The Necessity, Excellency, Rarity, and Beauty of Holiness
Thomas Brooks, 1662
Fifteen motives for unsanctified people to pursue holiness
Now that I may the better prevail with unsanctified souls, I shall,
First, propound some motives to stir and provoke their hearts to look and labor after real holiness, etc.
Secondly, I shall propose some means for the obtaining of holiness.
Thirdly, I shall endeavor to answer those objections, and remove those impediments, which hinder and keep men off from laboring after real holiness.
I. For the first, I shall propound these following MOTIVES and CONSIDERATIONS to provoke all unsanctified people to seek after holiness.
1. First, Consider the NECESSITY of holiness.It is impossible that ever you should be eternally happy—except you are holy. No holiness here—no happiness hereafter. The Scripture speaks of three bodily inhabitants of heaven—Enoch, before the law; Elijah, under the law; and Jesus Christ, under the gospel; all three eminent in holiness, to teach us, that even in an ordinary course there is no going to heaven without holiness. There are many thousand thousands now in heaven—but not one unholy one among them all! There is not one sinner among all those saints; not one goat among all those sheep; not one weed among all those flowers; not one thorn or prickle among all those roses; not one pebble among all those glistening diamonds. There is not one Cain among all those Abels; nor one Ishmael among all those Isaacs; nor one Esau among all those Jacobs in heaven. There is not one Ham among all the patriarchs; not one Saul among all the prophets; nor one Judas among all the apostles; nor one Demas among all the preachers; nor one Simon Magus among all the professors. Heaven is only for the holy man--and the holy man alone, is for heaven. Heaven is a garment of glory—which is only suited to him who is holy. [Rev. 5:11, and 7:9; Heb. 12:22-23.] God, who is truth itself, and cannot lie, has said it—that "without holiness no man, shall see the Lord."
Mark that word "no man." Without holiness the rich man shall not see the Lord. Without holiness the poor man shall not see the Lord. Without holiness the noble man shall not see the Lord—and without holiness the base man shall not see the Lord. Without holiness the prince shall not see the Lord—and without holiness the peasant shall not see the Lord. Without holiness the ruler shall not see the Lord—and without holiness the ruled shall not see the Lord. Without holiness the learned man shall not see the Lord—and without holiness the ignorant man shall not see the Lord. Without holiness the husband shall not see the Lord—and without holiness the wife shall not see the Lord. Without holiness the father shall not see the Lord—and without holiness the child shall not see the Lord;. Without holiness the master shall not see the Lord—and without holiness the servant shall not see the Lord. "For faithful and strong is the Lord Almighty, who has spoken it," Josh. 23:14.
In this day some cry up one form—some another; some cry up one church state—some another; some cry up one way—some another; but certainly the way of holiness is the good old way, Jer. 6:16; it is the King of kings' highway to heaven and happiness: Isaiah 35:8, "And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it." Some men say, "Lo, here is the way!" Other men say, "Lo, there is the way!" But certainly the way of holiness is the surest, the safest, the easiest, the noblest, and the shortest way to happiness. Among the heathens, no man could enter into the temple of honor—but must first enter into the temple of virtue. There is no entering into the temple of eternal happiness, except you enter into the temple of holiness. Holiness must first enter into you, before you can enter into God's holy hill.
As Samson cried out, "Give me water—or I die!" or as Rachel cried out, "Give me children—or I die!" So all unsanctified souls may well cry out, "Lord, give me holiness—or I die! Give me holiness—or I eternally die!" [Psalm 15] If the angels, those princes of glory, fall once from their holiness, they shall be forever excluded from everlasting happiness and blessedness. If Adam in paradise fall from his purity, he shall quickly be driven out from the presence of divine glory. Augustine would not be a wicked man, an unholy man, one hour for all the world, because he did not know but that he might die that hour: and should he die in an unholy estate, he knew he would be forever separated from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power.
O sirs, do not deceive your own souls; holiness is of absolute necessity; without it you shall never see the Lord! 2 Thes. 1:8-10. It is not absolutely necessary that you should be great or rich in the world—but it is absolutely necessary that you should be holy. It is not absolutely necessary that you should enjoy health, strength, friends, liberty, life—but it is absolutely necessary that you should be holy. A man may see the Lord without worldly prosperity—but he can never see the Lord except he be holy. A man may to heaven, to happiness, without honor or worldly glory—but he can never to heaven, to happiness, without holiness. Without holiness here, no heaven hereafter! Rev. 21:27, "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles." God will at last shut the gates of glory against every person who is without heart-purity.
Ah, sirs! holiness is a flower which does not grow in nature's garden. Men are not born with holiness in their hearts, as they are born with tongues in their mouths. Holiness is of a divine offspring—it is a pearl of price, which is to be found in no nature but a renewed nature—in no bosom but a sanctified bosom. There is not the least beam or spark of holiness in any natural man in the world: Gen. 6:5, "Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually." Job 25:4, "How can man be clean who is born of a woman?" The interrogation carries in it a strong negation, "How can man be clean?" that is, man cannot be clean who is born of a woman! Man who is born of a woman, is born in sin, and born both under wrath and under the curse. "And who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" Job 14:4.
Isaiah 64:6, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Romans 3:10-11, "There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God." Every man by nature is a stranger, yes, an enemy to holiness, Romans 8:7. Every man who comes into this world, comes with his face towards sin and hell, and with his back upon God and holiness. Such is the corruption of our nature, that, propound any divine good to it, it is entertained as fire by water or wet wood—with hissing. Propound any evil, then it is like a fire to straw; it is like the foolish satyr who made haste to kiss the fire; it is like that unctuous matter which, the naturalists say, sucks and snatches the fire to it, with which it is consumed.
All men are born sinners, and there is nothing but an infinite power that can make them saints. All men would be happy—and yet they naturally loathe to be holy. By all which you may clearly see that food is not more necessary for the preservation of natural life, than holiness is necessary for the preservation and salvation of the soul. If a man had the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Samson, the courage of Joshua, the policy of Ahithophel, the dignities of Haman, the power of Ahasuerus, and the eloquence of Apollos—yet all these without holiness would never save him.
2. Secondly, Consider there is a possibility of obtaining holiness.Holiness is a golden mine that may be obtained—if you will but dig, and sweat, and take pains for it, Proverbs 2:2-7. Holiness is a flower of paradise that may be gathered. Holiness is a crown that may be put on. Holiness is a pearl of great price that may be obtained—if you will but part with the wicked man's trinity—the world, the flesh, and the devil—to enjoy it, Romans 13:12-14. Though some of the attributes of God be incommunicable—yet holiness is a communicable attribute; and this should mightily encourage you to look after holiness.
Well! sinners, remember this—it is possible that those proud hearts of yours may be humbled; it is possible that those hard hearts of yours may be softened; it is possible that those unclean hearts of yours may be sanctified; it is possible that those blind minds of yours may be enlightened; it is possible that those stubborn wills of yours may be tamed; it is possible that those disordered affections of yours may be regulated; it is possible that those drowsy and defiled consciences of yours may be awakened and purged; it is possible that those vile and polluted natures of yours may be changed and purified. There are several things that do witness that holiness is attainable; as
[1.] Witness God's promise to give his HOLY SPIRIT to those who ask.Luke 11:13, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?" The Holy Spirit is a gift more worth than a world, yes, than heaven itself—and yet, to make men holy, God is willing to give his Holy Spirit upon very easy terms—they shall have it for asking. The Spirit is a spirit of holiness; he is holy in himself, and the author of all that holiness that is in man. [John 3:6; Titus 3:5; 1 Cor. 6:11.] It is the Holy Spirit who most powerfully moves and persuades men to holiness who presents holiness in its beauty and glory to the soul. It is the Holy Spirit who sows seeds of holiness in the soul. It is the Holy Spirit who causes those seeds to grow up to maturity and ripeness. Nothing can come from the Holy Spirit but that which is holy. The Holy Spirit is the great principle of all the holiness that is in the world; and this Holy Spirit God has engaged himself to give to those who are unholy. "I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances." Ezekiel 36:25-27. The Holy Spirit is a gift—a free gift—a noble gift—a precious gift—a glorious gift—which God will bestow upon the unclean, upon the unsanctified, that they may be cleansed and sanctified, and so fitted for the Lord's service and use. It is possible that you may be holy, 2 Tim. 2:21; witness,
[2.] His holy WORD—which he has given on purpose to make men holy, and to keep men holy.His commandments are holy, just, and good. His threatenings are holy, just, and good. And all his promises are holy, just, and good. [Deut. 4:6-9: Romans 7:12: Luke 1:70-76.] The Holy Scriptures were written with a finger of holiness, so as to move us to holiness, and to work holiness in us. The whole word of God is an entire love-letter to provoke us to holiness, and to promote holiness in us. Holy commands should sweetly persuade us to holiness; and holy threatenings should divinely force us to holiness; and holy promises should effectually allure us—to the love of holiness, to the embracing of holiness, and to the practice of holiness. The great design of God, in sending this sacred volume in golden letters from heaven, was to enamor men with the love and beauty of holiness. Again, it is possible that you may attain to true holiness; witness,
[3.] Those holy AMBASSADORS that he has sent on purpose to turn men from "darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to Jesus Christ."Their great business and work is to treat with you about holiness; it is to woo you to match with holiness, and to follow after holiness; it is to remove all impediments that may in any way hinder your embracing of holiness; and it is to propose all manner of encouragements that may win you over to make holiness your great all, Acts 26:18, and 2 Cor. 5:18-20. Again, it is possible that you may be holy; witness,
[4.] The holy EXAMPLES of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and saints which are left on record, on purpose to provoke you to an imitation of them in holiness.Their holy examples, as so many shining stars, are left upon record to influence us to holiness. In the holy examples of those who are now triumphant in heaven, you may run and read that holiness is attainable. In their holy examples, as in so many looking-glasses, you may see that holiness is a jewel which may be procured. By that holiness which others have reached to, sinners may see that it is possible that they may be made saints. Again, it is possible that you may be holy; witness,
[5.] All those NOTORIOUS sinners that the Scripture declares have been sanctified and made holy.To instance only in a few: ADAM, you know, was created in an estate of innocency, integrity, and perfect holiness, Gen. 1:26; he being made in the image of God, and after the likeness and similitude of God. It was agreed upon in the parliament of heaven that man should be made glorious in holiness; and so he was, for he was made after God's own image. And this the apostle clearly and fully evidences in that famous scripture, Eph. 4:22-24. [In this scripture he speaks plainly of the renovation of that knowledge, holiness, and righteousness that Adam once had—but lost it by his fall, Psalm 8:4-6; Gen. 2:20.]
Adam was invested and endowed with righteousness and holiness in his first glorious estate. With righteousness, that he might live fairly, justly, evenly, and righteously towards man; and with holiness, that he might live wisely, lovingly, reverentially, and holily towards God; and that he might take up in God as his chief good, as his great All. Adam's first estate was a state of perfect knowledge, wisdom, and understanding; it was a perfect state of holiness, righteousness, and happiness. There was nothing within him but what was desirable and delectable; there was nothing outside him but what was amiable and commendable; nor anything about him but what was serviceable and comfortable.
And yet, in the height of all his glory—Adam falls to apostasy and open rebellion against God! He takes part with Satan against God himself; he transgresses his righteous law, he affronts his justice, he provokes his anger, he stirs up his wrath against himself and his posterity. The sin of Adam was a voluminous sin! All kinds of notorious sins were bound up in it—as backsliding, rebellion, treason, pride, unbelief, blasphemy, contempt of God, unthankfulness, theft, murder, and idolatry, etc.
The philosopher being asked which was the best member of the body, answered, "The tongue; for if it is good, it is the best trumpet of God's glory." And being asked again which was the worst member of the body, answered, "The tongue; for if it be bad, it is the worst firebrand of hell." Just so, if any should ask me, Which was the best creature of God? I would answer, "Man in honor before his fall." If you should ask me, Which is the worst? I must answer, "Man in his fall."
Adam was once the wonder of all understanding, the mirror of wisdom and knowledge, the image of God, the delight of heaven, the glory of the creation, the world's great Lord, and the Lord's great darling! But being fallen, ah how low, how poor, how miserable, how sottish, how senseless, how brutish, yes how much below the beast which perishes, was he! And yet God pardoned, changed, and sanctified him, and stamped his image of holiness afresh upon him, when he made a covenant with him in Christ, Gen. 3.
Just so, MANASSEH, he was a notorious sinner, he was a sinner of the greatest magnitude; his sins reached up to heaven, his soul was ripe for hell, he had sold himself to work all manner of wickedness! "Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did what was evil in the Lord's sight, imitating the detestable practices of the pagan nations whom the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. He rebuilt the pagan shrines his father Hezekiah had destroyed. He constructed altars for the images of Baal and set up Asherah poles. He also bowed before all the stars of heaven and worshiped them. He even built pagan altars in the Temple of the Lord, the place where the Lord had said his name should be honored forever. Manasseh even sacrificed his own sons in the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom. (Here was inhuman superstition, and inhuman cruelty—to offer his own children in sacrifice to the devil.) He practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the Lord's sight, arousing his anger. Manasseh even took a carved idol he had made and set it up in God's Temple! Manasseh led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations whom the Lord had destroyed when the Israelites entered the land." 2 Chronicles 33:1-9.
The actions of rulers become rules for the common people's actions; and their example passes as current as their coin. The common people dare practice the very worst of wickedness that they see acted in a scarlet robe; they are like warm wax, easily receiving impressions from the seals of great men's vices; they make no bones of it to sin by prescription, and to damn themselves with authority. The heathen brings in a young man, who hearing of the adulteries and wickednesses of the gods, said, "What, they do thus and thus—and shall I abstain from it?" So say most, when great ones are greatly wicked, "Why, they do thus and thus—so why should we abstain from it?" The Egyptians esteemed it graceful, and their duty, to halt on that leg on which their king limped; most men think it a grace to imitate the greatest authority in their most graceless actings, which made the poet say,
"Subjects and kingdoms commonly do choose
Verse 10, "The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings." He was settled in idolatry, and stopped his ears against all the counsel and admonitions of the prophets who were sent to reclaim him. Now who would ever have thought that one so abominably wicked and wretched should ever have obtained such favor with God, as to be pardoned, renewed, and sanctified? and yet, verse 12-13, "But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and cried out humbly to the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request for help. So the Lord let Manasseh return to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Manasseh had finally realized that the Lord alone is God!" He now acknowledges Jehovah to be the true God, and renounces all other gods, that he may cleave to God alone. There is no heart so wicked—but grace can make it holy.
Just so, PAUL was once so great a sinner, that had he stepped but one step further, he had fallen into the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Tim. 1:13 you have a brief survey of his great transgressions. He was a blasphemer. He blasphemed God and Christ, and his ways and truth; he made a mock and scoff at holiness. He made nothing of blaspheming that God whom he should have feared, and of blaspheming that Christ whom he should have sweetly embraced, and of blaspheming those truths which he should have readily entertained. Paul was a great proficient in the school of blasphemy, he made nothing of belching out blasphemy in the very face of heaven. And he was a persecutor too: he persecuted holiness to the death, Acts 9 and 26:11; yes, he was mad in persecuting the poor saints and servants of Christ; he did all he could to make their lives a hell, and to rid them out of this world; he thought them not worthy to live, though they were such worthies of whom this world was not worthy, Acts 8:3. He was a ravening and an untired wolf that was never weary in worrying Christ's little flock, and in sucking out the blood of his lambs. Yes, and he was an injurious person too: he made no conscience of wronging others, or of disregarding that golden rule, "Do to others as you would have others do to you," Mat. 7:12. This royal law, this standard of equity, he regarded not; he made nothing of throwing men and women into prison, and of compelling them to blaspheme by his cruelty and wicked example. He spared no gender—but practiced the highest cruelty upon all who had anything of sanctity in them. He would hazard the torments of hell, rather than not be a tormenter of the saints here; and the more active any were in holiness, the more injurious was he to them.
And yet behold this blasphemer, this persecutor, this injurious person, became a sanctified Christian, an eminent saint, a pattern of holiness to all Christians in all ages.
Once more, witness that sad roster of unsanctified people who are mentioned in 1 Cor. 6:9-10, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." These monstrous sinners and prodigious sins were enough to have brought another flood upon the world, or to have provoked the Lord to rain hell out of heaven upon them, as once he did upon Sodom and Gomorrah, or to have caused the ground to open and swallow them up, as once it did Korah, Dathan, and Abiram—and yet behold some of these are changed and sanctified! verse 11, "And that is what some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." Oh, the infinite goodness! Oh, the infinite grace! Oh, the infinite wisdom and power of God—which has pardoned, washed, sanctified, and cleansed such guilty, filthy, and polluted souls! The worst of sinners should never despair of being made saints, considering what unholy ones have been made holy. [Matthew, Zaccheus, Mary Magdalene, the jailer, and the murderers of Christ, Acts 2 are clear instances of this truth.] It is possible that you may be made holy; witness,
[6.] All those sanctified ones among whom you live, who once were as unholy, or more unholy, it may be, than ever you were.The sanctified husband is a clear witness to the unsanctified wife—that she may be sanctified, 1 Cor. 7:14, 16; 1 Pet. 3:1, 6. The sanctified father is a witness to the unsanctified child—that he may be sanctified. The sanctified master is a witness to the unsanctified servant—that he may be sanctified. The sanctified prince is a witness to his unsanctified people—that they may be sanctified. The sanctified minister is a witness to his unsanctified hearers—that they may be sanctified. The same Spirit, the same grace, the same power, the same presence which has sanctified any of these, may sanctify all of these. There is no heart so unholy—but a holy God can make it holy! There is no spirit so unclean—but a Holy Spirit can make it clean. Well, sinners! there are many living and standing witnesses of divine grace among you, and around you, which do sufficiently declare that it is possible that you may be sanctified and saved. Again, it is possible that you may be sanctified and made holy; witness,
[7.] The oath of a holy God.Ezek. 18:31-32, and 33:11, "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?" "As surely as I live" is the form of an oath, and is much used in the Scripture by God himself. Wicked men are very hardly persuaded to believe that God is willing that they should be sanctified and saved; and therefore God puts his oath on it—that he is infinitely more willing that wicked men should turn from their evil ways and be sanctified and saved, than that they should perish in their sins and be damned forever.
"As surely as I live" is a weighty oath, and imports the certainty of that which follows: it is absolute, without evasion or revocation. "As surely as I live and am God—I have no pleasure in destroying and damning of souls—but desire that they would turn from their evil ways, and that they would be sanctified and saved. Let me not live, let me be no longer a God—if I would not have the wicked to live and be happy forever." The possibility of your being holy, God has confirmed by an oath, and therefore you may no longer question it.
The Egyptians, though heathens, so hated perjury, that if any man did but swear by the life of the king, and did not perform his oath, that man was to die, and no amount of gold was to redeem his life. And do you think that a holy God does not stand more upon his oath than heathens, yes, than the worst of heathens? Certainly he does! Lastly, it is possible that you may be holy; witness,
[8.] The great designs and undertakings of Jesus Christ to make lost man holy.His great design in leaving his Father's bosom and coming into this world, was the destroying, the dissolving of the works of the devil: 1 John 3:8, "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." Sin is Satan's work, and Christ comes to destroy it, and break it all in pieces. Men's sins are Satan's chains, by which he links them fast to himself. But Christ was therefore manifested that he might loose and knock off these chains. Satan had knit many sinful knots in our souls—but Christ comes to untie those knots. Satan had laid many snares—but Christ comes to discover and to break those snares.
It was the great design of Christ in the divesting of himself, as it were, of his divine honor, glory, and dignity, and in his taking on him the nature of man—to destroy Satan, and to sanctify the souls of men, Phil. 2:6-8, 15; Heb. 2:11, 14-15. It was the great design of Jesus Christ in giving of himself for us—in giving his soul, his body, his life, to justice, to death, to wrath for us—that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works, Titus 2:14.
The crown of holiness was fallen from our heads, and Christ freely and willingly uncrowns himself, that once more we might be crowned with holiness, immortality, and glory. Christ was resolved that he would lose all that was near and dear unto him—that he would recover our lost holiness for us. Christ knew that heaven would have been but a poor purchase—had he not purchased holiness for us. As heaven is but a base thing without God, so heaven is but a base thing without holiness. It is holiness, which is the sparkling diamond in the ring of happiness; a man were better be holy in hell than unholy in heaven; and therefore Christ ventures his all for holiness.
The great design of Christ in redeeming of souls with the choicest, the purest, the costliest, the noblest blood which ever ran in veins—was that they should "serve him in righteousness and holiness all the days of their lives," Luke 1:74-75. In a word, Christ would have never taken so great a journey from heaven to earth—but to make men holy. Christ would have never taken upon him the form of a servant—but to make us the servants of the most high God. Christ would have never lain in a manger, he would have never trod the wine-press of his Father's wrath—but to make you holy. He prayed, he sweat, he bled, and he hung on the cross—all to make you holy. He was holy in his birth, and holy in his life, and holy in his death, and holy in all his sufferings—and all to make you holy. The great design of Christ in all he did, and in all he suffered, was to make man holy. And thus you see by all these arguments that holiness is attainable.
3. Thirdly, Consider this—that real holiness is the honor and the glory of the creature; and therefore the apostle links holiness and honor together.2 Cor. 3:18, and Eph. 5:27; 1 Thess. 4:3-4, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication; that everyone of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor." The vessel is man's body—which is the great utensil or instrument of the soul, and contains it as in a vessel. Now the sanctity and chastity of this vessel is the honor of a Christian. Even bodily purity is a Christian's glory. He who keeps his vessel in holiness, keeps it in honor. Holiness is the greatest dignity that mortal man is capable of; it is man's highest promotion, it is his highest exaltation. Holiness is the true grandeur and the true nobility of the soul.
Deut. 26:19, "And to make you high above all nations which he has made, in praise, and in name, and in honor, and that you may be an holy people unto the Lord your God." There is nothing which lifts a people so high, and which makes them so truly famous and glorious—as holiness does. Holiness is the praise, the renown, the crown, and glory of a people. Holiness is the diadem, the beauty, and the excellency of a people. Holiness is the strength, the honor, and the riches of a people. Holiness is the image of God, the character of Christ. Holiness is a beam of the divine nature, a spark of glory, it is the life of your lives, and the soul of your souls. It is only holiness, which makes men to excel in honor all other people in the world.
Look! as God's holiness is his glory, and the angels' holiness is their glory, and the church's holiness is their glory, Exod. 15:11; Isaiah 6:2, 3; Psalm 93:5; Eph. 5:27—just so, the holiness of any particular person is the glory of that person. Why was Jabez reputed more honorable than his brethren—but because he was more holy than his brethren? 1 Chron. 4:9-10, "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, 'I gave birth to him in pain.' Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, 'Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!' And God granted his request." Holiness is the truest and the greatest nobility and honor in the world.
Romanus, the martyr, who was born of noble parentage, entreated his persecutors that they would not favor him for his nobility; "for it is not," said he, "the blood of my ancestors—but my Christian faith, which makes me noble." David thought it not so happy nor so honorable a thing to be a king in his own house, as to be a door-keeper in God's house. Solomon did prefer the title of Ecclesiastes, that is, a soul reconciled to the church, before the title of the king of Jerusalem. Holy Theodosius, the emperor, preferred the title of a member of the church, before that of the head of the empire, professing that he had rather be a saint and no king, than a king and no saint. And Luther had rather be a Christian dunce than a pagan emperor. These holy men well knew that holiness was the top of all their honor and glory.
Well, sinners, remember this, that holiness is the high and ready way to the highest honor; and therefore, as ever you would be truly honorable, labor to be truly holy. Great swelling titles are but as so many rattles, or as so many feathers in men's caps, without holiness. He who can be content to live without holiness, must be contented to see his honor entombed while he lives. Honor without holiness is but a wind that will blow a man the sooner to hell. Honor without holiness is but a great nothing, a glorious illusion. [Acts 25:23, "So the next day Agrippa and Bernice arrived at the auditorium with great pomp." That is, with great phantasy or vain show. All the honor, pomp, and accolade of this world is but a phantasy.]
Many a man has been the worse—but where lives that man who has been ever the better, for his worldly honor? A man swelled with honor, without holiness, is like a man in a dropsy, whose bigness is his disease. Well, let ambitionists, and all others who hunt after the breath of popular applause, know that that honor which attends holiness is the truest honor, the highest honor, the greatest honor, the happiest honor, the surest honor, the purest honor, and the most lasting and abiding honor. Mollerus, upon Psalm 73:20, concludes that wicked men's earthly honors and accolades are but as idle dreams, and their splendid braveries but dreamy fantasies. Adonibezek, a mighty prince, is quickly made to eat scraps from under the table with the dogs, Judges 1:7. And Nebuchadnezzar, a mighty conqueror, turned a-grazing among the oxen, Dan. 4:28. And Herod is reduced from a conceited god—to be the most loathsome of men, a living carrion attacked by the vilest of creatures, upon his affront of his Creator, Acts 12:23. And great Haman feasted with the king one day, and made a feast for crows the next, Esther 7:10. But that honor which accompanies holiness is honor that will abide with a man, that will to the grave with a man, yes, that will to heaven with a man.
Some heathens have been weary of their honors—but the honor that attends holiness is no burden to a Christian. Others have rejected honors when they have been offered to them, because of the trouble and danger which attends them. High seats are always uneasy, and crowns are usually stuffed with thorns. But the honor which attends holiness is a rose without prickles, it is a crown without thorns. That honor which springs from a root of holiness shall be both sanctified and sweetened by God, so as that it shall not hurt nor harm a gracious soul. Ah, sinners! sinners! if you will be ambitious, be ambitious of that honor which comes in with holiness, for there is no honor compared to that honor. The Romans were insatiable in their desires after worldly honor, which is but as a blast, a shadow, a dream. Oh, how much more insatiable should you be in your desires and endeavors after that honor that is linked to holiness, and that is substantial and lasting!
To stir you up to look after real holiness, consider,
4. Fourthly, That holiness is very attractive, drawing, and winning.It draws love, it draws desire, it draws delight. Holiness is like a precious perfume, whose savor spreads itself, and is pleasing and delightful to all who come near it: 2 Kings 4:9-10, "She said to her husband—I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. Let's make a little room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by." The holiness of the prophet's spirit, the holiness of his principles, the holiness of his behavior, and the holiness of his life, did so allure and win upon this great lady, that she becomes an importunate suitor to her husband that he might be lovingly, freely, courteously, and commodiously entertained and accommodated as often as he came that way. [History tells us of many infidels that have been won to the Christian faith by the holy lives of the saints, etc.]
Just so, Acts 2:46-47, "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." That which did grace and ingratiate these holy converts into the favor of the people, was the exercise of their grace and holiness. It was their sweet unity, their noble charity, their holy familiarity, their blessed harmony, their singular sincerity, and their Christian constancy, which brought them into favor with all the people.
Visible holiness is a loadstone which will draw eyes and hearts after it: 1 Pet. 3:1, "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives." A holy life is a winning life, Phil. 2:15, and 1 Cor. 7:16. The holy life of the wife may be the conversion of the husband; the holy, the wise, the watchful, the circumspect life of the wife may issue in the salvation of the husband. Many a husband has been won to Christ by the holy life of the wife; and many a wife has been won by the holy life of the husband. Many a servant has been won by the holy life of the master; and many a master has been won by the holy life of the servant.
Sozomen reports, that the holy life of a poor captive Christian maid, made a king and all his family to embrace the Christian faith. I have read of Cecilia, a poor maiden, who, by her holy and gracious behavior in her martyrdom, was the means of converting four hundred to Christ. Many a soul has been won by the silent oratory of a holy life. ["Monica won her husband from being an impure Manichee, not by force of argument—but by purity and chastity of life," says Augustine.] Justin Martyr confesses that the constancy of Christians in their piety and sufferings was the chief motive that converted him to Christianity. "For I myself," says he, "was once a Platonist, and did gladly hear the Christians reviled: but when I saw they feared not death, nor any of those miseries which did most frighten all other men, I began to consider with myself that it was impossible for such men to be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of piety; and that made me first think of turning Christian."
There is nothing that has that influence upon the judgments of men to persuade them, upon the consciences of men to awe them, upon the mouths of men to stop them, upon the hearts of men to convince them, and upon the lives of men to reform them—as holiness, 1 Pet. 2:12, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." What Plato once said of his moral virtue—namely, that if it could be seen with bodily eyes it would be beloved of all, and draw all hearts to itself—that is most true of this theological grace, holiness. Holiness is so beautiful and so lovely a thing, that it renders men amiable and lovely in the very eyes of their enemies. Tilligny, for his rare virtues, was rescued from death by his greatest enemies at the massacre of Paris. Holiness makes a man's face to shine, as it did Moses his, and Stephen's. Nothing pleases the eye nor wins the heart, like holiness. What is gold to godliness, gifts to grace, parts to piety? A spark, a ray, a beam of holiness, will certainly have an influence upon the spirits of men, either to restrain them or change them, or allay them or sweeten them, or win them, or one way or another to better them.
Look! as the unholy lives of many professors do occasion some to blaspheme God, others to belie God, others to withstand God, and others to forsake God; look, as the looseness of many Christians does work some to reproach Christ, others to deny Christ, others to refuse Christ, others to revile the good ways of Christ, and others to oppose and despise the faithful followers of Christ: as Lactantius reports, that the loose lives of many Christians was made by the heathens the reproach of Christ himself, "How can we think the master to be good, whose disciples we see to be so bad?" And Salvian also complains that the loose walking of many Christians was made by the heathen the reproach of Christ himself, saying, "If Christ had taught holy doctrine, surely his followers would lead better lives." And further, the same author relates how the heathens did reproach some Christians, who by their lewd lives made the gospel of Christ to be a reproach: "Where," said they, "is that good law which they believe? Where are those rules of godliness which they learn? They read the holy Gospel—and yet are unclean; they hear the apostles' writings—and yet are drunk; they follow Christ—and yet disobey Christ; they profess a holy law—and yet do lead impure lives."
Now I say, look, as the unholy lives of many professors is a dishonor to God, a reproach to Christ, a scandal to religion, a blot to profession, and a grief to many whom God would not have grieved, Ezek. 13:22—just so, the power of holiness, the practice of holiness, is very influential upon the worst of men, to win and work them to the Lord, and to a love and liking of his ways. The holy lives of the saints made the very heathens to say, "Surely this is a good God, whose servants are so good." Ambrose's holiness did very much draw out the heart of Theodosius, the emperor, to him. And the holiness of Paphnutius did very much draw out the heart of Constantine the Great to him. There is nothing which gives a man that heart-room and that hearty room in the souls of others—as holiness. It is the holy man who is a man of a thousand. [2 Thes. 1:3-5, read it.] But,
5. Fifthly, Consider that real holiness is the excellency of all a man's excellencies.As holiness is the glory of God, a part of the divine nature, a spark of heaven, a ray of glory—so it is the excellency of all a man's excellencies. Holiness is the excellency of all our natural excellencies, it is the excellency of all our moral excellencies, and it is the excellency of all our intellectual excellencies. Look! as God's holiness is the excellency of all his excellencies, as the angels, who best know what is the top of his excellency, do evidence by that threefold repetition, "Holy, holy, holy," Isaiah 6:3; these multiplied acclamations of holiness denote the superlative eminency, excellency, and perfection of God's holiness. Both among the Hebrews and among the Grecians the holiness of God is the excellency of his omnisciency, omnipotency, and omnipresence. It is the excellency of his eternity, immutability, and fidelity; it is the excellency of his wisdom, love, care, and goodness.
Psalm 111:9, "Holy and reverend is his name." God's name comes to be reverend by holiness. If his name were not holy, it would never be reverend. And why is God called so often "the holy one," but to show us that holiness is the very top of all his glory and excellency. [Exod. 15:11. That which God accounts his highest honor is his holiness.] God could not be glorious in anything if he were not glorious in holiness. That which speaks his power to be glorious power, is his holiness; and that which speaks his wisdom to be glorious wisdom, is his holiness; and that which speaks his mercy to be glorious mercy, is his holiness, etc, Were not the power of God a holy power, it could never be a glorious power; were not the wisdom of God a holy wisdom, it could never be glorious wisdom; and were not the mercy of God holy mercy, it could never be glorious mercy, etc.
Just so, the holiness of a man is the glory and excellency of all a man's excellencies; it is the perfection of all a man's perfections. In paradise, man's perfect holiness was his perfect blessedness; and in heaven, man's perfect holiness will be his perfect happiness, Heb. 12:23. Holiness adds an excellency to all a man's excellencies. That which adds an excellency to a man's wisdom is holiness. When a man's wisdom is a holy wisdom, then it is excellent wisdom. Just so, holy courage is excellent courage, and holy zeal is excellent zeal, and holy knowledge is excellent knowledge, and holy faith is excellent faith, and holy love is excellent love, and holy fear is excellent fear. It is the adding of holiness to all these, which renders these virtues truly excellent; it is holiness, which is the top of all these royalties.
Look! as all ciphers signify nothing except you add a figure before them—just so, all the excellencies which are in men, whether they are natural, moral, or acquired, they signify nothing except you add holiness to them. [0000000—these signify nothing; but if you do but add a figure to them, 10000000, then they signify much.] Birth and breeding, wit and wealth, honor and learning—are but the shadows of nobleness and true excellency; it is holiness, which is the soul and substance of all; and without holiness all other things are of no worth, all other excellencies have no excellency at all in them.
Naaman was general of the king's army; he was a man in great favor with his prince, a man much honored among the people for being a deliverer to them. He was also a mighty man in valor—but he was a leper, 2 Kings 5:1. This "but he was a leper" was a cloud upon all his glory; it was a veil upon all his honor, greatness, and nobleness. Just so, to say, there is a wise man—but unholy; and there is a great man—but unholy; and there is an sincere man—but unholy; and there is a noble man—but unholy; and there is a valiant man—but unholy; and there is a good-natured man—but unholy; and there is a learned man—but unholy, etc. What is this "but unholy," but a cloud of darkness upon all the excellencies which are in these people? But let holiness be but added to each of these, and then they will shine as so many suns.
Holiness is a garment that sets off arts, and parts, and all other excellencies that are in man; let but this garment be lacking, and the nakedness of all things will quickly appear. And this made Jerome to say that he had rather have Paul's heavenly graces, than the purple of kings with their kingdoms. Look! as a precious jewel set in gold makes that much more glorious which was glorious before—just so, holiness adds beauty, splendor, and glory to a man's parts, birth, honor, and estate, etc. But,
6. Sixthly, Consider that holiness is not only an honor and an ornament to the person who has it—but it is also an honor and an ornament both to the people and places to whom he stands related.[Just so, holy Eliakim was a throne of glory to his father's house, Isaiah 22:23.] The holiness of the father is an honor and ornament to the child—just so, was Abraham's to Isaac. And the holiness of the child is an honor and an ornament to the father—just so, was Isaac's to Abraham. The holiness of the husband is an honor and ornament to the wife—just so, was Abraham's to Sarah. And the holiness of the wife is an honor and an ornament to the husband—just so, was Sarah's to Abraham. Just so, in Proverbs 12:4, "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband." [The Hebrew is, a woman of strength, or a valiant woman; that is, a woman who is made strong and valiant by grace, by holiness, to withstand sin, to conquer temptation, and to triumph in affliction, etc.] A crown is the top of honor, it is the top of royalty and glory; why! a virtuous wife is such a thing! A sweet, a good-natured wife is as a gold ring upon her husband's finger; a gifted wife is as a gold chain about her husband's neck; but a holy virtuous wife is as a crown upon her husband's head.
The holiness of the prince is an honor and an ornament to the people; and the holiness of the people is an honor and an ornament to the prince. The holiness of the master is an honor and an ornament to the servant; and the holiness of the servant is an honor and an ornament to the master. And the holiness of one brother is an honor to another brother. Jude glories in this—that he was the brother of James. James was famous for his sanctity; for his holiness, he was called James the Just. His holiness did so sparkle and shine, that the Jews were generally convinced that in holiness he was more eminent and excellent than others. Now Jude took it for a very high honor to be related to one so eminent in holiness.
Holy people reflect a credit and an honor upon their relations. It was the speech of a heathen notably qualified, though but poorly bred and born, to a dissolute person well born, upbraiding him with his birth, "I am a grace to my family—but you are a blot to your lineage." Yes, holy people are an honor to the places where they have been born and bred: Psalm 87:5-6, "Indeed, of Zion it will be said, 'This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.' The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: 'This one was born in Zion.'"
God seems to be very much affected and taken with the very places where holy men are born; he loves the very ground that holy men tread on, and he delights in the very air that holy men breathe in. Holy people reflect honor upon the very places where they were born. The holy patriarchs, prophets, and apostles were the honor and the glory of the ages and places where they lived. [Some antiquaries say that the primitive church had her public tables, wherein the names of the people who were most noted for piety and holiness were recorded.] They were as so many bright morning stars, they were as so many rising suns in the places where they were bred and born. Melanchthon was called the phoenix of Germany, and Luther was the glory of the age wherein he lived. And so were many of the ancients before them, and many since, who have been burning and shining lights in the places of their abode.
Look! as an unholy person is a plague and a curse to the very place he lives in, and hastens down wrath and vengeance upon it, as Bias the philosopher has long since observed; for he being at sea in a great tempest among many profane debauched fellows, and perceiving them to call upon their gods, as the worst of men usually do in such cases, he comes to them, and desires them to hold their peace, lest the gods should take notice that they were in the ship, and so not only themselves—but others also should suffer for their sakes.
It was the wickedness of the wicked which brought the sweeping flood upon the old world. And it was the wickedness and filthiness of the Sodomites which caused God to rain hell out of heaven upon the cities where they lived. Let men be ever so honorable, or ever so potent, or ever so witty, or ever so wealthy, etc.—yet if they are profane, if they are wicked, they will hasten down the wrath and vengeance of God upon the places of their abode.
Just so, a holy person is an honor and a blessing to the very place he lives in, as you may see in Jacob and Joseph, who were choice and noble blessings to the very families where they lived. O sirs, as ever you would be an honor to your relations, to your country, and to the places of your abode—labor for holiness! Some venture life and limb, and many a better thing, to reflect honor upon their relations, and upon their country—as many of the Romans did; and why then should not you venture far, and venture high for holiness, which will be not only an honor to yourselves—but also an honor and a glory to all people and places which you have relation to?
7. Seventhly, Consider that holiness is the very ear-mark, the very attire and badge of Christ's servants and subjects.Isaiah 63:8, "For he said, Surely they are my people, children who will not lie: so he was their Savior;" and verse 18, they are called "the people of his holiness." God's people are too holy to lie; they will not lie for their own worldly good. [Job 13:7; Romans 3:7-8; Rev. 14:5.] They will rather die than lie, with that brave woman that Jerome writes of, who being upon the rack, bade her persecutors do their worst, for she was resolved rather to die than lie. Neither the merry lie, nor the jesting lie, nor the officious lie, nor the pernicious lie—will be found with those who are the people of God's holiness, or who are his holy people. Says God, "I have been at so much cost and charge about them, I have acted so kindly, so bountifully, so sweetly, so favorably, so nobly to them; I have been such an all-sufficient Savior, such a mighty preserver, and such a glorious deliverer of them—that certainly they will not lie, they will not deceive my expectation, they will not deny me, they will not deal disloyally nor unworthily by me. [It is said of golden-mouthed Chrysostom that he never lied; answerable to this, Isaiah 63:8.] They are of Augustine's opinion, who has long since told us, that "we must not tell so much as a small lie, though it were to save all the world."
Just so, Jer. 2:3, "Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, says the Lord." Holiness to the Lord is the mark that God sets upon all his precious ones: Psalm 4:3, "Know that God has set apart him who is godly for himself." God has wonderfully, gloriously, marvelously, yes, miraculously set apart the pious, the holy, the merciful, the godly man, the gracious saint, by some mark of distinction for himself, that is, for his own honor, and glory, and service, and delight.
Look! as Rahab's house was known by a red rope, Josh. 2; and the Ephraimites by their lisping, Judges 11; and Jehu by his driving, 2 Kings 9; and Peter by his speaking, Mat. 26—just so, real Christians are known by their holiness. Holiness is that by which all Christ's subjects and servants are known and differenced from all other people in the world. And in the primitive times, a Christian was known from another man only by the holiness of his life, as Tertullian witnesses. Look! as our Lord Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of holiness raising him up from the dead, was declared to be the Son of God, Romans 1:4—just so, it is the spirit of holiness, it is principles of holiness, it is the life and practice of holiness—which declares us to be the sons of God, 2 Cor. 6:17-18. Holiness is that golden character by which God differences and distinguishes his people from all others in the world. Look! as the worshipers of the beast are known by the mark of the beast that is upon them—just so, the worshipers of Christ, the people of Christ, are known by that mark of holiness that Christ has set upon them.
This title, "saints," is given eighty times to the people of God in Scripture, as if God took a greater delight to have his children known by this badge and title than by any other. As for such who have the name of saints upon them—but nothing of the nature of a saint in them; who have a name to be holy—and yet are unholy; who have a name to be gracious—and yet are graceless; who have a name to live—and yet are dead; these God will in that day unmask, when he shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. [Rev. 13:16; 14:9-10, and 19:20. A man were better be a beast, than to have the mark of the beast upon him. The title of a saint is but an empty thing without holiness.]
An unholy saint is a white devil, he is a monster among men. Christ sweat, and prayed, and died, and was raised to make sinners saints, to make the rebellious religious, and the licentious conscientious. All he did and suffered was to stamp the seal and impress of holiness upon them. And therefore, as ever you would be owned and honored by Christ another day, see that the Holy Spirit sets the seal of holiness upon you. If the impress of holiness is upon you in the day that the Lord makes up his jewels, he will declare you to be his before all the world. He will say, "These are my sheep, these are my sons, I know them by that mark of holiness that I find upon them!" But,
8. Eighthly, Consider this—that a man of holiness, or a holy man—is a common good, a common blessing.All fare the better for a holy man. All in the family, all in the court, all in the city, all in the country, fare the better for the holy man's sake. All in Laban's family did fare the better for Jacob's sake; and all in the city of Zoar did fare the better for Lot's sake; and all Pharaoh's court, and the whole country of Egypt, did fare the better for Joseph's sake. Sodom was safe while holy Lot was in it. While holy Moses stood in the gap, destroying judgments were diverted. When holy Phinehas took up his censer, and stood between the living and the dead, the plague was stayed. [Gen. 30:27; 19:21-24, and 41, etc.; 2 Kings 2:12; Psalm 106:23; Num. 26:46, 49.]
Holy people are public mercies, public blessings: Job 22:30, "He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of your hands:" or, as some read the words, "the innocent shall deliver the island;" that is, the inhabitants of the island. [God will sometimes deliver a whole country for the sake of the innocent, etc.] The innocent shall deliver those who are not innocent; had there been but ten innocent—but ten righteous people in Sodom, Sodom might have been a glorious city to this day; had there been but ten righteous souls among them, God would never have rained hell out of heaven upon them; Gen. 18:32 to the end. The guiltless shall deliver the guilty in an island; the guiltless, by lifting up pure hands to God in prayer, shall stay the hand of God, that it destroys not the guilty.
It is the holy seed that upholds the civil state. So says God, "it is the holy seed that bears up the whole state, and were it not for them, desolation and destruction would come in as a flood upon you." Proverbs 10:25, "The righteous is an everlasting foundation." The Hebrew sense is thus, "The righteous are the foundation of the world, which would soon shatter and fall to ruin but for their sakes." The whole world fares the better every day for the righteous' sake. If it were not for this holy seed, the chaff of this world would soon be set on fire. If the final number of the holy seed were but called and converted, God would quickly turn the whole world into flames and ashes! It is those who bear up the pillars of the earth: Psalm 75:3, "I bear up the pillars of the earth." Holy people are the true Atlases both of church and state; they are the pillars on whom all do rest, the props on whom all do lean; do but overturn these pillars, and all will fall about your ears, as the house did about the Philistines when Samson shook it. Let but kingdoms and commonwealths wreck these, and they shall quickly be shipwrecked themselves.
There is not a sinner in the world but enjoys his estate, his relations, his outward accommodations, yes, his very life—upon the account of the saints; and therefore they must needs be bewitched, or fools, or madmen—who are still a-lifting and a-thrusting at these very pillars which bear them up. Look! as Samson's strength did lie in his locks, so the strength and safety of the nation lies in the holy seed: they are the bulwarks and ammunition of the nation; the safety and felicity of the whole is bound up in them. It is not armies, nor navies, nor walled cities, nor fortified castles, nor golden mines, nor solemn counsels which will secure a nation, if once the people of God's holiness be cast by as broken pitchers. It is their piety and prayers which keeps off sweeping judgments from a nation, and that brings down variety of mercies upon a nation. [Lam. 4:1-2, and Esther chapters 4 and 10 compared.]
Holy people are the clouds which water the earth as a common blessing; and they are the rising sun which scatters all clouds and darkness. A holy man is a public diffusive blessing in the place where he lives. Look! as one sinner destroys much good, Eccles. 9:18, so one saint may save a land, a country! Jer. 5:1, "Run up and down every street in Jerusalem," says the Lord. "Look high and low; search throughout the city! If you can find even one person who is just and honest, I will not destroy the city." Though Jerusalem was far larger and more populous, I say not only than Sodom—but than all the other cities which sinned and perished with it—yet God makes so large and noble an offer, that if there could be found in it but one man divinely qualified—but a man of justice, a man of faithfulness, a man of uprightness, a man of holiness—the Lord would not destroy it, nor ruin it. God once made an offer to Abraham, that if there were but ten righteous souls in Sodom, he would save it; but here he falls so low as to make an offer, that if there could be but one righteous soul found in Jerusalem, he would not destroy it. [If among the rabble, if among the noble, if among the rich, if among the learned—a man could have been found who loved holiness, who was stout for righteousness, and who practiced uprightness—God would have spared Jerusalem.] One saint may save a city, yes, a world of sinners, from confusion and destruction.
Luther, while he lived, by faith and prayer, kept off troubles from Germany—but soon after he was gone to his grave in peace, oh, the wars, the miseries and mischiefs, the distractions and confusions that came in like a flood upon them! Possidonius, in his life of Augustine, tells us that the famous city of Hippo could never be captured while Augustine lived. The flood could not drown the old world until holy Methuselah was laid up in peace. O sirs! as ever you would be a public blessing, labor to be holy. But,
9. Ninthly, Consider the antiquity of holiness. Holiness is of the greatest, highest, and most ancient antiquity.The first suit that ever was put upon the back of man's nature, was holiness. Sin is of a later edition than holiness; holiness was—when sin was not, Deut. 32:7, etc. "Let us make man," says God, "in our own image." Sin is against nature, it is a defect in nature, it came in by a lie, and, by-the-bye, through the subtlety of the father of lies, Gen. 1:26. God stamped his image of holiness upon man before ever Satan assayed to tempt him. Holiness is of the most ancient house, of the greatest antiquity, John 8:44. Sin is but an upstart, holiness is the firstborn; the way of holiness is the oldest way: Jer. 6:16, "Look for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls." The way of holiness was that old way in which Adam at first, and in which all the holy patriarchs and prophets walked. [Paths of eternity, the paths of piety; the paths of purity are paths of eternity, etc.] In this sense it is most certain that the oldest way is the best way; the way of sanctity is of greatest antiquity.
Let Papists and carnal superstitious Protestants cry up their superstitious ways as ways of greatest antiquity—yet when they have said all they can, there is no antiquity, compared to that of holiness. The way of will-worship was not the first way of worshiping God in the world. Many carnal men cry out that they are for the good old way, they care not for this new way, they care not for this new religion, as they call it; they say that we have never had good days since there has been so much praying, and so much preaching, and so much fasting, and so much printing, and so much ado about close walking with God. It is most certain, that a carnal religion is best pleasing to a carnal heart; and this you may see evidently among the Turks, whose religion gives much carnal liberty to the professors of it; and whose religion promises them a paradise of sensual pleasures in the eternal world. And the same is very observable among the Papists, and all the carnal Protestants in the world, who cry up that for the best religion, and for the true religion, and for the good old religion—which is most suitable to their carnal reason, and most pleasing and indulging to their lusts.
Socrates prescribed for men to worship God according to the manner of the country where they lived; and what was this but to gratify the lust of men, by subjecting the rule of God's worship to the laws and customs of men? But from the beginning it was not so. Holy Noah, holy Enoch, and the rest of the holy patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, walked only in ways of piety and purity. Holy Abraham, holy Isaac, and holy Jacob, never walked in those ways which are now by loose, formal, carnal, and superstitious people cried up for the good old way—but in ways of holiness and righteousness.
I have read of the Cretians, that when they cursed their enemies, they did not wish their houses on fire, nor a sword at their hearts—but that they might be delighted and given up to an evil custom. It is one of the greatest and bitterest curses and woes to be delighted and given up to evil customs; and the older the custom is of evil, the worse it is! Ah, how many are fallen under these curses in these days, wherein multitudes are addicted and given up to carnal and superstitious customs, and choose rather to follow an evil custom, though it be ever so absurd, irregular, vain, and superstitious—than to walk in a way of peace and holiness!
Well, sirs, shall the antiquity of holiness provoke you to be holy? Many will do much for antiquity sake; and why, then, should not you do much for holiness sake? Holiness is God's firstborn; it is as ancient as the ancient of days. The way of holiness is gray-headed, and of ancientest institution; all other ways are but of yesterday; they are but new ways to the way of holiness. Oh that this might alarm you to look after holiness! The Gibeonites cheated Joshua with their old worn-out shoes, and with their old sacks, and old boots, and old garments, Josh. 9:4-5; and so does Rome this day cheat and delude multitudes of poor, blind, ignorant souls, with their old customs, and with their old ceremonies, and old traditions, and old inventions, under a pretense of the good old way, and the good old religion. But certainly the way of holiness, the way of purity, is of the greatest antiquity, and therefore, oh embrace it! oh, walk in it! Look! as the stamp of antiquity upon some things is a disparagement and a dishonor to them—as an old garment that is past wearing, and an old house that is past repairing, and an old ship that is past rigging—just so, the stamp of antiquity upon other things is a praise and an honor to them—as old gold, old friends, old manuscripts, old monuments, old scars, and old holiness. The stamp of antiquity upon holiness is the praise and honor of holiness. Look! as it is an honor to a man to be descended of an ancient house—just so, it is an honor to a man to be allied to holiness; because sanctity is of greatest antiquity; and therefore, above all gettings, get holiness. But,
10. Tenthly, Consider, that of all things, holiness will render you most beautiful and amiable.As holiness is the beauty of God, and the beauty of angels—so it is the beauty and glory of a Christian also. [Exod. 15:11. Plato called God the horn of plenty, and the ocean of beauty, without the least spot of injustice. God is beauty itself, the very essential idea and pure fountain of all beauties.] Holiness is a Christian's greatest honor and ornament. Psalm 93:5, "Holiness is the beauty of Your house"—that is, your church—"O Lord, forever." There is no garment which suits the church, which befits the church, like the garment of holiness. It is sanctity, which is the church's excellency and glory; it is purity, which is the church's ornament and beauty. Holiness is a beauty which beautifies the church; it is the gracefulness and loveliness of the church. Holiness is so beautiful a thing—that it puts a beauty on all things else. As holiness is the greatest ornament of the church triumphant, so it is the greatest ornament of the church militant, Eph. 5:26-27.
The redness of the rose, the whiteness of the lily, and all the beauties of the natural universe, are but deformities, compared to that beauty which holiness puts upon us. If all natural and artificial beauty were contracted into one beauty—yet it would be but an obscure and an unlovely beauty, compared to that beauty which holiness puts upon us!
Psalm 29:2, "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Psalm 96:9, "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Psalm 110:3, "Your people shall be willing in the day of your power, in the beauty of holiness." You see beauty and holiness is by God himself, still linked together; and that which God has so closely joined together—no man may put asunder. The scripture last cited does not only speak out holiness to be a beautiful thing—but it speaks out many beauties to be in holiness. Those Christians who are decked in the beauties of holiness, they shall be very beautiful and shining through holiness.
Holiness casts such a beauty upon man as makes him very amiable and desirable. The holiness of parents renders them very amiable and desirable in the eyes of their children; and the holiness of children renders them very amiable and desirable in the eyes of their parents, Isaiah 22:21. When that incomparable lady, Cornelia, presented her sons to the commonwealth, she said, "These are my jewels; these are my ornaments." Holy children are their parents' crown, their parents' ornaments; no glistening gold, no sparkling diamonds, no shining or glittering apparel—renders children so amiable and lovely in the eyes of their parents as holiness does. [Xenophon never prayed that his son Gryllus might live long—but that he might be a good man.]
The holiness of the husband renders him very amiable in the eyes of the wife; and the holiness of the wife renders her very desirable in the eyes of her husband. The holiness of the master renders him very lovely in the eyes of his servants; and the holiness of the servants renders them very lovely in the eyes of their masters, etc. Jewel's holiness, Bradford's holiness, and Bucer's holiness, rendered them very amiable and lovely, not only in the eyes of their friends—but also in the eyes of their enemies. There is nothing in this world that will render all sorts and ranks of people so glorious and famous in the eyes of one another, as holiness will do. Were all ranks and orders of men more holy, they would certainly be more lovely in the eyes of one another. Oh that all men would cease from being injurious one to another, and labor to be more holy! and then, I am sure, they would be more lovely in one another's eyes.
Holiness is lovely, yes—loveliness itself. Purity is a Christian's splendor and glory. There is no beauty compared to that of sanctity; nothing beautifies and bespangles a man like holiness. Holiness is so attractive and so lovely a thing, that it draws all eyes and hearts to an admiration of it. Holiness is so great a beauty, that it puts a beauty upon all other excellencies in a man. That holiness is a very beautiful thing, and that it makes all those beautiful who have it, is a truth that no devil can deny! Therefore, O sirs, as ever you would be attractive and lovely—labor to be holy.
The natural beauty of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Joseph, and Absalom, was no beauty, compared to that beauty, luster, and glory which holiness puts upon a man. "Demetrius," says Plutarch, "was so lovely of face and countenance, that no painter was able to draw him." Holiness puts so rare a beauty upon man, that no painter under heaven is able to draw him. Scipio Africanus was so lovely a person, that the barbarians in Spain stood amazed at his loveliness. Holiness puts such a loveliness, and such an amiableness upon a person—that many admire it, and stand amazed at it. O sirs, as ever you would be amiable and desirable—be holy! As ever you would be attractive and lovely—be holy! As ever you would be famous and glorious—be holy! As ever you would outshine the sun in splendor and glory, labor to be holy. Many have ventured their names, their estates, their liberties, their lives, yes, their very souls, to enjoy a lovely Bathsheba, an attractive Helena, a beautiful Diana, a lovely Cleopatra, etc., whose beauties have been but clay, well-colored. Oh, how much more, then, should you be provoked to labor and venture your all for holiness, which will imprint upon you that most excellent and most exquisite beauty—which will go to the grave and to glory with you; yes, which will render you not only amiable and excellent in the eyes of men—but also lovely and lovely in the eyes of God!
I remember Bernard, writing to a noble maiden who was holy, tells her "that others were clothed with purple and silk—but their consciences were poor and beggarly; they glistered with their jewels—but were loose in their manners. But you," says he, "are but poorly clad—but within shine exceeding beautiful, not to human—but to divine eyes!" Psalm 45:13-14. Both in the eyes of God, angels, and men—none shine and glisten so gloriously as those who are holy, Ezek. 16:1, 12. Unholy souls are foul souls, ugly souls, deformed souls, withered souls, wrinkled souls; they are altogether unlovely souls. I have read of Acco, an old woman, who seeing her deformity in a looking-glass, became crazy. Should God but show unholy men their deformity in the looking-glass of the Scripture, it would either make them spiritually crazy—or else it would make them fall in love with holiness, that so they might be made lovely and attractive by being made pure and holy. But,
11. Eleventhly, Consider this to provoke you to be holy—that holiness is the most gainful and the most thriving trade in the world.Now, when all worldly trading is declining—Oh that everyone would settle to the trade of holiness! Oh, there is no gain, there is no advantage, compared to the gain that comes in upon the account of godliness! 1 Tim. 6:6, "But godliness with contentment is great gain." Though godliness itself be great gain—yet godliness brings in a great deal of gain besides itself. [Godliness is the greatest riches, the best treasure, the highest honor, and the most lasting fame.] The godly man is still on the gaining side—his piety brings him in the greatest plenty: chapter 4:8, "Godliness is profitable to all things." A man is as well able to count the stars of heaven, and to number the hairs of his head—as he is able to count the several commodities, or to number up the variety of blessings, or multitude of mercies—which come flying in upon the wings of godliness.
Godliness has the promise of both lives, that is, both of earthly favors and of eternal blessings also. It is profitable, not for some things—but for every thing; both temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings do grow upon this tree of life—holiness. There is no trade, compared to the trade of godliness: Proverbs 22:4, "By humility and the fear of the Lord—are riches, and honor, and life." Godliness has the promise of gold—as well as of grace; of honor—as well as of heaven; of life and happiness here—as well as of glory and blessedness hereafter. The good things of this life, as well as the great things of eternal life, follow hard at heels of holiness. Holiness is not a barren but a fruitful womb; it is like that tree in Rev. 22:2, which bore twelve kinds of fruits, and that yielded fruit every month.
What is of greater value among men than riches? and what is more glorious among men than honor? and what is more sweet among men than life? Why, all these fruits, and ten thousand more, grow upon the tree of holiness. The bag of riches, the robe of honor and life—that is, the comfort and sweet of both—hangs all upon the back of holiness. But that I may the more effectually win upon you, and provoke you to look after holiness, let me by an induction of particulars further confirm the truth of this last consideration, especially considering that there is no argument under heaven that is so taking with all men as this of gain. Money is the bait that all bite at; it is the great god of the world. And therefore thus,
(1.) First, Consider that holiness brings in PRESENT gain; and what gain is better than present gain?There are many who lay out much, and venture far, and run the hazard of all—and yet it is a long time before they see returns. Oh—but holiness, that brings in present profit! Romans 6:22, "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." The apostle does not say, you may have your fruit unto holiness—but you have your fruit unto holiness. He does not say, you shall have your fruit unto holiness—but you have your fruit unto holiness. He does not say, oh that you had your fruit unto holiness—but you have your fruit unto holiness.
Just so, Psalm 19:11, "In keeping them there is great reward." Not only for keeping but also in keeping of his commands there is great reward. Holiness is its own reward. While a Christian is in the very exercise of holiness, oh what blessed sights, what sweet tastes, what glorious incomings from heaven, has he! Oh the secret visits, the secret whispers, the secret joggings, the secret love-tokens which Christians meet with, in the very practice of holiness!
Holiness brings in present comfort and joy: 2 Cor. 1:12, "Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God." [Seneca, a heathen, has confessed, that the best receipt to drive away sadness—was to live well.] There is no mirth, no joy, compared to that which holiness brings in. Let a man's load be ever so heavy—yet holiness will bring in that joy that will make him bear up bravely and cheerfully under it.
Holiness brings in present peace; hence it is that you read of "the peaceable fruits of righteousness," Heb. 12:10-11.
Holiness will bring in present communion with God: 1 John 1:7, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another:" that is, God and ourselves have fellowship together, as it is verse 3. Now to walk in the light as he is in the light—what is it but to walk in holiness, to walk in paths of sanctity? for only in such paths the Lord walks. And therefore as you love present gain, labor after holiness. But,
(2.) Secondly, As holiness brings in present gain—so holiness brings in the BEST and GREATEST gain.And this I shall evidence thus:
[1.] First, Holiness will make a man rich in the midst of poverty. James 2:5: Rev. 2:9, "I know your poverty—but you are rich;" though the church of Smyrna was poor in goods—yet she was rich in grace, she was rich in faith, and rich in hope, and rich in patience, and rich in contentment, etc. She was rich in Christ her head, and rich in promises, and rich in experiences. She had spiritual riches in possession, and glorious riches in reversion. Just so, in 2 Cor. 6:10, "As poor—yet making many rich; as having nothing—and yet possessing all things." A holy man cannot be a poor man. A holy man is always the richest man. But this is a riddle the world cannot understand. The riches of a Christian have no bottom. All a saint's bags are bottomless bags. Experience tells us that unholy men's bags, purses, coffers, and mints—may be drawn dry; but the treasury, the riches of a saint—can never be exhausted, for he still possesses all things in Christ and with Christ. 1 Cor. 3:22-23, "Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ!" Though he has nothing in hand—yet he has all things in hope; though he has nothing in the cistern—yet he has all things in the fountain.
Gen. 33:9, Esau could say, "I have much;" and it was much that an Esau should say he had much; but says holy Jacob, verse 11, "I have all." Esau had much—but Jacob had all, because he had the God of all: he had him who was all in all. It has been said of the great Duke of Guise, that though he was poor as to his present possessions—yet he was the richest man in France in bills, bonds, and obligations, because he had engaged all the noblemen in France to himself, by favoring of them. A holy man is the richest man in the world in promises and obligations, for he has the great and glorious God engaged by many thousand promises to own him, to bless him, to stand by him, to give grace and glory to him, and to withhold nothing from him that may be good for him, Psalm 84:10-11. When wicked men brag of their lordships and manors, and boast of their great possessions, and glory in their thousands a year, a holy man may make his boast of God, and say, "God is mine! God is mine! he is my great all; he is my all in all; and therefore I am richer and a greater possessor than any wicked man in the world, yes, than all wicked men in the world put together!" But,
[2.] Secondly, By holiness you will gain a good report, a good reputation. Heb. 11:39, "And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise." Nothing raises a man's name and fame in the world—like holiness. The seven deacons which the church chose were holy men, Acts 6:5; and they were men of good report, verse 3; they were men well witnessed unto, well testified of, as the Greek word imports. Cornelius was a holy man, Acts 10:1-4; and he was a man of good report among all the nation of the Jews, verse 22. Ananias was a holy man, Acts 9:10, 20; and he was a man of a good report. Acts 22:12, Gaius and Demetrius were both holy men, and they were men of good report; witness that third epistle of John. The patriarchs and prophets were holy men, and they were men of a good report: Heb. 11:1-2, "For by it the elders obtained a good report;" their holiness did eternalize them. The apostles were holy men, 1 Thes. 2:10; and they were men of a good report, 2 Cor. 6:8. Now certainly it is none of the least of mercies to be well reputed and reported of.
Next to a good conscience, a good report is the noblest blessing. Good fare does not more rejoice and strengthen the outward man, the ignoble part of man, than a good report does rejoice and strengthen the inward man—the noble part of man: Proverbs 15:30, "A good report makes the bones fat." Yes, and I may add, it makes the heart fat too. It is no small pleasure to a man to know that others are pleased with him. Beautiful objects do not more delight the eyes—than a good report delights the ears. O sirs, as ever you would obtain a good report, you must labor after holiness. You may obtain a great report without holiness—but you can never obtain a good report without holiness. There is no such way to perpetuate your names—as to labor after holiness. Holiness will embalm your names, it will make them immortal: Psalm 112:6, "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance."
Proverbs 10:7, "The memory of the just is blessed—but the name of the wicked shall rot." Wicked men many times outlive their names—but the names of just men outlive them. When a holy man dies, he leaves his name as a sweet and as a lasting scent behind him; his fame shall live when he is dead. [Holy Abel has been dead above this five thousand years—and yet his name is as fresh and fragrant as a rose to this very day, Heb. 11:4.] According to the Hebrew, the words may be read thus, "The memory of the just shall be for a blessing." The very remembering of the just shall bring a blessing upon those who remember them. While the just, the holy man lived—he was a blessing to those among whom he lived; and when he is dead—his memory is a blessing to posterity. But the name of the wicked shall rot. While a wicked man lives, he lays his name under disdain and disgrace, and when he dies, he leaves it under an odious stench. Wickedness corrupts not only the heart—but the name. And look, as wickedness makes a man's soul stink in the nostrils of God, so wickedness makes a man's name stink in the nostrils of men. Look! as a wicked man's body, when he is dead, stinks under ground, so his name stinks above ground. His very name casts forth so stinking a stench, that all the perfumes in the world, and all the spicery of hell, can never sweeten it.
Well, once more remember that these words, "the name of the wicked shall rot," are a metaphorical speech taken from a tree, which, though for a time it grows green and flourishes—yet at length it grows rotten—just so, though wicked men may flourish and be green and glorious for a time—yet at last they shall rot, their names shall rot on earth, their bodies shall rot in the grave, and their souls shall rot in hell!
But the memory of the just shall be blessed. Next to a holy man's soul, there is nothing so near and dear to him as his name; and this God will so perfume as that the fragrancy of it shall last forever. The name of a holy man shall be always as an ointment poured forth; but the name of a wicked man shall be always as a stench. O sirs, what a deal of stir do many men make to get a name—to get a name to be wise, a name to be knowing, a name to be learned, a name to be skillful, a name to be rich, a name to be great, a name to be mighty, and a name to be valiant, etc., as Nimrod, Cain, Absalom, Alexander, Pompey, Adrian, etc. And why then should you not labor after holiness, that so you may get a good name, which is rather to be chosen than riches, Proverbs 22:1, and which is better than precious ointment? Eccles. 7:1. O sirs, shall many Romans and others run the hazard of damning their souls to immortalize their names, and will not you labor after holiness to eternalize yours? There is no way to a good name, to a good report—but by getting of holiness.
[3.] Thirdly, By holiness you will gain a hiding-place, a shelter, a refuge in stormy and tempestuous times. Proverbs 11:6, "The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires." Let a holy man's enemies, dangers, snares, hazards, be ever so many—yet his righteousness shall shelter him against all, Isaiah 3:10, and 26:20-21. In the midst of trouble, holiness will keep a man from trouble; and in the midst of dangers, holiness will keep a man from dangers, Isaiah 43:2-4; John 14:1. Holiness is the most sovereign antidote in the world against all the troubles of this life. Noah's' sanctity was Noah's safety in the midst of a deluge. Lot's piety was Lot's security in the day of Sodom's ruin and misery. The three Hebrew children's innocency was a wall of fire about them in the midst of the fiery furnace: [They walked up and down in the fiery furnace, as a man walks up and down in a pleasant garden.] David's integrity was a shield and buckler against Saul's rage and cruelty.
Just so, in Proverbs 13:6, "Righteousness keeps him who is upright in the way: but wickedness overthrows the sinner." There is no guard, no protection against troubles and dangers, compared to that of righteousness. Righteousness and holiness is the most powerful army, and the strongest tower of defense against all hazards and enemies. The Hebrew word that is here rendered keeps, signifies to keep with the greatest care, diligence, and vigilance that can be; it signifies to preserve and keep, as a man would preserve and keep the pupil of his eye, which is the chief and the tenderest piece of the tenderest part, Deut. 32:14. And it signifies to keep, as a man would keep ammunition and provision from fire, or from treacherous hands, when a powerful and enraged enemy is drawing near, Nah. 2:1. "Why," says he, "look how careful and diligent, etc., men are to keep and preserve those things which are most near and dear unto them, and which are most highly prized and valued by them." Just so, will righteousness and holiness preserve and keep the righteous man in times of trouble and danger.
Just so, in Ezek. 14:14, 20, "even if these three men--Noah, Daniel and Job--were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord. As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness." [Saints may prevail with God for themselves, when they cannot prevail with him for others.] These three, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were very holy men, they had great interest in God, and were very prevalent with God. But the decree being gone forth, they could not prevail with God for others; yet their righteousness should be their own preservation, safety, and security, in days of calamity and misery.
Just so, in Isaiah 33:15-16, "He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil—this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him" Let us dive a little into this admirable promise: "He shall dwell on the heights." If the holy man were among his enemies, he might be in danger—but he shall dwell on the heights, on many heights, and many ascents, he shall be out of harm's way, out of gunshot, he shall be above the reach of danger. Oh! but his enemies may raise up mounts, and so get as high as he is. Well, grant that—but yet they shall not hurt him; for he is in a place of refuge. Oh! but though he be in a place of refuge—yet his refuge is not so strong but it may be broken down and destroyed. No, not so, for his place of refuge shall be the mountain fortress; many rocks, and many munitions of rocks, shall be the place of his defense; and therefore his defense is impregnable and invincible. Oh! but though his defense be the mountain fortress—yet he may be famished, he may be starved out, for rocks are barren places, and there is no ploughing and sowing upon rocks. No, he shall not be starved nor famished out of his strong place of refuge; for bread shall be given him, God will spread a table for him. Oh! but though he has bread—yet he may perish for lack of water; for he has no faith, skill, nor power to fetch water out of a rock: Moses had not, and he has not, and therefore he may be forced to deliver up his place of refuge for water to quench his thirst, as king Lysimachus and others have done. No, not so, for he shall have water too. Oh! but his water may be spent, his water will not always last, his well, as well as Hagar's bottle, may be dry, his pipes may be cut off, or the water that now supplies him may be turned another way. No, not so, for his water will not fail him. Oh the safety and security of holy men!
Plutarch, in the life of Alexander, tells us, that when he came to besiege the Sogdians, a people who dwelt upon a mountain fortress for their defense—they jeered him, and asked him whether his soldiers had wings or not; for, said they, except your soldiers can fly in the air, we fear you not. Such is the safety of God's holy ones, that they need not to fear. There are no ladders long enough to scale their place of defense, nor no artillery or engine strong enough to batter down their mountain fortress.
There is a fable how the dove moaned to her fellow-birds of the tyranny of the hawk; one counsels her to keep below; but says another, the hawk can stoop for his prey; another advised her to soar aloft; but says another, the hawk can mount as high as she; another wished her to shroud herself in the woods, for there she should be secure; but says another, alas! there is the hawk's dominion; another bids her to stay in the town; but says another, that is to become a prey to man; but at last one bids her rest herself in the holes of the rock, and there she should certainly be safe, for violence itself could not surprise her there, and there she was safe.
Dove-like saints have their mountain fortress to fly to, and there they shall be safe. O sirs! there is no breastplate to that of righteousness, there is no armor, no mountain fortress, to that of holiness. Noah's holiness was an ark to save him, when Nimrod's Tower of Babel, which was raised five thousand one hundred forty-six paces high, could not secure him. And therefore as you tender your own safety and security in times of trouble and calamity—oh, labor to be holy!
[4.] Fourthly, By holiness you will gain deliverance from death in death. Proverbs 11:4, "Riches profit not in the day of wrath; but righteousness delivers from death;" and chapter 10:2, "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing—but righteousness delivers from death." Many treasuries of the most precious jewels that are in the world cannot ward off a blow, a disease, a sickness in the day of God's wrath. A crown of gold cannot cure a headache. A golden scepter cannot cure the palsied hand. A necklace of pearl cannot cure the aching teeth. A honorable title cannot ease the gout. A purple robe cannot chase away the burning fever. A velvet slipper cannot heal the bruised heel. Nor can treasures of gold or silver deliver from wrath, or help in a day of death. Oh—but righteousness, that delivers from death.
Look! what the sword, the shield, the helmet, the breastplate, the coat of armor, is to the soldier in the heat of battle, that, all that, and more than that, is righteousness to the righteous in the day of death. [Nugas the Scythian king despised the rich presents and ornaments that were sent unto him by the Emperor of Constantinople, because they could not ward off sorrow, sickness, diseases, death.] Righteousness, or holiness of heart, of action, of life—delivers from spiritual death, and from eternal death, yes, it delivers from the evil, the hurt, the horror, the terror, the dread, and the sting of temporal death. Piety delivers not only from the second death—but also from all the evils and miseries of the first death too. As the righteousness of the righteous will be a royal protection to him, both against the day of wrath, and the wrath of the day—just so, the righteousness of the righteous will be a royal protection to him, both against death, and against all the evils of death. Righteousness unstings death, it takes away the venom, the poison and bitterness of death; it turns that curse into a blessing, that punishment into a benefit, that night of darkness into a day of light, that wilderness into a paradise, that hell into a heaven!
Proverbs 12:28, "In the way of righteousness is life, and in the path thereof there is no death." "In the way of righteousness is lives"—so the Hebrew has it. In the way of righteousness there are many lives: in that way there is spiritual life, and eternal life, and natural life, and all the comforts, and sweets, and blessings, and happiness of that life, without which man's life would be but a lingering, a languishing death; yes, a hell rather than a heaven unto him. "And in the path thereof there is no death." There is no spiritual death, there is no eternal death, yes, there is no corporal, no temporal death to hurt or harm them, to sting or terrify them, to damage or disadvantage them.
For death is an outlet and an inlet to a holy man. It is an eternal outlet to all sins, to all sorrow, to all shame, to all sufferings, to all afflictions, to all temptations, to all oppressions, to all confusions, and to all vexations. And it is an eternal inlet into the clear, full, and constant fruition of God and Christ; and an inlet to the sweetest pleasures, the purest joys, the highest delights, the strongest comforts, and the most satisfying contentments. Death is the funeral of all a holy man's sins and miseries--and the perfection of all his joys, his graces, and spiritual excellencies. Death is not the death of the man--but the death of his sin! Death is a Christian's discharge from all trouble and misery! Death to a holy man is nothing but the changing of his grace into glory, his faith into vision, his hope into fruition, and his love into eternal rapture.
The Persians had a certain day in the year in which they used to kill all serpents and venomous creatures: such a day as that will the day of death be to a holy man. Sin was the midwife which brought death into the world, and death shall be the bearer which shall carry sin out of the world. When Samson died, the Philistines died together with him: so when a holy man dies, his sins die with him. Death came in by sin, and sin goes out by death. As the worm kills the plant which bred it—just so, death kills sin which bred it. Death cures all diseases, the aching head and the unbelieving heart: the diseased body and the defiled soul.
At Stratford Bow were burned in Queen Mary's days, a lame man and a blind man; after the lame man was chained, casting away his crutch, he bade the blind man be of good comfort; for, says he, death will cure us both; it will cure you of your blindness and me of my lameness. Death will cure the holy man of all natural and spiritual distempers. Death is the holy man's jubilee, it is his greatest advantage, it puts him into a better estate than ever he had before. It is God's gentleman-usher to conduct us to heaven; it will blow the bud of grace into the flower of glory. Oh, who would not go through hell to heaven! who would not go through a temporary death to an eternal life! who would not willingly march through mortality to immortality and glory! [Death is but an entrance into life. Miserable unbelievers call it death—but to faithful believers, what is it but a Passover—but a jubilee?—Bernard.]
O sirs! holiness will make you look upon death as a welcome guest, a happy friend, a joyful messenger. It will make you kiss it and embrace it, as Favinus the Italian martyr kissed and embraced his executioner: it will make you desire it, and long after it with tears, as holy Bradford did. By all this you see that holiness will deliver you from death in death. "When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true—Death has been swallowed up in victory!" 1 Corinthians 15:54.
[5.] Fifthly and lastly, By holiness you shall gain the greatest boldness in the day of judgment. Job 19:25. Nothing will embolden a man in that great day like holiness; holiness will then make the face to shine indeed. 1 John 4:17, "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world." That which will make Christ's last appearance delightful to Christians, will be their likeness to Christ in holiness. In both nature and grace, likeness begets the greatest boldness. As there is no child so bold with the father—as he who is most like the father; so there is no Christian so bold with Christ—as he who is most like Christ. A holy Christ is most familiar with a holy Christian; and a holy Christian is most bold with a holy Christ. The more a Christian is like Christ in holiness of heart and life—the more divinely bold and familiar will that man be with Christ, both in this world and in the great day of account. When he who was a brat of Satan's is made a saint; when he who was like hell is made like heaven; when he who was most ugly and unlovely is made like him who is the holy of holies; this is that which gives boldness both here and hereafter! O sirs, it is not wit nor wealth—but holiness; it is not race nor place—but holiness; it is not power nor policy—but holiness; it is not honor nor riches—but holiness; it is not natural excellencies nor acquired abilities—but holiness, which will give boldness in the day of Christ's appearing!
1 Pet. 1:5-7, "A well-tried faith," which is but a branch of holiness, "shall be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." At the coming of Christ, holiness shall be a man's praise and honor and glory. In that great day when shame and everlasting contempt shall be poured forth upon the great monarchs of the world, who have made the earth to tremble, "when the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, etc., shall cry out to the mountains and rocks to fall upon them, and to hide them from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb," Rev. 6:15-17—then, I say, "then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the skies!" Dan. 12:1-3.
In life and death, and in the day of account, a righteous man will be as bold as a lion, Proverbs 28:1. Real holiness will make a man death-proof, and hell-proof, and judgment-proof. The day of judgment will be to a holy man a marriage-day, a day of redemption, a day of coronation, a day of exultation—and therefore he may well lift up his head and rejoice. Look! as the Israelites who had the blood of the Passover lamb on their door-posts, though the destroyer was abroad, and a dreadful cry was all over Egypt—yet they were not slain, not stricken, Exod. 12:7, 11; they did not fear nor tremble—but dressed for travel, and walking sticks in their hands—boldly and cheerfully expecting when the happy and joyful hour of their redemption would come, Heb. 9:14. Just so, those who have the door-posts of their hearts and consciences sprinkled with holiness, in this dreadful day of the Lord, they shall with boldness and cheerfulness lift up their faces, because the day of their redemption has come. And this made Luther say that he "had rather never to have been born, than not to be in hope of this day." This day to God's holy ones will be like music in the ear, and a jubilee in the heart.
It is true, the ungodly shall not stand in judgment, Psalm 1:5; 2 Thes. 2:7-10. Stand they must to be arraigned, sentenced, and condemned. Stand they shall—but not with any boldness or cheerfulness, comfort or contentment. Stand they shall—but not to be approved, acquitted, or absolved. Chaff and stubble cannot stand before that God, who is a consuming fire, Heb. 12:29. When Belshazzar saw the handwriting upon the wall, oh, how his face turned pale with fear. Such terror gripped him that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way beneath him! Daniel 5:5-6. Oh, how do many ungodly men now tremble at a thunder-crack in the clouds, and at a flash of lightning in the air! but how will they tremble and quake when the whole frame of heaven and earth shall break in pieces, and be set in a flame about their ears! Oh, what trouble of mind, what horror and terror of conscience, what weeping and wailing, what crying and roaring, what wringing of hands, what tearing of hair, and what gnashing of teeth—will there be among the ungodly in this day, when they shall see their sins charged on them on the one side, and divine justice terrifying them on the other side! when they shall look upward, and there see an angry God frowning upon them, and look downward, and there see hell gaping ready to receive them, and look inward, and there find conscience accusing and gnawing of them! when they shall look on their right hands, and there behold the good angels standing with so many flaming swords to keep them out of heaven, and look on their left hands, and there behold the devil and his demons ready to drag them down to the lowest hell! Oh, now how will they wish for the rocks to fall upon them, and the mountains to cover them! How will they wish that they had never been born, or that they might now be unborn! How will they now wish that their immortal souls were mortal; or that they might be turned into beasts, birds, stones, trees, or air--or anything rather than what they are! Alas! what heart is able to conceive, or what tongue is able to express—the fear and dread, the horror and terror, the astonishment and amazement, which will fall upon all ungodly people in this day!
And yet even now God's holy ones shall lift up their heads and hearts: they shall be bold and steadfast, they shall be far from fear, shame, or trembling. "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
And thus you see that godliness, that holiness—is the most gainful trade. And therefore, sirs, as you love gain, as you desire your own profit and advantage, labor to be holy. But,
12. Twelfthly, Consider this—that holiness will put the greatest splendor and majesty upon people that can possibly be put upon them.Job 29:8-11; Proverbs 12:26. There is nothing that imprints such a reverence and majesty upon man as holiness does. There is nothing that is such a grace to man—as grace. It is holiness which puts the greatest excellency and majesty upon man.
Psalm 16:3, "But to the saints who are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight." Saints are the most excellent ones. The Hebrew word which is here rendered excellent, signifies the magnificent ones, or the noble, glorious, or wonderful ones. Saints or holy people are the most excellent, magnificent, noble, and glorious ones! Daniel 8:24 "The mighty men and the holy people." The holy people are called mighty, because there are no people upon the earth who have might and majesty stamped upon them as they have.
Cant. 6:10, "Who is she who looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun—and terrible as an army with banners." [Some by the moon understand inherent righteousness, and by the sun they understand imputed righteousness.] The light, grace, glory, and holiness of the church rises by degrees: and this makes her terrible to all her enemies. Every degree of holiness is terrible to the unholy; but the higher the church rises in holiness, the more terrible and majestical it grows. Holiness puts such a splendor and graceful majesty upon all people who have it, as even dazzles the eyes sometimes of wicked men, and begets in them an awe and reverence; as it is evident in Saul: 1 Sam. 24:17, "And Saul said to David, You are more righteous than I." Just so, Herod: in Mark 6:20, it is said that he "feared John, knowing that he was a just man and holy, and observed him." Holiness is very majestical. The greatest monarchs fall down before it. Herod reverences John, not for his birth or breeding—but for his holiness; not for his arts or parts—but for his holiness; not for his scholarship or greatness—but for his holiness.
Just so, that great monarch king Joash fell down before the holiness of Jehoiada while he lived, 2 Kings 11:1-2, etc. And so did the holiness of the three Hebrew children command respect and honor from that great monarch Nebuchadnezzar. And so did the holiness of Daniel cause king Darius to reverence him, and to cast a favorable aspect upon him, Dan 3. And so did the holiness that was written upon Judas the high priest cause Alexander the emperor to reverence him, and to fall down before him. In holiness there is such a sparkling luster, that none can behold it but must admire it, and bow before the graceful majesty of it. It is not greatness but grace, it is not riches but righteousness, it is not outward pomp or splendor—but holiness, that can overawe the vain spirits of men. A holy life is the upbraiding of that which is corrupt: Wisdom 2:15, 12, "He is grievous unto us, even to behold him; for his life is not like other men's, his ways are of another fashion, he upbraids us with our offending the law."
Grace will make a man majestical among those who have no grace. Bradford was esteemed in so great reverence and admiration for his holiness, that a multitude that never knew him but by fame, greatly lamented his death, yes, and a number of Papists also wished heartily his life. Holy men have a daunting presence and majesty with them, as Athanasius had, and Basil had; for when Valens the emperor came to surprise him, he being in holy exercises, such a splendor and majesty was upon him, that it struck such a terror into the emperor that he reeled, and would have fallen backward, had he not been upheld by those who were with him. Henry the Second, king of France, being present at the martyrdom of a certain tailor, who was burnt by him for his religion, and so terrified by the boldness of his countenance, and by his holy and gracious behavior in his sufferings, that he swore at his going away that he would never more be present at such a sight.
It is very observable, that the moral virtues of the heathen did put a great deal of splendor and majesty upon them—to instance only in Cato. Cato was a man of much justice and integrity; he was a man of an unspotted life and of high reputation among the Romans. Now his morality put such a splendor and majesty upon him, that when he was present, the very worst of the worst dared not in speech or gesture discover any impiety or immodesty, any wantonness or wickedness. Now certainly if morality puts such a splendor and majesty upon men, true sanctity will put much more upon them. And therefore, sirs, as ever you would have a splendor and majesty upon you, labor to be holy. Maximilian the emperor had such a presence and majesty with him, that a stranger who never saw him before, pointed him out among thirty great people. O sirs, it is not the gray beard, nor the purple robe, nor the grim look—which makes a man so much a man of presence and majesty—as holiness does. Therefore as you would indeed be men of presence, men of majesty, labor to be holy. But,
13. Thirteenthly, Consider that the times and seasons wherein we live call aloud for holiness.Many say the times are bad, very bad, extremely bad! But oh, let me tell you that your hearts and lives are bad, very bad, extremely bad. And it is your hearts and lives which have made the times so bad, so very bad, so extremely bad. It is in vain to talk of better times, or wish for better times—until you mend your lives, and get better hearts. The times would quickly mend, if every man would but in good earnest labor to mend himself. If your hearts and lives were but more holy, the times would quickly be more happy. You say you shall never have peace and prosperity until all be brought to uniformity in religion; but I say you shall never have any lasting peace, felicity, or prosperity until you come to be holy.
2 Kings 9:22, "And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?" The interrogation carries with it a strong negation, "What peace?" that is, there is no peace to such a wicked wretch as you are: you may wish for peace, and dream of peace, and long for peace, and look for peace, and pursue after peace—and yet you shall be far off from peace. What Jehu said to Joram, I may say to all unholy people. What peace and what prosperity can you expect while your drunkenness, and uncleanness, and worldliness, and lukewarmness, and dead-heartedness, and wantonness, and wickedness remains? What good days, what happy year can you look for, while your formality, and indifference, and hypocrisy, and infidelity—bear witness against you?
Just so, when Israel was very superstitious and vain in her worship, then "there was no peace to him who went out, nor to him who came in—but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries. And nation was destroyed" (or beaten in pieces) "of nation, and city of city; for God did vex them with all adversity," 2 Chron. 15:5-6. [Verse 3 doubtless relates to Jeroboam's and the ten tribes' first revolt from the house of David, and from the house of God, and from all his ordinances; and this was a very wicked and unholy time, as is evident in several scriptures.] When men are unholy—God will vex them; he will vex them with adversity, he will vex them with all adversity. When nations are ungodly—God will destroy them; he will beat them in pieces, he will beat them in pieces one against another. When there is no holiness in him who comes in, nor in him who goes out—then there shall be no peace to him who goes in, or to him who goes out. When all is said that can be said, and when all is done that can be done, wicked men will still be as unquiet as the raging and foaming sea, Isaiah 57:20-21.
God will one day or another be still at war with that man who is at peace with his sin. It is said of the locusts that came out of the bottomless pit, in Rev. 9:7-9, that "On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle." etc. Here are quasi horses, quasi crowns of gold, quasi faces of men, quasi hair of a woman, and quasi teeth of lions, etc. Now just such things are all the comforts and contentments of unholy people: their gold and silver—is but as it were gold and silver; and their prosperity and plenty—is but as it were prosperity and plenty; their peace and tranquility—is but as it were peace and tranquility; and their victories and triumphs—are but as it were victories and triumphs; and their joys and rejoicings—are but as it were joys and rejoicings.
But mark, when the holy evangelist comes to set down a description of the locusts' tails, he does not say that there were as it were stings in their tails—but in plain, positive, downright terms he tells you that "there were stings in their tails;" verse 10, he tells you that their stings were true stings, real stings, certain stings. And so while men remain unholy, there are sure and certain stings in the tails of all their comforts, contentments, and enjoyments. The best way on earth to have a sure, a sound, a solid, a lasting peace with God, with ourselves, and with others, is to put on holiness as a robe upon us, Job 29:14, and to put all iniquity far from us, Job 11:13, 20.
O sirs, the worser the times are, the better should every man labor to be. Many complain of burdens, taxes, oppressions, and vexations; and they say with those, that "judgment is turned backward, and that justice stands afar off, and that truth is fallen in the street, and that equity cannot enter, and that he who departs from evil makes himself a prey; that we wait for light—but behold obscurity; for brightness—but behold darkness; that we grope for the wall like the blind, that we grope as if we had no eyes, that we stumble at noonday, that we roar like bears, and mourn like doves; that we look for justice—but there is none; and for salvation—but it is far off from us," Isaiah 59:9-11, 14-15.
These and a thousand more such complaints may be found among us. This scripture last cited, puts me in mind of a strange—but yet of a very true saying, namely, that there is more justice and equity in hell, than there is in France: for in hell the oppressor is oppressed; in hell he who would not give a crumb of bread, shall not have a drop of water. In hell such as shed innocent blood, have blood to drink; in hell there are no bribes; in hell there is none to plead an unrighteous cause; in hell there is no respect of people; in hell every man has according to his deserts: but in France it is otherwise, etc. And do not the strong cries, tears, sighs, groans, and complaints of the poor and needy, of hirelings, orphans, and widows, etc., in most nations strongly demonstrate that there is more justice and equity in hell, than there is in most of the nations of the earth?
But now, what is the choicest salve for all these sores? Certainly holiness. What is the most sovereign remedy against all these maladies? Nothing but holiness. O sirs, the more holiness rises in a nation, the more will righteousness run down as mighty streams, and the more the hearts of the poor and needy will leap and sing for joy. There is no way to make a nation happy—but by making of it holy. O sirs as you are men, as you are Englishmen, as you love your country, as you honor your king and country, and as you desire the peace, prosperity, and felicity of your country—labor to be holy! O England, England, it is holiness, which will be a wall of fire about you, and a glory in the midst of you: it is holiness, which will make you happy at home, and prosperous abroad. Among all Englishmen, there is no man compared to the holy man. Certainly that man who is most busy about mending his own heart and life, contributes most to the mending of the times.
There are many active young men who will talk stiffly for their country, and that say that they will stand stoutly for their country—and yet by their daily ungodliness they undo their country. These men destroy by their lives what they seem to build with their hands. And therefore, as ever you would have all things which are out of order in order, labor for a well-ordered heart, and a well-ordered life. Holiness of life is the best means under heaven to prevent confusion and desolation.
Again, if you will look upon the present times as times wherein the judgments of God are abroad in the world—I say, if you will thus look upon them, then, I say, the times call aloud upon you for holiness. Isaiah 26:9, "When your judgments are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." O sirs! when garments are rolled in blood, when the sword devours the flesh of the slain, when justice lays heap upon heap, when pestilence and famine destroys all on the right hand and on the left, oh then everyone will say, "Come, let us break off our sins, let us turn to the Lord, let us mend our ways, and reform our lives, and get holiness into our hearts!"
We behold many sorer, heavier, and worse judgments than these are upon us this day, if we had but eyes to behold them. Oh, that hardness of heart, that barrenness of soul, that blindness of mind, that searedness of conscience, that perverseness of spirit, that superstitious will-worship, and that looseness of life—which multitudes are given up to this day! Oh, those God-dishonoring, those Christ-denying, those ordinance-despising, those conscience-wasting, those life-corrupting, and those soul-damning opinions, principles, blasphemies, and practices—which multitudes are given up to this day! Oh, the spiritual decays, the spiritual witherings, the spiritual slumberings, the spiritual faintings, the spiritual languishings—which are to be found among a professing people this day! [Psalm 78 and 81:12. That which was accustomed to be said of Africa, that it was ever a-producing some new monster or other, may be said of the age, yes, of the land wherein we live, 2 Thes. 1:8-9; Amos 8:11-12.]
Now certainly, there are no judgments compared to spiritual judgments; none reach the soul like these, none separate between God and the soul like these, none lay men open to temporal and eternal judgments like these. Spiritual judgments are the most insensible judgments, they are the most dreadful judgments, they are the most incurable judgments, they are the most damning judgments of all judgments. Spiritual judgments have most of wrath, and most of horror, and most of hell in them. Oh that now these terrible judgments are abroad in the earth, you would learn righteousness, that you would learn to be holy! For as there is no such sense against temporal judgments as holiness, so there is no such sense against spiritual judgments as holiness. Oh, the spiritual strokes, the spiritual arrows, the spiritual diseases, the spiritual sicknesses, the spiritual plagues—which are abroad in the world! And oh, that the dread and sense of these might provoke you and prevail with you to labor after real holiness, to labor after the power of godliness—which will be your greatest security against these most deadly and soul-killing maladies!
Again, the days and times wherein we live call aloud for holiness. If you look upon them as days and times of grace, what greater and higher engagements to holiness were ever put upon a people, than those which God has put upon us, who enjoy so many ways, means, and helps to make us holy? Oh, the pains, the care, the cost, the charge—which God has been at, and which God is daily at—to make us holy! [Jer. 7:13, 25; 25:3-4; and 35:14-15; Isaiah 49:4-5; 2 Cor. 12:14-15; Romans 13:11-14.] Has he not sent, and does he not still send his messengers, rising up early, and going to bed late—and all to provoke you to be holy? Have not many of them spent their time, and spent their strength, and spent their spirits, and spit up their lungs, and spent their very lives—to make you holy?
O sirs! what do holy ordinances call for—but holy hearts and holy lives? What do days of light call for—but walking in the light, and casting off the deeds of darkness? What is the voice of all the means of grace—but this, "Oh, labor to be gracious!" And what is the voice of the Holy Spirit—but this, "Oh, labor to be holy!" And what is the voice of all the miracles of mercy which God has wrought in the midst of you—but this, "Be holy, be holy!"
O sirs, what could the Lord have done, which he has not done—to make you holy? Has he not lifted you up to heaven in respect of holy helps? Has he not to this very day followed you close with holy offers, and holy entreaties, and holy counsels, and holy encouragements—and all to make you holy? And will you be lustful still, and proud still, and worldly still, and malicious still, and envious still, and contentious still, and unholy still? Oh, what is this—but to provoke the Lord to put out all the lights of heaven, to drive your godly teachers into corners, to remove your candlesticks, and to send his everlasting gospel to a people who will more highly prize it, and dearly love it, and stoutly defend it, and conscientiously practice it—than you have done to this very day? Rev. 2:4-5; Isaiah 32:25.
By what has been said, I suppose there is nothing more evident than that the times and seasons wherein we live calls aloud upon everyone to look after holiness, and to labor for holiness; never complain of the times—but cease to do evil, and labor to do well, and all will be well. Get but better hearts and better lives, and you will quickly see better times, Isaiah 1:16-19.
14. Fourteenthly, Consider that holiness will render you most like a holy God, a holy Christ, and to holy angels.GOD is frequently called the Holy One in Scripture; he is called the Holy One above thirty times in the Old Testament. Angels are holy, and saints are holy—but it is God alone that is the Holy One. [Gold being the most precious metal, you lay it over those things that are most precious to you—just so, does God lay holiness over all those things which are most precious to him.] His person is holy, Isaiah 6:3; his name is holy, Luke 1:49; his works are holy, Psalm 45:17; his judgments are holy, Psalm 22:1-3; his habitation is holy, Isaiah 57:15; his temple is holy, 1 Cor. 3:17; his kingdom is holy, Rev. 21:27; his word is holy, Psalm 19:7; and his Sabbaths are holy, Exod. 16:23. Now this is God's own argument, "Be holy—for I am holy," Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:15-16. Concerning the holiness of God, I shall speak at large, by divine assistance, when I come to press you upon perfecting of holiness; and therefore let this touch suffice for the present. Sirs, you cannot be like to God in many other things—but you may be like to God in this one thing, in this noble thing, in this most necessary thing—holiness; and therefore labor after it.
Again, as holiness will render you most like a holy God, so holiness will render you most like a holy CHRIST. The apostle calls him "the Holy One," 1 John 2:20. Christ is essentially holy, he is infinitely holy, he is originally holy, he is singularly holy, he is eminently holy, he is perfectly holy, he is transcendently holy, and he is immutably holy. And so much the devil himself confesses, in Mark 1:24, "I know you who you are—the Holy One of God," or rather as the Greek has it, that Holy One, by way of excellency and eminency—alluding, as some think, to Exod. 28:36. Yes, Christ takes delight to characterize himself by this title: in Rev. 3:7, "These things says he who is holy;" and in Dan. 9:25, he is called "the most holy;" or as the Hebrew has it, "the holiness of holinesses." These abstracts speak out the vigor and strength, the eminency and excellency of Christ's holiness. Christ is holiness itself, yes, holinesses; and what do these abstracts speak out—but that perfect and complete holiness which is in Christ? The angels, in Isaiah 6:3, do three times iterate or repeat, "holy, holy, holy." Now though some do conceive that this threefold repetition has reference to all the three persons of the Trinity—holy Father, holy Son, and holy Spirit—yet those who will but compare the text with John 12:37-41, shall plainly see that it relates only to our Lord Jesus Christ; and so the threefold repetition denotes only the superlative eminency of Christ's holiness.
Christ is holy in his natures, in his offices, in his purposes, in his counsels, in his word, and in his works. His conception was holy, his life was holy, his converse was holy, etc., Acts 4:23; Luke 1:35; Eph. 4; Gal. 2:20. Holiness is the image of Christ, it is the picture of Christ, the perfection of Christ, it makes a man conformable to the life of Christ. Christ's holiness is that noble copy after which we should all endeavor to write. Subjects may without treason or offence attempt to be like their prince—in wisdom, goodness, righteousness, holiness, peace, piety, mercy, and sanctity; though they cannot without rebellion and disobedience endeavor to be like him in power, greatness, might, majesty, splendor, and glory. Just so—we may safely and honorably attempt to be like to Jesus Christ in wisdom, righteousness, and holiness, etc.; though we may not attempt to be like him in his miracles, signs, and wonders. [It is Christ's particular honor to be imitated in all morals absolutely.]
O sirs! some have counted it their greatest honor and glory in this world, that they have been like such and such, who have been high and glorious in the world; and why, then, should not you reckon it your greatest glory and happiness to be like to Christ in holiness, though not in measure or quantity—yet in truth and reality? As you would resemble Christ to the life—labor to be holy. In other things you cannot be like to Christ—but in holiness you may. You cannot be like to Christ in his greatness, majesty, or glory, nor yet in his omnipotency, omnisciency, nor omnipresence, nor yet in his general or special providence, nor in a thousand other things—but you may be like to Christ in his holiness. Look! as face answers to face, as Solomon speaks, so you may reach to that holiness that in reality may correspond to the very holiness of Christ; and this is your only way to be like to Christ.
Again, as holiness will render you most like to a holy Christ, so holiness will render you most like to the blessed ANGELS. The blessed angels are holy in their nature, and holy in their offices, and holy in their actings. [All angels, in respect of their nature, are alike; but what the particular differences are between angels, archangels, principalities, and powers, and what their distinct offices are, I confess, with Austin, "I understand not, neither is it my duty to know, nor my danger to be ignorant of these things."] They are called holy angels: Mat. 25:31, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him;" and so in Rev. 14:9-10, "And he who worships the beast, or that receives his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb." The angels' holiness is their conformity to the original pattern of purity and excellency. The crown of holiness was set upon the heads of angels at their creation. Those princes of glory were crowned with holiness, as it were, in the cradle. The angels are holy in their praises, and holy in their waitings, and holy in their operations, and holy in all their ministrations.
When that sorcerer Balaam went to curse the people of God, a holy angel stood in the way, drew his sword upon him, and jostled his bones against the wall, and all to prevent the execution of his wicked and cursed intentions, Num. 22:22. Oh, how much more, then, do they stand in the way of the saints, to prevent those weaknesses and miscarriages which Satan and their own corruptions would otherwise carry them to! And doubtless as they have a hand to restrain the saints from evil, so they have an eye and an influence upon them for good: 1 Tim. 5:21, "I charge you before God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels," etc. The holy angels have their eyes and their influences upon us; they are our observers and overseers; they are called watchers in Dan. 4:17, for they watch our words, and they watch our works, and they watch our ways; they watch us before duties, and they watch us in duties, and they watch us after duties. They watch us before duties, to see how we prepare and fit ourselves to meet with God; and they watch us in duties, to see how our graces are acted upon God, and how our hearts and affections are running out after God; and they watch us after duties, to see whether we walk worthy of God, and worthy of our duties, and worthy of our profession, and worthy of our high calling. [1 Cor. 11:10; Heb. 1:14; Rev. 22:9.]
The angels watch you in all places, cases, and conditions, etc. In times of health, strength, peace, prosperity, etc., they watch to see how wisely, holily, humbly, fruitfully, cheerfully, and thankfully we will walk with God. In times of adversity, they watch to see how believingly, how contentedly, how self-denyingly, and how patiently we will submit to God, etc.; all which speaks out the holiness of the angels.
O sirs, you cannot in this world be like to the angels in power, strength, might, nor in agility, activity, splendor, beauty, or glory; but yet you may be like to them in purity and sanctity. Sirs, do not deceive yourselves. You shall never be like to the angels in glory, if you will not are like to them now in grace. If you will not with them now put on the robe of holiness, you shall not with them hereafter put on the crown of happiness.
We are to follow the examples of the best men—not an inch further than they were followers of Christ, 1 Cor. 11:1. "Christians," says Latimer, "are not bound to be the saints' apes, they are not to imitate them in everything." Where their examples were good, it is good to imitate them, and where they were bad, it is duty to decline them. The fairest copies that ever were written by saints have their blots, their blurs, and their erratas; and therefore it is best, it is safest, it is noblest, to set the most exact, the most perfect, and the most excellent copy of the angels before us, who, as they excel in strength, so they excel in holiness also: Psalm 103:20, "Praise the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty creatures who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands." The angels obey divine commands readily, cheerfully, faithfully, universally, reverentially, humbly, affectionately, and unweariedly. O sirs, such obedience, such holiness will be your honor here, and your happiness hereafter.
To gather up all, as ever you would be like to a holy God, a holy Christ, and the holy angels—labor to be holy. In holiness you may be like them, in other things you cannot resemble them. But,
15. In the fifteenth and last place, To provoke you to labor after holiness, consider the stinging argument in the text, namely—that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.The expression is exclusive. Now to "see" is a Hebraism, and implies both vision and fruition. Now without holiness, no man, be he high or low, noble or ignoble, rich or poor, etc., shall ever come to a blessed acquaintance with God here, or to a glorious fruition of God hereafter. O friends, if it were so great a misery to Adam to be cast out of paradise, and so great a punishment to Cain to be cast out of his father's family—which was the only visible church of God on earth—and such a sore affliction for the lepers under the law to be shut out from all converse with men, and so great a trouble and torment to Absalom to be banished his father's court, and so great a hell to Jonah to be seemingly cast out of God's sight, and so great a tribulation to John to be confined to the isle of Patmos; [Gen. 3:and 4:13; Lev. 14; 2 Sam. 14:13, 14; Jonah 2; Rev. 1:9.] oh, how great a misery, how great a punishment, how great an affliction, how great a trouble and torment, how great a tribulation, how great a hell, will it be for all unholy people forever and ever to be banished the court of heaven, and to be shut out from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power! 2 Thes. 1:7, 11.
If it were such an unspeakable grief and misery to the primitive Christians, as indeed it was, to be debarred of one another's society and company, by being exiled to islands, or shut up in prisons; oh, then, what an unspeakable grief and misery will it be to all unholy people to be forever debarred of the blessed society of God, Christ, angels, and saints—and to be everlastingly confined to the prison of hell, and to the society and company of that damned crew who will be still a-cursing and a-blaspheming of God, and adding to one another's torments!
O sirs, it is the sight of God in heaven wherein man's happiness and blessedness does consist; it is the fruition of God in heaven which is the life, the honor, the crown, and glory of angels and saints. Heaven itself would be but a poor thing, yes, it would be but a great nothing, without the sight and fruition of God there. Now without holiness there is no seeing of God, there is no possessing or enjoying of God, there is no possibility of ever obtaining a part or portion in God. Ah, friends! without holiness all is lost. Your soul is lost, your Christ is lost, your God is lost, your crown is lost, your heaven is lost, your glory is lost; and what are all other losses, compared to these losses?
Demorrathus said, "they lost the chief part of their lives' happiness, who did not see Alexander sit on the throne of Darius." But what was their loss, compared to that unconceivable and unexpressible loss which all unholy people must sustain, who shall never see the King of kings in his beauty, who shall never behold the Lord on the throne of his glory? Well, sirs, if none of these arguments can prevail with you to labor after holiness, I must conclude that divine justice has hardened you, and that Satan has blinded you, and that your lusts have besotted you, and that this world has bewitched you, and that it had been ten thousand thousand times better for you that you had never been born—than to live without holiness, and to die without holiness, and to be everlastingly damned for lack of holiness!
And thus much for the motives for holiness.