Posted by: rcottrill | January 27, 2012

Blessed Quietness

Words: Manie Payne Ferguson (b. _____, 1850; d. June 8, 1932)
Music: William S. Marshall (late 19th century)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: “Mother Ferguson,” as she was called, was born in Ireland. With her husband Theodore she founded the Peniel Rescue Missions, eventually developing several of these along the west coast of the United States. The Fergusons were holiness in doctrine, teaching salvation, holy living, and Christian perfectionism. They used many of the techniques introduced by the Salvation Army in their ministry to reach people. Hymn writer Haldor Lillenas (Wonderful Grace of Jesus), was converted at a Peniel Mission in Astoria, Oregon, in 1906.

CH-1) Joys are flowing like a river,
Since the Comforter has come;
He abides with us forever,
Makes the trusting heart His home.

Blessèd quietness, holy quietness,
What assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea, He speaks peace to me,
How the billows cease to roll!

The doctrine of perfectionism or entire sanctification is associated with what is called the second blessing. It is believed that there is a second crisis experience to be sought after salvation, in which the Christian, infused with power by the Spirit of God, is able to live a life of sinlessness and total love. Some teach the total eradication of the sin nature in the individual. Others don’t go quite that far, but the practical result in terms of behaviour is supposed to be much the same.

While there are some parts of this hymn which I appreciate, I am not holiness in doctrine, parting company with the Ferguson’s there. This is a subject deserving of a long article all on its own. However, I will make a few comments on this erroneous teaching.

The Bible states quite clearly that is wrong to say that we have no sin nature (I Jn. 1:8), or that we do not sin (I Jn. 1:10). While Christians live out this mortal life, there will be an ongoing conflict between the indwelling Holy Spirit and “the flesh” (our inborn sin nature) (Gal. 5:17).

Experience confirms this truth. Apparently, even John Wesley, who espoused perfectionist teaching, had to admit on his deathbed that he hadn’t achieved it. But years ago, I knew a man who stated that he hadn’t committed a single sin in seventeen years. “That’s right,” his wife said. He has never sinned in all that time.

Setting aside the arrogance the man’s claim, it revealed a very narrow understanding of what is sin and what is not. I knew him. He could be angry and vengeful, and I was shocked one day to hear him use vulgar language. Further, focusing on those sins that we don’t commit often misses all the things we should be doing. Besides the sins of commission are the many sins of omission. Who could say he perfectly demonstrates the love of Christ in all situations? Who could say he invariably seizes every opportunity to serve the Lord?

As to the false notion of the eradication of the sin nature. It seems totally at odds with what happens to the other two foes we face. Hindering a holy Christian walk are the world, the flesh, and the devil. And in this life, the Lord does not eradicate the world, or the devil. Neither does He instantly remove the sin nature within.

When an individual becomes a Christian, he or she is fully sanctified positionally–that is, in the legal record of the books of heaven. This is accomplished when God, in grace, credits the righteousness of Christ to our heavenly account (II Cor. 5:21). We are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). On that basis we’re delivered forever from the penalty of our sin.

As to our conduct, we are called to walk in newness of life. This is a matter of practical sanctification, holy living. Positional sanctification remains eternally constant, since it is based on Christ’s righteousness, not our own. But practical (or progressive) sanctification may well be a different story. We’re to live in victory over the power of sin, but sometimes we fail. It depends on our obedience to God’s Word (Jn. 17:17; Eph. 5:26), our yieldedness to the Spirit of God and reliance on His power (Gal. 5:16, 25; cf. I Jn. 1:9).

Our perfect (or permanent) sanctification, full deliverance from the very presence of sin, will only take place when we go to be with Christ. Then, Christlikeness will be perfected in us (Phil. 3:20-21; I Jn. 3:1-2; Rev. 22:11). That is when the full richness of Mannie Ferguson’s descriptive words will be accomplished.

CH-2) Bringing life and health and gladness,
All around this heav’nly Guest,
Banished unbelief and sadness,
Changed our weariness to rest.

Questions:
1) How much of this hymn could you sing with sincerity and confidence?

2) What potential dangers to you see in the teaching that we can reach perfection in this life? (Or that we have reached perfection, and never sin?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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