From the Pulpit of a Holiness Preacher "Christian Perfection"
- The reason why I'm posting this is because I feel it represents classic holiness preaching of the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification. I'm typing up my grandfather's sermons and sending them out as an email newsletter.
From the Pulpit of a Holiness Preacher
An Email newsletter ministry of Richard D. Swift, publishing the sermons of Rev Reed A Swift, a holiness preacher
The following sermon does not have dates and places where it was preached. The first version is handwritten in pencil on paper that says, "Los Angeles Printing Company". This places that particular version during the time Rev Swift was pastor of W. Hollywood in March, '35-'38. The more readable version is handwritten on eleven pieces of paper. Three of those numbered pages are the backs of three different letters all dated in 1942 which is during a time when he was doing evangelistic work and while he was District Superintendent of the Louisiana Conference of the Free Methodist Church. One letter is from the Little Chickasaw Free Methodist Church, dated May 14th, 1942 inviting the public to a dedication service. It is signed by E.C. Wills, pastor. One letter is from the General Board of Conference Claimants of the Free Methodist Church of North America, dated April 23, 1942 and signed by C A Watson. Watson ran as vice-presidential candidate on the
Prohibition Party ticket in 1936 and as presidential candidate on the Prohibition Party ticket 1944 & 1948.
Colossians 1; Colossians 2:6-16; II Timothy 3:16,17
God's love is universal. Justification and Christian Perfection is for all. God is no respector of persons. It is alike for poor or rich, learned or unlearned of all colors. If you donot believe in it, I doubt very much that you have it.
I. Salvation is for all, and all sinners who get saved are candidates for Holiness of heart and life.
"Come sinners to the Gospel feast,
Let every soul be Jesus' guest;
Ye need not one be left behind,
For God hath bidden all mankind.
Sent by my Lord on you I call;
The invitation is for all;
Come all the world; come sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now."
Assurance of salvation is universal. The witness of the Spirit to sonship is the privilege of all. An earthly father teaches sonship. It is reasonable to believe our Heavenly Father teaches of our parentage. God seeks the love of sons, not the service of slaves. Glory, Hallelujah! "Because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba Father."
II. Christian Perfection
In 1769, John Wesley wrote of Christian Perfection:
"1. Loving God with all our heart
2. A heart and life devoted to God.
3. Regaining the whole image of God.
4. Having all the mind that was in Christ.
5. Walking uniformally as Christ walked.
If anyone means anything more or anything less by perfection, I have no concern with it."
His Plain Account of Christian Perfection has stood the test for nearly two centuries and has not been improved upon.
III. Christian Perfection
In Wesley's time, ministers and laymen either had reached the Canaan Land of Perfect Love or were earnestly seeking or they had no place among the saints. Everywhere, he inquired if believers were enjoying entire sanctification. Nothing less was sufficient. He observed that where new converts were urged to seek full salvation and deliverance from inbred sin, that the Lord's work flourished and sinners were converted. As justification, it is preceded by conviction and recieved through faith.
Our idea of holiness:
"O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone;
May Thy Love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
Strange flames far from my heart remove,
My every act, word, thought be love."
IV. How Recieved!
"Saviour, to Thee my soul looks up,
My present Saviour Thou,
In all the confidence of hope,
I claim the blessing now.
Tis done! Thou dost this moment save,
With full salvation bless;
Redemption through Thy blood I have,
and spotless love and peace."
This is a Gospel of complete deliverance from inward and outward sin. Samuel Chadwick says, "No nation can be better than its God. Religion is the formative and dominant power." The Gospel carries the equality for all. In religion, the counterfeit keeps many people from seeking the real.
In the scriptures there is more than one angle of presentation for the same experience. For instance:
The Law says of perfection, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus."
The Temple says of perfection, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
The Home says of perfection, "Herein is our love made perfect." "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear."
Chadwick says, "No interpretation of perfection is complete that ignores any one of these three angles of interpretation."
Adam and Eve were were not physically perfect in knowledge because they both were decieved and sinned. Adam's perfection was spiritual and moral on condition of obedience just as ours is today. When he sinned he lost God and lost life. "The soul that sinneth dies." God's Word of Truth ever remains the same. Man's duty never has changed, viz to love God with whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Hymn- "He wills that I should holy be,
That holiness I long to feel
That full divine conformity
To all my Saviour's righteous will."
V. The Whole of Christian Perfection
Wesley always held to his statement for over 50 yrs, viz, "Pure love alone, reigning in the heart and life, this is the whole of Christian Perfection."
Meaning: Perfect in love. Loving God with all our heart as to rejoice evermore, to pray without ceasing, and in everything to give thanks.
Sanctification burns out all dross and perfects love in heart and life. Love to God and man is and always been, the fulfilling of the law. Love is the fulfilling of the law, not its substitute. It keeps the commandments and sinneth not. The only authorized test of love is obedience. Love that runs to license is not of God but of the flesh. Perfect love is God enthroned in the heart for, God is love. Love and God are one. "God is love and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him."
VI. Christian Perfection or Holiness or Sanctification or Perfect Love wrought in the heart, is an immediate, instantaneous, assured work of grace thru faith, by which the believer is delivered from inbred sin.
Wesley says, "Until you press the believers to expect full salvation Now, you must not look for any revival."
The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
"What! Never speak one evil word
Or rash, or idle, or unkind!
Oh how shall I, most gracious Lord,
This mark of true Perfection find?
Thy sinless mind in me reveal,
Thy Spirit's plentitude impart;
And all my spotless life shall tell
The abundance of a loving heart.
Saviour, I long to testify
The fulness of thy saving grace;
O might Thy Spirit, the blood apply,
Which bought for me the sacred peace!
Forgive and make my nature whole,
My inbred malady remove;
To perfect health restore my soul,
To perfect holiness and love."
VII. Christian Perfection in Relation to Sins and Mistakes
I John 3 declares:
1. That sin is lawlessness. Yes, it is so.
2. Jesus Christ was manifested to take away sin.
3. Whosoever is beggotten of God and abideth in Him, does not commit sin.
4. The difference between the children of God and the children of the devil is that one sins, and the other doesnot.
Every man born of God quits sin. The Jews claimed sonship thru Abraham, but Jesus said they were of their father the devil. I think He would tell a lot of professors that today...If they would listen.
We are neither satan's or God's by birth. Spiritual parentage is by adoption or rebirth.
Sin is a principle within. Not an act but an attitude. Man is not so much a sinner because he is but he is a transgressor because he is a sinner. Sin lies in the heart of man. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
But praise God, I have the knowledge that Jesus came to destroy sin in the flesh. A man who doesn't believe you can be delivered from sin naturally isn't and therefore cannot backslide, because he hasn't anything to backslide from. He is just an old sinful professor or church member. Scripture says, "Whosever abideth in Him sinneth not: Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither knoweth Him." "He that doeth sin is of the devil."
This doesnot mean that a Christian cannot fall from grace into sin. But it does mean that the fellow who never has been delivered from sin never can backslide because he never got saved.
VIII. Now as to Christian Perfection again:
A clean heart doesnot mean infallibility. It doesnot dehumanize humanity, but sanctifies it.
A clean heart doesnot imply a perfect head, but it does imply a perfect motive for our judgements and actions.
There is no scripture for regarding physical infirmities or mental weaknesses as sins, but a pure heart helps infirmities and mental weaknesses.
You donot repent of an act which is the result of pure ignorance, nor is your conscience guilty, though you may have to ask someone for forgiveness.
If the motive and spirit of your act comes from a pure heart the results are not sins as far as you are concerned, though it may cause you regret.
Perfection in judgement comes thru experience and suffering and growth in grace.
Motive determines moral quality. A mistake is a wrong act in which the right was intended. Sanctification reduces error to a minimum.
But each individual has natural characteristics which must be improved on after sanctification. Sanctification doesnot make a naturally lazy person naturally ambitious. It doesnot always make a peppy ambitious person slow and easy going. A man that has been accustomed to tell big tall stories of exaggeration has to guard against exaggeration after he is sanctified. A slovenly person is not made spic and span over night. Nor an old maid, man or woman, cannot be made over in one day.
Those characteristicswill be improved with sanctification and also with growth in grace. But others who live with you may grow in grace too while you are growing in grace. Because you have to ask for forgiveness along the way of life is no proof of sin. The act has not been sin if the motive of your acxt has been pure love.
Some acts have no moral issue involved and yet people may be offended by judging you. For instance, if I start to town in my car and my neighbor who lives down the road wants a ride with me and I fail to see him, etc.
IX. Christian Perfection, a Second Work of Grace
First, there is a definite crisis for the experience of regeneration. If you have it, say Amen!
Second, there is a definite crisis for the experience of Sanctification. If you have it, say Amen!
Too much modern preaching is vague and deals with generalities until no one is hurt or blessed. Like sheet lightning, it shines but doesn't strike. That is alright when it comes to lightning, but I want it to strike when it comes to Holiness. Unless our people are urged to go on unto perfection and hunger and thirst after righteousness until obtained here, our work will never prosper. We need to contend for definite terms; not "higher life", but Entire Sanctification. Experiences vary as to the time and way of being sanctified, but the assurance of its completion is necessary!
Justification and Regeneration is the first work of grace by faith. Cleansing and anointing of the Holy Ghost is the second work of grace by faith. Thousands have witnessed to this by testimony of word and life. This hidden treasure is found by those who hunger and thirst. It is the Pearl of Great Price. To obtain, we must sell all to get the purchase price of Holiness. Each must buy for himself.
The Scripture from Genesis to Revelation requires us to be holy. Light is not the same at all times, but Holiness has ever been the same. God's Holiness doesnot change. If He abides in us, we are Holy. Without Holiness no man can ever enter Heaven. Sanctification is thru Christ. Christ redeems that He may cleanse and restore the righteousness which Adam lost.
X. Jesus came to save from sin.
"Christ came to redeem from iniquity and purify (from sin in the heart) a peculiar people zealous of good works."
Sin doesnot reign in the justified heart but it remains. It is the strong man bound. But a stronger must cast him out. Jesus can do it! Glory! He is the Stronger Man! Hallelujah! There must be a conviction for Holiness. Then faith is made active when we believe, and the Holy Spirit Sanctifies and speaks us clean. All thru Jesus Blood!
"The very God of Peace Sanctify you wholly; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless (not faultless) until the coming of Jesus Christ." "Faithful is He who calleth you who also will do it."
"I ask the gift of Righteousness,
The sin destroying power.
Power to believe, and go in peace,
and never grieve the more.
I ask the blood-bought pardon sealed,
The liberty from sin,
The grace infused, the love revealed,
The Kingdom fixed within.
Thou hearest me for salvation pray,
Thou seest my heart's desire;
Made ready in Thy powerful day,
Thy fulness, I require.
My vehement soul cries out oppressed,
Impatient to be freed,
Nor can I Lord, nor will I rest,
Til I am saved indeed.
Art Thou not able to convert?
Art Thou not willing too?
To change this old rebellious heart,
To conquer and renew?
Thou canst, Thou wilt, I dare believe,
So arm me with Thy power,
That I to sin shall never cleave,
Shall never feel it more."
XI. There is a perfection of heart for this life and a perfection for the rapture of the body when these mortals put on immortality.
Christian Perfection doesnot imply even maturity, much less finality of perfection. Christian Perfection is not physical or mental perfection. God commands and expects us to be holy in heart here. I Thessalonians 5:23,24- "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calleth you, who also will do it.."
The mischief of Holiness by growth in grace [progressive holiness] is that it never gets there. If sinning leads to humility, why isn't satan more humble, and how is it that the sinless Saviour was meek and lowly? The pure in heart see God and are humble. A heart of compassion is the fruit of Holiness. Holiness doesnot make people repulsive. They have a singing heart and a shining face. Heb. 13:20,21- "Perfect in every good work to do His will. Now the God of peace, which brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ: that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good thing, workiong in us that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be Glory for ever and ever. Amen!"
When our hearts are pure we have confidence to approach God in earnest supplication and boldness. Though full of infirmities, we know God sees the heart. Holiness is doing the will of God out of a pure heart. Simple and easy!
Don't invent your own notional impossibilities to keep you out of Holiness. "I'll have to preach" or "I'll have to go to Africa", etc. You'll love to after you are sanctified if it is God's will. You only make it difficult for yourself by inventing your own sacrifices- a trait of carnality.
If it is God's will and power to sanctify you Holy and Wholly, why aren't you sanctified? I believe in Holiness because God is Holy. I am not able to make myself holy, but He is able. Hebrews: "God raised Christ from the dead so He can perfect our hearts. Through the blood of the everlasting covenant, may He make you perfect."
Don't judge God's Word by man. Believe it to the letter. Christ is surety for His Word. He sealed it with His blood. In Christ, we have the Perfect Son of God, the Perfect Saviour, and our Perfect Salvation.
"Jesus, the First and Last,
On Thee my soul is cast;
Thou didst Thy work begin
By blotting out my sin;
Thou wilt the root remove,
and Perfect me in love.
Yet when the work is done,
The work is but begun:
Partaker of Thy grace,
I long to see Thy face;
The first I prove below,
The last I die to know."
Ed. Note: Reader, do you have the blessed assurance of this Christian Perfection? If not, "It is for us all today, if you'll trust and surely pray" If so, may you never lose the experience!