From “The Necessity, Nature and Fruits of Sanctification”
by Nathan Bangs, 1778-1862
Anything is said to be sanctified that is set apart from a common to a special service. The radical meaning of the word to sanctify, is, therefore, to set apart. The word rendered as “holy” has a kindred signification, implying that anything which has been taken from earthly and consecrated to heavenly, or spiritual, or religious purposes, is denominated holy, or is set apart for a religious use. This is the radical import of those two words, and this radical meaning will be found to be kept up in all those places where they occur in the Holy Scriptures, however little or much they may differ in their various applications to different things and subjects.
So it is said in “Genesis” chapter two, verse three, “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” That is, he set it apart as a day of holy rest, and hence it has ever been denominated the holy Sabbath because it has been set apart from the other days of the week from secular to sacred purposes.
In “Exodus,” chapter nineteen, verse ten, it reads, “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Go to the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.’” The people were thus called upon to separate themselves from all uncleanness, to cease from their common and otherwise lawful occupations, that they might thus be prepared to hear the voice of God speaking to them through his servant Moses, to whom God was about to reveal his law. This related chiefly to an external cleansing, though, doubtless, God required the internal purification of the heart, which was typified by the “washing of their clothes and the abstaining from all fleshly indulgences.
Other passages might be quoted in support of this idea of sanctification, but these must suffice. There are one or two places, however, in which the word is used without any reference at all to the cleansing of the person from either external or internal pollution, as in “John,” chapter seventeen, verse nineteen, where Jesus Christ says, “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” Here the word most evidently signifies that setting apart, or that solemn dedication of himself to the glorious work of humankind’s redemption, for which Jesus Christ came into our world, and which he accomplished by his death and resurrection, and not from any cleansing from either natural, ceremonial or moral pollution, for Jesus Christ was “holy” from the beginning, “harmless and undefiled and separate from sin,” through the whole course of his spotless life.
Having thus ascertained the primary meaning of this most expressive word, and seen its various applications to men and things, let us examine its signification in its application to individual men and women, as sinners that need the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Christ. Taking along with us the radical meaning of the term, implying a setting apart, it imports that all the powers of the soul and body have been, or must be, solemnly consecrated to God s holy service. This most assuredly includes “a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.” The soul that is wholly sanctified is separated from sin, sin being entirely eradicated from the heart, so that it no longer ” has dominion over that soul.”
In this sense it differs from justification, though every justified soul is in part sanctified, in the sense just now given, and in a lower sense it is wholly sanctified, that is, the soul that is now justified in the sight of God, is now solemnly dedicated to his service ; having renounced “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” the soul has pledged itself to be hereafter devoted to God, and to follow him according to the clearest light it has, and according to the best of its ability and if it continues, as certainly it may, to “walk in the light, as he is in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse it from all unrighteousness,” and that speedily and effectually.
Nor can justified people long retain their justification unless they persevere after sanctification, for no person can stand justified before God, while they oppose or refuses to follow the will of God and this is “his will, even our sanctification,” fully declared, not only in the text just now cited, in which a part is put for the whole, and therefore fully includes the doctrine of entire sanctification for the person that abstains from the vices prohibited in the context, will necessarily abstain from all others but generally throughout the word of God. In fact, the sum and substance of all God s requirements, the manifest aim of all his institutions (whether under the old or new dispensation), the very design for which the Lord Jesus came into our world, suffered and died, the definite object of all the commands and promises of God, all these express, in unequivocal language, the will of God to be, that we should be holy. He cannot, indeed, consistently with his nature, require anything less. What is his nature? Is it not holy? Pure essential holiness? Is not then his will governed by this inflexible principle of his nature? To require, therefore, anything different or inferior to this, would be to contravene the immutable law of his own nature. This, then, is the unalterable law, the immutable will of God, that we should be sanctified. He cannot, as I have already said, require anything less. And this he has expressed a thousand times, in a thousand different places, and in a thousand ways.
Well, now, can people stand justified before God, who refuse to make this will (manifested in such numerous ways, declared in such a variety of phraseology and expressed in so many places by such unambiguous language) the supreme rule of their faith and practice? I hesitate not to affirm, and I believe every enlightened Christian, who is rightly instructed in the principles of Christianity, will say “amen” to my affirmation, that no one can stand justified in the sight of God, who does not either enjoy, or does not earnestly seek after, the full sanctification of their soul and body to God.
For the lack of this, there are so many weak and sickly among us, half dead and half alive professors of religion. They content themselves with some faint desires, unaccompanied with any strenuous, persevering efforts after this “great salvation,” hence their prayers are cold and formal. They are in fact backslidden. They have “lost their first love” and perhaps they are already questioning the work of grace which God once wrought in their hearts. They are. in the words of Saint Peter, “blind, and cannot see afar off, and have forgotten that they were once purged from their old sins.” What an awful state is this! Why is all this? Why? Alas! It is because they have neglected to “go on to perfection.” Instead of “forgetting the things that are behind, and pressing forward to the things which are before,” aiming at the “prize of their high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” they have looked back at their past experience, until they have lost sight of both it and the “mark of the prize set before them,” the prize of “perfect love,” of entire sanctification of soul and body to God. They have lost the evidence of their acceptance in the Beloved, merely because they have neglected to make the will of God, which is their sanctification, the rule of their faith and practice.