Adapted from Love Slaves by Samuel Logan Brengle
One of our central doctrines and most valued and precious experiences is that of heart holiness. The bridge which we throw across the impassable gulf that separates the sinner from the Savior — who pardons that He may purify, who saves that He may sanctify — rests upon these two abutments: the forgiveness of sins through simple, penitent, obedient faith in a crucified Redeemer, and the purifying of the heart and empowering of the soul through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, given by its risen and ascended Lord, and received not by works, but by faith.
Remove either of these abutments and the bridge falls; preserve them in strength, and a world of lost and despairing sinners can be confidently invited and urged to come and be gloriously saved.
The Standard of Scripture
The first abutment is deeply grounded on such assurances as these: "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared" (Psalm 130:4); and "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
And the second firmly rests on such Scriptures as these: "And God, who knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:8-9); "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7); and "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Acts 1:8).
We must not look to man, but to God and His Word, for the perfect and unchangeable standard of holiness.
Such is the doctrine passed on to us from the first Christians, and here are some Scriptures which show how the doctrine was wrought into triumphant experience in their day: "Know ye not," wrote Paul, "that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
And again he writes: "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 3:3-6).
Such was the doctrine of the first Christians, and such was their experience; and to this doctrine and experience we have been committed from the beginning. It is this holiness that we must maintain, otherwise we shall betray our trust; we shall lose our birthright; we shall cease to be spiritual power in the earth; we shall have a name to live, and yet be dead; our glory will depart; and we, like Samson shorn of his locks, shall become as other men; the souls with whom we are entrusted will grope in darkness; we shall have no heritage of martyr-like sacrifice, or spiritual power, or dare-devil faith, or pure, deep joy, or burning love, or holy triumph to bestow upon our children.
The Debt We Owe
In this matter an immeasurable debt is laid upon us.
We owe it to our Lord, who redeemed us by His blood, not simply that the penalty of our sins should be remitted, and thereby we escape the just penalties of our manifold transgressions, but that we should be sanctified, made holy; that we should become temples of the Holy Ghost, and live henceforth not for our own profit or pleasure, but for His glory, as His bondservants and friends, ready for service or sacrifice, and prepared for every good work.
"We owe it to our children and grandchildren, who constantly scan our lives to find in us an example of the fullness and beauty of holiness, to maintain the standard of Scripture."
We owe a great debt to the cloud of witnesses — the saintly souls who have gone before us. How shall we meet them without confusion and shame, if we neglect or waste the heritage they have left us, which they secured for us with infinite pains, with tears and prayers, with wearisome toil and oftentimes with agony and blood? What a debt we owe them!
We owe it to our children and our children's children. They look to us for the teaching that will direct them into full salvation, and they will narrowly and constantly scan our lives to find in us an example of its fullness and beauty, its richness and power, its simplicity, its humility, its self-denial, its courage, its purity, its unfailing constancy, its steadfast trust, its goodness and meekness, its long-suffering love, its peace and joy, its patience and hope, and its deep and abiding satisfaction.
We must pay this righteous debt, my friends. We must maintain our holiness standard in both our teaching and our experience, and in doing so we shall save both ourselves and them that hear us.
The Path Forward
But how shall we do this? It is not a simple nor an easy task. It may require the courage and devotion of a martyr. It will surely require the vigilance and prayerfulness, the wisdom and faithfulness, of a saint.
First, we must remember that the standard is not manmade. God's standard of holiness is revealed from heaven. Those who experience the fulness of blessing still carry the treasure in earthen vessels; while we should follow them as they follow Christ, we must not look to them, but to God and to His Word, for the perfect and unchangeable standard of holiness. Those who enter into this experience, and abide in it, are great students and lovers and seekers of God's Word, and to it they appeal when opposers arise.
Without the doctrine, the standard, and the teaching, we shall never find the experience. Without the experience, we shall neglect the teaching, despise or doubt the doctrine, and lower the standard.
Second, we must practice what we preach. We must remember that familiarity with what the Bible says, with its doctrines and standards, will avail nothing unless the teaching of the Bible is translated into conduct, into character, into life. It is not enough to know or to approve this, but with our undivided will, with our whole being, we must choose to be holy. Without the doctrine, the standard, and the teaching, we shall never find the experience. Without the experience, we shall neglect the teaching, despise or doubt the doctrine, and lower the standard.
Third, we must not only know the doctrine and experience in our own hearts, but we must teach it, preach it, and press it upon the people in season and out of season. We must do this until, like Paul, we can declare our faithfulness in "warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:28).
Fourth, we should carefully and constantly read and scatter holiness literature. We should produce this literature within our own movement and urge our young people to read everything we have published. Let us scatter these books everywhere. Wesley declared that the Methodists need not hope to grow in experience unless they became a reading people. Let us sow all lands deep with this literature, then we shall surely reap a harvest of great richness and prepare the way for the generation which shall come after us.
We must not whine and wail and dolefully lament 'the good old days' which we may feel were better than these; but we must kneel down and pray in faith, and rise up and shout and shine and sing.
Fifth, we must each judge ourselves faithfully and soberly while being generous and sympathetic in our judgment of others. We must help each other. Sharp, harsh criticism does not tend to promote holiness, and especially so when it is indulged in behind a person's back. Kind, generous criticism which springs from love and from a desire to help, and which is preceded and followed by heart-searching and prayer that it may be offered and received in a true spirit and manner of brotherly love, will oftentimes work wonders in helping a soul.
We must not be fault-finding, neither must we whine and wail and dolefully lament "the good old days" which we may feel were better than these; but we must kneel down and pray in faith, and rise up and shout and shine and sing, and in the name of the Lord command the sun to stand still in the heavens till we have routed the Canaanites and gotten the victory. "Thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place."
God is interested in this work and waits to be our Helper.
Sixth, we must not forget that our sufficiency is of God — that God is interested in this work and waits to be our Helper. We must not forget that with all of our study and experience and knowledge and effort we shall fail, unless patiently, daily, hourly, we wait upon God in prayer and watchful faith for the help and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He it is that opens our eyes and the eyes of our people to see spiritual things as they are. He melts the heart, He bends the will, He illuminates the mind, He subdues pride, sweeps away fear, begets faith, and bestows the blessing, and He makes the testimony, the preaching, and the written word mightily achieved.