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The holiness movement refers to a set of beliefs and practices emerging from 19th-century Methodism, and to a number of evangelical Christian denominations who emphasize those beliefs as a central doctrine. The movement is distinguished by its emphasis on John Wesley's "Christian perfection" teaching - the belief that it is possible to live free of voluntary sin, and particularly by the belief that this may be accomplished instantaneously through a second work of grace.
The holiness movement seeks to promote a Christianity that is personal, practical, life-changing, and revivalistic. The key beliefs of the holiness movement are (1) regeneration by grace through faith, with the assurance of salvation by the witness of the Holy Spirit; (2) entire sanctification as a second definite work of grace, received by faith, through grace, and accomplished by the baptism and power of the Holy Spirit, by which one is enabled to live a holy life.
In the context of the holiness movement, the first work of grace is salvation from sin, and without it no amount of human effort can achieve holiness. People are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ who made atonement for human sins.
The second work of grace refers to a personal experience subsequent to regeneration, in which the believer is cleansed from the carnal nature, and is empowered by the Holy Spirit to lead a holy life. Most teach that it is still possible for the sanctified to sin, and one grows in grace after this second spiritual experience and should strive for perfection.
The experience of sanctification enables the believer to live a holy life. Most holiness people interpret this as living a life free of willful sin or the practice of sin. The motive is to live a Christ-like life, to be conformed to the image of Christ and not the world. Since holiness is the supernatural work of a transformed heart by the Holy Spirit, many holiness churches are careful to follow moral principles and what they perceive as the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Most followers of the holiness movement believe as Christ said, that love fulfills the entire law of God.
Holiness groups believe the moral aspects of the law of God are pertinent for today, inasmuch as the law was completed in Christ. This position does attract opposition from some evangelicals, who charge that such an attitude refutes or slights Reformation (particularly Calvinist) teachings that believers are justified by grace through faith and not through any efforts or states of mind on their part, that the effects of original sin remain even in the most faithful of souls.
The traditional holiness movement is distinct from the Pentecostal movement, which believes that the baptism in the Holy Spirit involves speaking in tongues. Many of the early Pentecostals were from the holiness movement, and to this day many "classical Pentecostals" maintain much of holiness doctrine and many of its devotional practices. (Oneness Pentecostals, such as the United Pentecostal Church, still largely adhere to these "standards.") Additionally, the terms Pentecostal and apostolic, now used by adherents to Pentecostal and charismatic doctrine, were once widely used by holiness churches in connection with the consecrated lifestyle described in the New Testament. However, Pentecostals add and emphasize that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is evidenced specifically by speaking in tongues, a position which churches in the traditional holiness movement do not accept.
During the advent of Pentecostalism at Azusa Street, the practice of speaking in tongues was strongly rejected by leaders of the traditional holiness movement. Alma White, the leader of the Pillar of Fire Church, a holiness denomination, wrote a book against the Pentecostal movement that was published in 1936; the work, entitled Demons and Tongues, represented early rejection of the new Pentecostal movement. White called speaking in tongues "satanic gibberish" and Pentecostal services "the climax of demon worship". Nevertheless, many holiness churches and organizations joined the Pentecostal movement (e.g., the Church of God in Christ and the Pentecostal Holiness Church), accepting the Pentecostal teaching on speaking in tongues as the evidence of a "third work" of grace, in addition to conversion and sanctification. As a result, Pentecostal churches in the Southeast and in the African-American community, are often called "holiness" and "sanctified" churches.
The roots of the holiness movement are as follows:
The Methodists of the 19th century continued the interest in Christian holiness that had been started by their founder, John Wesley. They continued to publish Wesley's works and tracts, including his famous A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. From 1788 to 1808, the entire text of A Plain Account was placed in the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and numerous persons in early American Methodism professed the experience of entire sanctification, including Bishop Francis Asbury.
By the 1840s, a new emphasis on holiness and Christian perfection had begun within American Methodism. Two major leaders of the holiness revival were Phoebe Palmer and her husband, Dr. Walter Palmer. In 1835, Palmer's sister, Sarah A. Lankford, had started holding Tuesday Meetings for the Promotion of Holiness in her New York City home. In 1837, Palmer experienced what she called entire sanctification and had become the leader of the Tuesday Meetings by 1839. At first only women attended these meetings, but eventually Methodist bishops and hundreds of clergy and laymen began to attend as well. At the same time, Methodist minister Timothy Merritt of Boston founded a journal called the Guide to Christian Perfection, later renamed The Guide to Holiness. This was the first American periodical dedicated exclusively to promoting the Wesleyan message of Christian holiness. In 1865, the Palmers purchased The Guide which at its peak had a circulation of 30,000. In 1859, Palmer published The Promise of the Father, in which she argued in favor of women in ministry. This book later influenced Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army. The practice of ministry by women is common but not universal within the denominations of the holiness movement.
At the Tuesday Meetings, Methodists soon enjoyed fellowship with Christians of different denominations, including the Congregationalist Thomas Upham. Upham was the first man to attend the meetings, and his participation in them led him to study mystical experiences, looking to find precursors of holiness teaching in the writings of persons like German Pietist Johann Arndt and the Roman Catholic mystic Madame Guyon. Other non-Methodists also contributed to the holiness movement. During the same era Asa Mahan, the president of Oberlin College, and Charles Grandison Finney, an evangelist associated with the college, promoted the idea of Christian holiness. In 1836, Mahan experienced what he called a baptism with the Holy Spirit. Mahan believed that this experience had cleansed him from the desire and inclination to sin. Finney believed that this experience might provide a solution to a problem he observed during his evangelistic revivals. Some people claimed to experience conversion but then slipped back into their old ways of living. Finney believed that the filling with the Holy Spirit could help these converts to continue steadfast in their Christian life.
Representative was the revivalism of Rev. James Caughey, an American missionary sent by the Wesleyan Methodist Church to work in Ontario, Canada from the 1840s through 1864. He brought in the converts by the score, most notably in the revivals in Canada West 1851-53. His technique combined restrained emotionalism with a clear call for personal commitment, coupled with followup action to organize support from converts. It was a time when the Holiness Movement caught fire, with the revitalized interest of men and women in Christian perfection. Caughey successfully bridged the gap between the style of earlier camp meetings and the needs of more sophisticated Methodist congregations in the emerging cities.
Presbyterian William Boardman promoted the idea of holiness through his evangelistic campaigns and through his book The Higher Christian Life, which was published in 1858. Also, Hannah Whitall Smith, a Quaker, experienced a profound personal conversion. Sometime in the 1860s, she found what she called the "secret" of the Christian life—devoting one’s life wholly to God and God’s simultaneous transformation of one’s soul. Her husband, Robert Pearsall Smith, had a similar experience at the camp meeting in 1867. Methodist minister B. F. Haynes wrote a book, Tempest-Tossed on Methodist Seas, about his decision to leave the Methodist church and join the Church of the Nazarene. In it he described the bitter divisions within the Methodist church over the holiness movement.
The first distinct "holiness camp meeting" convened at Vineland, New Jersey in 1867 under the leadership of John S. Inskip, John A. Wood, Alfred Cookman, and other Methodist ministers. The gathering attracted as many as 10,000 people. At the close of the encampment, while the ministers were on their knees in prayer, they formed the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness, and agreed to conduct a similar gathering the next year. This organization was commonly known as the National Holiness Association. Later, it became known as the Christian Holiness Association and subsequently the Christian Holiness Partnership.
The second National Camp Meeting was held at Manheim, Pennsylvania, and drew upwards of 25,000 persons from all over the nation. People called it a "Pentecost," and it did not disappoint them. The service on Monday evening has almost become legendary for its spiritual power and influence. The third National Camp Meeting met at Round Lake, New York. This time the national press attended and write-ups appeared in numerous papers, including a large two-page pictorial in Harper's Weekly. These meetings made instant religious celebrities out of many of the workers. Robert and Hannah Smith were among those who took the holiness message to England, and their ministries helped lay the foundation for the now-famous Keswick Convention.
In 1871, the American evangelist Dwight L. Moody had what he called an "endowment with power" as a result of some soul-searching and the prayers of two Free Methodist women who attended one of his meetings. He did not join the holiness movement but certainly advanced some of its ideas and even voiced his approval of it on at least one occasion.
In the 1870s, the holiness movement spread to Great Britain, where it was sometimes called the higher life movement after the title of William Boardman’s book The Higher Life. Higher life conferences were held at Broadlands and Oxford in 1874 and in Brighton and Keswick in 1875. The Keswick Convention soon became the British headquarters for the movement. The Faith Mission in Scotland was one consequence of the British holiness movement. Another was a flow of influence from Britain back to the United States. In 1874, Albert Benjamin Simpson read Boardman’s Higher Christian Life and felt the need for such a life himself. He went on to found the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
In the 1950s and 1960s, several small groups left the mainstream holiness movement to form what is known as the conservative holiness movement. During the 1968 merger of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Pilgrim Holiness Church which formed the Wesleyan Church, the Allegheny Conference and the Tennessee Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, and some churches of the Pilgrim Holiness Church did not approve of the merger and several new holiness denominations were formed.
There is an annual gathering in Huntington, West Virginia, called the Interchurch Holiness Convention. It has met for several years in Dayton, Ohio. 
in English-speaking countries
The holiness movement led to the formation of several Christian organizations, including: