This entry is part 9 of 13 in the series Purity and Maturity

PURITY is not a question of time; growth in grace is. Believers are delivered from inbred sin at all periods after their regeneration — from one day to scores of years. We need not prove that many believers are not entirely sanctified until a remote period after justification. This is generally so obviously and so shamefully true as to need no evidence.

Are believers entirely purified immediately after regeneration? Let a divine answer whose labors, observation, usefulness, and experience have not been equaled since the days of the Apostles.

Rev. John Wesley says, — “Many at Macclesfield believed that the blood of Christ had cleansed them from all sin. I spoke to them, forty in all, one by one. Some of them said they received that blessing ten days, some seven, some four, and some three days after they found peace with God, and two of them the next day.”— Works, vol. iv. p. 135.

He gives an account of Grace Paddy, who was “convinced of sin, converted to God, and renewed in love, within twelve hours.” In vindication of these experiences and many others like them, he says,— “With God, one day is as a thousand years; it plainly follows that the quantity of time is nothing with him. Centuries, years, months, days, hours, and moments are exactly the same; consequently, he can as well sanctify in a day after we are justified as a hundred years. There is no difference at all unless we suppose him to be such a one ourselves. Accordingly, we see, in fact, that some of the most unquestionable witnesses of sanctifying grace were sanctified within a few days after they were justified.” — Works, vol. iv. De. 219.

The reader will find the same doctrine taught by the devoted and saintly Hester Ann Rogers, — “It is true, we may mortify, resist, and keep under those evils; but Jesus alone can pluck up and destroy every plant and root which his Father planted not. We may gradually grow in grace and holiness, and hereby increase in victoriously SUBJECTING the enemy within, but Jesus alone can slay the man of sin.” —Journal of H. A. Rogers.

Bishop Foster says, — sanctification is “distinct in opposition to the idea that it is a mere regeneration; holding it to be something more and additional; instantaneous, in opposition to the idea of GROWTH GRADUALLY TO MATURITY OR RIPENESS.” … “And though there is progress toward it, yet that its attainment is not a mere ripeness ensuing by gradual growth, but is by the direct agency of the Holy Spirit, and instantaneously wrought, however long the soul may have been progressing toward it.” — Christian Purity.

Dr. F. G. Hibbard says the cleansing baptism process is “not a new impulse merely to the inner life; not a simple ‘growing in grace,’ it is distinctly a ‘second blessing’ sent down from heaven, with all its appropriate evidences — an act of completion of the work of grace in the believer; . . . promised, prayed for, waited for, believed for, RECEIVED INSTANTANEOUSLY by all classes of humble believers.” — Guide to Holiness, 1867.

The uniform experience of all who have sought and obtained the blessing of entire sanctification speaks decidedly on this subject. It has been found by experience that purity is the result of a direct exercise of divine power, received as instantaneously as regeneration — “SANCTIFIED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

So far as I know, the testimony of all who are clear in the experience and witness of purity is that it was sought as a distinct blessing, was obtained by letting go of every dependence but Christ and trusting alone in his cleansing blood, and was received in a moment. Three things were distinct in their experience:

First. They were conscious of inbred sin after conversion.

Second. They were convicted of the privilege and duty of being cleansed from it and made pure in heart.

Third. They sought and obtained a personal and instantaneous cleansing in the blood of Christ. These three items will be found, we believe, in every clear and definite experience of Christian purity.

We may reasonably suppose that the great majority of the Church is anxious to grow in grace, but how many are getting clean hearts by such growth? Let the vast multitudes answer, in all our Churches, who have been trying to grow in grace from one to forty years and are still without freedom from inbred sin, and the witness of the Spirit that their hearts are clean.

If there are those in our Churches, who have obtained purity by a gradual process of imperceptible growth and have the witness of the Spirit to the work, they ought to give their testimony. And it is their duty to do it. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.” Many, MANY THOUSANDS have testified, and do testify, to an instantaneous cleansing by the Holy Spirit.

Mr. Wesley — “In London alone, I found six hundred and fifty-two members of our society, who were EXCEEDING CLEAR IN THEIR EXPERIENCE, and of whose testimony I could see no reason to doubt.” . . . “And every one of these (after the most careful inquiry, I have not found ONE EXCEPTION either in Great Britain or Ireland) has declared that his deliverance from sin was instantaneous; that the change WAS WROUGHT IN A MOMENT. Had half of these, or one-third, or one in twenty, declared it was gradually wrought in them, I should have believed this in regard to them and thought that some were gradually sanctified and some instantaneously. But as I have not found, in so long a space of time (more than thirty years), a single person speaking thus, AS ALL, who believe they are sanctified, declare with one voice that the change was wrought in a moment; I can not but believe, that sanctification is commonly, if not always, an instantaneous work.” — Sermons, vol. ii. p. 223.

Bishop Janes, in a sermon upon this subject, of great interest and power, at the Morristown Camp Meeting, said, — “Well now, what shall we do when Fletcher, and Benson, and Bramwell, and David Stoner, Drs Fisk, and Olin, and Bangs, and tens of thousands of others have testified, both in life and death, that they are conscious of the hour and the place when God by the Holy Spirit cleansed them from all unrighteousness.”

Rev. Henry Boehm gives an account of the work of God in the days of Asbury, — in the following statements, taken from his diary:— “There were one hundred and forty-six converted and seventy-six sanctified during the day.” . . . “At sunset, they reported three hundred and thirty-nine conversions and one hundred and twenty-two sanctifications.” …. “Peter Vannest preached at eight o’clock; eighty-one converted that evening and sixty-eight sanctified.” . . . “There were this day two hundred and sixty-four conversions and fifty sanctifications.”’ … “There were eleven hundred conversions and nine hundred and sixteen sanctifications.” …. “During the meeting, there were reported thirteen hundred and twenty-one conversions and nine hundred and sixteen sanctifications.”

Here we have the work of God, plainly stated in the old Methodist way, by the venerable Father Boehm, the sainted centenarian of American Methodism, who was an eyewitness and participator in the meetings he reports. It is no wonder that Bishop Asbury wrote in his journal — “Our day of Pentecost has fully come.”

From the diaries, journals, magazines, biographies, and histories of Methodism during a hundred years past, several thousand such quotations might be given as the foregoing from Father Boehm.

Mr. Wesley said in 1762, — “Many years ago, my brother frequently said, ‘Your day of Pentecost is not fully come, but I doubt not it will, and you will then hear of persons sanctified as frequently as you do now of persons justified.”

In the great revival of holiness during the past ten years, this blessing has been sought and obtained by simple faith in the blood of Christ and enjoyed and testified to as a personal experience by Christians of all denominations and in every walk of life. Thousands of Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Quakers, and others, in both Europe and America have given their testimony to this experience. :

It has been the chief honor of our denomination that it has led thousands and thousands into the light and enjoyment of this most precious grace, whose lives have been beautiful and fragrant with whatever is ‘‘ pure, lovely, and of good report.”

So far as I know, this great “cloud of witnesses” have given testimony to an instantaneous work of the blessed Holy Spirit — a work of purification and not ‘of maturity. This testimony has been given through a long succession of years; given by living, intelligent, competent witnesses, given in prosperity and in adversity, in sickness and in health, living and dying; and there is no power in earth or hell that can impeach it.

Bishop Thomson, some years before his death, wrote as follows: “Its professors are now numbered by thousands, and perhaps it is not saying too much to aver that they form the most loving, spiritual, and effective membership in the Churches to which they belong.” — Editorial in C. A. and J.

The fact that some, who are entirely sanctified, do not know the precise time when inbred sin was extirpated no more proves a gradual purification than the same more common fact in regard to justification proves a gradual regeneration. While many devoted Christians cannot fix upon the precise time when they were regenerated, there are but very few possessing the clear witness of entire sanctification, who can not tell the very time when the work was wrought.

Experience teaches that man is as positively saved from the pollution of sin by faith in the cleansing blood of Christ as he is saved from the guilt of sin by faith in the pardoning mercy of God. The faith by which he is justified has regard to the promise of pardon, while the faith by which he is wholly sanctified has respect to the promise of cleansing. It is clear that the Scriptures give the same encouragement to the one as to the other. In both cases, it is the same reliance on the promise of God and the blood of Christ.

The beautiful analogy in the conditions and experience of regeneration and entire sanctification favors the idea of an instantaneous sanctification similar to regeneration. The sinner believes evangelically for pardon and is forgiven, freely and fully. The Christian believes evangelically in holiness, and his heart is made pure, entirely and instantaneously. Each receives what he seeks and believes in Christ for.

In view of its practical importance, the reader will allow us to give some authority on this item beyond those already presented.

Mr. Wesley: “I have continually testified (for these five and twenty years) in private and public that we are sanctified as well as justified by faith. And, indeed, the one of those great truths does exceedingly illustrate the other. EXACTLY AS WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, SO ARE WE SANCTIFIED BY FAITH.” — Works, vol. i. p. 338.

“The work proper of cleansing the heart from sin (says Dr. F. G. Hibbard) is the work of God, always wrought through faith.”

Dr. Chalmers wrote to his sister, “If you rely on the blood of Christ, you will obtain forgiveness; if you rely on the Spirit of Christ, you will obtain sanctification.” — Guide, 1867.

Rev. Dr. Fuller, in his address before the Evangelical Alliance: — “Nor did you find relief, peace, strength, victory over your corruptions, until you repaired to the fountain open for sin and uncleanness, until looking to Jesus, casting your soul upon him for sanctification, just as you did at first for pardon.”

Bishop Janes said in his sermon at Morristown, “These two blessings, pardon and regeneration, justification and sanctification, are here presented [r. John i. 8, 10] in the same manner, offered upon the same condition . . . the conditions of justification and sanctification according to the text are the same.”

Purification by faith, the reader will see, is stated in most of the quotations we have given. Purity is only by faith; the reception of that which is conditioned on faith can only be obtained by believing for it, and we can believe for only what we see and feel the need of. Light, conviction, and conscious need must precede evangelical faith for the reception of any divinely promised blessing.

Usually, regenerated believers do not feel the plague of their evil hearts nor discover the depth of their own depravity until some time after their conversion. If they saw the depth of their depravity and the full extent of their Gospel privilege and duty, we have no doubt they might and would be pardoned, regenerated, and entirely sanctified at the same time.

Rev. Dr. McCabe well says, “If a soul, at the moment of justification and regeneration, were to be saved to the uttermost — sanctified in the sense in which we are now using that term — it would not be salvation through faith; for salvation by faith requires that the specific needs of the soul be met in answer to its specific faith. ‘According to your faith be it unto you,’ said Jesus. But a pleading, and a believing for pardon, are not a pleading and a believing for full salvation from all inbred corruption.” —Lights on the Pathway of Holiness, p. 55.

We will here say consecration is a condition of faith. When the soul is entirely consecrated to God, faith is not only legitimate and possible but is easy and natural. It is well-nigh spontaneous. To take hold of Christ fully, we must necessarily let go our hold of all else. Faith is not difficult when the soul is in a proper condition or attitude to believe — when it is on believing ground.

Faith is rest, repose, and not effort, and complete self-abandonment is the place where it begins. Faith is receptive and is the point of transition, where the entirely consecrated soul receives the sin-consuming power and passes into the entirely sanctified state. Christ, at that point, speaks— “Be it unto you according to your faith.” Hence, by faith, Christ, our Sanctifier and Redeemer, is of God “made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” In every case, there is first a full surrender to God and acceptance of his will, then an appropriating faith in Christ. The circumstances attending these mental acts may be different; perhaps they are never exactly alike. 

It is clearly seen that seeking a gradual purification renders the attainment of purity impossible, as it excludes its proximate condition. Faith, the proximate condition of purity, can be exercised only in connection with the renunciation of all sin, entire submission to God, and approval of all his known will. Conscious confidence — evangelical faith, and conscious | rebellion — disobedience cannot co-exist in the heart. The former excludes the latter. This renders evangelical faith for purity Now impossible. Evangelical faith and evangelical obedience, God hath joined together, and man cannot put them asunder.

God’s time is now — “Now is the day of salvation,” and no man is cleansed from inbred sin until he seeks it now. ‘The great battle cry of the Methodist Church during the past century has been SALVATION now! FREE AND FULL SALVATION now! And this glorious Bible truth has stirred the Protestant mind of this continent and has been attended with a power that has astonished the world.

The Protestant Episcopal Church has taught gradualism in spiritual things for more than three hundred years, and what has been accomplished? It is no time now for Methodists to teach purity by growth in grace or by imperceptible degrees. Pushing this whole subject of Christian holiness into vague and indefinite generalities, and teaching an unscriptural gradualism, is only giving encouragement to laggards and drones in the Church, who are either backslidden or living beneath their duty and privilege.

The theory of imperceptible growth into holiness is quieting thousands, who ought to be aroused to a sense of their depravity and deficiency, their dwarfishness and infantile weakness. Growing into entire sanctification is equivalent to deferring it indefinitely; such souls are necessarily still looking into the future and hoping to reach it by and by, which amounts to an indefinite series of postponements.

He who seeks the gradual attainment of entire sanctification seeks necessarily something less than entire sanctification now; that is, he does not seek entire sanctification at all. He who does not aim at the extirpation of all sin from his heart now tolerates some sin in his heart now. And he who tolerates sin — any sin, in his heart, is not in a condition to offer acceptable prayer to God for salvation from sin. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

“We deny (says Dr. Hibbard) that a man ever yet gained the victory over any sin, while his will retained it, even with the most secret or tacit approbation. God will have a thorough work, and full salvation will never be given, but on condition of ENTIRE, UNIVERSAL, UNCONDITIONAL ABANDONMENT OF ALL SIN, and acceptance and approval of all the will of God. Then, and not till then, will come the word that speaks us whole” — N.C Advocate.

As it is by faith, it is instantaneous. Not necessarily in the “twinkling of an eye,” at least so far as our perceptions are concerned, but that it is a short, quick, rapid work, the same as regeneration. It may be instantaneous as a birth or a death, as a washing or refining. Hence, instantaneous, in contradistinction from imperceptible processes of growth or development.

It may be said, “entire sanctification is a death to sin, and dying is a gradual process.” If by dying be meant the separation of the soul from the body, strictly speaking, it is not a gradual process. The approach to death may be gradual, or it may not, but a man does not die and is not dead until the soul leaves the body, and this takes place in an instant of time.

The Israelites were not gradually crossing Jordan while going round and round in the wilderness, nor when traveling in the wilderness towards Jordan. They were not entering into Canaan while approaching Jordan, nor were they out of the wilderness or in Canaan when they reached the banks of Jordan. Their approach to Jordan and their crossing of that river were two distinct things. They remained wandering in the wilderness forty years after they first pitched their tents on its banks, in sight of that goodly land flowing with milk and honey.

It is certain death is instantaneous, although its approach is often gradual. So long as the soul remains in the body, the whole of it remains, and the man is positively alive; when it departs, the whole of it leaves, and the man is actually dead. All that is essential for life, and in life, exists and remains as long as there is any life at all. At the moment of death, something takes place which did not take place before — something essentially different from anything in approaching death. Millions die without any gradual process; as there is a last moment when the soul possesses the body, so there is a first moment when the body is dead — tenantless; Bishop Hamline alluding to this item, remarks, “Though purity is gradually approached, it is instantaneously bestowed.”

From the instant the penitent sinner is regenerated, may the gradual work of growth, development, and increasing light make progress in the soul. As in the case of a man approaching death, he may approach nearer and nearer the hour and moment of death to inbred sin or deliverance from it. But his gradual approach to that moment is a very different thing from the fact of his deliverance. The gradual approach to death is essentially different from what occurs at death — and the fact of being dead.

Thousands of people approach very near death, by gradual or very short processes, WHO DO NOT die but live for many years. When very near death, or at the moment just before death, the soul is all there; no part of it has left, much less has nearly all of it departed.

Many believers seeking purity approach very near the destruction of inbred sin (Israel on the banks of Jordan), yet, it is not destroyed, and they live on with all its inbeing for many years— Israel wandering forty years in the wilderness.

It is often objected to an instantaneous purification, that the work of grace in the heart, is illustrated by growth in the vegetable kingdom — “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” This beautiful, inspired figure teaches and illustrates Christian growth and maturity but has no reference to Christian purity. As we have seen, there are two classes of commands and figures, running through the Scriptures, enjoining and illustrating Christian duty and privilege. One class has regard to holiness — purity; the other to growth, development, and maturity. The first class respecting purity are very numerous, while those regarding growth and maturity are comparatively quite limited.

To argue a gradual purification from a Scripture command or figure, given to enjoin and illustrate growth in grace, is to reason from false premises. On the other hand, to argue an instantaneous maturity — growth to manhood in a day, from commas and figures given to enjoin and illustrate purity, is equally illogical and erroneous.

The parable of the mustard seed, with its growth, represents the general workings and spread of Christianity on the earth. It would be difficult to prove it has any direct reference to the purification of the human heart.

The parable of the leaven in the meal doubtless has reference to the work of grace in the soul, but it indicates a short and rapid work. Every woman knows she accomplishes her work in a few hours or never.

It has been asked, “Is not growth in grace growth towards entire holiness?” If it is meant: is growth in grace in the common acceptance of the term the process of gradually cleansing the soul? We answer, No If it is meant: is real growth in grace an increase of spiritual life and power? We answer, Yes. If it means: does growth in grace involve an approach toward the conditions and time of entire sanctification? We answer, Yes.

Some years since, Dr. Hiram Mattison stated in a speech in the New York Preachers’ Meeting, and through the Christian Advocate and his book, to the world, that the writer told him,— “A man might grow in grace for seventy years, and not be a particle more holy, nor a step nearer to entire sanctification than when first converted.” This unhappy statement we disclaim and did so to the Doctor before he went hence to Paradise. The misstatement has most likely done mischief in creating unfounded prejudice, having never been publicly corrected.

What we said to Dr. M. was: “A man may grow in grace in the usual or ordinary sense, for twenty years or more, and yet not possess the witness of his entire sanctification.”’ This we believe and repeat now. As this book treats and elaborates this subject, and as the statement uncorrected is still in print, we have regarded it duty to make this correction.

It may be said the Scriptures nowhere affirm sanctification to be instantaneous. If this be true (which we do not believe), then it may be replied the Scriptures nowhere directly affirm the instantaneousness of justification and regeneration, yet everybody regards them as instantaneous. This supposed omission no more indicates a gradual purification than a gradual regeneration.

Sanctification is spoken of in the Bible, just as justification, regeneration, and adoption are as an accomplished facts. It is God’s work, wrought by his power; it may be supposed, like its kindred blessings, to be instantaneous rather than gradual.

That which is wrought by the direct exercise of divine power in religious experience is done in a moment, while that which is produced by growth and natural causes is necessarily gradual. We repeat, the process of cleansing away inbred sin and that of growth and maturity are two distinct things and are so recognized by theologians, as we have seen, and they should not be identified or confounded. Much of the confusion existing in reference to this doctrine arises from the neglect of this distinction. Those who do this can usually see no purification after regeneration but in the line of growth or development.

What is produced by growth is of necessity gradual, and what is by faith and the Holy Spirit is of necessity instantaneous; God never accomplished that by cleansing power which is to be secured by growth in grace. On the other hand, growth in grace cannot effect that which is the work of the creating, cleansing energy of the Almighty Spirit. The one is a supernatural, instantaneous work; the other is a gradual, natural work.

Pardon, life, adoption, and purity represent the definite, instantaneous, and supernatural in religious experience, while “children,” — “young men,” — “fathers,” — and “perfect men” represent the indefinite and gradual —result of growth and development.

These truths are no fictions nor theological speculations but blessed realities, which millions have attested, and for which millions more will go to the judgment to answer for neglecting.

Series Navigation<< Chapter 7 – Christian Purity is not obtained by Growth in Grace – part 2Chapter 9 – Christian Maturity >>


  • 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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