D. W. (Davis Wasgatt) Clark.

The Methodist Episcopal pulpit: a collection of original sermons from living ministers of the M.E. church online

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Online LibraryD. W. (Davis Wasgatt) ClarkThe Methodist Episcopal pulpit: a collection of original sermons from living ministers of the M.E. church → online text (page 14 of 49)
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our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us, we are ena-



IX.] CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. 143

bled to " do his commandments." And, blessed be God,
" his commandments are not grievous." " His yoke is
easy, and his burden is light." God is the supreme object
of his delight and happiness, the source of his comfort and
place of his rest. He need not retire into solitude, nor
mingle in the society of the fashionable world to find hap-
piness. He need not pursue worldly pleasure, wealth, or
fame, to find rest and peace to his soul — no, his happiness
is based upon a broader and firmer foundation.

" While blcss'd with a sense of his love,
A palace a toy would appear :
And prisons would palaces prove,
If Jesus would dwell with me there."

And he who loves God with all his heart, will also love
his neighbor as himself. His neighbor, being a part of
himself, claims and shares a deep and lively interest in
his affections ; and when his neighbor is, with him, raised
to be a partaker of like precious faith, it greatly enhances
the felicity of both.

But this love is by no means confined to the household
of faith. Were it so, what would Christians do more than
others ? If we examine the context, we shall find that our
blessed Lord places the loving of our enemies among the
highest attainments of the Christian character. " But I
say unto you. Love your enemies ; bless them that curse
you ; do good to them that hate you ; and pray for them
that despitefully use you and persecute you ; that ye may
be the children of your Father in heaven : for he maketh
his sun to rise on the evil and on the good ; and sendeth
rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them
which love you, what reward have ye ? And if ye salute
your brethren only, v^'hat do ye more than others? Do
not even the publicans so ?" and then adds the words of the
text, — " Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father
which is in heaven is perfect."

Thus we see that to love our enemies forms an essen-
tial branch of Christian perfection. This is one of the
most important, and yet difficult duties of the Christian
life, and utterly impracticable to those whose hearts are
not perfected in love ; but with the heart renewed and
filled with love, this, and every other duty, is easy and
pleasant. And herein the Christian religion transcends



144 CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. [SER.

all others. It may safely cliallenge all otliers, to produce
from human kind a single individual, who is not only de-
void of every species and degree of the spirit of revenge ;
but one who most tenderly pities, blesses, and prays for
his bitterest enemies ! But this, every genuine Christian
does with all his heart. If in anything we are godlike, it
is in the exercise of love to our enemies. He, as the
God of providence, " maketh his sun to rise on the evil
and on the good ;" and " sendeth rain on the just and on
the unjust ;" and as the God of grace, he " hath so loved
the world," even the world of lost sinners, " that he gave
bis only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him
should not perish, but have everlasting life." And that
Son of God " commended his love toward us, in that while
we were yet enemies he died for us," and when dying,
said, " Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
And how truly godlike did Stephen appear wdien he said,
" Lord, lay not this sin to their charge !"

But how could a fallen sinner be so saved as thus to feel,
and thus to pray for his murderous enemies ? Stephen was
a perfect Christian — perfect as his Father in heaven was
perfect. It is said of him that he was " full of the Holy
Ghost." This answers all questions. He could do all things
through the power of the Holy Ghost. There is, then, no
greater evidence that we are Christians, than that we feel
and exercise this godlike disposition. But he who feels
envy, malice, or a disposition to revenge himself, is not
made perfect in love : for perfect love casteth out all these.
But, perhaps, it may be said. If this be true Christianity,
where live the Christians ? Nay, but do you deny that
this is true Christianity? If not, then we are so far right.
"We are right in opinion. We are on the Bible founda-
tion, at least in theory. But supjiose — what, however, I do
not admit — that there never were any vAio came up to this
standard of Christian holiness, would this prove the doc-
trine itself false ? Certainly not. "VYe trust, however, that
there have been thousands and tens of thousands, both be-
fore and since the days of Stephen, who have exhibited the
same true marks of Christian perfection which character-
ized him. This is, indeed, the most distinguishing charac-
teristic of the Christian religion. Whatever else we have,
whether of natural parts, or of acquired abilities, of amia-



IX.] CHRISTIAN PEKFECTION. 145

bleness of disposition, or accomplisliment of manners, yet
if we are destitute of love to God and man, our enemies
not excepted, our religion is but an empty sound ; the form
without the power ; the shadow without the substance.

Thirdly. It is the perfection of our souls in humility.

Pride is a sin against both tables of the law. It acts
against God in a wicked, though vain, desire to be inde-
pendent of him, and in opposition to his established method
of saving sinners. It swells a haughty worm to a high
conceit that he is, intrinsically and comparatively, far
above his fellow-creatures ; and, what is most base of all,
it renders him willing and desirous to be thought by others
what he is conscious he is not. Now perfect humility is
the reverse of all this. It leads a man to feel, to acknow-
ledge, and to acquiesce in, his entire dependence on God,
without the least infelicity of mind on this account. It
leads him cordially to embrace salvation in God's own
way, notwithstanding while that way exalts the Saviour, it
robs the sinner of all grounds of boasting, and casts him
into the dust of self-abasement at the feet of Jesus. It
leads him to think no more highly of himself than he
ought to think ; and to assume no intrinsic worth of
character, on account of the providential circumstances of
birth, friends, wealth, learning, influence, beauty, dress, or
the like. Above all, perfect humility saves a man from
any desire to appear to others what he knows he is not.
This is humility ; and he who possesses this grace in its
perfection, possesses one of the greatest safe-guards, as
well as ornaments, of the Christian character.

Fourthly. It is the perfection of the soul in meekness.

Meekness stands opposed to anger, wrath, and clamor.
It is the quietus of the soul, under the influence of the per-
fect love of God. Not only does it " lay the rough paths
of peevish nature even," but also arms the soul against all
the assaults and fiery darts of the wicked. It is prepared
not to resist evil, but to bear insult and fraud without an-
ger or retaliation. It stands aloof from the noisy clamors
of this world, about rights of priority, satisfaction for real
or supposed injuries, and from strife and contention of
every description. If smitten on the one cheek, it quietly
and patiently turns the other. If sued at the law and the
coat be taken, it quietly lets the cloak ^o also, rather than

7



146 CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. [SER.

do wrong, or manifest a bad spirit. Indeed, freedom from
angry passions, words, and actions, is among the highest
attainments, as well as greatest ornaments, of the Christian
character. He who is free in these things, is free indeed.

" What ! never speak one evil word ?
Or rash, or idle, or mikind '?
O how shall I, most gracious Lord,
Tills mark of true perfection find 1"

Finally. This perfection consists in being wholly re-
signed to all the dispensations of divine Providence.

This state of mind is most beautifully and comprehen-
sively set forth by the apostle where he says, " Rejoice
evermore, and in everything give thanks ; for this is the
will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." By being
resigned, however, is not meant that there is no feeling un-
der the pressure of afflictions and disappointments. There
is, doubtless, such a thing as having little or no feeling
under the various afflictions of the present life, arising from
ignorance, or a sort of morbid insensibility of mind, but
this is not resignation. Doubtless there are many who
think themselves, and are thought by others, to be very
much resigned to the will of God, when, in fact, it is
nothing but a natural or acquired insensibility, by which
they appear to be what they are not. To such, resigna-
tion is, at most, but a negative virtue. Neither is it the
mere feeling of acquiescence in the dispensations of the
divine will, when that will is in perfect accordance with
our own wishes. There is no great virtue in being satis-
fied when all our wishes are gratified. A man once said,
that when walking through his fields of corn, and observing
the large and plentiful ears, he was so overcome with a
sense of the goodness of God, that he was constrained to
fall down upon his knees, and, with flowing tears, give
thanks for the bounties of Providence. This was all very
well. But another man said, in the year 1816, when the
corn was nearly all cut off by the cold season, that " corn
was big enough that year for Christians !" and no one
who knew him doubted that he felt what he said. This is
the true character of Christian resignation. Let the un-
derstanding be well enlightened, and the mind tenderly
alive to all its interests ; then let these interests be touched
in the tenderest parts ; let property mount the wings of



IX.] CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. 147

fire, or be borne away on the bosom of the flood ; let fell
disease enter his dwelling, and ruthless death break up
the dearest family circle ; let all earthly hopes be blasted,
and then it is that his resignation is put to the test. Then,
if he stand, his strength is not small. Then he will be
heard to say, " Good is the will of the Lord." " Not as I
will, but as thou wilt." " The Lord gave, and the Lord
hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."

Nothing, however, short of entire sanctification can pro-
duce this happy state of mind. But the possession of this
great salvation will serve as a ballast to the soul, which
will enable it safely to ride out all the storms of life, and
to land safe on that eternal shore.

Thus we see what the Bible teaches on the subject
of Christian perfection. And if the chapter from which
the text has been selected be examined, it is believed that
all these points will be found, directly or indirectly, set
forth therein by our Saviour himself. There are the poor
in spirit, whose is the kingdom of heaven. There are
they that mourn, and are comforted. There are the meek,
inheriting the earth. There are those who do hunger and
thirst after righteousness, and are filed. There are the
merciful, obtaining mercy ; the "pure in hearty who shall see
God; the peacemakers^ who are called the children of
God. There are they who are persecuted for righteous-
ness' sake, whose is the kingdom of heaven — rejoicing and
being exceedingly giad in the midst of all manner of false
accusations for Christ's sake.

There are they who are the salt of the earth, the lights
of the world, the city on the hill, the candle on the candle-
stick. There are they who do, and teach others to do, the
least of the commandments. There are set forth those
whose righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Phari-
sees, and, therefore, shall enter into the kingdom of hea-
ven. There are those free from all sinful anger, and rash
and reproachful speeches ; using all possible means to be
reconciled to an offended brother. There are those whose
very eyes, as well as hearts, are clean from the pollutions
of adultery; having crucified the flesh with its affections
and lusts, by plucking out right eyes, and cutting off right
hands. There are those saved from all rash swearing,
and from every irreverent use of the name, attributes, or



148 CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. [SER.

works of God ; those free from every species and degree
of the spirit of retaliation ; quiet under repeated insults
and wrongs; possessed of a charitable and benevolent
heart ; full of neighborly kindness ; and last, though not
least, love to their bitterest enemies.

Now, let this assemblage of Christian graces and vir-
tues be found existing in and actuating any human being,
and he is, in our Lord's sense of the term, perfect, even as
our Father in heaven is perfect. But if any be disposed
still to doubt, let him answer this question to his own con-
science : — Which of the graces, above enumerated, can be
dispensed with, and we still be prepared for heaven ?

Now, that the doctrine above stated is true, we prove
from the following considerations.

First. God has commanded us to be holy. Hear a few
of his commands touching this point : — " Thou shalt be
perfect with the Lord thy God." " Ye shall be holy, for I
am holy." " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all
thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself." " Be ye perfect,
even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Here
is both the evidence of what we may be, namely, holy in
heart and life, and the command so to be.

Secondly. The promises of God are so many evidences
of the truth of this doctrine. " The Lord thy God will
circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the
Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul,
that thou may est live." " In that day there shall be a
fountain opened in the house of David, and to the inhab-
itants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." And in
view of this fountain, he says, by the mouth of Ezekiel,
" Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall
be clean : from all your filthiness and from all your idols
will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and
a new spirit will I put within you ; and I will take away
the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a
heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and
cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my
judgments and do them."

To these agree the words of John : — " 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 cleanseth us
from all sin." " His name shall be called Jesus, for he



IX.] CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. 149

shall save his people from their sins." " To perform the
mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy
covenant, the oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out
of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our
lifer These promises of God, with many more which
might be adduced, are all "yea, and in him, amen, unto
the glory of God." Who, then, can doubt the possibility
of being made holy — of being saved from all sin in this
life — after reading these exceeding great and precious
promises from the lips of eternal truth and faithfulness ?

Thirdly. This doctrine is proved by the inspired prayers
which have been offered up for this great blessing.

But before we proceed to notice those which are properly
denominated inspired prayers, let us notice one or two
offered by the Saviour himself for the same thing : — " I
pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world,
but that thou shouldst Tceep them from the evil" " Sanctify
them through thy truth, thy word is truth." " I in them,
and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one."

These prayers were offered up by one who said, " Father,
I thank thee that thou hast heard me ; and I know that
thou hearest me always"

Now for the prayers of inspired men for full salvation :—-
" And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly : and I
pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be pre-
served blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" "Will
do what ? Why, sanctify you wholly, spirit, soul, and body,
and preserve you blameless. " Now I pray to God that ye
do no evil; and this also we wish, even your perfection."
But, perhaps, the most comprehensive of all the inspired
prayers, is that offered by St. Paul for the Ephesians.
And let it be remembered, that full salvation is the special
object of this apostolic prayer. " For this cause I bow
my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of
whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
that he would grant you, according to the riches of his
glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the
inner man ; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith ;
that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to



150 CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. [SER.

comprehend witli all saints what is the hreadth, and length,
and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ,
which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all
the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do ex-
ceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, accord-
ing to the power that worketh in us ; unto him be glory
in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world
without end. Amen." No one will doubt that this is a
prayer for holiness — for Christian perfection. And who
will doubt that this inspired prayer comprehends also the
measure of that holiness which may be expected in the
present life ?

Now, can it be believed that God would inspire holy
men to pray in this manner for a state of holiness which,
at the same time, it was utterly impossible to attain unto ?
It cannot be. The very fact of his inspiring men thus to
pray, proves that the blessing is for the church.

Fourthly. This doctrine is proved by the testimony of
God concerning many of his saints.

Passing over the case of Abel, who, by obedient faith,
" obtained witness that he was righteous," let us notice the
case of Enoch. Of him the Holy Ghost bears testimony,
that he " walked with God three hundred years ;" and that
" by faith he was translated, that he should not see death,
for, before his translation, he had this testimony, that he
pleased God." Here is a fallen sinner, brought nigh by
the blood of the covenant, and walking with God, in holi-
ness and righteousness, in such a manner as to be pleasing
in his sight, for the space of three hundred years, and that,
too, in a very dark age, in the midst of a very wicked
generation, and with very few helps !

Noah, also, is pronounced, by the Holy Ghost, to have
been " a just man, and perfect in his generations :" and one
that " walked with God." Nor is the solitary instance of
error mentioned of him to invalidate the testimony of God
concerning his general character; for, if viewed in its
worst light, it only proves the possibility of falling from
the highest state of grace. But from the circumstances
X)f the case, and from the absence of all evidence that it
was ever repeated, we may well doubt whether, in that
instance, any moral turpitude attached to the act in the
sight of God.



IX.] CHEISTIAN PERFECTION. 151

Caleb and Joshua are declared, by the spirit of inspira-
tion, to have had " another spirit with them," and to have
^^ followed the Lord fully " Moses, who had been long and
intimately acquainted with these men, bore this noble tes-
timony to the holiness of their characters, and at the very
time, too, at which he acknowledges those very imperfec-
tions by which he was himself denied the privilege of en-
tering the promised land. Samuel the prophet, and John
the Baptist, were both bright examples of this faith ; the
latter, especially, " being filled with the Holy Ghost even
from his mother's womb." And the Holy Ghost testifies
of Zacharias and Elisabeth, that they were " both righteous
before God, walking in all the commandments and ordi-
nances of the Lord blameless." Joseph and Mary were
both just and holy persons. Anna, the prophetess, must
be numbered among the bright examples of Christian per-
fection. She departed not from the temple, but served the
Lord with fastings and prayers day and night. To these
may be added Stephen, and Paul, and John, the beloved
disciple. And what shall I say more? for the time
would fail me to recount the hosts of God's elect, who,
in every age, have experienced the full "washing of
regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost."
These have all gone up through great tribulation, having
washed their robes and made them white in the blood of
the Lamb.

Having shown what is the nature and extent of the per-
fection which God requires, and proved it to be a Bible
doctrine, we proceed,

11. To point out the way hy which it may he obtained.

And first. He who would obtain the blessing of entire
sanctification, must believe the blessing attainable. It is
in vain to seek for this or any other spiritual blessing in
unbelief. If, then, we do not believe* that there is any
such state attainable in this life, there is no hope that we
shall ever obtain it ; for we shall see that it is to be re-
ceived by simple faith. Our unbelief will prove a fatal
bar to our advancing a single step toward it. This must
first be removed. And to remove it, look into the word of
God. Look at the holiness of God; the holiness and
spirituality of the divine law. Look at the fullness of the
gospel, the efficacy of the blood of Christ, the power of the



152 CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. [SER.

Holy Ghost, the exceeding great and precious promises, by
which we are made partakers of the divine nature. Look
at the experiences of many of the children of God, both as
recorded in the Bible and in Christian biography ; where
a living testimony is borne to the willingness and power
of God to save from all sin in this life. And when your
heart is well established in the firm belief that God can
and will sanctify you v/hoUy, that the blood of Jesus Christ
cleanseth from all sin, then,

Secondly. Labor to understand the nature of the bless-
ing you seek. Many persons, by mistaking the nature of
this great work, have sought it in vain for a long time.
Some have erred by placing it in something aside from
what it is. They have supposed that it consisted in some
miraculous change, which would overpower the whole sys-
tem, and be attended and followed by such a scene of su-
pernatural light and wisdom, such ecstatic joy and over-
whelmnig happiness, as nothing could destroy, or even
abate. That light, and joy, and happiness, generally flow
from this blessed work, is doubtless true ; but these are
the fruits, not the tree itself.

Others have placed the blessing too high. They have
expected that entire sanctification would place them above
the infirmities of this life, and far beyond the reach of
temptation, neither of which is true. Let it be well under-
stood, then, that the blessing of which we speak consists
in the removal of all sin from the heart ; — an entire de-
liverance from the guilt, the power, the pollution, the love,
and the practice of sin ; and in having the perfect love of
God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost given
unto us. Do not lose sight of this fact, that it consists in
having the heart emptied of sin and filled with love — love
to God and man. Whatever else we have, or have not,
if we have supreme' love to God, and love to all mankind,
we have this great blessing.

Thirdly. If we would seek this great salvation aright,
we must set out in the possession of present justification.
If we have never been truly converted, or are now in a
backslidden state, we are unprepared to seek for entire
sanctification, until we return to God by repentance, and
seek pardon and justification by faith. But if we stand
clear in a justified state, and are pressing on toward the



IX.J CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. 153

mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ
Jesus, we shall soon be brought into deep conviction of
mind for holiness of heart and life ; — conviction which will
not be attended with a sense of guilt and condemnation ;
for, being already in Christ Jesus, there is no condemna-
tion ; but a deep and penetrating sense of want of full con-
formity to the holy and lovely image of God ; and accom-
panied by an unconquerable hungering and thirsting after
righteousness.

Fourthly. This blessing must be sought by simple faith.
Not only must we believe that the blessing is attainable,
but also that God is both able and willing to impart it to us
for Christ's sake. We must believe that there is efficacy
in the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin ; that it is the



Online LibraryD. W. (Davis Wasgatt) ClarkThe Methodist Episcopal pulpit: a collection of original sermons from living ministers of the M.E. church → online text (page 14 of 49)