Scriptural Holiness


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It is much more than tears, and sighs, and bodily excitement, and a quickened pulse, and a passionate feeling of attachment to our own favorite preachers and our own religious party, and a readiness to quarrel with everyone who does not agree with us. It is something of "the image of Christ," which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings.

That believers are exhorted to "perfect holiness in the fear of God" — to "go on to perfection" — to "be perfect," no careful reader of his Bible will ever think of denying. But I have yet to learn that there is a single passage in Scripture which teaches that a literal perfection, a complete and entire freedom from sin, in thought, or word, or deed, is attainable, or ever has been attained, by any child of Adam in this world. A comparative perfection, a perfection in knowledge, an all-round consistency in every relation of life, a thorough soundness in every point of doctrine — this may be seen occasionally in some of God's believing people.

But as to an absolute literal perfection, the most eminent saints of God in every age have always been the very last to lay claim to it! On the contrary, they have always had the deepest sense of their own utter unworthiness and imperfection. The more spiritual light they have enjoyed the more they have seen their own countless defects and shortcomings. The more grace they have had the more they have been "clothed with humility.

What saint can be named in God's Word, of whose life many details are recorded, who was literally and absolutely perfect? Which of them all, when writing about himself, ever talks of feeling free from imperfection? On the contrary, men like David, and St. Paul, and St. John, declare in the strongest language that they feel in their own hearts weakness and sin.

The holiest men of modern times have always been remarkable for deep humility. Yet no one can read the writings and letters of these men without seeing that they felt themselves "debtors to mercy and grace" every day, and the very last thing they ever laid claim to was perfection! In face of such facts as these I must protest against the language used in many quarters, in these last days, about perfection.

I must think that those who use it either know very little of the nature of sin, or of the attributes of God, or of their own hearts, or of the Bible, or of the meaning of words. When a professing Christian coolly tells me that he has got beyond such hymns as "Just as I am," and that they are below his present experience, though they suited him when he first took up religion, I must think his soul is in a very unhealthy state!

When a man can talk coolly of the possibility of "living without sin" while in the body, and can actually say that he has "never had an evil thought for three months," I can only say that in my opinion he is a very ignorant Christian! I protest against such teaching as this.

It not only does no good, but does immense harm. It disgusts and alienates from religion far-seeing men of the world, who know it is incorrect and untrue. It depresses some of the best of God's children, who feel they never can attain to "perfection" of this kind. It puffs up many weak brethren, who fancy they are something when they are nothing.

In short, it is a dangerous delusion. I admit fully that the point has been a disputed one for eighteen centuries, in fact ever since the days of St. I admit fully that eminent Christians like John and Charles Wesley, and Fletcher, a hundred years ago, to say nothing of some able writers of our own timer, maintain firmly that St. Paul was not describing his own present experience when he wrote this seventh chapter. I admit fully that many cannot see what I and many others do see: viz. So, at any rate, it appears to me.

But I will not enter into any detailed discussion of the chapter. The commentators who do not take this view have been, with a few bright exceptions, the Romanists, the Socinians, and the Arminians. Against them is arrayed the judgment of almost all the Reformers, almost all the Puritans, and the best modern Evangelical divines.

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I shall be told, of course, that no man is infallible, that the Reformers, Puritans, and modern divines I refer to may have been entirely mistaken, and the Romanists, Socinians, and Arminians may have been quite right! Our Lord has taught us, no doubt, to "call no man master.

This has not been done yet! To say, as some do, that they do not want human "dogmas" and "doctrines," is no reply at all. The whole point at issue is, "What is the meaning of a passage of Scripture? How is the Seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans to be interpreted? What is the true sense of its words? On one side stand the opinions and interpretations of Reformers and Puritans, and on the other the opinions and interpretations of Romanists, Socinians, and Arminians.

Let that be distinctly understood. In the face of such a fact as this I must enter my protest against the sneering, taunting, contemptuous language which has been frequently used of late by some of the advocates of what I must call the Arminian view of the Seventh of Romans, in speaking of the opinions of their opponents. To say the least, such language is unseemly, and only defeats its own end. A cause which is defended by such language is deservedly suspicious. Truth needs no such weapons.

If we cannot agree with men, we need not speak of their views with discourtesy and contempt. An opinion which is backed and supported by such men as the best Reformers and Puritans may not carry conviction to all minds in the nineteenth century, but at any rate it would be well to speak of it with respect. Is not this doctrine often exalted to a position which it does not occupy in Scripture?

I am afraid that it is. That the true believer is one with Christ and Christ in him, no careful reader of the New Testament will think of denying for a moment. There is, no doubt, a mystical union between Christ and the believer.


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With Him we died, with Him we were buried, with Him we rose again, with Him we sit in heavenly places. We have five plain texts where we are distinctly taught that Christ is "in us. But we must be careful that we understand what we mean by the expression. That "Christ dwells in our hearts by faith," and carries on His inward work by His Spirit, is clear and plain. But if we mean to say that beside, and over, and above this there is some mysterious indwelling of Christ in a believer, we must be careful what we are about.

Unless we take care, we shall find ourselves ignoring the work of the Holy Ghost. We shall be forgetting that in the Divine economy of man's salvation election is the special work of God the Father — atonement, mediation, and intercession, the special work of God the Son — and sanctification, the special work of God the Holy Ghost. We shall be forgetting that our Lord said, when He went away, that He would send us another Comforter, who should "abide with us" for ever, and, as it were, take His place. John xiv. In short, under the idea that we are honoring Christ, we shall find that we are dishonoring His special and peculiar gift — the Holy Ghost.

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Christ, no doubt, as God, is everywhere — in our hearts, in heaven, in the place where two or three are met together in His name. But we really must remember that Christ, as our risen Head and High Priest, is specially at God's right hand interceding for us until He comes the second time; and that Christ carries on His work in the hearts of His people by the special work of His Spirit, whom He promised to send when He left the world.

John xv. A comparison of the ninth and tenth verses of the eighth chapter of Romans seems to me to show this plainly. It convinces me that "Christ in us" means Christ in us "by His Spirit. John are most distinct and express: "Hereby we know that He abideth in us by the Spirit which He hath given us. In saying all this, I hope no one will misunderstand me. I do not say that the expression "Christ in us" is unscriptural. But I do say that I see great danger of giving an extravagant and unscriptural importance to the idea contained in the expression; and I fear that many use it now-a-days without exactly knowing what they mean, and unwittingly, perhaps, dishonour the mighty work of the Holy Ghost.

If any readers think that I am needlessly scrupulous about the point, I recommend to their notice a curious book by Samuel Rutherford author of the well-known letters , called " The Spiritual Antichrist. They will find that Saltmarsh, and Dell, and Towne, and other false teachers, against whom good Samuel Rutherford contended, began with strange notions of "Christ in us," and then proceeded to build on the doctrine antinomianism, and fanaticism of the worst description and vilest tendency.

They maintained that the separate, personal life of the believer was so completely gone, that it was Christ living in him who repented, and believed, and acted! The root of this huge error was a forced and unscriptural interpretation of such texts as "I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the natural result of it was that many of the unhappy followers of this school came to the comfortable conclusion that believers were not responsible, whatever they might do!

Believers, forsooth, were dead and buried; and only Christ lived in them, and undertook everything for them! The ultimate consequence was, that some thought they might sit still in a carnal security, their personal accountableness being entirely gone, and might commit any kind of sin without fear! Let us never forget that truth, distorted and exaggerated, can become the mother of the most dangerous heresies. When we speak of "Christ being in us," let us take care to explain what we mean. I fear some neglect this in the present day.

Is this according to the proportion of God's Word? There is, unquestionably, nothing new in this teaching. It is well known that Romish writers often maintain that the Church is divided into three classes — sinners, penitents, and saints. The modern teachers of this day who tell us that professing Christians are of three sorts — the unconverted, the converted, and the partakers of the "higher life," of complete consecration — appear to me to occupy very much the same ground!

But whether the idea be old or new, Romish or English, I am utterly unable to see that it has any warrant of Scripture. The Word of God always speaks of two great divisions of mankind, and two only. It speaks of the living and the dead in sin — the believer and the unbeliever — the converted and the unconverted — the travelers in the narrow way and the travelers in the broad — the wise and the foolish — the children of God and the children of the devil. Within each of these two great classes there are, doubtless, various measures of sin and of grace; but it is only the difference between the higher and lower end of an inclined plane.

Between these two great classes there is an enormous gulf; they are as distinct as life and death, light and darkness, heaven and hell. But of a division into three classes the Word of God says nothing at all! I question the wisdom of making newfangled divisions which the Bible has not made, and I thoroughly dislike the notion of a second conversion. That there is a vast difference between one degree of grace and another — that spiritual life admits of growth, and that believers should be continually urged on every account to grow in grace — all this I fully concede.

But the theory of a sudden, mysterious transition of a believer into a state of blessedness and entire consecration , at one mighty bound, I cannot receive. It appears to me to be a man-made invention; and I do not see a single plain text to prove it in Scripture. Gradual growth in grace, growth in knowledge, growth in faith, growth in love, growth in holiness, growth in humility, growth in spiritual-mindedness — all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God's saints.

But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible. I doubt, indeed, whether we have any warrant for saying that a man can possibly be converted without being consecrated to God! More consecrated he doubtless can be, and will be as his grace increases; but if he was not consecrated to God in the very day that he was converted and born again, I do not know what conversion means.

Are not men in danger of undervaluing and underrating the immense blessedness of conversion? Are they not, when they urge on believers the "higher life" as a second conversion, underrating the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, of that great first change which Scripture calls the new birth, the new creation, the spiritual resurrection?

I may be mistaken. But I have sometimes thought, while reading the strong language used by many about "consecration," in the last few years, that those who use it must have had previously a singularly low and inadequate view of "conversion," if indeed they knew anything about conversion at all. In short, I have almost suspected that when they were consecrated, they were in reality converted for the first time! I frankly confess I prefer the old paths. I think it wiser and safer to press on all converted people the possibility of continual growth in grace, and the absolute necessity of going forward, increasing more and more, and every year dedicating and consecrating themselves more, in spirit, soul, and body, to Christ.

By all means let us teach that there is more holiness to be attained, and more of heaven to be enjoyed upon earth than most believers now experience. But I decline to tell any converted man that he needs a second conversion , and that he may some day or other pass by one enormous step into a state of entire consecration. I decline to teach it, because I cannot see any warrant for such teaching in Scripture. I decline to teach it, because I think the tendency of the doctrine is thoroughly mischievous, depressing the humble-minded and meek, and puffing up the shallow, the ignorant, and the self-conceited, to a most dangerous extent.

It is a simple fact that the expression " yield yourselves " is only to be found in one place in the New Testament, as a duty urged upon believers. That place is in the sixth chapter of Romans, and there within six verses the expression occurs five times. See Rom. But even there the word will not bear the sense of "placing ourselves passively in the hands of another.

The expression therefore stands alone. But, on the other hand, it would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have told them do, and are not told "yield themselves" up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work.. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier's life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.

The account of "the armour of God" in the sixth chapter of Ephesians, one might think, settles the question. If Christian in Pilgrim's Progress simply yielded himself to God, and never fought, or struggled, or wrestled, I have read the famous allegory in vain. But the plain truth is, that men will persist in confounding two things that differ — that is, justification and sanctification. In justification the word to be addressed to man is believe — only believe; in sanctification the word must be "watch, pray, and fight.

I leave the subject of my introduction here, and hasten to a conclusion. I confess that I lay down my pen with feelings of sorrow and anxiety. There is much in the attitude of professing Christians in this day which fills me with concern, and makes me full of fear for the future. There is an amazing ignorance of Scripture among many, and a consequent want of established, solid religion. In no other way can I account for the ease with which people are, like children, "tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine.

There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad, and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular, and in the beaten path of our forefathers. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and a new doctrine, without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true. There is an unhealthy appetite for a sort of spasmodic and hysterical Christianity. The religious life of many is little better than spiritual dram-drinking and the "meek and quiet spirit" which St.

Peter commends is clean forgotten. Crowds, and crying, and hot rooms, and high-flown singing, and an incessant rousing of the emotions, are the only things which many care for. Sanctification Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practically godly in life.

The instrument by which the Spirit effects this work is generally the Word of God, though He sometimes uses afflictions and providential visitations "without the Word.

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The subject of this work of Christ by His Spirit is called in Scripture a "sanctified" man. He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Our vision embraces the Hispanic initiative on our Florida-Dunnam campus as well as our emphasis on urban ministry and Lay mobilization.

It includes a vibrant strategic Enrollment Management Plan and strengthening our economic model by expanding our circle of support through our comprehensive campaign and re-engineering the very economic engine which runs the seminary. Brothers and sisters, we are now dwelling in a post-Christendom world. However, there is big difference between a post-Christian west and a post-western Christianity, because Christianity is being rediscovered even in the West within the context of its original missional setting.

Old Christendom was built upon alliances which were determined by pivotal political and historical developments. This is what eventually produced not only the major tri-partite structure of the church as either Catholic, Protestant or Eastern Orthodox, but also a myriad of deeper alliances such as Roman Catholic religious orders or Protestant denominations.

This has had a profound influence on how we have traditionally conceptualized the global church and how we conceptualize theological training. Andrew Walls has insightfully pointed out that there is an enormous difference between writing church history and writing Christian history.

However, as global Christianity becomes increasingly made up of peoples from Asia, Africa and Latin America, and these newly emerging indigenous expressions become normative, then the whole structure of how we understand and talk about Christian history and our place in it must also undergo a dramatic change.

In the West, for example, our cultural and ecclesiastical history flows primarily from the Roman Empire, so what happened in western Europe dominates our understanding of church history. However, after having spent considerable time with Christians from various parts of Asia, I can testify that the Roman Empire does not loom nearly as large from the perspective of peoples shaped by the Persian, Ashokan or Han empires.

This background, in turn, dramatically influences how Christian history is understood and told and, in turn, how theology is formulated as well as the way we conceptualize the best rhythms and practices of ministerial training. Thus, the narratives which shape theological education need to be re-conceptualized so that they reflect a more global and missional perspective on the church, particularly as African and Asian Christianity become increasingly normative and western Christianity becomes more consciously aware of the larger global movement.

One of the most important transformations which this shift offers, is a new basis for ecumenism within the global church that transcends the traditional barriers. We are finally grasping the implications of a post-denominational world and living into the new reality of strategic networking and global alliances which unite faith and mission in fresh and creative ways.

We are discovering new ways—which may actually be a recovery of more ancient ways—of engaging in a more globally informed discourse with committed Christians from around the world. We are discovering a deeper ecumenism for the 21st century which transcends the categories we have known. I am not using the term ecumenical in reference to any attempt to find some grand, outward, structural unity for the church.

There are over 38, distinct denominations in the world and the deeper ecumenism which I am referring to does not necessarily mean than this number will dramatically decrease. I am not using the term to refer to any vision of the church which models an uncritical accommodation to modernity by sacrificing kerygmatic essentials of the historic Christian proclamation.

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The kind of ecumenism I am referring to is the deeper, older ecumenism that finds its roots in historic Christian confessions. We can no longer afford the kind of entrenched sectarianism which has often characterized our movements. This does not mean that we must relinquish our distinctive Wesleyan convictions. On the contrary, being in conversation with the global church will not only serve to enrich our own particular theological perspectives, but, more importantly, it will lead us to a deeper understanding of the depositum fidei, that ancient apostolic faith which forms our common confession.

As it turns out, the post-Christendom world of the 21st century is starting to look a lot like the pre-Christendom world of the ancient faith. It is amazing how a little dose of persecution begins to draw Christians together. It may not be long before Christians cannot be county clerks, school teachers, bakers or photographers, etc.

However, it will mean that we must distinguish more explicitly and publicly between the kerygmatic truths which unite all true Christians and the adiaphora where there are legitimate differences. The advent of global Christianity with multiple centers of vitality means that we have an opportunity to see ourselves first and foremost as Christians proclaiming the apostolic faith and only secondarily as Reformed Christians, Pentecostal Christians, Dispensational Christians, Arminian, or Independent Christians.

We also need to invest more time in constructive engagement with our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters. We cannot, nor should we, simply deny the defining struggles which produced the Protestant movement or the later Wesleyan revivals. Nevertheless, we must learn to listen better to the perspectives and struggles of other Christians and to endeavor to see ourselves as members of a global Christian movement. The global church is a tapestry of diversity.

This is more than the unity expressed by a creed, although it should not be less than that. Rather, it refers to a deeper spiritual unity which acknowledges our catholicity because we are all members of the body of Christ and share a common union with Jesus Christ and a burden to bear witness to Him in authentic ways throughout the whole world.

A Symposium on Scriptural Holiness by Wilson Thomas Hogg

This has important implications for 21st century theological education, including the meaning of collaboration and partnership, how we understand ecclesiology in a global context, and how we conceptualize Christian identity within new networks, including, among others, our own growing New Room network.

Full of anticipation as ATS continues to pursue these strategic goals, and loving the character of the the vision for ATS that you are sharing. I am still digesting the vision of the church in the postdenominational world.

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