And he says, 'If we know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more will He give the Holy Ghost to them that ask him.'

"I want to know the truth that I may live right and honor my Lord and Master. You can reply through the LANDMARK, as I take it.

"May the Lord abundantly bless you and enable you to rightly divide the word of truth. I withhold my name for the present."

It seems to me that here is an honest enquirer after truth, and that he wants to know it that he may the better honor his Lord and Master is that that touched my heart and stirred my mind to action; for I too want the Lord honored. I know that many of our brethren are so far from believing that a Christian can come to perfection, in any sense, in this life, that those who do are almost afraid to say so. But God is our Law-giver and Judge; before him we stand or fall as to what we believe and practice. Also, what the law saith, it saith to those under it: and none were ever under it but those born of the Spirit and are Spirit; hence, not the natural but the spiritual man alone is under the gospel law, and what it saith it saith to such, not as to servants of sin--not as to God's creatures under the old law, but to God's children; and who delight to love, honor and obey him as their Father. And that law, being timely--that ends with time, and hence pertains to them practically, and effects them only for "this present world" or lifetime. And it commands them to do nothing which he by given grace will not enable them to perform. Yet in order to which they should understand and discriminate between eternal and temporal salvation, the eternal is that wrought by Jesus Christ once for all, and saves to eternal life and inheritance; the other is that wrought by the child of God in gospel obedience, and saves to peace and communion in spirit with God and his children. Hence, to obey the gospel in daily walk is also to save from error and its rewards, and "every transgression and disobedience shall receive a just recompense of reward." Hebrews 2:2.

And it is written also that this spiritual man by grace--through the spirit--in the name of Jesus--all synonymous, and answers to Christ strengthening him--can "do all things" commanded, even attain unto perfection, in a sense. Paul told such, "If ye live after the flesh ye shall die"--to this peace and communion referred to--"but if ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live." Jesus said, "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction"--of this same peace, &c. --"and many there be who go in thereat: because strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life"--the life to which you die living after the flesh--"and few there be that find it." Then, here is life and death, in a sense, in the balance of works: and if we may thus attain unto life by obedience, is it too much to say we may attain unto holiness, perfection, by the same? I think not. This holiness is a good thing, and the Lord says he will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly. Ps. 84:11.

Now to come directly to your question, or to what extent of perfection can one attain to by gospel obedience? But first as to sanctification: God chose his people to salvation "through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth." 2nd Thess. 2:13. And that is not to set apart, but to cleanse and to renew in the spirit of the mind. Then that every child of God is sanctified in spirit is an established truth.

Now as to obedience unto holiness: Paul said to brethren, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." Rom. 2:1. This holiness sprung from works, works done in body attained to this holiness. He says in another place, "Yield your members"--as feet and hands, indicating walk or works--"as instruments of righteousness unto God"-- "servants of righteousness unto holiness." Rom. 6:19. Another says, "as obedient children"--"as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy, because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy." 1st Peter 1:14. And Jesus says, "Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matt. 5:48

Now as you say, my brother, this was not written to fill the book, but as commands of the Lord, to be observed by his children: nor has he commanded to do that which they, enabled by grace, cannot do. When Jesus said, "As your Father in heaven is perfect," he did not mean as to nature, but as to works. His works are all perfect, complete, wanting nothing. If we render perfect obedience to law we stand perfect before that law, even as our Father in heaven before his works: for what can add to perfection?

And thus we may obey every gospel law, and thus walk blameless before God in love; and when blameless there is no condemnation; and there is no condemnation to those only who are in Christ Jesus and walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. Rom. 8:1. Then to attain unto this holiness one must be in Christ walking after the spirit. But now remember, it is the spiritual man who alone is under, and of whom alone the gospel law demands or commands, of whom I am speaking. Also that this perfection and holiness attained unto by gospel obedience is a legal perfection.

But this same man--the regenerated soul to whom by the order of God in creation the literal body belongs as his member--finds another law in his members warring against the law God has written in his mind, and 'bringing me," he says, "into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." This other law was that of the evil spirit still abiding in his flesh; so that he as one, in a sense, with the body, could not do the things he would in body. Then asserting himself as separate, he says, "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." So that while he as the separate new man might be holy, be as claiming complication with the body--not that it is sinful, but the abode of sin--I mean the literal body separate from lusts of the flesh--he must cry, "Oh, wretched man I am!" So Israel of old, when they had entered Canaan and found God had destroyed all those "ites" there as nations, but left some of each to contend with, they complained. But God told them should he drive them ALL out a worse enemy, wild beasts of prey, would take their place: which I think answers to spiritual pride, presumption, &c.; which in turn answers to these evil propensities and lusts left in the flesh. Truly it is better to meet these enemies of the land, these foes of one's own household, than these different species.

Then while in this mortal body--not partaker so much as abode of sin--we must grieve over evil there found: while at the same time, if having attained thereto, we may present our body holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service in gospel obedience. For such are sanctified in spirit, and may turn, as it were, from this cry of wretchedness, and with joy exclaim, "So then with the mind--spirit of true desire--I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." For this spiritual man was never under that law he found written in his members, nor the lusts of the flesh under the law of grace.

The freedom to which you refer and ask about was that from the law of sin and death; also that "wherein they were held," when born of God. Yet there is a gospel freedom from condemnation, when we obey.

God fed Israel from Egypt to Canaan, then commanded them to go to work for a living. "If ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat the fat of the land," He told them; otherwise, or rebellious, they should be devoured by the sword. When a little child, as just born of the spirit, God provided you with the sincere milk of the word without effort on your part. But when grown older you must put way childish things and ways and work for your living. A willing obedience from love is a perfect one; and by which you retain, as when a child, that perfection freeing from condemnation in which you stood blameless before your Father, or having lost it, regain this perfection by obedience and which is legal as sprung from obedience to law.

I have written hurriedly, but hope my unknown brother may approve and let me hear from him again.

P.

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