The Holiness Revival in the Nineteenth Century


This paper was given at Nazarene Theological College(1996) as part of my Masters degree and led to the request by Dr McGonigle that I write my dissertation on this subject. I did this by looking at the Development of the Doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in nineteenth century America

The Holiness Revival of the Nineteenth Century.

Introduction: After the death of Wesley the teaching of Christian Perfection stayed the same for a number of years. Fletcher had described entire sanctification as the baptism with the Holy Spirit,and this emphasis was to take prominence in the middle of the nineteenth century. This has led to the charge that there was a move from a Christ centred view of sanctification, to a Spirit centred view. As we shall see, some authors emphasised Pentecost as the beginning of the dispensation of the Spirit. This dispensational approach was in conflict with the covenantal view of Wesley.
Much of the development in doctrine took place in America,where culturally there was an optimistic mood, and this is reflected in the theology of the day. Greathouse comments 11 Another factor in the total milieu was the idealism that saw America’s destiny and goal to be the creation of a new society free from the evils that had been left behind when immigrants set out for the new world. The conviction of the New England pioneers that their colony was ‘the place where the Lord… [would ]create a new Heaven and a new Earth in new churches and a new commonwealth together’ had fixed itself generally within the American mind. In their new land Americans were part of a new Israel. ‘The inherent optimism in this American dream was readily assimilated with the perfectionism in the holiness movement; the two were to be traveling companions throughout the nineteenth century – each undoubtedly helping the other along the way. For holiness advocates it was all part of a grand divine plan to usher in ‘the most glorious and last dispensation’–the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.’  Greathouse then goes on to demonstrate the enthusiasm of those who were witnesses to the wonder of perfect love, and the revolutionary changes it could bring.
The British author William Arthur,seems to have influenced the Oberlin School in their thinking about the baptism with the Holy Spirit. But the influence was not all in one direction, the Americans in turn influenced many British advocates of divine ho1iness.
Dayton, has demonstrated in his essay(The Doctrine of the Baptism
of the Holy Spirit: Its Emergence and Significance) that there were other cultural forces that influenced the development of Holiness teaching. Perhaps one of the profoundest of these was the event of the American civil war. It seems that around this period there was a new awareness of the need of Divine power. The teaching about the baptism with the Holy Spirit and its pentecostal motifs fitted this need precisely. At first the Pentecostal emphasis was seen in terms of sanctification. Mahan’s book written in 1870 has as its main emphasis Christian Perfection but by 1900 the emphasis was on power for service.
Alongside this development the Reformed school offered an alternative picture of sanctification.

The Reformed School emphasised man’s total depravity and the serious effects of the fall, As a consequence of this emphasis the Christian life was seen as one constant struggle with not much hope of victory in this life. Growth in grace was expected but Christian Perfection was seen as naive at best or a terrible delusion at the worst. J.C
Ryle. C.H. Spurgeon and B.B. Warfield were all eminent spokesman for Reformed thought. for a positive statement of the Reformed doctrine of holiness one should read Ryle’s book “Holiness”. For the purpose of this seminar the spokesman for the Reformed School will be Warfield. In this paper remembering the above background, I will be looking at some of the main proponents of Christian Perfection, I will then look briefly at Warfield’s objections. In conclusion, I will try to bring the argument together and pose some questions for further discussion.

William Arthur: Arthur’s book ” The Tongue of Fire” seems largely responsible for the rise of Pentecostal language. His main emphasis is on the moral change brought about in a man by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. For example when speaking about Peter, he says “Here we have no working of miracles,no speaking with foreign tongues, but we find the man who, when left to his own strength, denied his master, now filed with a moral power which makes him bold to confess that master’s name before the rulers of his people and with a wisdom to speak according at once to the oracles of God and the exigency of the moment” (p30). He also says “The Spirit,as replenishing the believer with actual virtues and practical holiness is ever kept before us in the Apostolic writings” .Although Arthur sees Pentecost in terms of moral power,as far as I could discover he does not identify it with entire sanctification.

A Mahan: Asa Mahan and others of the Oberlin School emphasised the need for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Mahan encouraged believers to wait upon the Lord until they had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Mahan emphasised that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was to be received after conversion. The baptism then enables the Christian to do things that would have been impossible before. Mahan says “Whenever anyone receives this baptism, a radical change is immediately observed in the forms which his actions assume. Thought is expanded,emotions deepened and activity energized as never before.
2. Especially is there an increase of moral and spiritual power to endure and accomplish all things according to the Divine will. Without this baptism the mind remains in servitude to the natural propensities, faints under chastisements,is overcome when
tempted,and rendered despondent through broken resolutions. Under this baptism we have a sovereign control over our spirit, we endure when tried, overcome when tempted, and when weak in ourselves find everlasting strength in God. Power with God and with man is an invariable result of this anointing.”
The above quotation shows very clearly the link Mahan made between the baptism and sanctification. He believed that there were certain conditions laid down for receiving the baptism, they included,repentance, consecration and claiming the promise of the Father.(see p54f).
He goes on to show the glorious fruit of this baptism ,he says,”The brightest jewel in Christ’s crown of glory in any church,on the other hand,is the individual who holds and advocates that truth and who has received the Holy Ghost since he has believed.In him God dwells and walks, and Christ abides as an all-purifying,quickening,and life imparting presence; and through him Christ and the provisions of his grace are perpetually revealed
to the Church and the world around, as ‘a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness’–the Divinest mission ever fulfilled by men or angels.” Mahan in these word clearly shows that he links the baptism to sanctification.(p203-4}. Furthermore Mahan identifies his teaching with that of Methodism in these words” We may now clearly perceive what will hereafter constitute the glory or the shame of Methodism. The central article of her creed is the great central truth of the Gospel,to wit: full and free redemption in Jesus Christ. In the holding and advocacy of that truth, her ministry and membership glory before the world. In her early founders and favourite memoirs,Christ and the promises of his grace
are fully and distinctly revealed to all her membership and to all the world as •a Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness’. Now,if this denomination shall remain true to her
heaven-descended mission, by continuing to hold and advocate this great truth,and by a living faith shall exemplify its all-purifying influence both before the church and the world, this will be her wisdom and her understanding, in the judgment of all the
nations,who shall hear of this great salvation.” Mahan could not more clearly state than he does here that his understanding of the doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Ghost is to be equated with the Methodist doctrine of Christian Perfection. At this point it is important to note the distinction that Dayton makes between Finney and Mahan when he says,”Finney and his • colleagues began to move in a more Pelagian direction while Mahan moved closer to Wesleyan Theology as he grew older.” (Asa Mahan p60}.

Daniel Steele: In “Love Enthroned’,Daniel Steele sought to expound the doctrine of entire sanctification. He says “The Holy Ghost transfigures the sinful soul bristling with
antagonisms,transforming depravity to purity by the mighty alchemy of love.” This reminds us of much that Wesley had said earlier. He makes his position clear when he says ” The destructive and the reconstructive processes have gone on side by side. There is an absolute end to the former when there is nothing more to be destroyed: there is no end to the latter. The negative work must of necessity end when sin is dead; the positive work of spiritual adornment,strength, and growth, must go on so long as the soul is capable of advancement.” A few sentences later he says, “The relation of regeneration to entire sanctification is that of a part to a whole.”
Steele like Wesley also taught the need for the witness of the Spirit.
Steele gives a greater emphasis to the continuity of God’s work in the soul of the believer than does Mahan.. Unlike Wesley,Steele did however accept Pentecostal terminology. Greathouse is helpful at this point, when he says “Since Steele fully endorsed the view that
Pentecost ushered in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit with its offer of heart holiness for every believer,it is not necessary to outline his complete position. One quotation is sufficient to show his basic agreement with Mahan and Finney.
‘We understand that the baptism, the anointing, the fullness, the abiding,the indwelling,the constant communion,the sealing the earnest,of the Holy Spirit,are equivalent terms,expressive of the state of Christian Perfection.” So with Steele we find an
interesting combination of Wesleyan theology with the growing pentecostal emphasis.

Wi11iam Booth: Booth in his writing seems very close in emphasis to Wesley even though,at times , he uses pentecostal terminology. His main concern is ‘Purity of Heart’, these letters show a deep pastoral concern for his fellow workers. In his first letter he defines purity of heart in these terms “In short, to be pure in soul,signifies deliverance from all and everything which the Lord shows you to be opposed to His Holy
Will. It means that you not only possess the ability to live the kind of life that He desires, but that you actually do live it.”(p8).
Booth did not contend that the blessing would make life easier,but
he did contend that it would enable one to lead a more useful life. Booth urges his readers to receive the “Purifying Baptism” (see letter 3). According to Chick Yuill “Where Wesley had been content to ‘draw’ they saw the need to drive men on” (We Need Saints p104)”. Yuill is here looking at the Booths practice. There is an urgency in the letters of Booth which one does not find in Wesley. for Booth and many other holiness teachers the blessing was indispensable for a Christ-like life. Booth is absolutely convinced that holiness is possible and that God wants to make all men holy.
Although,Booth has a strong emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in imparting the blessing, he roots holiness in the work of Christ. In letter 6 Booth says”Jesus Christ came into this world,and lived and suffered and died that you might be made Holy.” Booth tries to keep his teaching Christ centred and urges his people to receive ‘the blessing’ so that Christ might be glorified. In some ways then,Booth is closer to Wesley than to some
of his contemporaries. Booth taught the blessing as available to all Christians, but he did not see this as superior to conversion. For Booth,both Baptism in the Spirit and conversion flow from the work of Christ.

Phoebe Palmer: Phoebe Palmer in her book “the Way of Holiness” sets forth a short cut to holiness. At times her emphasis on the way to become holy,almost amounts to a technique. But the overall concern of her book is to see that Christians are rightly related to God.
There is a very strong experiential emphasis to her book and it seems that her own spiritual experience moulded her teaching to a greater degree than is helpful. Her experience of putting all on the altar,therefore, becomes normative for entering into the life of holiness.
In chapter 6, Palmer documents how she entered the Holy Life through putting all on the altar. Faith is emphasised then comes the witness of the Holy Spirit. The difference between Palmer and Wesley, is that Palmer believed that the blessing had been received
on the basis of naked faith,whereas Wesley believed that the witness of the Spirit was essential at the time the blessing was received. For Palmer the emphasis seem to lie in the act of faith but for Wesley the emphasis is upon the action of the Holy Spirit. For Palmer, once everything has been placed upon the altar the Christian accepts that he has been sanctified by an act of naked faith,whether the person feels anything or not. Greathouse,refers to this problem when he says ” Dr H C Morrison took note of such
spiritual presumption and said ‘I sometimes meet people who when asked if they are sanctified say,’yes I have taken it by faith.well where is the witness? Brother you have no right to stop crying to   God until the baptism falls.’ Syllogistic Holiness is not Scriptural Holiness.” Greathouse p301.

For Wesley the life of holiness is relational,whereas for Palmer the emphasis on meeting conditions leans in a legalistic direction. Furthermore, Wesley taught that repentance is the prerequisite for sanctification,whereas for Palmer consecration is the prerequisite. Wesley view takes sin seriously but the concept of consecration with its idea of giving oneself to God,does not take sin seriously enough.

Oswald Chambers: I have purposely followed the consideration of Palmer with that of Chambers. Chambers is optimistic about the power of God’s grace to sanctify the Christian. He also manifests a deep realism about sin and sinfulness. When Chambers speaks about the baptism of the Spirit, he does so ina God centred manner,a good example of this is the following quotation, “Many of us have had a marvellous experience of
deliverance from sin and of the baptism of the Holy Ghost,not a fictional experience, but a real experience whereby we prove to our amazement everyday that God has delivered us, then comes the danger that we pin our faith to our experience instead of to Jesus
Christ,and if we do, faith becomes distorted. When the baptism of the Holy Ghost came upon the early disciples it made them the written epistles of what they taught, and it is to be the same with us. Our experience is proof that our faith is right. Jesus Christ is always infinitely mightier than our experience, but our experience will be along the line of the faith we have in Him…(p53).
Chambers emphasises the dynamic of sanctification when he says,  “There is no end to the life of faith; sanctification is only the ABC of the Christian life. The life of Jesus from Bethlehem onwards is a picture of the sanctified life, and anything that would make
our souls stagnate is a distortion… (p55)
Chambers expresses the relational aspect of faith well, when he says, ” The peculiar aspect of religious truth is that it is faith in a Person who relates us to himself and commits us to his point of view,not faith in a point of view divorced from relationship to a person. ‘If you would know my doctrine• said Jesus, ‘do my will.’Our Lord never teaches first by principles,but by personal relationship to himself… •
Chambers is always ruthless when he deals with sin but at the same time he also offers the remedy found in Christ. He helpfully tells us .. God never destroys the work of his own hands,he removes what would pervert it that is all… He also says, 11 Holiness is the only sign that a man is repentant in the New Testament sense, and a holy man is not one who has his eyes on his own whiteness but one who is passionately devoted to the Lord who saved him… (p123)

Chambers is God centred,down to earth and clear about the moral imperative. It is clear that he sees the baptism of the Spirit in terms of entire sanctification. He also strongly asserts the need  to work out our own salvation. He sees the baptism more in terms of
sanctification than empowering,and thus is closer to Wesleyan
thinking than pentecostal thinking. Chambers has an important place in his thinking for the work of the Holy Spirit,but generally his thinking is Christo-centric.

B B Warfield: Warfield was one of the great Princeton Theologians,he worked within the tradition of the Hodge family and the other Reformed Theologians from Princeton. Warfield has left a lasting impression upon Reformed Theology in a number of areas. His deep insights were combined with a personal love for Christ. His love for Christ can be seen clearly in such sermons as 11 Imitating the Incarnation…
For all his strengths Warfield also had his weaknesses,and they seem very evident in his analysis of Oberlin theology and of Mahan in particular. Warfield does not seem to have understood his opponents definition of sanctification. So that we do not make the
same mistake in our analysis of Warfield, I think it is important to see his own positive statement about the doctrine of sanctification. In his ‘A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith   , Warfield states his views clearly in sections 9 and 11.
I believe that the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ is effectually applied to all his people by the Holy Spirit,who• works faith in me and thereby unites me to Christ, renews me in the whole man after the image of God,and enables me more and more to
die unto sin and to live unto righteousness;until this gracious work having been completed in me, I shall be received into glory:in which hope abiding,m!ust ever strive to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
11. I believe that, having been pardoned and accepted for Christ’s sake, it is further required of me that I walk in the Spirit whom he has purchased for me,and by whom love is shed abroad in my heart; fulfilling the obedience I owe to Christ my King; faithfully
performing all the duties laid upon me by the holy law of God my heavenly Father;and ever reflecting in my life and conduct, the
perfect example that has been set me by Christ Jesus my Leader, who has died for me and granted to me his Holy Spirit just that I may do the good works which God has afore prepared that I should walk in them… these words help us to understand his theological
position better and they also express his deep devotion to the Lord.
Even, Warfield’s positive statements show that he does not expect to see the triumph of grace in this life. Warfield is typical of Reformed Theology when he has an optimism of grace regarding conversion,but then turns to a more pessimistic view of the power
of God’s grace in sanctification.
Warfield’s main agenda seems to be to fight against Pelagian and Arminian views within the Church, because of this he seems to disregard any alternate views of sanctification. When Mahan uses the word sanctification he believes that in response to faith there
is a divine act of cleansing the soul. Whereas for Warfield sanctification is the outworking of obedience to the divine law ,in the power of the Spirit. But he misses the point that Mahan does expect the Christian to grow in grace (seep 104-106). What is perhaps ironic in this context is that the Reformed man is emphasising man’s responsibility and the one accused of being a Pelagian is emphasizing the grace of God.
Warfield sees any doctrine of a second blessing as dividing up salvation,he says 11 Is it not a more melancholy reflection still that a Christian teacher can so cut up God’s salvation– and then not receive it? According to Mahan this is the condition in which most Christians find themselves. Their salvation has been intermitted after the first step.”. Surely Warfield fails to recognize that the promise of the Holy Spirit was presented as an integral part of the gospel by the Apostles. It can be argued that both Mahan and Warfield make the same mistake, in overlooking this fact,this leads one to say that a second blessing is required after conversion, while the other says “we received all we need at conversion”.
It is very disappointing to me to have to be so critical of one of the truly great men of my own theological tradition. I believe his argument is weak at the best because he has not really grasped what his opponents are saying.

Conclusion; The views outlined above differ greatly in the expectation of what can or cannot be done by God’s grace in the life of believers. The Reformed view of Warfield presents to us the view of an intense struggle within the Christian and throughout his life. On the other hand we are presented with an optimism of grace,which sees the possibility of real cleansing from sin. Mahan’s exposition of the baptism of the Holy Spirit,! found
contained many great insights but he puts too much stress on the secondness of the baptism. Certainly we find here a greater usage of Pentecostal language.
Steele’s thought seems to be more carefully nuanced and whilst he accepts the Pentecostal language, his theology is deeply rooted in the Wesleyan tradition.
Booth expresses the pastoral heart in his concern to see his followers walking in holiness of life. He also used Pentecostal language but the main thrust of his argument is Wesleyan.
Phoebe Palmer’s work is very subjective and seems to offer a technique as to how to enter the life of holiness.
Oswald Chambers combines a robust faith,an optimism of grace with a realistic view of sin and of the holy life.
Questions arising from this study include the following.
Do either side really present th& biblical balance?
Must the baptism of the Spirit have to be a second experience or
may the Spirit be received consciously at conversion?
If the Reformed view is too pessimistic,do the Holiness teachers claim   too much?

About pneumaandlogos

David Rollings was born in Luton in1949 and raised by my Christian parents in the Gospel Standard Strict Baptist denomination( Hyper-Calvinistic} in the sixties I rebelled against this background and got involved in left-wing politics. I became a Christian in 1969 and soon started reading Francis Schaeffer's books and came to embrace a Christian Worldview. I had the privilege of being on the staff of L'Abti Fellowship from1975 - 1979. After L'abri I studied at London School of Theology where I gained my BA.(1983) A few years later I studied for my MA by distance learning with The Nazarene Theological College Manchester (1999) For the last 22 years, I have been an elder of Shoreham-by-Sea Baptist Church. I also regularly attend the Christian Doctrine Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship.
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2 Responses to The Holiness Revival in the Nineteenth Century

  1. Pingback: The Holiness Revival | Pneuma and Logos

  2. Helpful info. Fortunate me I discovered your site by accident, and I’m surprised why this accident didn’t took place earlier! I bookmarked it.

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