To have the heart established in “unblamable holiness before God “ (1 Thess. 3:13), so that it will not oscillate, or vibrate, but retain its position and proper relationship, is a blessing of incalculable value.
To be saved from all sin is one thing – to retain that experience without backsliding, is another.
There is an appalling amount of instability in the Church of God. Few, comparatively, retain their justification without some failure. The same is true in relation to entire sanctification, only not to the same extent. Mr. Wesley said, that very few retained the perfect love of God, or became established in holiness, without losing the experience several times. A minister – a doctor of divinity – once said, in the presence of several ministers: “I have sought, found, and lost, the blessing of entire sanctification, at least fifty times.” In all parts of the land, hundreds of ministers and thousands of members have professed this grace, who now deny it, or make no pretensions to its enjoyment. There are others who are classed with those who believe in and profess the experience, but they are seldom heard from.
They believe in the doctrine, and when assailed, defend it. They get blessed at campmeetings, but failing to become established, they are soon silent. They do not feel clear to confess they do not enjoy the blessing, and yet it is a strain upon the conscience to confess they have it; consequently they remain silent, and soon die.
The Causes of such Instability
A discovery of the cause, may help us in discovering the remedy.
1. Lack of a definite experience is a cause of instability.
There is no substitute for a clear experience of heart purity. Defective instruction, or good counsel neglected, lead to a defective experience. When you hear a professor of entire sanctification say, “I profess the blessing, but have not the witness”; or, “I love God with all my heart, but am not satisfied”; you may be assured that there is a defect somewhere. While it is true that we are saved by faith, our faith, be it remembered, may not grasp the blessing fully. There must be a complete devotement of all to God, followed by an unshaken faith in the blood that cleanseth us, and a steady faith for the direct witness of the Spirit. No one should consider the work complete without the witness of the Spirit. A clear, positive experience, is an indispensable aid to stability.
2. Sight, or sense-walking, is another cause of instability.
“We walk by faith, not by sight,” is an important apostolic announcement. To walk by sight is to walk by sense. To walk by sense is to walk by feeling. It is to measure our piety by our feelings.
When our emotions run high, we think we are well supplied by grace; but in the absence of emotion, we conclude we are short of grace. This state of things will greatly cripple us in our religious life Feeling, however, is not to be ignored in religion. A religion without feeling is formalism, and a religion of little else than feeling is fanaticism. But a religion of faith, working by love, imparts spiritual life to formalism, and gives steadiness and common sense to fanaticism. Feelings can never be uniform. They are affected by natural temperament, education, and health. If we are governed by our feelings we shall be unstable.
The religion of Christ is a religion of faith, and a religion of faith knows no change. Faith rests upon the promises, and they are “yea and amen in Christ Jesus.” Many professed Christians are like sail-craft, whose direction and speed are dependent on the direction in which the wind blows. If the wind is fair, they make speed; but if head winds come, they are ready to sing
“In vain we tune our formal
When we attain to that experience described by the apostle -” That Christ may abide in your hearts by faith “- we shall have reached heart stability.
3. A failure to frankly confess the grace which God has given, is sure to result in instability and loss.
A very large proportion of those who have lost the blessing of heart purity, did so by failing to humbly confess what God had done for them. Experience ought to teach us lessons of wisdom here.
We are often exhorted not to make confession of the possession of this grace. We listen to the instruction and soon have occasion to confess that we no longer have the blessing to confess. Those who retain perfect love confess it. We do not ignore faith as the condition of receiving and retaining perfect love, but we mean to say that such is the relation of confession to faith, that the one cannot long exist where the other is neglected.
The reasons for this neglect are many and plausible. (1) We do not wish to offend, but rather to win the people. But we do offend by this neglect to tell what Jesus has done for us. We offend God, and Jesus whom He has sent. We grieve the Holy Ghost, by whose power we are wholly sanctified.
(2) We wish to avoid being considered odd. We are fearful that we shall turn people away from us, and the truth. But such a course does not help the cause. A refusal to testify for Christ makes holiness no less distasteful to the worldly. Theirs is a heart-trouble, which only grace can remove.
Holiness was designed to make us a “peculiar people,” and we seriously compromise our faith by our silence. If we wish to avoid unfavorable criticism, we can do so, but we do it at the expense of the enjoyment of perfect love.
4. Inactivity is a fruitful cause of instability.
There is no saving faith which does not work by love, for “faith without works is dead.” Some conclude that perfect rest is cessation from labor. But perfect rest means bands and head and heart full of earnest toil. Entire deliverance from inbred sin means more than personal introspection and singing psalm-tunes. It does this, but it means more; it is in labors more abundant.
5. Opposition is a cause of instability.
Talk of it as we will, complain of it as we may, it is nevertheless true, that the most depressing and withering opposition to holiness comes from people in the church. If it were an enemy, then we could more easily endure it but it is from those with whom we go to the house of God. After a poor soul, who has been burdened beyond measure, arises in their place in the prayer or conference meeting and tells, in earnest words, of the bliss which has come to their hearts, and that the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed them from all sin, -- to have the pastor of that soul arise and say, “If people would only live their religion and not say so much about it, they would show much more wisdom,” or, “We have not much faith in those high claims; we want to see people live their religion,” -- such a reply crushes all but the ordinary. In a thousand ways, -- in innuendoes and slurs against holiness and its professors, in prayer-meeting talks and Sabbath sermons, -- those who are trying to follow the Lord with a pure heart, are crossed and reproved and censured and criticized. After a time they cease to be heard, they fall into darkness, and the light goes out.
These are a few of the causes of instability. Many more might be named.
The Cure for Instability
Remove the cause. Remedy the evils named and the life will become uniform, and we shall have stable professors of holiness.
1. Be sure that your experience is clear and satisfactory. There is no substitute for this. Some persons ignore the direct witness of the Spirit. They insist that the Word is sufficient for them. Listen not to such for a moment. You are entitled to a direct witness of the Spirit. God has promised it, and it shall be given to you.
2. Let your walk be one of faith more than of feeling. Remember that all the promises are for you, and they are all “yea and amen in Christ Jesus.” If you follow your feelings you will not have much; but if you walk by faith you will have all the feeling you need. He who pays least attention to his feelings, generally has most enjoyment.
3. Do not fail to confess all that God has done for you. A failure here is perilous. The soul withers and dies when it ceases to glorify God as a witness. On this reef many have foundered.
4. Be full of good works. Faith without works will soon die. God says, “Work”; not as a condition of salvation, but as a condition of reward. Man is saved by faith, but rewarded according to his works. No man ever became established in holiness who did not do, in some way, a good deal of hard work at soul-saving and blessing of people.
a loving spirit, and “the Lord will make you to
abound more and more.” We need not enlarge on these
points they should be sufficiently clear to all.
“Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath
made you free, and be not entangled again with the
yoke of bondage.” Then let us sing, with the Spirit
and with the understanding:
“Jesus, plant and root in me
All the mind that was in Thee;
Settled peace I then shall find;
Jesus' is a quiet mind.
Anger I no mere shall feel,
Always even, always still,
Meekly on my God reclined,
Jesus' is a gentle mind.
I shall suffer and fulfill
All my Father's gracious will;
Be in all alike resigned;
Jesus' is a patient mind.
Lowly, loving, meek, and pure,
I shall to the end endure;
Be no more to sin inclined;
Jesus' is a constant mind.”