My early religious experience was variable, and for the most part consisted in,
“Sorrows and sins, and doubts and fears,
A howling wilderness.”
The personality of the Holy Spirit was an article of faith rather than a joyful realization. He had breathed life into me, but not the more abundant life (John 10:10). In a sense I was free, but not “free indeed” (John 8:36). I was free from the guilt and dominion of sin, but not from strong inward tendencies thereto, which seemed to be part of my nature. In my early ministry, being hereditarily a Methodist in doctrine, I believed in the possibility of entire sanctification instantaneously wrought in this present life (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). How could I doubt it in the light of my mother’s exemplification of its reality? I sought it quite earnestly at times, but failed to find anything more than transient uplifts from the deadness of my Christian experience. One of these uplifts . . . was so marked that it delivered me from doubt on the question of regeneration (the new birth; John 1:12-13; 3:1-7). These uplifts came while I earnestly struggled after entire sanctification as a distinct blessing. But when I embraced the theory that entire sanctification is gradual and not instantaneous, these blessed uplifts ceased; for, seeing no definite line to cross, my faith ceased to put forth its strongest energies. For fifteen years, in this condition, I was exceedingly dissatisfied and spiritually hungry (Matthew 5:6). . . .
As I studied the Bible, I saw that the promised gift of the Holy Spirit signified far more than I had realized in the new birth, and that a personal “Pentecost” (baptism with the Holy Spirit; Acts 1:5) was waiting for me; and I sought it in downright earnestness. The Holy Spirit showed me the evil that lurked in my nature — preaching with mixed motives and often preferring the honor that comes from men to that which comes from God (John 5:44).
I submitted to every test presented by the Holy Spirit and publicly confessed what He had revealed. I was determined to walk alone with God rather than with the multitude in the world or in the Church. I immediately felt a strange freedom that increased daily, the cause of which I did not distinctly apprehend. I was then led to seek the conscious and joyful presence of the Comforter (Holy Spirit; John 14:16, KJV) in my heart. Having settled the question that this was not merely an apostolic blessing, but for all ages — “He shall abide with you forever” (John 14:16-17) — I laid hold of the promise, “Verily, verily (Truly, truly), I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23). For me, that word “verily” had all the strength of an oath. . . . I wrote my name in that promise, not to exclude others, but to be sure that I included myself. Then, writing also these words, “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2), I found that my faith had three points to master: (1) the Comforter, (2) for me, (3) now. I placed my faith in that promise and I claimed the Comforter as my right in the Name of Jesus. For several hours I clung to that promise by naked faith, praying and repeating Charles Wesley’s hymn,
“Jesus, thine all victorious love,
Shed in my heart abroad.”
I thought about the great facts of the life of Christ. I dwelt especially upon Gethsemane and Calvary, His ascension, priesthood and all-atoning sacrifice. I suddenly became conscious of a mysterious power exerting itself upon my sensibilities. My physical sensations (though I am not of a nervous temperament, in good health, and I was alone and calm) were indescribable, as if an electric current passed through my body with painless shocks, melting my whole being into a fiery stream of love. The Son of God stood before my spiritual eye in all His loveliness. . . . I realized for the first time “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). My reputation, friends, family and property — all these things disappeared when eclipsed by the brightness of His manifestation. He seemed to say, “I have come to stay;” yet there was no uttered word, no phantasm or image. It was not a trance or vision; my affections were the sphere of this wonderful phenomenon, best described as “the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost” (Holy Spirit; Romans 5:5). It seemed as if the attraction of Jesus . . . was so strong that it would draw my spirit out of my body and upward into heaven. How vivid and real was all this to me! I was more certain that God loved me than I was of the existence of the solid earth and shining sun. I intuitively apprehended Christ, and the certainty of that apprehension has lost none of its strength and sweetness after more than seventeen years; yes, it has become more real and blissful. Nor is this irrational, for . . . the intuitions are capable of growth.
I did not realize at first that this was entire sanctification. The positive part of my experience had eclipsed the negative — the elimination of the sin principle by the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:25-27) — but it was truly so. It has always seemed to me that this was the inferior part of the great blessing of the incoming and abiding of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (John 14:23; 2 Cor. 13:14).
After seventeen years of life’s varied experiences — in the trials and tribulations of life, in sickness and in health, at home and abroad, in honor and dishonor, in tests of exceeding severity, there has come up from the depths of my conscious or unconscious being nothing bearing the ugly features of sin — the willful transgression of a known law of God. All that time Satan’s fiery darts had been thickly flying, but they fell harmlessly upon the invisible shield of faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:16). As to the future, I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (2 Timothy 1:12).
In regard to the process of becoming established in holiness . . . the rule is: (1) an ever increasing faith in Christ; the heart being fertilized with the things that pertain to faith, (2) a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and (3) a conscience that is trained to avoid not merely sinful and doubtful acts, but also those acts whose moral quality is beyond the reach of all ethical rules, and known to be evil only by their effect in dimming the manifestation of Christ within. I find that this rule must be sufficiently delicate enough to exclude those acts that bring the least blur over the spiritual eye (Ephesians 4:30). If any act disturbs my inner peace, be it ever so slightly, I henceforth and forever give it a tremendous letting alone.
I have found the willingness to confess Christ in His uttermost salvation as being indispensable to the establishment of that perfect love, which casts out all fear (1 John 4:17-18). As no man could long keep sensitive guests in his house of whom he was ashamed before his neighbors, so no man can have for very long the company of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the temple of his heart while ashamed of their presence or their purifying work. The words, which the Spirit of inspiration teaches us in the Holy Scriptures . . . are, after all, the most appropriate vehicle for expressing the wonderful work of God in perfecting holiness in the human spirit, soul and body (Ezekiel 36:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 1 John 1:7).
I testify that it is possible for believers to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that they can live many years on the earth, being conscious every day of a fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light (Acts 26:18), and ready for an instant translation into the society of the holy angels and into the presence of the holy God; and no shrinking back because of a heartfelt need of further inward cleansing. This has been my daily experience. . . . I have the scriptural evidence that my love is pure and unmixed — that is, perfected, because I have boldness in view of the Day of Judgment (1 John 4:17-18). This joyful boldness is grounded on the assurance of a conformity to the image of the Son of God, and that I am, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, like Him in purity, and that the Judge will not condemn facsimiles of Himself, “because, even as He is, so are we in this world.”
NOTE – The author had a holy confidence that he would pass the test on Judgment Day because he sought and obtained a sanctified heart. This blessing was obtained, not because of the author’s own worthiness, but because of the grace (unmerited favor) of God; and this same grace is available to all people. Reader, you may be saved and sanctified now. The author quoted 1 John 4:17, which reads in the King James Version: “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.”
No one can be like God or Jesus in their absolute purity, yet God requires us to be holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16); and this is only possible through the blood of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. If we surrender our lives to God and receive His forgiveness for our sins, then we are in a position to seek and obtain a sanctified heart. We see then that it is only by the unmerited favor of God, the blood of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit that we can be properly prepared for the Day of Judgment. “No man can contemplate the Day of Judgment with any comfort or satisfaction but on this ground: that the blood of Christ has cleansed him from all sin, and that he is kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation. This will give him boldness (a holy confidence) in the Day of Judgment.” – Adam Clarke
Yet I am still conscious of errors, ignorance, infirmities and defects, which, though consistent with perfect loyalty and love to God, need, and by faith receive, every moment, the merits of Christ’s death. In other words, the ground of my standing before God is not in a past perfect righteousness, neither in a faultless present service, but in the mercy of God as administered through Jesus Christ. Hence I pray daily, “Forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12). – Daniel Steele
Daniel Steele’s Testimony to Entire Sanctification was taken from the book Forty Witnesses, condensed and revised, and may be reproduced and distributed.
“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 our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24