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This brief sketch of the life of Madame Adorna illustrates, and is here designed to illustrate, certain important, practical religious doctrines.
The leading doctrine which is enforced and exemplified is that of present entire sanctification. The ordinary view is that sanctification is a progressive work, which is continued during the earthly life of the believer and is perfected only when he enters the heavenly state. But this view is that the soul may become entirely sanctified, that the life in this world may be a life of holiness, a life of perfect love. According to this
doctrine the Christian experience need not be of mingled sunshine and storm, of mingled sin and holiness. "You will ask," says the author, "Why so little is said about her sins." He answers the question as follows: "I desire to say, in all humility of spirit, and with sincere thankfulness to God, that, having given herself to the Lord, to be His wholly and His forever, and believing the Lord would help her, she found God, as He always will be found, faithful to His promises. Her business, as she understood it, was not to transgress against God, but to believe in Him and love Him; and to fulfill with divine assistance, His holy purposes." The author would have us understand that man may now come into that state where sin is no longer to be committed. He acknowledges that there may be errors of judgment, mistakes, errors in feeling or in action, all of which demand humiliation and penitence; that, under the power of some sudden temptation, sin of a flagrant nature may perhaps be the result; but these are to be considered as rare exceptions, while the life as a rule, is to be one of complete santification, of sweet, intimate, holy communion with God.
By present, entire, sanctification is not meant that faith and love do not increase. They do constantly increase; their progress is like that of similar principles in the minds of holy angels.
Subordinate to this comprehensive doctrine of sanctification, is that of personal consecration to God. This is considered a fundamental truth, an act without which sanctification cannot exist. There must be an "unreserved and perpetual consecration" of the person to God, "to be His, in His own way, time, manner and degree forever." This is the starting point of the life
of holiness. "This," says our writer, "is a principle which is necessary in the beginning, and is equally necessary in the continuance, of the inward life. We cannot begin to live without it: we cannot continue to live without it." In thus giving ourselves to God, nothing must be reserved. Not a bodily sense, not an intellectual gift, not an affection, must be kept back. No entrance must be left unclosed and unguarded for the entrance of the tempter and destroyer. The individual must give himself to God, fully and entirely, for ever.
This act must take place in dependence upon God. While it presupposes man's freedom and personal responsibility, it must acknowledge God's gracious agency and aid. "A strong will," is the language here used, "resting upon God's will, is necessary to inward victory.'
This is the ideal Christian life. The soul is brought into blessed harmony with God. There is no longer conflict. There is no longer even murmuring or mourning. There is rest in the promises, on the character of God, on the whole wise ordering of Providence. Earth and heaven meet. Man and God
are at one.
The next distinctive point of doctrine, is in regard to the faith of acceptance. The act of consecration, in order to be a consecration in reality, must be attended by the full and firm present belief that God now accepts the individual. It is based on the veracity of God. It assumes the truth of His promises, and the agent acts as though they were verities. He goes forward as though God meant what He said, as though the promises of the Scriptures were for actual life; not as exhibiting God's heart or will and stated for effect, but as giving a basis for our conduct, a real ground for our definite and actual confidence. "In that act of consecration," says Professor Upham, "which is a consecration completed, or a consecration in reality, we not only give ourselves to the Lord, but we give ourselves to Him, to be His. A thing which is never done, and never can be done without believing that He does now accept us. To give ourselves to the Lord, and not to believe that He accepts us, is almost in the nature of a contradiction in terms." "And hence, unhappily, there is too much reason for saying that many persons who think they have really consecrated them
selves to God, have really come short of such consecration, when considered in its true and just extent."
There must be faith in God. This is the solution of the great problem. We must know that the promise is for our present actual acceptance. As we put confidence in the word of a fellow-man, of an honored parent, and build implicitly on it, knowing that it will be literally and exactly fulfilled, so we must put confidence in God's own word to us. Man must take God at His word, and believe that He means what He says and will do as He promises. As a sinner, returning, through the Atonement, by repentance and full consecration to God, he must believe that God, according to His promise, accepts the consecration: Faith must rest upon the sure word of God. Man must believe that God does now accept the consecration which He demands and which He has promised to accept.
Another doctrine of this little work is that of assurance of faith, beautifully illustrated by the life of Madame Adorna. Many other points of deep interest to one who is studying "the doctrine of holiness," for instance, those of perfect love, the relation of faith and consecration, the extent of sanctification, the state of divine union, et cetera, are here presented in a form charming and impressive, as suggested by the actual life of a saint who has lived as we live in the world.
Whatever may be thought of the philosophical and theologi. cal correctness of the views which are here set forth, how far soever the difference in the experience of Christians who hold these views from the experience of those who walk by the catechism and the standards, if there are now such things, may depend upon their theoretical faith, there certainly are some points of deep practical interest which are enforced by the prin ciples and the practice of the holiness school, which, to say the least, ought to be carefully and widely considered. We allude to one or two of them.
If we are not mistaken it is a very common opinion among Christians that it is necessary to sin while they remain in this world. They would not put that statement boldly into their creeds; they would not assert it in their exhortations to young disciples; they would not dare to state it in form in their prayers to God. But their confessions of daily sin have that under
tone in them, and their daily lives are graded down to that standard. They are not surprised at themselves when they see that they have need of the confession of sin; they would be surprised if they had no such need. They do not regard it simply as a certain truth that they will sin, but as a necessary truth that they must be expected to sin. They regard sin, especially in regard to Christians, more as a misfortune than a crime. Because they have been sinners, they look upon it as a kind of unavoidable doom that they must be so still. It belongs to their imperfection. They long, perhaps, for deliverance from. sin, but this amounts, with their creed, to a longing for heaven. With such views there cannot be that struggle against sin which is the duty of the believer, nor that freedom from sin which should be the aim of a holy life. There must be the hope of success to encourage effort, and the accepted promise of success also.
The book before us presents a different view. "Her business as she understood it," says the narrator, of Madame Adorna, "was not to transgress against God, but to believe in Him and love Him; and to fulfill, with divine assistance, all His holy purposes."
So far we can go. So far Christians ought to believe. That standard is a practical and a practicable one. To go beyond this, and to claim that they are free from sin, actually and entirely, to claim that they have attained and are already perfect, must be within the domain of radical error.
An interesting doctrine of faith is also developed here. It is not a cold, abstract principle. It does not rest in intellectuality. It is a warm, generous, cordial, influential confidence in God. It takes God's word at its full value, at its plain meaning. It not only accepts it as a revelation, but as a practicality. It builds life on the word, as well as doctrine.
We emphasize the fact of life, laborious, useful life, unceasing service. Our Lord could say, "I am in the midst of you as he that serveth." And they who by faith apprehend Him must be like Him who came "not to be ministered unto, but to minister." They must here be in preparation for that world where the inhabitants "serve Him day and night in His temple."
There is a view of the life of faith which rests in quietism. It is a sentiment of faith rather than a doctrine of faith. It is
eloquently described by the author of "John Inglesant." He says: "It spoke to men of an act of devotion, which it called the contemplative state, in which the will is so united to God and overcome by that union that it adores and loves and resigns itself up to Him, and, not exposed to the wavering of the mere fancy, nor wearied by a succession of formal acts of a dry religion, it enters into the life of God, into the heavenly places of Jesus Christ, with an indescribable and secret joy. It taught that this rapture and acquiescence in the Divine Will, while it is the highest state and privilege of devotion, is within the reach of every man, being the fruit of nothing more than the silent and humble adoration of God that arises out of a pure and quiet mind; and it offered to every man the prospect of this communion-a prospect to which the very novelty and vagueness gave a hitherto unknown delight-in exchange for the common methods of devotion which long use and constant repetition had caused to appear to many but as dead and lifeless forms. Those who followed this method . . . applied themselves to preserve their minds in an inward calm and quiet, that they might in silence perform simple acts of faith, and feel those inward motions and directions, which they believed would follow upon such acts."
Such was not the life of faith which was illustrated by Madame Adorna. In consecrating herself to God, as we have seen, she consecrated herself to His service. In believing the promises of God, she believed them as practically applying to her work for others. Her life was intensely useful, and devoted to the help and conversion of all whom she could influence. Her domestic duties were done as in the love of God. Her missionary efforts sprung from the same source. This doctrine of faith honors God. It does not doubt the divine veracity. Accepting it, men walk by faith with the same confidence with which they would walk by sight. Faith is sight. It is influential not only in the subjective personal experience, but in all objective efforts for the kingdom of the Lord.
This view is cheering. That which we want in these worldly times is a faith which is spiritual, which is also alert and intense with forces which are parallel with the tremendous activities of our advancing life.