Christian Perfection.
     By Thomas Ralston
Christian Perfection.
By Thomas Ralston .
Vol 3 No 1 September 2000

Beneath that cloud of error and superstition which, during the dark ages, had settled upon the Christian Church, many of the vital doctrines of evangelical religion had become almost, or entirely, forgotten. In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther was the honored instrument, in the divine hand, by whom the great Pauline doctrine of "justification by faith" was once more resuscitated, and held up before the Church in the clear light of gospel day.

Two centuries had scarcely elapsed since the development of the Lutheran Reformation, till the Protestant Churches were slumbering in the cold embrace of dead formality, while the muddy waters of infidelity, with a destructive influence, were sweeping over Protestant Christendom. Such was the state of religion in Europe, when God raised up John Wesley in England, not only to stem the torrent of infidelity throughout the United Kingdom, but to promote a revival of "Scripture holiness" in the Churches. As Luther, two centuries before, had stood forth as a mighty champion for "justification by faith," so Wesley now appeared, not only as the defender of that doctrine, but also as an instrument under God to revive and set clearly before the Church the apostolic doctrine of "Christian perfection." For his advocacy of this doctrine he was greatly persecuted and abused, as a setter forth of new and strange things. But he triumphantly maintained that the doctrine of Christian perfection was not only taught by Christ and his apostles, but was to be found in the standards of most of the Reformed Churches, especially in those of the Church of England.

We define Christian perfection affirmatively: what does it imply? We may have difficulty in defining this doctrine to our satisfaction - we may differ in opinion as to what it implies; but to discard or denounce Christian perfection, is to take a position in direct and palpable antagonism to the Bible. That Christian perfection is taught in the New Testament, admits of no debate - the language of Christ and his apostles is direct and unequivocal. But the question is, How shall we understand it?

It is, indeed, singular that the term perfection, so plain and simple when applied to any other subject, should, even with many who call themselves Christians, become so offensive the moment it is connected with religion. As the sainted Fletcher once demanded -"Perfection! why should the harmless phrase offend us? Why should that lovely word frighten us?" Mr. Fletcher says: "We give the name of 'Christian perfection' to that maturity of grace and holiness which established adult believers attain to under the Christian dispensation; and thus we distinguish that maturity of grace, both from the ripeness of grace which belongs to the dispensation of the Jews below us, and the ripeness of glory which belongs to departed saints above us. Hence it appears that by 'Christian perfection' we mean nothing but the cluster and maturity of the graces which compose the Christian character in the Church militant. In other words, Christian perfection is a spiritual constellation, made up of these gracious stars: perfect repentance, perfect faith, perfect humility, perfect meekness, perfect self-denial, perfect resignation, perfect hope, perfect charity for our visible enemies, as well as for our earthly relations; and above all, perfect love for our invisible God, through the explicit knowledge of our Mediator, Jesus Christ. And as this last star is always accompanied by all the others, as Jupiter is by his satellites, we frequently use, as St. John, the phrase 'perfect love' instead of the word perfection; understanding by it the pure love of God shed abroad in the hearts of established believers by the Holy Ghost, which is abundantly given them under the fullness of the Christian dispensation."

But to be more particular, Christian perfection implies -






QUOTE UNQUOTE

The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been mostly relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians. -A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)

  1. Perfected holiness. In an absolute sense, (as before stated,) holiness belongs to God alone. He is holy in a high and absolute sense, inapplicable to any creature. Holiness sometimes implies no more that consecration to a sacred use. In this acceptation, Jerusalem is styled "the holy city;" the temple, the "holy temple;" and its sacred vessels, "holy vessels." But there is yet another sense in which the term holy is used: it is applied relatively to angels and to saints, denoting moral purity. In this relative sense, Christians are required to be holy; and in this acceptation, we understand it as synonymous with Christian perfection.
  2. Christian perfection implies entire sanctification. The term sanctification is not always used in the same sense. It sometimes merely implies consecration to a sacred use. In this sense, "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." Gen. ii, 3. In this sense also, the temple, the priests, the altar, the vessels, the sacrifices, etc., were sanctified. But the term sanctification sometimes implies the purifying or cleansing of sinners from the guilt, power, and pollution of sin, by the blood of Christ, and operation of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, all justified persons are also sanctified; and regeneration is sanctification begun. Indeed, regeneration and entire sanctification differ only in degree: they are the same in nature. Just as the dime is inferior to the dollar, though both of the same metal; so is regeneration inferior to entire sanctification, though both of the same nature. Sanctification, in the sense of entire consecration to God and a complete cleansing of the soul from "all unrighteousness," is synonymous with Christian perfection.
  3. Christian perfection implies perfect love, and the maturity of all the graces of the Christian character.

The examples recorded in Scripture of persons having attained Christian perfection, may be adduced as proof of the doctrine. "By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God." Heb. Xi. 5. It is recorded that Job "was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil." Job i. 1. It is said also that Zacharias and Elizabeth "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Luke i. 6. Of Nathanael our Saviour exclaimed: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" John i. 47. St. Paul says: "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect." 1 Cor. Ii. 6. "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." Phil. iii. 15.

Editor's Note - One Methodist: Ralston goes on to prove this doctrine by Scripture in great detail, well beyond the scope of this short article.


QUOTE UNQUOTE

"Finally, let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary. Let us cherish these sentiments, and extend this influence still more widely; in the full conviction, that is the happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild and peaceable spirit of Christianity." --Daniel Webster (1782-1852)


The editor, while agreeing with the content presented in this newsletter, does not necessarily endorse all of a writer's works, doctrines, etc. The editor is solely responsible for all mistakes.


BACK TO ONE METHODIST INDEX