Brief Remarks on “An Address For The Promotion Of Scriptural Holiness”

[“The Southern Ohio Association for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness does not believe, nor teach, that either by nature or through imparted grace can an absolutely sinless life be realized on earth. Whether tried by the commandment of God, which is ‘exceeding broad,’ or the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, the most holy human being is, through infirmity, ignorance, and faulty judgment, in God’s sight, found full of short-comings and imperfections, and constantly needing the application of the cleansing blood. Neither do we believe that mortals ever attain to a position beyond which there is no progress or improvement, for we are taught that even after the redeemed come to ‘a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,’ they have yet to ‘grow up into him in all things which is the head, even Christ’ (Eph. 4:13, 15), and will evermore be ‘pressing forward to the mark,’ and, beholding the glory of the Lord, be ‘changed into the same image from glory to glory.’

“We accordingly declare that the names and phrases current in connection with our work, such as the higher Christian life, entire sanctification, perfect love, full salvation, Christian perfection, and the like, are not used in any opposite or contrary sense, but as having a meaning consistent with the truth we have just affirmed.

“This much being said to remove misapprehension and prejudice, we proceed to say that we do hold, and endeavour in humility and love to teach, that there is to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ habitual victory over known sin; whether in the grosser forms, which men can see in one another, or in the more subtle shapes of pride, envy, discontent, ambition, covetousness, animosity, or selfishness, which may be known only to ourselves and to God; that it is the privilege (and therefore the duty) of each Christian to say with Paul,’ I know nothing against myself’ (1 Cor. 4:4), and of all of us, to be able with him to call God and all who see us to witness how ‘holily, justly, and unblameably we behave ourselves among them that believe’; with Enoch to have the testimony that we ‘please God’; with John to have an uncondemning heart; and with Peter, and the Gentiles to whom he preached, to rejoice in the possession of a pure heart, created through faith by the ‘falling’ of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 10:44; ch. 11:15; ch. 15:8, 9.)

“The particular proposition which we all, without regard to denominational connection, unite in affirming, is a definite and distinct work of the Spirit in the human soul, subsequent and in addition to regeneration or conversion. ‘The promise of the Father,’ which came upon the disciples at Pentecost, had been spoken of by the Lord Jesus in such terms as shew unmistakably that it was for every one who would keep His words (John 14:16-23), and Peter, in explaining the Pentecostal baptism to the wondering multitudes, declared that they also might receive the same, and that the promise was to them and their children, and ‘to all that were afar off, even as many as the Lord our God should call.’ The apostles were converted before this; they knew the Spirit (John 14:17), and the ‘gift of the Holy Ghost’ was an additional privilege and blessing, given of God to be the distinguishing characteristic of Christian experience during the dispensation which then began (John 7:39), and continues until now.

“Many of us believe that we find this truth taught in the scriptures, not merely as the baptism of the Holy Ghost, or the coming of the Comforter, but also as the revealing of the Son in us (Gal. 3:26; ch. 4:19; ch. 1:16; John 14:20); the mighty strengthening of the Spirit (Eph. 3:14, et seq.); dying and rising again (Rom. 6:35; ch. 8:11, 13; ch. 7:4; Col. 2:12; ch. 3:3); obtaining the glory of Christ (John 17:22, 23; 2 Thess. 2:13, 14); overcoming (Rev. 2:17; ch. 3:12; 1 John 2:13, 14; Gen. 32:28); the sealing of the Spirit (Acts 19:2, 3, 6; Eph. 1:13, 14; 2 Cor. 1:21, 22); and in type in the Old Testament, as the crossing of the river Jordan.

“The state into which souls are introduced by this experience many of us believe we find described in connection with such ideas as soul union with Jesus (Hos. 2:16, 19, 20; Rom. 7:4); abiding in Christ (John 15:4-9); sanctification or holiness (Ezek. 36:23-29); 1 Thess. 5:23, 24); full salvation (2 Thess. 3:35 1 Cor. 10:13); Christian (not sinless) perfection (Phil. 3:12, 15; 1 Cor. 2:6; Prov. 11:5; 2 Chron. 16:9; 1 Kings 15:14); heart purity (Acts 15:8, 9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Tim. 2:22); the peace of God, as distinguished from peace with God (Phil. 4:6, 7); the anointing which abideth (1 John 2:27); being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18, 20); the life more abundant (John 10:10; ch. 7:38, 39); following fully (Num. 14:24; Rev. 14:4); risen with Christ (Col. 2:12; ch. 3:1, 3); the life of faith (Gal. 2:20; Heb. 11:8, 13, 17); the rest of faith, or life in the land (Heb. 3:17, 19; ch. 4:3, 10, 11); the riches of full assurance (Col. 2:2); deliverance (Rom. 7:24, 25; 1 Cor. 15:57; Gal. 5:16); life in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3; ch. 2:6); dwelling in love (1 John 4:12, 16); the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 15:13, 29); walking with and pleasing God, or fellowship and communion (Col. 1:10; Heb. 11:55 1 John 3:22; Prov. 16:7; Psa. 147:11; 1 John 1:3-7; Heb. 13:20, 21).

“It will, of course, be understood that in this we are referring not so much to what God has done for us, as to what the Spirit does in us; not so much to standing as to state. As to the former, all God’s children are heirs of His, and ‘joint-heirs with Christ,’ and ‘blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.’ All are ‘complete in him,’ and by Christ’s one offering are ‘perfected for ever’; but the realization is another thing, and it is of this that we speak. The least little one in the host of Israel was as truly in the land as Caleb and Joshua, but in a most important sense the little one did not enter into possession. We are speaking of the ‘apprehension of that for which we are apprehended’ (Phil. 3:12); the working of the Spirit by which we ‘may know what is the hope of Christ’s calling; the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and the exceeding greatness of his power to upward who believe,” Eph. 1:18, 19.”]

I have received the address of the Southern Ohio Association for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness. My simple business here is to see whether this system is based on scriptural ground. I cannot say I believe in associations for holiness, unless it be the church of God; but I let that pass.

Imperfection is now admitted. It is “Christian, not sinless, perfection,” and the Christian is “full of shortcomings. An absolutely sinless life cannot be realized.” I wholly object to the distinction, as vaguely allowing some measure of sin, and yet, speaking of perfection. It is founded on error.

My first remark is, that the system (and I beg attention to this) ignores the communication of what in itself is sinless life, a life that cannot sin, the seed of God in the soul, what is born of the Spirit and is spirit, the new man after God created in righteousness and true holiness. It is “nature or imparted grace.” A real being born again, the communication of a new life, the very starting-point of the Christian state (not standing), is supposed, and all depends on this.

Next, we are told that Christians “are constantly needing the application of the cleansing blood.” Now there is no such thought in scripture as a renewed application of the blood of cleansing. As to this, scripture tells us that without shedding of blood there is no remission: otherwise, the apostle tells us, Christ must have often suffered. But by one offering He has perfected for ever (eis to dienekes) them that are sanctified. There is in scripture no re-application of the blood to cleanse. That is, the two essential foundations of the Christian’s state before God are set aside. And we must remember that we are sanctified through the truth. The system is wrong in its first principles; it denies the two capital points of true Christianity.

The notion that after we come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, we have to grow up into Him in all things, is assuredly not found in scripture, but is a simple absurdity. I am arrived at a perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, and yet am to grow up farther! I suppose they may have founded it on some mystical sense of into; but there is no ground for “into,” instead of “unto”; it is the same word as “to” a perfect man, “to” the measure.

The mere words in the second paragraph, though unscriptural, I do not speak of; but they are all founded on a totally false and unscriptural notion of the new birth, or rather are really the denial of it. “Perfect love” is in God, not in us; “full salvation” is only in glory.

That, as stated in paragraph third, habitual victory over known sin is found in the Lord Jesus Christ, I fully admit. “Rejoicing in the possession of a pure heart created through faith by the falling of the Holy Ghost,” is an utterly unscriptural way of putting the matter, and, as far as true, is true of all Christians. But it is not a definite and distinct work of the Spirit which was the promise, but His presence. It is for every one; but a person is not in the Christian state without it, and by it his body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which cannot be by any distinct work.

John 14:17 is quoted to prove that Christians knew the Spirit. This is all a mistake. Christ is speaking of the Comforter not yet come (see ver. 16); “dwelleth with you” is the same word as “abide.” Christ could not abide with them; this Comforter, when He was come, would, and be in them, which Christ could not then either. But the Lord is distinctly speaking of the Comforter not yet come. He is speaking in express terms of the gift of the Comforter. I admit, and insist on, the sealing as distinct from conversion and quickening. But all is confusion here. This sealing is not “revealing the Son in us.” The expression refers, as Paul uses it, to Christ’s making Himself known to him. He was sealed after that through Ananias laying his hands upon him. “Strengthened with might by the Spirit” is the desire of the apostle for those who had received Him, as the apostle expressly declares; Eph. 1:13. “Dying and rising again” is our state in Christ, and belongs to all Christians.

The great mistake of this system is, that it makes an extraordinary mystical condition of what scripture speaks of as the only true Christian state; and so fills with thoughts of themselves those who think they have got it (possibly have been sealed). And further it is all man’s will and heart, not grace and the power of the Holy Ghost, as is said indeed in this paper: “It is not of the mind, but a matter of the will and of the heart”; but of its being a matter of the Holy Ghost’s presence and power, which makes a person to be of Christ, not a thought. The body is dead because of sin, the Spirit life because of righteousness, if Christ be in us; if not, we are none of His, if even like the prodigal on the way.

Dead and risen with Christ, and we in Christ, and Christ in us, is the Christian state; different from conversion, I admit, different from being born again; as the prodigal converted, repentant, and returning, was different from the prodigal with the best robe on him, and the ring on his hand, and then only fit to go into the house. We cannot be in Christ without Christ being in us. (See John 14:20; Rom. 8: 1, 9, 10.) One is standing, the other is state. Romans, however, does not give rising with Christ now as a present state, for this epistle looks on the man as an actual living man down here; Colossians does, but speaks of all Christians when it does.

“Obtaining the glory of Christ” now is a simple delusion. Our calling is above, in heaven, and when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; we shall be glorified together.

To the rest of this paragraph I have no objection, save that it is mixing what is sober and scriptural with what is false and illusory, and thus discrediting all.

“Soul union with Jesus” is language unknown to scripture. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” and by the Spirit we know we are members of His body, and in Him, and He in us. Hosea 2:16, 19, 20, applies to Israel, and has no reference to “soul union.” In Romans 7:4 they have been betrayed by the word “married,” which is not in the original; and further this should have shewn them that it is a question of the Christian state; for till then those spoken of were in the flesh, not of Christ; and it is by the Holy Ghost dwelling in them that they are not in the flesh; Rom. 8:9.

“Abiding in Christ” no Christian can speak against; but it has nothing to do in John 15 with any special privilege. It was the duty of all, and applied then before the Holy Ghost was given. The same as to holiness; without it no man shall see the Lord. We are called to it; but Ezekiel 36:23-29 refers first to Israel, and then, according to John 3, to the new birth; 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24 to the Christian’s whole walk in holiness, and no special gift— “full salvation.” These quotations are a general wish for all Christians; and the fact that God will not let us be tempted beyond our force (1 Cor. 10:13) is a blessed truth, but common to all saints. Neither of the quotations has anything to do with full salvation.

As to Christian perfection, perfect (teleios) means “full grown,” translated in Hebrews 5, “of full age.” But the passage in Philippians 3 just shews the falseness of this view. This perfection the apostle had not attained—sinless or Christian. Our strangely deluded friends may think they are beyond him; they cannot be surprised if others demur to such a pretension. But he tells us what it is—the resurrection from among the dead, and winning Christ in glory; his calling was (ano) above, heavenly glory, and nothing else. And “perfect” means, when applied now, the knowledge not merely that our sins are forgiven, but that we are in Christ, having this new place with the second Man in glory, the mystery which God ordained before the world to our glory, as is expressly said in 1 Corinthians 2:7.

“Heart purity” I have not a word to say against, only that there is nothing peculiar in it; but it is attributed to receiving the truth, to faith, or to all faithful Christians, in the decay of the church.

What is said of the “peace of God” is a mere blunder. It is of the peace in which God is Himself. The passage speaks in respect of our cares, which we bring to Him, and His peace keeps our hearts, not our hearts keep it. It is a direction to all Christians.

The “anointing which abideth,” presented as a special experience, is expressly, and with purpose, spoken of babes in Christ, in contrast with advanced Christians, to encourage them against seducers. “Being filled with the Spirit” is an exhortation addressed to all Christians, because they all had it. If they had not, they were none of Christ’s; Rom. 8:9. And this I would press; for it is the grand and mischievous mistake of all these Christians. They give as extraordinary, and an acquisition of their own, what scripture teaches as the only true Christian place of any. I admit the low state of the Christian church has given occasion to this; but our bodies being the temple of the Holy Ghost is given as a motive for the avoidance of the lowest and grossest sin.

“Life more abundantly” is again a true and blessed thing, but the only true Christian life. I do not deny that multitudes do not realize it, and that insisting on this is most profitable. My objection here is not to the fact, but to its being mixed with false pretensions and errors which discredit it.

So again of “following fully”; it is the duty clearly of all Christians. Christ is all, and they should walk as He walked— do this one thing—have no other motive for anything.

John 7:33, 39 is stated of all believers, characterizing the dispensation of the Spirit, if I may so call it. John 3 gives birth by the Spirit; chapter 4, communion in the power of eternal life; chapter 7, the Spirit flowing out in spiritual blessings to others, in contrast with Christ’s presence in the world.

The “life of faith” is the only Christian life.

“Risen with Christ” (Col. 3) is clearly of all Christians. Press its realization; you cannot do better.

The “rest of faith” is all a delusion; we are in the fight and labour of faith now, being told (in the passage referred to) that there remains a rest, and that we must labour to enter into it. It is the object of the passage (Heb. 4) to shew that Christians are not in it. It is said that believers are those who enter in, but not that they are entered. Life in the land shews the absurdity of it, for our land is heaven, and we are not there. And the passage insists on those in the land not having the promised rest.

The citation of Hebrews 4, though wrong, they may be excused, for many take it falsely thus, but to quote chapter 3 is too bad. “The riches of full assurance” might be passed over too, only that it marks the excessively careless and unintelligent use of scripture. In Colossians 2:2 it is the “full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgment of the mystery,” etc., and refers only to being guarded from philosophy and vain deceit by sound divinely-given knowledge. There are full assurance of faith and hope (Heb. 10:22; chap. 6:11); on this they may rightly insist. What they quote has nothing to do with the matter.

Deliverance (Rom. 8) is all right. It is what is the real truth in the high pretensions made by them, and mysticised.

“Dwelling in love” is all right: only (though it may be more or less realised, a matter of real importance) it is expressly said of everyone who confesses that Jesus is the Son of God. “The fulness of the blessing of the gospel” is the character of Paul’s visit to Rome. The rest are all well, but the duty and privilege of every Christian.

I have omitted “life in heavenly places,” Eph. 1:3; chap. 2:6. Both places refer to the Christian position as such. The first says nothing of how far it is realised; it is simply God’s thoughts about Christians in contrast with Jews: Christians are blessed in that way. The second is a careful statement of the position of all Christians or Gentiles.

The use of “apprehension,” taken from Philippians 3, shews only a mixture of ignorance and carelessness. Apprehension is just laying hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of us; that is, heavenly glory, resurrection from among the dead, the changing of our vile body. So Paul tells us that he had not attained it. The present state was “conversation in heaven”; the unattained was “the calling above.” There were professors who had their mind on earthly things; but their end, as such, was destruction. It is utterly false that what he was pressing after was anything down here. Paul states the contrary, and it is the folly of mysticism to pretend it has apprehended what Paul had not. The addition of “apprehended of Christ “ought to have shewn them that the word could not have any spiritual signification. Was Paul spiritually apprehended by Christ?

The passage in Ephesians 1:18, 19 is falsely quoted, and only so can be misapplied. It is God’s calling, and God’s inheritance (an inheritance which the chapter expressly declares we have not yet got): the Spirit is the earnest of it. God’s calling is in verses 3-5. How far it is realised in spirit now actually, when we are in the state to which we are called by God, is not touched on. It is simply what the calling is, which he desires they may all know.

It is really a weariness to discuss quotations made with no attention to the mind of God, and applied nearly all of them falsely to what they in no way refer to in the text. Knowledge is not everything; but when persons set about to teach, they ought to have respect for God’s word and acquaintance with it. I reject their views. There is a setting aside of the true Christian state (not standing) which I believe most mischievous, turning what God states of it into an experience of which they can boast, an art they have learned, an expression they specially approve of. I believe Christians are in a low state; but they hinder their deliverance by connecting it with error, and by the abuse of scripture taken apart from the context, and the mind of Christ revealed in it. Receiving the divine mind from the word of God is not theory, or calling anything by a right or wrong name. Theory is neglecting it for men’s experience.

I have thought the best and most useful thing to do was to analyse briefly their use of scripture, and to see, thus far, what their statements are worth. They substitute a work of the Spirit and their experience according to a low human theology, for the presence of the Holy Ghost and the revealed state of Christians according to the word. According to scripture a man is in the flesh, if the Holy Spirit does not dwell in him. This gives the deliverance they speak of, and Christian universal responsibility flows from it.