God’s Ways and Man’s Methods
of Becoming Holy, Contrasted
“I Am Made Holy in Christ
Without Being Holy in Myself”
This is the theory of holiness by Imputation without Impartation. The unvarnished statement runs thus, “As a saint, he is now ‘not in the flesh,’ though the flesh is in him; but he is in the Spirit, and is responsible for the uprisings and sins of the old man.”2 At a glance it is evident that this at once denies the removal of the carnal mind, which is the very question at issue. It is a bold denial of the experience of entire sanctification, and yet at the same time positive claiming of it. But this is not all of the statement. It further declares,
He is henceforth pardoned as a son, according to the value of the blood presented before God for him; the person, the individual, now becomes a Christian, the man possessed of these two natures, who should be walking “in the Spirit,” though ever and anon he is made to stumble through the power of the “flesh.” Thus the saint does not advance in sanctification, by a change being effected in the character of either nature, but in the gradual development of “the new man” by means of the in-working of the Holy Ghost, and in the daily mortification of the members which are upon the earth. The man is thus gradually sanctified and made more like Christ. Grace and Truth p. 187.
Others express the idea in briefer form thus, “We may be complete in Christ, though in ourselves we are as full of sin as ever.”
We have given the first statement as conveying more fully what is meant by the latter. It ought also to be said that the whole theory rests for a foundation upon what may be termed the “two nature” principle, which is briefly expressed in this way: “The Holy Ghost dwelt in the new nature in Paul as He dwells in every Christian. But besides his new nature there was still the old, unchanged and unchangeable,”3 or in the language of the author of Conflict of Faith,
The flesh is still present in all its original sinfulness, and will remain unholy to the end. Sanctification is not purifying of the flesh, but the outgrowth and development of the new man.4
1. This Rests Upon an Impossible Premise — The Two-Nature Principle.
We have a number of objections to this way of becoming holy. That a justified believer may have within him two tendencies we will admit, for it is plainly stated in the seventh chapter of Romans, but that this ‘tendency’ has any such qualities and properties as constitute personality we deny. It may be that the advocates of this theory would deny the same if put in this way, and yet it matters not so long as they really judge this “nature” as a person, clothe it with responsibility, bar it out of heaven, and talk about it, reason about it, just as if it were a person. Then as a complement of this, and just beside it, they locate a new personality created in regeneration. The two are at antipodes.5 Neither one of them, in any proper sense, could be called the me. And yet when this “new man” does anything, it is me; and when the “old man” does anything, though the same agent does it, it is not me. The “new man” goes to heaven, the bad man goes to — well, he can’t go to heaven. If they said directly the “old man” went to hell, they would but express the logical results of their theory.
- This splitting-up of a person is unscriptural. “No man can serve two masters” — Matthew 6:24. It is a moral impossibility. In Mark 12:30-31, we find that the whole component departments of personality — “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” — are all to be used up in the full measure of their equipment in the service of God. No fraction is left for an “unexplored remainder” of some other “old man” hidden away in some reserved corner. Indeed, this entireness of service is a keynote of texts all through the Bible, with an occasional, unmistakable example, such as we find in the history of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). In Romans 7, Paul has fully described, denounced, and denominated a miserable, “body of death” condition, not a separate or split person.
- The theory is unnatural and unphilosophical. We know that the mental nature is a unit, though we speak of faculties when we come to describe its actions; yet personality is indivisible. The will, when it acts, goes all together. The heart can be supreme to but one. When this will and this heart are yielded in this condition of Allness, we know no other will or heart. And my will and heart, with other conscious faculties so-called, make up the Me. A thousand other “new men” created, or a thousand “old men” condemned, will not save or condemn this Me. It is the Me, the I, that needs salvation, not somebody else. It is my will that needs its law of choice changed by the divine hands. It is my heart that needs cleansing. It can afford me no pleasure to know that God has condemned some “old man” and created some “new man,” so long as there is no change wrought in me. My will must be God’s will as to kind, my home where He is, or I have no joy, no peace, no salvation. We are certain the idea of “two natures” in the Christian, in the sense evidently implied by the advocates of this theory, has no foundation in the facts of human experience. We recognize two tendencies in sinners, and in some measure in the truly justified condition, but affirm that full salvation is the remedy for this double-mindedness, this down-grade gravitation. The down tendency of nature, called also depravity, flesh, and carnal mind, is the very disturbing element against which God’s redemptive work was directed. The substitution of a “new man” in the place of me in this problem of eternity would be my elimination. The “double nature” advocates declare, “The new man is created and cannot sin,” the old man “cannot but sin because [it is] born of Satan”6 and is “unchangeable.” But I know I have sinned, and if I “cannot but sin,” and am “unchanged and unchangeable,”7 then I cannot go to heaven anyway. So the double-nature theory saves some other man than me. And this “new man,” never having sinned, never needs redemption, and never can sing the song of the redeemed, “Unto Him” etc.8 And my salvation, the salvation of the me that sinned, and was and is conscious of the same, being then the “old man” (since the “new man cannot sin”), is no salvation at all; and salvation is a mockery to me, if this terrible theory be true. The sanctification of such a soul, a lost one, is an utter absurdity, and so a system of sanctification which rests for its support on such an untenable premise is absurd.
- This method claims gradualism sanctification — which was refuted in our previous chapter.
- This method also includes the theory of repression, that is, that the carnal mind is not destroyed but held under — controlled by the stronger “new man,” which in itself makes a warfare within the man — which is entirely incompatible with the Bible idea of peace, rest, joy, perfect love, fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ, and heaven begun below.
Indeed, the primal principle upon which this whole theory of sanctification by imputation rests is so at war with reason, the eternal fitness of things, and the Bible, that these alone condemn it.
2. Holiness by Proxy Removes It from the Realm of Experience to That of Imagination.
This is unknowable sanctification. But there are those who have entered in, and know whereof they speak; so there is a sanctification which is knowable, whose author is God, whose subject is an actual man. This is no mere picture of the imagination.
3. Let Us Compare This Holiness Which Is by Imputation Only, with Bible Sanctification.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the very God of peace, sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless, unto the coming of the Lord.” Here is no imaginary nonsense. It is actual, definite, and explicit, something accomplished by divine power in the souls, and spirits, and flesh bodies of real people. Nor is it a partial work, leaving in some by-place a homestead for the “old man.” It is a total cleansing of the real spirit of the man, not some other personality. Nothing is here more prominent than the personal identity of these Thessalonian church members. They were to be so sanctified and then kept. Here is impartation of holiness from the very God of peace. In Ezekiel 36 the language and figures all imply the same thing. The evil heart is taken away. The new tendency is given — imparted. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 there is an exhortation to “cleanse from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Here we are taught that the “flesh” is not “unchanged nor unchangeable,” but subject to the cleansing blood. Here also is a holiness we are to perfect. If it is only imputed, it cannot be perfected, for the holiness of the Lord is absolute, and can neither be increased nor diminished. David had the same idea. It was not an imaginary, untangible thing he sought for when he prayed, “Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” — Psalm 51:7. He had no such notion as that God could not effect a radical change in the remaining carnal mind. Isaiah had the same thought. He knew, for God declared, “Thou art cleansed from thine iniquity.” “Thou,” not some “old man” or “new man,” but “thou”— Isaiah 6:7. This is holiness imparted by fire.
In addition to these, you will recall that class of passages which declare our union with God, or our being made partakers of the divine nature, and all those scriptures which make religion consist in right motives, right hearts, desires, choices, and states of the individual. Time and space forbid further following up of this theme. But, is it not enough to find that this method of seeking to be or become holy is unscriptural, unreasonable, unknowable, and non-experimental?9 We think so.
“For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit THAT WE MIGHT BE PARTAKERS OF HIS HOLINESS” — Hebrews 12:10.
- The text itself is public domain. The original booklet, God's Ways and Man's Methods of Becoming Holy, Contrasted, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2010 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's God's Ways and Man's Methods of Becoming Holy, Contrasted. ↩
- This quote, and the longer one which follows, are from the same page of William P. Mackay’s “Grace and Truth” Under Twelve Aspects. The copy at the editor’s disposal is an 1875 edition printed in Edinburgh, where the appropriate page number is 196. Reid’s reference copy must have been an American edition, giving out the page number as 187 as he does. ↩
- This quote is also from Mackay’s book, page 182 in the editor’s available copy. ↩
- Here Reid seems to be quoting William McDonald in Scriptural Way of Holiness (page 8 in the 1883 edition published in London). McDonald himself, while attributing the quote to Conflict of Faith, only refers to its author as “a late writer.” ↩
- Antipodes: direct or exact opposites. Nowadays we would be apt to say, “The two are at opposite extremes” or “They are poles apart.” ↩
- These two quotes are taken from the introduction to Mackay’s book, page xiii. ↩
- This phrase “unchanged and unchangeable” appears frequently in Mackay’s book (e.g., pages 40, 117, 146, 182, and 200). ↩
- Reid is undoubtedly alluding to Revelation 1:5,6; but he also may have in mind A. T. Pierson’s great hymn of adoration and praise, With Harps and with Vials, the chorus of which echoes the words of that passage from Revelation with these joyful words:
Unto Him Who hath loved us
And washed us from sin,
Unto Him be the glory forever!
- Reid uses experimental in its more uncommon sense of empirical or derived from experience. ↩