This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Purity and Maturity

This book has been written with much solicitude, not from any doubts regarding the subject which it treats, but from its practical importance and the fact that there exists such a diversity of views concerning it.

While the experience of purity is sweet and reasonably plain to those who enjoy it—as much so as regenerating grace: to write of it, so as to make it plain to those who have not experienced it; useful to those who are seeking it; effective in removing prejudice against it, and harmful errors regarding it, is not an easy task.

“PERFECT LOVE” was written sixteen years since, two years after the precious Saviour fully cleansed my heart: this is written after much more time for reflection, prayerful study, and the careful examination of everything available on the subject.

I am very willing to admit Christian Purity is a SPECIALTY for me and has been for nearly twenty years. As much so, perhaps, as Sabbath School work with Dr. Vincent, Church Extension with Dr. Kynett, or any other specialist in the Church.

I believe Christian holiness, in its true evangelical sense, should be the great SPECIALTY of the whole Church;— that she ought to give great prominence to it as the “central idea” of the Gospel.
It is believed if some of our very learned ministers would give more attention to Christian Purity and less to some other specialties, which appear to consume their attention, this subject would be re-lived of much harm in their unhappy presentations of it.

Even great and learned men can not be supposed to know everything, nor is it given to any one man to excel in everything. It is a mistaken idea that large ability and much learning exempt men from making great mistakes. Many, who have been re-guarded by the world as profoundly learned, and were so in some things, have made some of the most shameful blunders, of which humanity has been the victim.
In the preparation of this work, I have written for serious and earnest minds, to whom sin has become hateful and holiness attractive, who always regard the practical side of this subject as of the highest importance.

It has not been my design to present any novel notions but to clearly state, guard, and defend what has been taught for centuries, though often mixed with much error. I have not written so much, for the learnedly critical, as for the common mass of Christian believers, many of whom appear per-placed and mystified on this plain and intelligible subject.

Experience is worth more than theory. The heart, illuminated by the Spirit, is usually truer and safer as a guide through the entangled difficulties of life than the head. And the soul, in earnest for purity, will regard the plain teachings of the Bible rather than his own or others’ theories. To this fountain of truth, he will find his way—open the volume, read the promises, seek divine aid, and learn by experience that whosoever doeth His will “shall know of the doctrine.”

The Church has always prospered in her great work of soul saving, proportionate to adherence to the Bible in her teachings. An appeal to human philosophy has usually interrupted her work and left her bleeding. The philosophy of Christian purity we do not attempt to teach. The metaphysical nature of regeneration has left a mystery in God’s Word; the same is true of entire sanctification. It is no province of philosophy or theology to explain these mysteries.

To those who have experienced purity, it is no greater mystery than regeneration; neither is it removed any further away from the laws of human thought, but it is as plain as any other fact of consciousness.
We use Bible terms and Bible figures in their commonly received sense. The Bible, I take it, is written for the common people and is a common-sense book. We are aware some object to the terms we use as too physical to be predicated of the soul. We cannot speak of spiritual things without using terms which primarily relate to material things.

The terms used are physical, as no others are appropriate, and because nearly all of them are given by Inspiration, as expressive of the work of the Holy Spirit in our salvation.

The Bible’s terms and figures are very expressive, and God uses them in their common, everyday sense, as used among men.

While the infinite God “is a Spirit,” he speaks to us of “the EYES of the Lord,’ and of “the ARM of the Lord,” and the like, to give to us the idea that he sees and has strength; yet we do not suppose that he has a material body with eyes and arms.

There is no necessity of mistaking their meaning. They are significantly expressive of the moral state required and the work wrought as a “washing,” “purging,” “cleansing,” “mortification,” “crucifixion,” and the like.

While we have no blind devotion to any special phraseology, we dare not abandon or repudiate Scripture terms standing forth so prominently in God’s Word. It is reasonable to suppose the Holy Ghost has given the best terms expressive of his own work, and we can not, to please men, or to harmonize with their philosophy, relinquish terms sanctioned and given by God himself.

Names are signs of things, and wherever there is a Bible name used, there is a thing signified by that name, ‘To say there is no process, or state indicated by the terms— “cleansed,” “purged,” “washed,” “crucified;” or “holiness,” “perfection,” “pureness,” “sanctification,” and “purity,” is not only to contradict the Savior; but, to pour contempt upon the. Holy Ghost, by whose immediate inspiration these names were given.

If these names do not imply a real work of God and an attainable religious experience, what better is the Bible than a Pagan Legend, which treats imaginary things as if they were positive realities?

As rational creatures, we desire to understand the experience of our hearts; and the state which, through grace, we have obtained or may obtain; if true views are not apprehended and correct ones adopted, false theories will be, and false views often have a pernicious effect.

Definiteness and clearness in religious teaching and experience are of the utmost importance. It is to be feared the day of reckoning will disclose the solemn fact that millions failed to be pure in heart because of the vague and indefinite teachings of those who were over them in the Lord.

Multiplied thousands are battling year after year with their inbred corruptions, who, if they had been properly instructed and guided, would long since have been washed in the blood of Christ and now living in established holiness.

Where will the severest responsibility rest for the mixed moral state of vast numbers of partially purified believers in the Church of God; but upon the equivocal, indefinite, and partially sanctified teachers; who, like Caleb and Joshua, should be the leaders of the people out of their wilderness state into the goodly land of their spiritual Canaan?

Ancient Israel entered not in because of unbelief, and the disbelieving, distrustful spies ministered to it, and God smote them dead on the spot.

What blessed results would be witnessed if, like Caleb and Joshua, every Christian minister would go into the good land himself and courageously and faithfully say,— “We are well able to go up and possess the good land,’ and thus lead the dear people of God into the fountain of cleansing!

A congregation will usually follow its leader, whether to the heights of spiritual enjoyment or into the depths of formalism. Great reformations and great defections have usually come from the ministry.
It is sad to contemplate the responsibility of those who give the Gospel trump an uncertain sound; and, by vague generalities, make the whole subject of Christian purity fearfully indefinite.

God, at infinite pains and precision, has set forth with the utmost definiteness the privileges and duties of Gospel salvation. Pardon, adoption, regeneration, and entire sanctification, are specific and definite.

The experience of the Christian Church has demonstrated that when the Gospel is preached to sinners in an indefinite and general way, only urging men to live sober, moral, and exemplary lives, withoutsetting before them the clearly defined, distinct blessings of justification, adoption, and regeneration, it has never resulted in any marked or decided success. This is seen in the whole history of Unitarianism in this country and German Rationalism in Europe.

The opposite is seen in all evangelical Churches, and especially in the history of Methodism. Mr. Wesley saw this and said:— “Generally, wherever the Gospel is preached in a clear and Scriptural manner, more than ninety-nine in a hundred do know the exact time when they are justified.”

The same general fact is true in the preaching of Christian purity. Many present this subject only in an indefinite and general way, which neither provokes opposition to it nor leads anybody to seek and obtain it.

Indefinite teaching of purity never leads to definite or positive experience of purity.

Hence it is that many ministers do not witness a clear and distinct case of entire sanctification during years of ministerial work. They witness the legitimate results of preaching purity indistinctly and indefinitely, more or less—an uncertain and dissatisfied religious condition of those under their ministry.
This subject is the most important which can engage our attention, as it deeply concerns our peace and usefulness and our preparation for death and eternity. Many place the standard of Scriptural holiness much higher than the Bible. If they do not get it up to absolute perfection, they make it a degree of development and maturity almost angelic. Such will talk about this “high state of grace,” “I can never climb so high,” and “If I get it, I can never keep it.”

We understand simple purity as not a high state of grace when compared with the privileges and possibilities in the divine life. Purity is only the base, the substratum of a grand Christian life, and the present duty and privilege of all Christians. “With me (said the saintly Fletcher), it is a small thing to be cleansed from all sin, but O! to be filled with all the fulness of God.”

The greater part of our growth in grace and advancement in the divine life should be subsequent to our entire sanctification, as has been the case with many of the best men and women in the Church of God.
We have been pained to find so much disapproval on this plain subject; that some of our ministers confound it with regeneration and others with maturity, while many practically ignore it after having declared before God and whole conferences that they expected to be made perfect in love in this life. But, in this world, every Christian doctrine has been perverted. No fact in history is more clear than this, and it forms one of the most powerful proofs of human depravity.

When we consider how every Bible doctrine has been abused, it may not be expected that the doe-trine of Christian purity will escape perversion, misapprehension, and dispute.

We are well aware of the bitter prejudice, apparent blindness, and mistaken notions of many of the opponents of this precious grace. Respecting the captiousness sometimes seen and the unhandsome flings made regarding it, we have nothing to say.

We have aimed at clear and distinct teaching, not philosophical, but evangelical and practical, and trust we have been able to avoid many mistakes and dangers while keeping the plain distinctions between regeneration, purity, and maturity before the mind.

We profess no exemption from errors of taste, judgment, memory, or manner; and have deeply felt our inability and our liability to mistake; and expect our views to stand on their own intrinsic merits or otherwise, as they are seen to agree with the infallible Word. The subject has been examined with candor, diligence, and care and with much prayer.

We acknowledge some repetition, which has been difficult to avoid, and confine ourselves closely to the subject, but writing for the common mind, this may be useful rather than otherwise.

I make no claim to originality. I have gathered truth from every available source, and when I could state a sentiment or proposition with more precision and plainness in the language of another, I have not hesitated to do so. The italics in many of the quotations are my own.

The quotations made are numerous, but they are short, pertinent, and corroborative and constitute a valuable part of the book. They are scattered through hundreds of volumes, many of which our readers will never see, having neither money to purchase nor time to read.

No writer has been misquoted or perverted knowingly. If it is said some of the authors quoted teach sentiments contrary to the quotations given and to the doctrines of this book, we have only to say: their quotations are correctly given, and if their writings do not harmonize, the responsibility is not ours.
It is clear that the times in which we live call for a great revival of personal holiness in the Christian Church. The necessity of this thousands feel, and thousands more are praying for it. God is moving mightily upon the hearts of his people in all lands, and his children should shake themselves from indifference and lethargy and, as workers together with Christ, “arise and shine” and move on in holy triumph, evangelizing this world to God.

I confess, while I rejoice that this doctrine and experience is becoming more and more the doctrine of the universal Church, I am nevertheless jealous of our own loved communion (with Godly jealousy, I trust), lest by neglect, unbelief, inactivity, or silence upon this most precious subject, we, who have led the way, and borne a consistent and worthy testimony to the possibility and practicability of purity in this life, should be outstripped by sister Churches, and it should be said — “The last shall be first, and the first last.”

Clear and distinct teaching of the doctrine and experience of holiness has always been the peculiar and distinctive feature of Methodism. While it has been held with some clearness and accuracy, it has never been the distinguishing tenet of any other sect.

“Knowing exactly what I say (says the learned Dr. John M’Clintock, in his Centenary Address), and taking full responsibility for it, I repeat, we are the only Church in history, from the Apostles’ time until now, that has put forth as it’s very elemental thought the great, central, pervading idea of the whole book of God from the beginning to the end —the holiness of the human soul, heart, mind, endow. It may be called fanaticism, but, dear friends, this is our mission. IF WE KEEP TO THAT, THE NEXT CENTURY IS OURS; if we keep to that, the triumphs of the next century shall throw those that are past far in the shade. . … There is our mission, there is our glory, there is our power, and there shall be the ground of our triumph! GOD KEEP US TRUE!”

O! that our twelve Methodist Bishops, our twelve thousand traveling preachers, our fifty thousand class leaders, and all our thirteen hundred thousand Church members would respond—AMEN! and AMEN !!
And why should they not? This is the very doctrine that has always distinguished the theological literature of Methodism, which has been most powerfully proclaimed from her pulpits and most beautifully illustrated in the useful lives of many of her members.

It was this precious grace which developed the consecrated, lovely, and useful life of the sainted PHOEBE PALMER; and made her an evangel of light and love to thousands, and tens of thousands, on both sides of the Atlantic. With her, the doctrine and experience of holiness were first, midst, last, and always, and her spirit was fragrant with its sweetness and power. She believed it and published it; she professed it, and enjoyed it; and lived and died in its inspiring triumphs,

The same was true in the experience, life, and death of our precious sainted brothers, ALFRED Cookman, R. V. Lawrence, and George C. WELLS, so recently among us— whose sympathies, earnest efforts, and useful lives were consecrated to, and greatly blest of God in the promotion of Christian purity.

I commit this volume to the public with the prayer that it may do good and no harm, treating as it does the most important subject which can come before the human mind. I have abundant occasion for gratitude for the manner in which “Perfect Love” has been received and for the kindly notices of it by the religious press, while twenty-four thousand copies have been scattered among the people. I trust this volume will be helpful to many who are seeking light and are anxious to love God with a pure heart fervently.


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  • Nathan Zipfel

    Ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene Pastor of the New Life Church of the Nazarene in Boswell, PA. Batchelor of Arts Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Bible College Master of Arts, Ministry, Ohio Christian University Master of Social Work, Indiana Wesleyan University Behavioral Health Therapist, Certified Trauma Professional

By Nathan Zipfel

Ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene Pastor of the New Life Church of the Nazarene in Boswell, PA. Batchelor of Arts Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Bible College Master of Arts, Ministry, Ohio Christian University Master of Social Work, Indiana Wesleyan University Behavioral Health Therapist, Certified Trauma Professional

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