Said an old professor of over eighty years, in a certain holiness meeting: “I believe in holiness; but I don’t think it is all got at once, as you people say. I believe we grow into it.”
This is a very common mistake, second only to that which makes death the saviour from sin and the giver of holiness, and it is one which has kept tens of thousands out of the blessed experience. It does not recognize the exceeding sinfulness of sin (Rom. vii. 13), nor does it know the simple way of faith by which alone sin can be destroyed.
Entire sanctification is at once a process of subtraction and addition.
First, there are laid aside “all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings” (I Pet. ii. 1); in fact, every evil temper and selfish desire that is unlike Christ, and the soul is cleansed. In the very nature of the case this cannot be by growth, for this cleansing takes something from the soul, while growth always adds something to it. The Bible says, “Now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Col. iii. 8). The Apostle talks as though a man were to put these off in much the same way as he would his coat. It is not by growth that a man puts off his coat, but by an active, voluntary and immediate
effort of his whole body. This is subtraction.
But the Apostle adds: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. iii. 12). No more does a man put on his coat by growth, but by a similar effort of his whole body.
A man may grow in his coat, but not into his coat; he must first get it on. Just so, a man may “grow in grace,” but not into grace. A man may swim in water, but not into water. It is not by growth that you get the weeds out of your garden, but by pulling them up and vigorously using your hoe and rake. It is not by growth that you expect that dirty little darling, who has been tumbling around with the dog and cat in the backyard, to get clean. He might grow to manhood and get dirtier every day. It is by washing and much pure water that you expect to make him at all presentable.
So the Bible speaks of “Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own Blood” (Rev. i. 5). “The Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John i. 7). And it is just this we sing about:To get this blest washing I all things forgo;
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
There is a Fountain filled with Blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.
Those facts were told to the old brother mentioned above, and he was asked if, after sixty years of Christian experience, he felt any nearer the priceless gift of a clean heart than when he first began to serve Christ. He honestly confessed that he did not.
NOTE: This is an excerpt from chapter 2 of Helps to Holiness by Samuel Brengle 1896 (can be read online HERE)