The “Growth Method” Has No Witnesses
Another reason why we say this grace of sanctification is not reached by “growth” is because it cannot be proved by witnesses. The people who have this grace and who confess it are not ones who have come into possession of the experience by the method of gradualism. To the contrary, their universal testimony is that they did not come into it gradually or by growth, but that the work was instantaneous, and by grace, through consecration and faith. But people who believe in getting there by growth are always on a belated train.
The following evidence proves this is correct:
- Lack of testimony of growth into holiness spans all ages and all denominations.
- We have tested it again and again in large meetings, and never yet found one in the possession of the grace of entire sanctification who reached the experience by growth.
- All these gradualists, as with everyone not done with a life of probation, are in a state of growth, and hence they are growing or groaning after holiness, but do not have it.
- The people who have the experience are the people qualified to tell how they received it. The get-it-by-growth people never know how to tell anyone how to obtain a holy heart so as to have it. They cannot till they have it themselves, and as they are still in a state of growing into it, they are not yet in a state of entire sanctification. They have some, they say, but how much they cannot tell, nor do they have any idea how long the growing may yet continue.
- Many of the “growth” advocates honestly say, while they claim a growth of forty or more years, that they are no better in this respect than when they first began. We hear them sing:
Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I sought the Lord?2
We often hear them say they only “hope they are saved,” or “hope that they have a hope.” They testify that they “sin every day in thought, word and deed.” Certainly if any one needs growth, and if growth can radically secure sanctification, these folks sadly need the hotbed3 or some other process at once, since at the present rate a thousand millennia might dawn before the work would be accomplished.
- Holiness is holiness. If these growth folks had the genuine article, it would cooperate with any measure of the same grace in anyone else. Holiness cannot oppose itself. If they had some holiness, it would be like the holiness other people have, and as such it would cooperate in holiness meetings and be glad to see other people getting there, though they might not arrive by their slow train. But what do we see? The growth folks take no part in holiness meetings. They do not come out. To the contrary, they even oppose the work. They argue against the camp-meetings; they discourage attendance, and do not want the grace confessed in their meetings. If they had any measure of this grace, it would not be so. Things that are alike are not antagonistic. Holiness in God and holiness in man never quarrel. No matter how much they may differ in degree, they are alike in kind. Holiness in a Methodist or Quaker or Presbyterian or Baptist, so far as they are in possession of the genuine article, is in harmony. They work together in this thing and further the work by united effort.
- In no department does the “growth” theory have witnesses who are examples:
- The Bible does not sustain the theory.
- The living witnesses cannot be found.
- We look in vain for biographies of those who obtained the grace that way. It is not in the books.
- The books that help people into the experience are not written by growth people.
- The get-it-by-growth people do not print holiness papers.4
- Growth advocates do not have meetings for the promotion of holiness. They show by practice that they lack faith in the success of their method.
- Thousands of those who were once growth advocates have abandoned their folly and now enjoy the blessing, obtained not by growth, but instantaneously by entire consecration and faith for their entire sanctification by the blood of Jesus, applied by the Holy Spirit.
- The theory of sanctification by growth will not prove itself. God never testifies to man’s reception of the grace by growth. Man cannot testify to holiness till he has it, and those who have it did not obtain it by growth. The theory is unproven. It is unsafe. It is a failure, a delusion, an error.
Not According to the Bible
The Bible is against the obtainment of this blessing by the process of growth. The Bible speaks of “growing in” grace, but never of “growing into” grace. We have seen that the graces can never produce themselves, nor can any one grace produce another. The Bible is based upon this idea. So it says: “I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Leviticus 20:8). “The very God of peace sanctify you” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). These and many kindred words clearly teach that entire sanctification is something that God does. It is an act of God, like a creative act, bringing into existence a condition of purity that never existed before. When we are told, in 1 Peter 1:16, “Be ye holy,” the best and deepest meaning of the word “be” is the creative idea, to “create out of nothing.” We are to have holiness that is created by the Lord Himself, or is transferred from His uncreated Self! This means that it is no “manufactured” article wrought out by human “growing,” or any other bodily or fleshly exercise.
Again the Bible represents clearly that the work wrought in sanctification is cleansing away impurity. Peter says the personal work wrought on them on the day of Pentecost was “purifying their hearts” (Acts 15:9). John says, “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 cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). And again we read, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25,26). Or read how the temple was sanctified, namely by cleansing, by carrying out “the filth” (2 Chronicles 29:5). In all expressions in both the Old and New Testaments is this idea of cleansing carried out when sanctification is spoken of. It is a separating act both on the part of the individual and on the part of God. It is a work of subtraction instead of a work of addition. Growth adds to, or multiplies. Sanctification takes away. Sanctification separates the unmixed from the mixed, the clean from the unclean. It lessens quantity to secure a pureness of quality. In no case can this be a work of enlargement, as the idea of growth requires.
The word “washing” also implies the same idea, and is frequently used, as in one of the texts mentioned above. In no sense can it be employed to convey the idea of “growth.” The impurity is removed from the garment not by enlarging its size, or by patching it, but by a process which melts, loosens, and carries away the soil and the stain. The whole figure, and the use of the word, forbid us to teach, or even to think of “growth” accomplishing any such results. The idea is inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible, and with the very use of the figures by which it expresses the idea.
It may further be added that none of the writers in either the Old or New Testament use the word “grow” in any such sense. When writing to those already in grace, they speak of growing in that grace, but never of obtaining a grace by a method or principle of growth. They speak of those already in grace as “growing up into Him,” but here they do not say or imply anything concerning the obtainment of a pure heart, nor of those they address not being in the grace of entire sanctification. They also speak of the righteous “growing as a lily.” But how does that grow? Was it not lily in the bulb in the ground? And lily all the way along, till growth reached maturity? Growth added no new element to its nature. It was pure lily all the way. Growth enlarged, perfected, matured, but never cleansed, nor removed any of the rubbish about it. Indeed in no place does the Bible employ the word “grow” in any such sense.
But further, the Bible does speak definitely of the method by which we are sanctified, and in no place does it teach that it is by growth. There is a dual work about our sanctification. At one time the Lord says, “I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” And again He says, “Up, sanctify yourselves.” There is no conflict. He means what He says. There is self-sanctification on the part of the individual, and there is divine sanctification on the part of God. Self-sanctification is the separation of one’s self from wrong things over which he may have control and to which he is attached. It also implies the doing of this with the idea and for the purpose of devoting himself to God for entire sanctification. The divine part is God’s cleansing of the soul thus set apart, from the stain and corruption of inherited sin. Now it is evident in both cases that this cannot be accomplished by growth. Enlargement is not the need. It is of another nature entirely. Think of a man sitting down and trying to grow envy out of his soul! As well might one think of hoeing a poison ivy to make a Catawba grapevine out of it.
The Bible expressly says we are “cleansed” whenever we are sanctified. 2 Timothy 2:21 says, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” And it does say we are “sanctified by faith” (Acts 26:18). Inasmuch, therefore, as it never speaks of the work of sanctification being accomplished by processes which are entirely different, well established and well known, we conclude the Scriptures do not teach that entire sanctification is accomplished by growth.
There is another statement to which we wish to call attention before closing, namely, the words of Paul declaring that our holiness is an impartation of the divine nature. We are made “partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). In no sense can it be maintained that this impartation is a process of growth. Holiness is a gift bestowed, an act by which a nature is imparted. This settles the question. The Bible is clear. It is explicit. Entire sanctification cannot be obtained by growth.
Now, of the things which we have spoken this is the sum:5
- Growing into holiness can be proven to be philosophically wrong.
- The principle of holiness by growth is contrary to the laws of growth. We grow in, not into, graces.
- Sanctification requires a new quality; but the functions of growth only increase what already is. Growth multiplies and enlarges the stock on hand, but cannot add a new quality.
- No one grace can produce another. Graces are wrought by God.
- Every grace can grow only in its own sphere; it can neither grow into another grace, nor grow out of itself any ungraceful thing.
- In entire sanctification the need is not more of the same kind, as growth would imply. It is not multiplication, but subtraction; not a new nature given, but an old nature taken away.
- In the regenerate state the new nature cannot grow into holiness, for the trouble is not in the substance of the new nature itself, but in its attachments and surroundings—the house it lives in, rather than in the person who dwells within. It is not in the nature of the new creation, but in the wild vine of carnal nature growing in the soil about it, which the heavenly plant of grace cannot rid itself of by growing.
- The testimony of all ages is that no one ever attained this grace by growth.
- The testimony of present evangelical Christianity the world over is that they have not attained this grace by growth.
- We grow as long as we learn, and as we continually learn—not only in this world—but also in the next; so we will never reach sanctification by growth.
- The words of the Bible used to define holiness are in no sense used to mean or imply growing.
- The words used in the Bible to express the idea of growing are entirely different words from those used in speaking of holiness, or entire sanctification.
- The Bible biographies of those who had the blessing of holiness never give us any hint that they received this blessing by growth. Contrariwise, they show it was not by that process at all.
- The biographies of those who have written their experience all testify that they did not get it by way of growth.
- The people who write books on the doctrine and experience, defending, explaining and describing the grace of full salvation are not those who reached holiness by growth.
- The growth advocates are never in favor of special holiness meetings; nor are they successful in leading souls into the experience. Thus they prove that they themselves lack confidence in their method.
- Many who once advocated the growth theory have failed, and afterwards sought holiness by faith, and entered into the experience.
- Growth implies life. Sanctification implies cleansing.
- Sanctification refers to removal, a subtraction. Growth refers to an addition, expansion and development.
- Sanctification is not synonymous with growth; for sanctification implies the death of the old man, and growth carries the idea not of death, but of life, and life on the increase at that.
- Holiness means impurity taken away. Growth means purity multiplied.
- Sanctification implies a completed work. Growth implies indefinite advancement.
- Sanctification is something done by God. Growth is the development of the individual.
- The growth method produces no examples of its work. The “by consecration and faith” method does.
- Cleansing is instantaneous. Growth is gradual.
(Continued in Part 4)
- The text itself is public domain. The original book, How They Grow, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2011 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's How They Grow. ↩
- From William Cowper’s heart’s cry, O for a Closer Walk with God ↩
- Reid, who grew up a farm boy and remained ever the amateur botanist, is saying in his wry humor that if these folks are ever to “get it by growth,” then, like sprouting spring plants, they need to be put in a hotbed or hothouse in order to speed up their growth process. ↩
- In using the phrase “holiness papers,” Reid is referring to a phenomenon of his time, which saw dozens of holiness periodicals in the United States and the United Kingdom. The author himself published such a regional periodical from 1877 to 1893, after which he became a contributing editor of a national, weekly “holiness paper” called Christian Witness and Advocate of Bible Holiness which ran for several decades. ↩
- This is an allusion to Hebrews 8:1. ↩