The Doctrine of Sanctification, from Antiquity to Today

Clement of Rome (30-110@ A. D.)

Let us pray, therefore, and implore of his mercy, that we may live blameless in love, free from all human partialities for one against another.

All the generations from Adam even unto this day have passed away; but those who, through the grace of God have been made perfect in love, now possess a place among the godly, and shall be manifest at the revelation of the kingdom of God.

Justin Martyr (100-165 A. D)

For our own Ruler, the divine Word, who even now constantly aids us, does not desire strength of body and beauty of feature, nor yet the high spirit of earth’s nobility,

but a pure soul, fortified by holiness, and the watchwords of our King, holy actions, for through the Word power passes into the soul.

O trumpet of peace to the soul that is at war! O weapon that puttest to flight terrible passions!

These instructions that quench the innate fires of the soul! These have conquered me — the divinity of the instruction, and the power of the Word:

for as a skilled serpent charmer lures the terrible reptile from his den and causes it to flee, so the Word drives the fearful passions of our sensual nature from the very recesses of the soul; first driving forth lust, through which every ill is begotten;

hatreds, strife, envy, emulations, anger, and such like. Lust being once banished, the soul becomes calm and serene. And being set free from the ills in which it was sunk up to the neck, it returns to him which made it.

Macarius the Great (300-391 A. D.)

Only let every one take especial care that when he has been “born again of the Spirit,” he thoroughly wash out the inward sin. For that new birth of the Spirit, bears indeed a certain image of perfection in form and parts, though not in power, intelligence, and vigor.

But he who has attained to perfect manhood, and the full measure of growth, renounces the things of childhood. And this is what the Apostle has signified:

‘Whether there be tongues or prophecies they shall cease.’ As, therefore, he who is become a man no longer received either the food or the discourse which is suited to a child, but rejects them with disdain as having passed on to another stage of life;

so likewise he who has attained to the full measure of evangelical perfection, and who has advanced his spiritual infancy to the perfection of its growth.

There are some, who abstain from all overt sins, as fornication, theft, avarice, and all similar corruptions, and who therefore class themselves with the holy;

and yet are they far from being such in truth, For, evil is not yet wholly expelled from them; but it still lives, and lurks, and creeps within, their minds.

But the holy, is he who is perfectly cleansed in the inward man. For, abstinence from overt sins is not perfection but purification of the mind within is alone perfection.

And the end of every Scripture, both Old and New, is purity; and everyone, whether Jew or Greek, is desirous of purity, though he is unable to attain it.

But this I affirm, that purity of heart cannot otherwise be effected than through Jesus.

Wherefore, when the Comforter came at the feast of Pentecost, according to the promise, and when the power of the Good Spirit had rested upon the souls of the Apostles, the veil of sin was at once taken off from their hearts, their evil passions were extinguished, and the eyes of their hearts were opened;

and being thence forward replenished with wisdom, and established perfect by the Spirit, which governed and directed their souls, the were taught to fulfill the will of God and were led into the knowledge of all truth,

when, therefore, we feel ourselves effected to tears on hearing the word of God, let us still with a firm faith beseech Christ to come to us; in full confidence that the Spirit will truly come, and will both hear and pray in us, according to His will.

Hugo of St. Victor (1096-1141 A. D.)

Fire is applied to green wood, it kindles with difficulty; clouds of smoke arise; a flame is seen at intervals, flashing out here and there; as the fire gains strength,

it pierces the fuel; presently it leaps and roars in triumph, the nature of the wood is being transformed into the nature of fire.

Then, the struggle over, the crackling ceases, the smoke is gone, there is left a tranquil, friendly brightness, for the master-element has subdued all into itself.

So, do sin and grace contend; and the smoke of trouble and anguish hang over the strife. But when grace grows stronger, and the soul’s eye clearer, and truth pervades and swallows up the kindling aspiring nature, then comes the holy calm, and love is all in all.

Save God in the heart, nothing of self is left.

Theologia Germania (Penned @ 1350 A. D.)

Now be assured that no one can be enlightened unless he be first cleansed or purified and stripped. So also, no one can be united with God unless be be first enlightened.

Thus there are three stages: The purification concerneth those who are beginning or repenting, and is brought to pass in a three-fold wise;by contrition and sorrow for sin, by full confession, by hearty amendment.

The enlightening belongeth to such as are growing and also taketh place in three ways: to wit, by the eschewel of sin, by the practice of virtue and good works, and by the willing endurance of all manner of temptation and trials.

The union belongeth to such as are perfect, and also is brought to pass in three ways: to wit, by pureness and singleness of heart, by love, and by the contemplation of God, the Creator of all things.

Peter Poiret (1646-1719 A. D.)

But when he thinks himself far advanced, and his activity at an end, and as it were quite wearied and spent in this holy employment, which is a true worship of God;

then does God strike him with a light so penetrating and so lively, and with motions so internal and powerful, that all the corruption of the inward recesses of his soul, is stirred up from the very bottom.

And this discovers to him on one hand so great and so perfect a purity in God, that all his past good works and righteousness seem to him but little in comparison of it;

and on the other hand, the corruption that is at the bottom of his heart which he discerned not before, appears to him so heinous that not daring to do anything more, nor to use any activity so corrupt as he is, despairing of whatever may come from him, he casts himself as dead into God’s hands.

From the time of this perfect resignation, God becomes all in man: he works in him as he pleases and without opposition; and there grace is absolute mistress.

‘Tis God that then disposes of the liberty and faculties of man, of his desires, his understandings, and of everything: he moves and penetrates all by the motions of his love and of his divine light;

but in such a manner as is at first very dreadful and mortifying to sense; because God’s motions investing the inmost recesses of the soul are expelling thence their most central and rooted corruption,

which is not alone without great agonies which are extremely acute and desolating to a soul that is by nature of the greatest and tenderest perception imaginable.

But this perfect operation of purifying grace being finished, the soul comes pure out of this furnace, and lives thence forward in the bright element of reigning grace.

She is then a new creature, and her divine faculties, now that they are repaired in their utmost recesses are governed and acted by the Holy Ghost, who uses them as he sees convenient for God’s glory and the benefit of other souls.

John Wesley (1703-1791)

But we are at present concerned only with that salvation which the Apostle is directly speaking of. And this consists of two general parts, justification and sanctification.

Justification is another word for pardon. It is the forgiveness of all our sins; and , what is necessarily implied therein, our acceptance with God.

The price whereby this hath been procured for us (commonly termed “the meritorious cause of our justification”), is the blood and righteousness of Christ;

or, to express it a little more clearly, all that Christ hath done and suffered for us, till He “poured out His soul for the transgressors.”

The immediate effects of justification are, the peace of God, a “peace that passeth all understanding,” and a “rejoicing in hope of the glory of God” “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

And at the same time that we are justified, yea, in that very moment, sanctification begins. In that instant we are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit: there is a real as well as a relative change.

We are inwardly renewed by the power of God. We feel “the love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”;

producing love to all mankind, and more especially to the children of God; expelling the love of the world, the love of pleasure, of ease, of honour, of money, together with pride, anger, self-will, and every other evil temper;

in a word, changing the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, into “the mind which was in Christ Jesus.”

How naturally do those who experience such a change imagine that all sin is gone; that it is utterly rooted out of their heart, and has no more any place therein!

How easily do they draw that inference, “I feel no sin; therefore, I have none: it does not stir; therefore it does not exist: it has no motion; therefore, it has no being!”

But it is seldom long before they are undeceived, finding sin was only suspended, not destroyed.

Temptations return, and sin revives; showing it was but stunned before, not dead. They now feel two principles in themselves, plainly contrary to each other;

“the flesh lusting against the Spirit”; nature opposing the grace of God. They cannot deny, that although they still feel power to believe in Christ, and to love God;

and although His “Spirit” still “witnesses with their spirits, that they are children of God”; yet they feel in themselves sometimes pride or self-will, sometimes anger or unbelief.

They find one or more of these frequently stirring in their heart, though not conquering; yea, perhaps, “thrusting sore at them that they may fall”; but the Lord is their help.

How exactly did Macarius, fourteen hundred years ago, describe the present experience of the children of God:”The unskilful,” or unexperienced, “when grace operates, presently imagine they have no more sin.

Whereas they that have discretion cannot deny, that even we who have the grace of God may be molested again.

For we have often had instances of some among the brethren, who have experienced such grace as to affirm that they had no sin in them; and yet, after all,

when they thought themselves entirely freed from it, the corruption that lurked within was stirred up anew, and they were wellnigh burned up.”

From the time of our being born again, the gradual work of sanctification takes place. We are enabled “by the Spirit” to “mortify the deeds of the body,” of our evil nature;

and as we are more and more dead to sin, we are more and more alive to God.

We so on from grace to grace, while we are careful to “abstain from all appearance of evil,” and are “zealous of good works,” as we have opportunity, doing good to all men;

while we walk in all His ordinances blameless, therein worshipping Him in spirit and in truth; while we take up our cross, and deny ourselves every pleasure that does not lead us to God.

It is thus that we wait for entire sanctification; for a full salvation from all our sins, –from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief; or, as the Apostle expresses it, “go unto perfection.”

But what is perfection The word has various senses: here it means perfect love.

It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love “rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in everything giving thanks.”


The Sermons of John Wesley – Sermon 43, The Scripture Way of Salvation

Objections to Entire Sanctification Considered, by H. A. Baldwin

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