God’s Ways and Man’s Methods
of Becoming Holy, Contrasted
God’s Way to Holiness
We have now examined six methods which we have seen are either self-contradictory, unscriptural, inconsistent, out of God’s order, or lacking the test of actual experience. These methods embrace about all the theories of becoming holy advocated by those who oppose the present holiness movement. We have therefore but one other method to mention, namely:
Entire Consecration and Faith.
According to Romans 12:1, Hebrews 6:1, and 1 Peter 1:15,16, the exhortations and commands to be holy are addressed to converted people. And this appears according to the very nature of things. “In thy light we see light.” [Psalm 36:9] As sinners we are convinced of our many transgressions. — We are in the dark. We realize that we ought to serve God. We give up all we see in the dim twilight, and then when the light breaks in and our true walk begins we see as we never saw before, depths upon depths. Motives come to view which were before unknown. Habits we never before recognized as sinful we find binding us as chains of iron. — There is an internal second to temptation without, which we never before understood. And as we continue in this increasing light we come plainly upon the remains of the old tree of sin cut down in conversion, a veritable stump, still alive, though the body be cut down and gone. And this sprouting stump with its many roots of bitterness we recognize as the real source of all internal trouble; can it be got rid of? Yes. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [1 John 1:9]. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” [1 John 1:7]. In Ezekiel’s 36th chapter this “cleansing” is from “all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” [2 Corinthians 7:1].
But Why by Entire Consecration?
Let us look at it carefully. It is because it takes this work on your part to reveal to you the true hindering cause. In this you make a special invoice item by item, and so reach the thing or things you are loathe to give up. Usually the test is upon some Isaac. Just so long as there is any reserve there can be no progress. The ring of an all comprehensive “Yes” to Jesus must echo in every atom of territory in your soul. God calls for all. If you withhold anything there is a variance between you and God — and the unwillingness is at least latent rebellion which God cannot bless. The “won’t” in the soul is a depraved root and must needs be removed before you can have “perfect peace” [Isaiah 26:3]. It will not die of itself. It will not go away by letting it alone, nor can it be removed till you say, “Yes, Lord.”
Usually as this invoice goes on, there is an internal restlessness, a desire for something better, a belief that there is a better way of going which impels the true seeker along step by step. As he comes to measure values in his invoice, he says “Yes, the pearl of great price is worth far more than all these, I had better sell all that I have and get it.”2 The invoice complete, he reaches a place of conscious entireness of surrender, even of things unknown, and this of itself is a blessed experience. Some have stopped here. But this is not full salvation, though it is the completion of your compliance with the terms. Not merely the giving up this thing or that. The thing — the Isaac, is not really what is to be surrendered, but your will is what God wants. The Isaac — the last thing given up — is God’s 100-degree mark on the scale of completed consecration. Though you are called upon to give up “yours,” yet God wants not so much yours but you.
We now reach the other question, namely…
Why by Faith?
The answer is, because sanctification is something God does, and you can only know that God does His part when you have complied with His terms, and BELIEVE THAT HE HAS PERFORMED HIS. You know when you do yours. You have his WORD that when you accept on His conditions he will be faithful to his promise. — But you cannot see Him nor hear Him speak and so are shut up to BELIEVE WHAT HE SAYS in his Word. But you want the witness of feeling first. Then you ask God to do that which He cannot. He cannot witness by feeling, or otherwise, to that which is not; and you are not saved till you believe. To give you feeling first would be giving evidence of that which as yet is not a fact. In other words, to ask feeling before you believe, is to ask God to lie a little that you may be saved. He cannot. Feeling is fruit from the tree of promise, and faith must plant the tree before fruit can be had. — Feeling is the product of certain antecedent causes, and the causes must precede the effect. Feeling reports the work done, but the architect must first complete the building before he can pass over the keys. Feeling without faith would be like the second story of a building without a first one. “Without faith it is impossible to please him.”
“What am I to believe?” Whatever He says! Not that you are sanctified when you are not. God does not ask you to believe that which is not true. Not, even, to “believe I have it and I have it.” You are to believe what He says about your salvation. In short, having passed the point of entire surrender to God, ever after to reckon the gift he asked is ACCEPTED. To believe that you are accepted, feeling or no feeling. To reckon that His work is done when you have complied with his terms. If His word is not good then feeling is worse. Sink or swim, live or die all depends on His word after all. He asks as a gift yourself a living sacrifice and declares that “the altar sanctifies the gift” [Matthew 23:19]. You accept His offer. You two make a bargain, each agreeing to certain specific things. You comply with the terms. God on His part pledges Himself, by His own excellency and Godhead, to complete His part of the work. Having consciously completed yours it is infidelity to doubt the faithfulness and integrity of God as to His. All stops if there is no belief. And here the test is to believe that it is as He says, namely, that “the altar sanctifies the gift,” you being that gift. Not that it has been done, but that He now does or is doing it. When faith makes this reckoning the crisis is past, the soul rests. The conflict, the questioning about surrender, the doubts are ended and the soul realizes this truth: “We which have believed do enter into rest” [Hebrew 4:3]. The fullness may or may not come then; but rest does, calm, sweet, precious and heavenly. Everything externally may not be adjusted, but the old tooth is out and the ache gone. The peace of justification was great, but this is greater. That was a fountain, this is a river. That was pardon for past offences; this is expelling the bad, depraved blood from the moral nature. That was the result of forgiveness; this is the result of cleansing.
This method of attaining holiness is:
- Scriptural. Guilt or actual transgression is removed by confession and faith in God’s ability and willingness to pardon. Depravity, for whose being we are not to be blamed up to the time learn of God’s method to remove it, not being pardonable since we never committed it, is met and removed by the application of the cleansing blood.
- This method is experimental; that is, it is capable of being tested and testified of.
- It has the benefit of thousands of testimonies.
- It is practical, bringing the life indicated by the scripture words, phrases and biographies.
- It is adapted to the nature of the case.
- It corresponds with God’s order of time, namely, to “be holy” now.
- It is universally available for all willing to “taste and see that God is good” [Psalm 34:8].
- We have tested this method and know it is available where others failed. We were not of that number who received sanctification at conversion. For seventeen years we tried repression, growth, and double nature theory, only to find failure and confusion and apparently as far from the goal as when we first began. Death sanctification only was left us; and as it was a command to be holy and we did not know whether we would have our reason, or time to make any extended preparation then, it looked like a great, great risk to wait for death. We thought it would do no harm to consecrate, as that could be done any time; and to believe as that also could be done any time — now! And, praise the Lord, we found it as it had been told us. Praise His holy name!
“I believe Jesus saves,
And His blood makes me whiter than snow.”3
- 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. ↩
- The allusion is to Matthew 13:45-46. ↩
- These final lines are from Francis Bottome’s Gospel chorus I Believe Jesus Saves! ↩