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5. A state of entire sanctification cannot be attained by attempting to copy the experience of others. It is very common for convicted sinners, or for Christians inquiring after entire sanctification, in their blindness, to ask others to relate their experience, to mark minutely the detail of all their exercises, and then set themselves to pray for, and make direct efforts to attain the same class of exercises, not seeming to understand, that they can no more exercise feelings in the detail like others, than they can look like others. Human experiences differ as human countenances differ. The whole history of a man's former state of mind, comes in of course to modify his present and future experience; so that the precise train of feelings which may be requisite in your case, and which will actually occur, if you are ever sanctified, will not in all its details coincid with the exercises of any other human being. It is of vast importance for you to understand, that you can be no copyist in any true religious experience; and that you are in great danger of being deceived by Satan, whenever you attempt to copy the experience of others. I beseech you therefore to cease from praying for, or trying to obtain, the precise experience of any person whatever. All truly Christian experiences are, like human countenances, in their outline so much alike as to be readily known as the lineaments of the religion of Jesus Christ. But no further than this are they alike, any more than human countenances are alike.
But here let it be remembered, that sanctification does not consist in the various affections or emotions of which Christians speak, and which are often mistaken for, or confounded with, true religion; but that sanctification consists in entire consecration, and consequently it is all out of place for any one to attempt to copy the feelings of another, inasmuch as feelings do not constitute religion. The feelings of which Christians speak do not constitute true religion, but often result from a state of heart. These feelings may properly enough be spoken of as Christian experience, for although involuntary states of mind, they are experienced by true Christians. The only way to secure them is to set the will right, and the emotions will be a natural result.
6. Not by waiting to make preparations before you come into this state. Observe, that the thing about which you are inquiring, is a state of entire consecration to God. Now do not imagine that this state of mind must be prefaced by a long introduction of preparatory exercises. It is common for persons, when inquiring upon this subject with earnestness, to think themselves hindered in this progress by a want of this, or that, or the other exercise or state of mind. They look everywhere else but at the real difficulty. They assign any other, and every other but the true reason, for their not being already in a state of sanctification. The true difficulty is voluntary selfishness, or voluntary consecration to self-interest and self-gratification. This is the difficulty, and the only difficulty, to be overcome.
7. Not by attending meetings, asking the prayers of other Christians, or depending in any way upon the means of getting into this state. By this I do not intend to say, that means are unnecessary, or that it is not through the instrumentality of truth, that this state of mind is induced. But I do mean, that while you are depending upon any instrumentality whatever, your mind is diverted from the real point before you, and you are never likely to make this attainment.
8. Not by waiting for any particular views of Christ. When persons in the state of mind of which I have been speaking, hear those who live in faith describe their views of Christ, they say, Oh, if I had such views, I could believe; I must have these before I can believe. Now you should understand, that these views are the result and effect of faith in the promise of the Spirit, to take of the things of Christ and show them to you. Lay hold of this class of promises, and the Holy Spirit will reveal Christ to you, in the relations in which you need Him from time to time. Take hold, then, on the simple promise of God. Take God at His word. Believe that He means just what He says; and this will at once bring you into the state of mind after which you inquire.
9. Not in any way which you may mark out for yourself. Persons in an inquiring state are very apt, without seeming to be aware of it, to send imagination on before them, to stake out the way, and set up a flag where they intend to come out. They expect to be thus and thus exercised to have such and such peculiar views and feelings when they have attained their object. Now, there probably never was a person who did not find himself disappointed in these respects. God says, "I will bring the blind by a way that they know not. I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them" (Isaiah 42:16). This suffering your imagination to mark out your path is a great hindrance to you, as it sets you upon making many fruitless, and worse than fruitless attempts to attain this imaginary state of mind, wastes much of your time, and greatly wearies the patience and grieves the Spirit of God. While He is trying to lead you right to the point, you are hauling off from the course, and insisting, that this which your imagination has marked out is the way, instead of that in which He is trying to lead you. And thus in your pride and ignorance you are causing much delay, and abusing the long-suffering of God. He says, "This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isaiah 30:21). But you say, no this is the way. And thus you stand and parley and banter, while you are every moment in danger of grieving the Spirit of God away from you, and of losing your soul.
If there is anything in your imagination that has fixed definitely upon any particular manner, time, or place, or circumstance, you will, in all probability, either be deceived by the devil, or be entirely disappointed in the result. You will find, in all these particular items on which you had laid any stress, that the wisdom of man is foolishness with God that your ways are not His ways, nor your thoughts His thoughts. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than your ways and His thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). But:
10. This state is to be attained by faith alone. Let it be for ever remembered, that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6), and "whatever is not of faith, is sin" (Romans 14:23). Both justification and sanctification are by faith alone. "Seeing it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith" (Romans 3:30); and, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). Also, "What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law" (Romans 9:30-31).
But let me by no means be understood as teaching sanctification by faith, as distinct from and opposed to sanctification by the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Christ, or which is the same thing, by Christ our sanctification, living and reigning in the heart. Faith is rather the instrument or condition, than the efficient agent that induces a state of present and permanent sanctification. Faith simply receives Christ, as king, to live and reign in the soul. It is Christ, in the exercise of His different offices, and appropriated in His different relations to the wants of the soul, by faith, who secures our sanctification. This He does by Divine discoveries to the soul of His Divine perfections and fullness. The aim of these discoveries is faith and obedience. He says, "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. Judas saith unto Him, (not Iscariot), Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:21-23).