Christians in the 19th century Holiness movement called the experience they sought the “second blessing,” or “entire sanctification.” They also described it (I discovered this in Forty Witnesses[i] an out-of-print book of their testimonies) as the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Amen, this is just what it is), perfect love, salvation now, perfect peace, the rest of faith, entering into the rest, entering Canaan…. From these we see that the second blessing, as one of them testified, was something that meant more than an experience. It meant entrance into a life. Another way they described it was entering Beulah-land. What, I wondered, was this about?
Andrew Murray met with some of these people during his visit to the United States in 1877. While Murray was helping D.L. Moody in one of his after-meetings, an elderly man approached them and asked, “Brothers, may I ask you whether you enjoy the full rest?”[ii] Murray later wrote in a letter to his sister Ellen that he gave the man what he called “an honest answer,” adding that in further conversation the man opened his understanding to see that this rest was to be found, not in looking for a further experience, but in Christ Himself, and that “I should say at once that I am dead to every thought of discontent and dissatisfaction. The Holy Spirit who has been given to me in His fullness is equal to every need and emergency.” Therein is the secret of the full rest the old Holiness man passed on to Moody and Murray.
It was 18th century Methodist leader John Wesley’s teaching on sanctification that accounted for this experience being called the “second blessing” or “second work of grace” because it was something further to justification by faith. The Holiness people often referred to the second blessing as “a free, full, and present salvation,” words that hark back to Wesley’s proclamation of a “free, full and present salvation from all the guilt, all the power and all the in-being of sin.” (That was me you just heard saying, “Amen” again.) Because of this testimony Wesley’s followers (called Methodists) were reviled, were persecuted, were treated as the off-scouring of all things, even as (where have we heard this before?) their light and salvation went forth into all the world and their numbers multiplied. Even into the 19th century, though it meant being identified with the despised Methodists, believers from other denominations, hungry for more of God, began seeking this “holiness” experience. In one testimony I read somewhere (can’t recall where), a certain woman was in a quandary because she was aching for more of God, but what could she do, it was perfect scandal to associate with Methodists; she said she “had sooner gone to Hell than to a Methodist meeting.” But finally her hunger compelled her to go.
It’s a story for another day to consider what happened to all that, and why in our day the Methodists are no longer reviled and scorned and hated. Nor are the Holiness people wherever they are. Nor are the Pentecostals who early in the 20th century were also despised (even by the Holiness people before them). It’s the same sad refrain that has been sung throughout the history of the churches…
…And of Israel of old, who, tiring of being different from the nations around them, instead began to court their favour and their gods, and in doing so ended up exiled among those nations, her own land left desolate without inhabitant.
It was this sad situation that Isaiah had in mind when he prophesied of… what’s this? A coming wedding? Really? What kind of God is this? He is a God who will not rest till He has the desire of His heart. Here is the prophecy. Note the inclusion of the Gentiles in this, revealing that it is prophetic of the New Covenant. I will put in parentheses English transliterations of the Hebrew names:
For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.
Thou [Isaiah is speaking of Zion] shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.
Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken [Azubhah], neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate [Shemamah]: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah [my delight is in her], and thy land Beulah [married]: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee… (Isa. 62:1-5a)
Here then is where the Holiness people got their reference to Beulah-land. They saw entire sanctification as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy in which the desolate land of Israel, mourning because she had no one to drink of her milk and taste of her honey and enjoy all her riches and blessings, for her children were in captivity in Babylon far away… the day would come when she would no longer be called Shemamah, desolate, but Beulah, married. For her children, her sons, exiled among the nations, would return, would be “married” to her. Even so the Holiness people themselves saw that by the second blessing, the sanctification of the Spirit, they had entered into and, indeed, had become married to all the riches, all the provision for every need, all the abundance… of the blessed “land” of salvation in Christ. His salvation—and that a full salvation—was no longer a “land” afar off, but nigh, so nigh that they were now married to it. They had entered Beulah-land.
Indeed, this is cause for great joy, is it not? Yes, it is. But Isaiah’s prophecy enlarges:
…and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.
Or as Darby’s Translation has it:
…and with the joy of the bridegroom over the bride, shall thy God rejoice over thee. (Isaiah 62:5 Darby)
Conviction came upon me as I read this. Am I, are we, marrying Him just for “his money”? If so we are missing out on His own joy, the joy of the bridegroom in His bride. It is this, His joy, that was to become her joy. In all this wonderful blessing and provision and salvation, God Himself is rejoicing in His marriage to Zion. His delight is in her. It is a picture of Christ becoming “married” to those once alienated from God. He has now joined them to Himself, and they to Him, they are now so one with Him—married to Him—that all that is His, all that He has, His riches in glory, the abundance of His “land,” His full and free and present salvation, His victory, His peace, His rest, His joy, His very love for others… all that is His, becomes their own. In fact only thus, married to Him, does it become their own. As one of the old Holiness witnesses testified:
I am proving, as never before, that salvation is a Divine Personality—more, far more than a blessing. It is the internal revelation of THE BLESSER in the infinitude of His attributes, constituting within my soul a never-failing and ever-springing well ‘springing up unto everlasting life.’
Here then is a Selah for us. Rebekah the betrothed bride who came from Mesopotamia in the camel train with Abraham’s servant saw in the distance one walking in the field in the eventide. She asked the servant, “What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?” “It is my master,” he told her. In his writing The Journey of the Bride our old friend George Warnock observed, “It appears she had noticed him before the servant did.” It’s because she was on the lookout for one whom having not seen, she loved. Is our love like that, beloved? The Bridegroom yearning for His Bride goes forth into the field “to meet us.” Are we for our part looking for, anticipating, watching for Him? Or are we leaving it up to some faithful servant of the Lord to do our watching for us and alert us of His appearing, all the while preoccupying ourselves with the raiment and jewelry of gold and silver we’ve already received? Is it His gifts and riches we are in love with? Or Himself?
The Day of the gladness of His heart
In his book Abide In Christ, Andrew Murray has one chapter called, That Your Joy May Be Full. Here is a brief excerpt from it:
These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might abide in you, and that your joy might be full. (Jn. 15:11)
Let us hear what the Saviour has to say of the joy of abiding in Him. He promises us His own joy; “My joy.” As the whole parable refers to the life His disciples should have in Him when He ascended to heaven, the joy is that of His resurrection life. This is clear from those other words of His (Jn 16:22): “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” It was only with the resurrection and its glory that the power of the never-changing life began, and only in it that the never-ceasing joy could have its rise. With it was fulfilled the word: “Therefore thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Ps 45:7). The day of His crowning was the day of the gladness of Heart.
This last sentence arrested me; I was pretty sure I knew where it came from, and went looking for it. Sure enough:
Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart (Song 3:11 KJV).
That is prophetic, as Andrew Murray said, of the joy with which the crowned and ascended Christ sent forth the Spirit to espouse a bride to Himself. He had loved righteousness and hated iniquity, though it meant for Him the cross. He had endured the cross because of “the joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:2). What was the joy that was set before Him? The hope of a wedding! What was the joy, the gladness, of the resurrected and ascended and crowned Christ? It was the day of the gladness of His heart, when He received the Crown for which He had endured the cross. Now crowned with the Oil of gladness, He sent forth His Spirit to join His bride to Himself, giving her Himself in giving her the Spirit, the arrabon, the surety bringing nigh and guaranteeing her that He is hers, and she His:
…in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth–the good news of your salvation–in whom also having believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise, which is an earnest [arrabon] of our inheritance, to the redemption of the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph 1:13,14)
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest [arrabon] of the Spirit in our hearts. (2 Cor. 1:21,22)
This, then, is what baptism in Holy Spirit, entire sanctification, the sanctification of the Spirit, assures us. In modern Greek arrabon means engagement ring, but I don’t think that quite fits the New Testament usage of the word, for in those days a betrothal was a virtual marriage (as in the story of Joseph and Mary). Some translations of arrabon have “first installment” or “down payment.” But the “earnest of the Spirit,” or better, “the earnest, which is the Spirit,” is more than that. It is the faithful God’s guarantee, His surety, bringing nigh the hope of His heart and of ours—as we for our part continue chaste and faithful till the great day of presenting—the marriage supper of the Lamb when the bride of the Lamb and the Lamb are eternally one, and all that is His is hers. She with Him… they are heirs together of all things.
We know that in an ultimate sense this and much more is yet to come. The marriage of the Lamb is yet to come in its fullest sense. But let this not hinder us from real-izing even now the union with Him by the Spirit that brings nigh what is yet to come, and enables us to walk in it by faith. [iii] Beulah-land is not for a distant day, nor for a distant Heaven after we die, as in the lyrics of the teary song. Beulah-land is Christ and Heaven brought nigh. Let’s be diligent lest we fall short of this and continue all our days in the wilderness. That is unbelief. We see ourselves as still in the wilderness, that “the promised land” of our inheritance is yet future. But Israel in the wilderness is not a pattern prophetic of New Covenant saints, but rather of what we are NOT to follow (1 Cor. 10:1-11). And Paul proclaims that by what God accomplished in the Cross of Christ, He has not only “qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” but by His Spirit has also “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:12,13 NKJV, emphasis mine). That is Beulah-land, beloved. Let us walk therein, for Paul was not just setting forth a promise, but a reality to be realized by faith. Yes, the day of fullness certainly comes. For the Methodists and the Holiness people and the early Friends and others in the past who had a hearing ear, that day had dawned. How keen is our hearing in this our day? How sharp is our eyesight? How hot is our love—for our Lord and for all those He loves and died for?
For, Isaiah’s prophecy is still not complete. He opened the prophecy by saying that God will not rest till He has accomplished something. His intention in renaming His land Beulah-land, His intention in the marriage of the Bridegroom and the Bride, is that Zion’s righteousness (the Lord Himself) go forth as brightness, and her salvation (the Lord Himself) as a lamp that burneth. Do we grasp this? It happens because He is no longer hidden away in distant Heaven, He is nigh, He is one with His bride, His glory is revealed in her, He is shining forth in Zion! God says He will not rest till He has accomplished this. Such is His love for this sin-ravaged world. Yes, to some extent this has already happened. In measure. But look at our world now. It pains the heart to look. Do you and I ourselves not ache with God’s own ache for the Light and Salvation of Zion to go forth? How many of us have this perpetual cry of God on our own hearts, and are among the watchmen who themselves refuse to rest, day and night continually reminding God and giving Him no rest till He does what He has promised to do? That is how Isaiah ends his prophecy:
I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD [that is, are the Lord’s remembrancers], keep not silence,
And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isa. 62:6,7)
[i] Here is a pdf of Forty Witnesses:
[ii] From Andrew Murray, Apostle of Abiding Love, by Leona Choy
[iii] Please see my writing Realized Eschatology: