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Bible Sanctification

The Ladder With Eight Rounds

James White

SIMON Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:1-11.

This quotation from Peter is a clear and beautiful illustration of the advances in the Christian life which constitute Bible sanctification. In introducing this subject we call attention to the following points:

1. The apostle addresses young converts, or those who have just "obtained like precious faith," and sets before them the victories to be obtained, or the graces to be added, in their order, necessary to insure an admittance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

2. If the apostle regarded a happy frame of mind as alone constituting sanctification, then we might expect him to illustrate the victories of the onward course in the Christian life by higher and still higher flights of feeling. But in this quotation he is silent in regard to feeling, and presents progress in well-doing as the basis of true sanctification. The love of God shed abroad in the heart, enlightening the mind, and purifying the affections, is the result of faith in Jesus Christ while living in obedience to the Word. Such blessedness, resulting from walking in the self-denying path of obedience is Bible sanctification. It is illustrated by the following impressive sentence of the agonizing prayer of Christ for His followers, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." John 17:17. And it is the privilege of the true Christian, who walks in willing obedience to the Word, to enjoy all that peace and fullness of joy expressed in the Bible. But to make flights of feeling constitute the sum total of sanctification, is to expose the minds of inexperienced disciples to the wildest freaks of fanaticism.

3. Peter's progressive work system of sanctification is safe to embrace and follow, as it leads to all that faith and hope can grasp. It secures an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. See 2 Peter 1:10-11.

4. The apostle teaches the young Christian to progress by the simple rule of addition, with an all-persevering hand, all the way through to the kingdom. He says, "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge," and so on. Or, we may illustrate his system of sanctification by a ladder with eight rounds, reaching from earth to heaven, or from a state of sin to a condition of moral fitness for the kingdom of God. Here are the rounds of the ladder: "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your

  1. FAITH [upon which the young disciple stands],
  2. VIRTUE; and to virtue,
  3. KNOWLEDGE; and to knowledge,
  4. TEMPERANCE; and to temperance,
  5. PATIENCE; and to patience,
  6. GODLINESS; and to godliness,
  7. BROTHERLY KINDNESS; and to brotherly kindness,
  8. CHARITY, or love, the crowning Christian grace."

The order in which the apostle has given these progressive steps is worthy of special notice. The young disciple, who has just embraced the faith of the gospel, must first add to his faith, virtue, and then to virtue, knowledge. He may have been vicious; at least, he has lacked the principles of real virtue. His first work is to seek for purity of thought, words, and acts. Then, in a pure mind and heart, he may add knowledge of the Word of God to enable him to defend his position before the world. Some make a careless stride over the first round, and add to their faith knowledge. They neglect to cultivate virtue, and labor to store their minds with knowledge that they may be able to argue down their neighbors. Such seldom turn men from error to truth, but frequently, from their lack of piety, disgust and prejudice those with whom they mingle. They may talk the truth, but it is poorly represented by them. The food they offer is good of itself, but tastes badly of the dish. They generally become self-righteous, and say in their heart, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" and they know not that they are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Revelation 3:17.

The misfortune of these deceived souls is sometimes the result of wrong impressions received from the minister who first taught them the truth. Perhaps he is a smart debater. (This is good with an even balance of deep piety.) And he is really witty, sometimes, and bears an air of self-confidence and self-righteousness. Such ministers may convert the head, but they generally leave the heart untouched, and many of those they bring to the acknowledgment of the truth are brought just far enough for Satan to make them religious bigots. But if the minister who first teaches them the truth be a godly man; if he, instead of producing a smile on his audience, weeps over sinners as he delivers the message--the most solemn ever committed to men; if he in all his deportment makes a deep impression of solemnity; then the truth he teaches will reach the heart, and he may rejoice to see the young disciples around him adding to their faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge of the Word and Spirit of God.

Who can but admire the order in which the apostle has given the victories in the Christian life? He continues, "and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience." The intemperate man cannot be a patient Christian; hence he must add temperance first, then patience will be an easy victory. The man who uses intoxicating drinks is seldom a patient man. Intemperance in eating, in quantity or in the rich quality, or in both, deranges the system, causes dyspepsy, or other evils, affects the nerves, depresses the spirits, sours the temper, and renders the epicure [gourmet] unfit for the exercise of true Christian patience. We live in an unfortunate age when men move from impulse more than from reason. The appetite must be gratified regardless of results. In the preparation of food, the taste, and not the stomach, is generally consulted.

But while we object to highly seasoned, greasy food, we would not recommend an impoverished diet, but plain, nourishing food. Thus prayed Agur, "Feed me with food convenient for me." Proverbs 30:8.

But we must come a little closer and speak of the filthy habit, and the results, of using tobacco. Probably no one at first loved the taste of tobacco. It was a task to learn to use it. Yet millions contract this strong habit--useless, inconvenient, expensive, filthy, and annoying to women, and children, and temperate men--and are slaves to it till their death. If tobacco had been known and used by any of the descendants of Abraham in the days of Moses, or by any of the nations around them, endangering the purity of the Israelites, God would have given them a law forbidding its use, in harmony with the principles of purity and cleanliness taught that people. And when we come to the New Testament we may see that every declaration requiring purity, cleanliness, and self-denial is a plain rebuke on tobacco using.

But many continue the use of tobacco because it is not convenient to leave it off. It was not convenient for Christ to die on Calvary. What! A cross-bearing, tobacco-eating, tobacco-smoking, tobacco-snuffing follower of the crucified One! This is but a trifle short of a burlesque upon the Christian religion. But physicians recommend tobacco as a medicine. May God pity them! Tobacco will not remove disease. It is a cause of disease itself. It may change the form of disease in some cases; so will the smallpox, and the ague [chill] and fever. But who would expose himself at the pest-house [a hospital infected with disease], or to the miasma [poisonous atmosphere] of a Michigan marsh, to find relief from some of the trifling ailments to which human nature is heir?

The habitual use of tobacco is injurious to the constitution. As one proof of this we refer to those who have become so nervous and shattered by long use of this slow poison that they are compelled to abandon it. Says a veteran tobacco user, "I have used it thirty years, and I do not see that it has much influence on me." Well, you certainly had a good constitution at the start, or you would now probably be in your grave. But if tobacco is not deranging your system, and injuring your constitution, what makes you feel so dreadful when your tobacco box is emptied, and the stimulating influence of the filthy weed is gone from you? You may have been without it twenty-four or forty-eight hours. How strangely you felt! Your head, perhaps, appeared to you to be twice or thrice its usual size. And how wonderfully numb and strange you felt around the mouth and throat. In this deplorable condition men have left their business and gone from one to ten miles to get a supply of tobacco to satisfy an unhealthy appetite.

God has made us wisely, and nature will do her work well, unless intruded upon and wearied to feebleness by receiving into the system the influence of stimulating poisons. When the work of nature has been thus disturbed, and the habit fully formed, the steam must be kept up, or the poor slave to a morbid appetite is in trouble. Interrupted and enfeebled nature cannot rally in a moment to take the place of the intruder, and O, the demand just now for a little more tobacco! But keep the base intruder back, and give nature time to rally and fill her place, and the appetite becomes natural, the hankering is gone and health improves. And as far as the health is injured by the use of tobacco, so far the mind is affected, and one of the evil results is impatience; hence in the onward victories of Bible sanctification, patience is preceded by temperance.

We come a little closer yet and ask, Why use tea and coffee? In point of filth these cannot be classed with tobacco; but they are as useless and more expensive. In regard to their influence on the health, we use the same arguments as in the case of tobacco. The reason why those who have for years used strong tea, especially females, rise in the morning with such bad feelings at the stomach and in the head, is because the stimulating influence of tea is gone, and they find relief only in a good strong cup of tea. Sleep will restore the temperate person, and to him or her, the morning hours are generally the clearest and the best.

The drunkard lies down upon his couch at night under the influence of liquor; the tobacco slave casts aside his well-chewed quid [a plug of tobacco] to smoke his pipe before retiring to rest, and the tea drinker goes to rest under the influence of strong tea. In the morning they rise with languid feelings while a cloud of melancholy hangs over them, and they are in danger of getting impatient unless domestic matters move off smoothly. But the drunkard goes for his dram [a small draft] and he feels better, for the steam is up again, while the others find similar relief in their morning rations of tobacco and tea.

And are any of these real Christians? Some think they are. Doubtful Christians, these! And do they think of meeting Jesus at His coming with a smile, while their lips and beard are stained with tobacco and their whole system and soul tainted with it? May God have mercy, and help them to cleanse themselves "from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 2 Corinthians 7:1. This is Bible holiness. When men, seeking for the grace of life, are thus cleansed from their idols, the light of Heaven will illuminate their minds, and enable them in all the walks of life to exhibit true Christian patience.

The apostle continues, "and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." He who has added to faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; has so far escaped the corruptions of this world that he may understand the principles of true godliness. His idols are slain, therefore he has no other gods before the Lord. He now loves God supremely, and delights to do His commandments.

And he who loves the Lord God with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the mind, will love his brother as himself, and the manifestation of brotherly kindness will be natural and easy. Hence he who adds godliness will also add brotherly kindness. Charity, or the perfect love of God, next comes in as the crowning Christian grace, constituting the highest round in the ladder of Bible sanctification.

The apostle continues in language most pointed as he applies the subject to the hearts and consciences of the people of God. Weigh well his words: "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren (margin: idle) nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ."

In conclusion we notice the following points:

1. The conditions stated--"if ye do these things," if ye ascend the ladder, step by step, and overcome and gain the specified victories--then these things will be in you and abound.

2. In so doing there is safety--"ye shall never fall." Then let those who are trembling with fear that at some future time they will fall, cast aside such fears, and in confidence ascend the way to life.

3. Those who lack these things are blind and forgetful. They cannot see afar off and have forgotten that they were purged from their old sins.

4. Peter's view of election. He does not teach that all men are elected to salvation or destruction, and that their fate is unalterably fixed before they are born, and leave them in Satan's easy chair; but he exhorts his brethren to diligence to make their calling and election sure.

5. The reward. The apostle in his first epistle (chapter 1:2), says, "Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied." He teaches sanctification by rule of addition, but holds forth spiritual blessings to be enjoyed in this life by the obedient by the rule of multiplication. But in this connection he presents before those who "do these things" their final reward. "An entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:11.

The ministration of an abundant entrance into the city of God means something more than a mere permission to pass in. Those who have honored their lives by well-doing, and have ascended the ladder of Bible sanctification step by step, will be conducted in triumph into the metropolis of the kingdom of God. Jesus overcame, and as He ascended to the Father's throne, attending angels in triumph shouted, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." And in response to the inquiry, "Who is this King of glory?" they again shouted, "The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." Psalm 24:7-8. And those who overcome and sit upon the throne of the Son, as He overcame and sat down upon the throne of the Father, will be escorted thither with triumph, while the voice of Jesus will be heard saying, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you. Welcome to the tree of life! and the crystal waters! Welcome to all the joys of the kingdom forever!

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