SANCTIFICATION v. CONSECRATION
A state senator's wife regularly attended a series of our holiness meetings, and apparently
became quite interested. One day she came to me, and said, "Brother Brengle, I wish you would
call it "consecration" instead of 'sanctification.' We could all agree on that."
"But I don't mean consecration, sister; I mean sanctification; and there is as big a difference
between the two as there is between earth and Heaven, between man's work and God's work," I
This woman's mistake is a very common one. She wanted to rob religion of its supernatural
element and rest in her own works.
It is quite the fashion now to be "consecrated" and to talk much about "consecration."
Lovely ladies, robed in silk, bedecked with jewels, gay with feathers and flowers, and gentlemen,
with soft hands and raiment, and odorous with perfume, talk with honeyed words and sweet, low
voices about being consecrated to the Lord.
And I would not discourage them; but I do want to lift up my voice with a loud warning that
consecration, as such people ordinarily think of it, is simply man's work, and is not enough to save
Elijah piled his altar on Mount Carmel, slew his bullock and placed him on the altar, and
then poured water over the whole. That was consecration.
But Baal's priests had done that, with the exception of putting on the water. They had built
their altar, they had slain their bullocks, they had spent the day in the most earnest religious
devotions, and, so far as men could see, their zeal far exceeded that of Elijah.
What did Elijah more than they?
Nothing, except to put a few barrels of water on his sacrifice -- a big venture of faith. If he
had stopped there, the world would never have heard of him. But he believed for Gad to do
something. He expected it, he prayed for it" and God split the heavens and poured down fire to
consume his sacrifice, and the stones of his altar, and the very water that lay in the trenches. That
What power had cold stones and water and a dead bullock to glorify God and convert an
apostate nation? But when they were flaming, and being consumed with the fire from Heaven, then
"the people fell on their faces, and said, The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God."
What do great gifts and talk and so-called consecration amount to in saving the world and
glorifying God? "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be
burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing" (I Cor. xiii. 3). It is God in men that enables
them to glorify Him, and work together with Him for the salvation of the world.
God wants sanctified men. Of course, men must be consecrated -- that is, given up to God
-- in order to be sanctified. But when once they have yielded themselves to Him, yielded their very
inmost selves, their memories, minds and wills, their tongues, their hands and feet, their
reputations, not only among sinners, but also among saints; their doubts and fears, their likes and
dislikes, their disposition to talk back at God and pity themselves and murmur and repine when He
puts their consecration to the test; when they have really done this and taken their hands off; as
Elijah placed his bullock on the altar and took his hands off for ever, then they must wait on God
and cry to Him with a humble, yet bold, persistent faith till He baptizes them with the Holy Ghost
and fire. He promised to do it, and He will do it, but men must expect it, look for it, pray for it, and
if it tarry, wait for it. A soldier went home from one of our meetings, fell on his knees, and said:
"Lord, I will not get up from here till You baptize me with the Holy Ghost!" God saw He had a
man on His hands who meant business, who wanted God more than all creation, and so He there
and then baptized him with the Holy Ghost.
But a Captain and Lieutenant whom I know found that "the vision tarried," so they waited
for it, and spent all the spare time they had for three weeks, crying to God to fill them with the
Spirit. They did not get discouraged; they held on to God with a desperate faith; they would not let
Him go, and they got their heart's desire. I saw that Lieutenant some time afterward, and oh! how I
was amazed at the wonders of God's grace in him. The spirit of the prophets was upon him.
"All Heaven is free plunder to faith," says a friend of mine.
Oh, this waiting on God! It is far easier to plunge madly at this thing and that, and do, do,
do, till life and heart are exhausted in joyless and comparatively fruitless toil, than it is to wait on
God in patient, unwavering, heart-searching faith, till He comes and fills you with the Almighty
power of the Holy Ghost, which gives you supernatural endurance and wisdom and might, and
enables you to do in a day what otherwise you could not do in a thousand years, and yet strips you
of all pride, and leads you to give all the glory to your Lord.
Waiting on God empties us that we may be filled. Few wait until they are emptied, and
hence so few are filled. Few will bear the heart-searchings, the humiliations, the suspense, the
taunt of Satan as he inquires, "Where is your God now?" Oh! the questionings and whisperings of
unbelief that are involved in waiting upon God, hence the people are but few who, in
understanding, are men and women in Christ Jesus and pillars in the temple of God.
Jesus commanded the disciples, saying: "Tarry in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued
with power from on high" (Luke xxiv. 49). That must have been quite a restraint put on restless,
impulsive Peter; but he waited with his brethren, and they cried to God, and searched their hearts,
and forgot their fears and the angry rulers who had murdered their Lord, forgot their jealousies and
selfish ambitions and childish differences, until they were exhausted of all self-love and
self-goodness and self-trust, and their hearts were as the heart of one man, and they had but one
desire, and that a mighty, consuming hunger for God; and then suddenly God came -- came in
power, came with fire, came to purge, and cleanse, and sanctify them through and through, and
dwell in their hearts, and make them bold in the presence of their enemies, humble in the midst of
success, patient in fiery conflicts and persecutions, steadfast and unswerving in spite of threats and
whippings and imprisonment, joyful in loneliness and mis representations, and fearless and
triumphant in the face of death. God made them wise to win souls, and filled them with the very
spirit of their Master, till they -- poor humble men that they were -- turned the world upside down,
and took none of the glory to themselves, either.
So, sanctification is the result not only of giving, but also of receiving. And hence we are
under as solemn an obligation to receive the Holy Ghost and "be filled with the Spirit," as we are
to give ourselves to God. And if we are not filled at once, we are not to suppose that the blessing
is not for us, and, in the subtle, mock-humility of unbelief, fold our hands and stop our crying to
God. But we should cry all the more, and search the Scriptures for light and truth, and search and
humble ourselves, and take God's part against unbelief, against our own hearts and the devil, and
never faint until we have taken the kingdom of Heaven by violence, and He says, "O man, O
woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
God loves to be compelled, God wants to be compelled, God will be compelled by the
importunate prayer and faith of His children. I imagine God is often grieved and disappointed and
angry with us, as the prophet was with the king who shot but three arrows when he should have
shot half a dozen or more, because we ask so little, and are so easily turned away without the
blessing we profess to want, and so quickly satisfied with a little comfort when it is the Comforter
Himself we need.
The Syro-Phoenician woman, who came to Jesus to have the devil cast out of her daughter,
is a sample believer, and puts most Christians to shame by the boldness and persistence of her
faith. She would not be turned away without the blessing she sought. At first, Jesus answered her
not a word, and so He often treats us today. We pray and get no answer. God is silent. Then He
rebuffed her by saying that He had not come to such as she, but to the lost sheep of the house of
Israel. That was enough to make blaspheming skeptics of most nineteenth-century folks. But not so
with her. Her desperate faith grows awfully sublime. At last, Jesus seemed to add insult to injury
by declaring: "It is not meet to give the children's bread to *[pet --see original] dogs."
Then the woman's faith conquered, and compelled Him, for she said:
"Truth, Lord, but the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the children's table."
She was willing to take the dogs' place and receive the dogs' portion. Glory to God! Oh,
how her faith triumphed, and Jesus, amazed, said:
"O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
Jesus meant to bless her all the time, if her faith would hold out. And so He means to bless
Now, there are two classes of people who progress to consecrate themselves to God, but
upon inquiry it will usually appear that they are consecrated more to some line of work than to
God Himself. They are God's housekeepers, rather than the bride of His Son -- very busy people,
with little or no time nor inclination for real heart-fellowship with Jesus. The first class might be
termed pleasure-seekers. They see that sanctified people are happy, and, thinking it is due to what
they have given and done, they begin to give and to do, never dreaming of the infinite Treasure
these sanctified ones have received. The secret of him who said, "God, my exceeding joy," and,
"The Lord is the portion of my soul," is hidden from them. So they never find God. They are
seeking happiness, not holiness. They will hardly admit their need of holiness -- they were always
good -- and God is found only by those who, feeling the deep depravity and need of their hearts,
want to be holy. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be
filled" (Matt. v. 6). This class are usually good livers, hearty eaters, very sociable, always
dressed in the fashion -- religious epicures.
The other class may be rightly called misery-hunters. They are always seeking something
hard to do. They believe in being on the rack perpetually. Like Baal's priests, they cut themselves
-- not their bodies, but their minds and souls; they give their goods to feed the poor, they give their
bodies to be burned, and yet it profits them nothing (I Cor. xiii. 3). They wear themselves out in a
hard bond-service. It is not joy they want, but misery. They judge of their acceptance with God, not
by the joy-producing presence of the indwelling Comforter that makes the yoke easy and the burden
light, but rather by the amount of misery they are ready to endure or have endured; and they are not
happy, and they fear they are not saved, unless there is some sacrifice for them to make that will
produce in them the most exquisite torment. They have died a thousand deaths, and yet are not
dead. Their religion does not consist in "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," but
rather of grit and resolution and misery.
But these people do not really make greater sacrifices than sanctified people, only they
make more ado over them. Not being dead, it hurts them to submit to God, and yet they feel
compelled to do so. Nor are their sorrows greater than those of sanctified people, only they are of
a different kind, and spring from a different root. They have misery and sorrow because of the
sacrifices they have to make, while the sanctified man counts these things all joy for Jesus' sake;
and yet he has continual sorrow, for the sorrows and woes of a world are upon his heart, and, but
for the comfort and sympathy Jesus gives him, his heart would sometimes break.
Still, these people are good and do good. God bless them! But what they need is a faith that
sanctifies (Acts xxvi. 18), that, through the operation of the Spirit, will kill them and put them out
of their misery for ever, and bring joy and peace into their tired hearts, so that in newness of life
they can drink of the river of God's pleasures and never thirst any more, and make all manner of
sacrifices for Jesus' sake with all gladness.
It is sanctification, then, that we need, and that God wants us to have, and that the Holy
Spirit is urging upon us, every one. It is a way of childlike faith that receives all God has to give,
and of perfect love that joyfully gives all back to God; a way that keeps the soul from Laodicean
sloth and ease on the one hand, and from hard, cold Pharisaical bondage on the other; a way of
inward peace and pleasantness and abounding spiritual life, in which the soul, always wary of its
enemies, is not unduly elated by success, nor cast down by disappointment, does not measure itself
by others, nor compare itself with others, but, looking unto Jesus, attends strictly to its own
business, walking by faith, and trusting Him in due time and order to fulfill all the exceeding great
and precious promises of His love.