by Rev.B. Carradine, D.D.
A minister, a gentleman of culture and piety, who had been moved by the writers experience, but who was still unsatisfied and perplexed in mind about the mode of obtaining the blessings wrote, asking the following questions: "Your experience has renewed my aspirations for the attainment of what John Wesley called the 'grand depositum of Methodism.' There is, however, one point in your narrative at which I stumble. Perhaps you can remove the stumbling-block, and in helping me help others also. You say: 'I believed the work was done before the witness was given.' This you did for three days, and then the baptism of fire came upon your soul. Now with me it is impossible to distinguish the fact of sanctification from the witness. Both sanctification and the witness of sanctification are matters of consciousness. Does God count me sanctified before I am sanctified? Can I believe that he sanctified me before I am conscious of the fact that I am sanctified? Can I really be sanctified before the baptism of fire, which you call the witness, goes through my nature and destroys the 'body of sin?' If I believe I am sanctified before I am conscious of the fact, do I not make belief in a falsehood the condition of obtaining the great blessing? Here I stumble."
To this I replied as follows: "If I tell you that I suffered intensely where you are now being tried, and that I have found light where at first there was profound darkness, and where you today only see darkness, I trust you will not think that I am arrogating to myself any thing whatever. Indeed, as you read on you will discover that I place myself properly in a lowly place in the kingdom of grace. Indeed, it was because of my conscious weakness and helplessness that I found what some have not yet discovered. For if a diamond be lost in the dust, it is not the man whose eyes are on the stars that will see it, but the man who has bowed body and face close to the ground. I thank God that salvation is not placed high above us, and beyond reach, but very nigh to us, and low down, so that a little child, and indeed a fool may lay hand upon it and be enriched. It is so with pardon and regeneration, and it is so with entire sanctification.
The doors of the sweet experiences of regeneration and entire sanctification do not fly back at the touch of the hand of the metaphysician, for several reasons. One is that the great mass of people on earth are not learned or trained in the laws of mental life, and if the reception of blessings were dependent upon the apprehension of syllogisms and recognition of certain great principles of mental science, the race would be lost. Another reason that occurs to me why the door of grace opens not to the touch of the reasoner is that salvation is above reason. It was not conceived by man, nor is it understood by lordly intellects today. I have often been struck with two expressions in the Bible. One is that the wisdom of God is foolishness to men, and the other that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.
It is noteworthy that the gospel came down to us through the air to Bethlehem, and not through the brains of the scribes and learned members of the Sanhedrin. "The point I would humbly make is that what may appear irreconcilable in the realm of metaphysics may be perfectly harmonized in the realm of grace. For instance: Mathematics would say that it is impossible for three to be one, and one to be three, and yet this impossible thing is the glory of heaven in the fact of the Trinity. "May not, my dear brother, the difficulties you mention in your letter, and which appear in the clipping above, exist only in your mind? May not God's thoughts be higher than our thoughts, and his ways not as our ways?
Here I am today thrilled with this "secret of the Lord," the declaration or confession of which has brought upon me attacks from many directions, saving your kindly and courteous pen. As I read the arguments turned against my experience from high quarters, there are three things to sustain me and keep me perfectly calm and assured through it all. One is the perpetual witness of the Holy Ghost to the fact of my sanctification (Hebrews 10:14, 15); another, the work itself done by him, (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24); and the third is the recollection of a verse uttered by the Savior: "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." (Luke 10:21.) This verse explains why I have obtained that which nobler, better, wiser men have not received. I came to God as a little child in seeking the blessing of sanctification. I reasoned not, even as a child does not reason. I created no mental difficulties. I never went near Sir William Hamilton nor any like him. I knew the work was above his and all other human intellects. It was a part of the mystery the angels studied and could not fathom. I went not to books written by ancient or modern authors on the subject. I went to God!
The Bible said he could do it, and would do it, and, better than either, that if I believed, he did it then! I simply believed God - I took him at his word! Now for the suggested difficulty: 'How,' I am asked in substance, 'can I believe that the work of sanctification is accomplished until I receive the witness that it is done? And if I believe I am sanctified before I am made, conscious of the fact, do I not make belief in a falsehood the condition of obtaining the great blessing?' These questions at first seem to possess great weight. They have troubled many, and will agitate many more. They gather about the real heart and center of the whole question. He that tarries here to settle this will never go farther. He that approaches the difficulty as a little child will find that there is no difficulty; that there is no problem of Methodism for him to solve: that the Father has given the solution to the humble, child-like man of unquestioning faith. But let me first say that the question cannot but surprise me. Just a glance reveals the fact that it reverses the order God observes in the work of salvation. God's order is first faith, then the work, and last the feeling. In your question you ask how can you believe that you are sanctified until you are made conscious of the fact. Look at the question closely, and you will observe that your order is, first, feeling; second, the work; and last, the faith, which is the direct reverse of God's method of doing. Virtually, you say that if God sends you a certain feeling or consciousness, that he has done a certain work in you, that then you will believe.
My dear brother, is it not evident that, whatever may be the procuring cause of the blessing to you, according to your plan it cannot be faith, for faith with you is put last. You will believe if you feel that the work is done. Let me ask you: Who could not stand on such an easy platform as this? Surely anybody could admit the fact of a work done by the Savior when great tokens of emotion are given at the moment. A great multitude, I fancy, stand ready to be saved on such terms. Millions are ready to say: 'If God gives certain emotions or experiences declaring his work, then will we believe.' But where appears the faith in such a salvation? Don't we see that it is no longer faith, but knowledge? Don't we see that the demand here to God is, 'Let me know, and I will believe,' while God says: 'Believe, and ye shall know?' If any thing, my dear brother, thrills you through and through, it is when a man believes your quiet statement of a fact, and asks for no proof, while at the same time many things are operating to produce doubt in the mind. And so I believe if God ever stands thrilled in heaven it is when a man takes him at his word, and goes on believing it in spite of an emotionless heart, and in spite of contradicting men and devils, and in face of the fact that there is no sign or witness from heaven that the life is observed or the faith accepted.
This is faith worthy of the name. No sight or feeling about this. This is what I call dry faith though, I bless God, it does not stay dry long. It fairly drips with grace, if cherished and kept in the heart a few hours or days. Such a faith Abraham had when he went out not knowing whither he went. Some one says about him that 'he walked out into empty space on the naked promise of Almighty God!' Such a faith the centurion had when he asked Christ to heal his servant. Christ replied: 'I will.' On this word the Roman soldier rested; even said there was no need for Christ to come to his house; that his word was sufficient to heal the servant at a distance. This was one of the times that Christ was thrilled. The Bible says: 'He marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.' The centurion held on by dry faith; the servant was distant; the healing took place out of sight; and yet, without a single sign from heaven, with nothing but the word of Christ, he went home, believing the servant was well; and when he arrived found that he was restored. That he had this faith appears in Matthew 8:13. "Now, God says in his word that if I perfectly, unreservedly, and forever consecrate myself to him I shall be made holy by the altar on which I have placed myself. He says that the altar sanctifies, that the blood cleanses, and right now; that the instant I believe it the work is done! Will I believe it? Will I take God's word, and rise up after a perfect consecration and say it is done. The battle rages right at this point; defeat or victory must come right here. Let no man say there is no such thing as a second work or cleansing by the Holy Ghost, unless he has thoroughly tested the virtue of the faith that is here presented. Have you cast yourself upon this faith as Peter flung himself upon the waves? If not, you have failed to do what others of us have done, and, as a consequence, are without an experience that is today thrilling us as the greatest fact of our lives. It won't do to question here. The instant a mental debate starts, the instant the words 'why' and 'how' appear, the instant the psychology of sanctification is dwelt upon - that instant the glory is lifted, the mysterious Being whom I felt to be in my arms is gone, and my hands are left grasping at empty air. Such debate and questionings of mind come with a poor grace from us who believe that even in conversion regeneration is one thing, and the witness of the Spirit another; that not infrequently the divine testimony is withheld for weeks and months. Just as clearly do I recognize that the work of sanctification is one thing, and the witness to the work another. The two may be separated, as in the case of regeneration. But you ask the question: 'If I believe I am sanctified before I am conscious of the fact, do I not make belief in a falsehood the condition of obtaining the great blessings?'
Your trouble here was once my trouble; my soul was in an agony over it. As a difficulty it is insuperable until you discover that God does not condition the bestowal of a blessing on us by a preceding or accompanying act of consciousness upon our part. I fail to see in his word where he states that my consciousness of the fact affects in any way the work of sanctification. Instead of this I am simply required, after a perfect consecration of myself, to believe that the work is done. The servant is distant; no messenger has as yet reached me; but I believe he is healed, because Christ says so. My faith rests not upon any mental condition of my own, or any play of emotion, but upon the simple statement of God that I am sanctified. There can be no falsehood about the matter. The man casts the whole thing on God, and it is the divine faithfulness and honor and truth that are involved. It is idle to say that the man may be deceived in regard to his exercise of faith. Every man knows when he really believes. Peter knew the moment when he flung himself upon the water, and just as clearly does the soul recognize the critical instant when, forsaking all other help, turning from every other hope and confidence, it lets go every earthly hold, and leaps or drops in the arms of Christ. Blessed be God! no one ever did this in vain. Even here I am not required to look to my consciousness, or to any conceivable experience, but quietly to go on believing that God has done the work. But must we not pray for the witness to our sanctification? Undoubtedly; but we must not forget that the work is one thing, and the witness another; so we walk in faith until God is pleased to send the testimony. I do not know how it strikes you, but to me it seems that there could be no more acceptable faith to God than this, which takes God at his word, and goes on without a disturbing doubt. I cannot but claim for God, on the part of his children, the same unhesitating, unquestioning belief and obedience that I have seen rendered by sons and daughters to an earthly parent. God says a thing; I believe! It was this, and nothing but this, that caused the Lord to say of Abraham: 'He is my friend.' "I am confident that some sharp-eyed reader will point out an apparent discrepancy in my experience. For instance: I said that I believed the work was done in my soul before I received the witness; that in this faith I walked two days; and yet that on the morning of the third day I felt the work of sanctification.
This is only an apparent difficulty. It is not a real contradiction, unless some one can show that God cannot do a work in us apart from our consciousness, or that he is under necessity to reveal himself simultaneously with his performance. I believed with all my heart for two days that God had sanctified me, because he said so. In this faith I walked unwaveringly until the morning spoken of in my experience, when suddenly and powerfully God gave me the witness of his work, or the proof that the blood had cleansed me from all sin, and that my heart was pure.
In a recent visit to Georgia I was informed of a case strikingly illustrative. It was that of a young man who, after having made the perfect consecration demanded by the Bible, believed that the blood of Christ did then and there cleanse him from all sin. He was without feeling; but he remembered that we are not saved by feeling, but by faith; and so lived on the first day, clinging to God's word about the matter, as a man in mid-ocean would cling to a spar. Some one saw him shake his head in a peculiar, positive way in church. One sitting near him heard him say at the same moment: 'The blood does sanctify me.' Later in the day he was approached by a friend, who asked: 'Brother, how are you feeling?' His reply was: 'I have no feeling; but I know that Jesus sanctifies my soul, because he said so.' Next day he saw an unfriendly critic observing him in the congregation; again came the positive movement of the head, with the murmured words: 'He does cleanse me from all sin.' To sympathetic and anxious Christian friends his constant statement was: 'No feeling, but perfect faith that the blood cleanses me now.' Thus he walked for several days by 'dry faith,' when one morning, as a friend started to put the usual question, suddenly he cried out in tones that thrilled beyond all description: 'O glory! glory! my soul cannot contain the joy and blessedness it feels!' The witness had come; as, indeed, it will always come to the man who takes God at his word.
Why is it that so many seek this blessing for months without obtaining it? Because they put the work in the future; they place the fulfillment of the promise to some remote time, when God says now! and demands that our faith shall say now!
My brother, are you perfectly consecrated! If so, then in the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and say: 'His blood cleanseth me now from all sin,' and walk in that faith. Let it be a dry faith. I tell you that it will not remain dry long. The balm of Gilead - the very dews of heaven - and the anointing of the Holy Ghost will descend, and cannot but descend, upon a faith that takes God at his word. The disciples held on ten days; cannot you wait in prayer and dry faith that long? Don't read books opposed to the doctrine; they will chill your faith and divert you from the blessing? Would you advise a penitent to read skeptical books before coming to Christ? The principle is identical. Some godly men are skeptical in regard to instantaneous sanctification. Don't read their works until you are sanctified; then you can read with a smile, in calmness of spirit, and without hurt to yourself. We can then peruse the ninth chapter of John with an appreciation never felt before. Instead of the books referred to, search a famous old Book which, addressing converted men and women, says: 'This is the will of God, even your sanctification,' and adds: 'Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.'
Don't listen to men who deny and oppose in various ways this experience. How can they speak advisedly and correctly of what they have never felt?
Their confessed ignorance of the experience disqualifies them here as instructors and leaders, no matter how wise and good and excellent they may be as Christian men and ministers. How can a man lead in a way which he has never trod?
And now I leave these words with you and with other readers to whom I have mainly addressed them through you. Would that they were clearer, stronger, and worthier words for your sake and the sake of God's people, for whom I would gladly lay down my life to bring them into this blessing, this deliverance and rest, this tender and yet steadfast grace that Paul speaks of so frequently and assuredly, and with such an accent of rejoicing and triumph. See Romans 5:2; 2 Corinthians 1:15.
Let me call your attention to the fact that when Carvosso received the blessing he was saying: 'I shall have the blessing now!' If he had said 'tomorrow,' he would not have entered into rest. Be assured that we can never err by believing too much in God's word, especially when that word is a promise coming directly to us. To doubt is to dishonor God; to believe is to honor and glorify him.
Let us hear the Savior: 'Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.' 'Lord, increase our faith.'" ---Rev. B. Carradine, D.D., Sanctification, pp.149-163, (A.W. Hall, N.Y., 1897)
Return to Table of Contents