Course of Faith, or
The Practical Believer Delineated
By John Angell James, 1852
Faith in Relation to SANCTIFICATION
God created man in his own image, which consisted of true holiness. No spot
of guilt was upon his conscience—nor of depravity upon his heart. The light
of truth irradiated his understanding; the glow of perfect love
warmed his heart; the volitions of his will were all on the
side of purity; his conscience was the seat of perfect peace; and the
beauties of holiness adorned his character. His whole soul was in
harmony with the untainted scenes of Paradise, in the bowers of which he
walked in undisturbed friendship with God. No sorrow wrung his heart—no care
wrinkled his brow—no anxiety broke his rest. He passed away with awe from
the mysterious tree of knowledge of good and evil, to eat with joy of the
tree of life in the midst of the garden. He was happy, because he was holy.
He sinned, and his whole moral relation and condition was altered—he fell
under the condemnation of the law he had violated, and became the subject of
inward corruption. An entire change passed over his nature—he not only
became guilty—but depraved—his understanding became darkened—his affections
selfish and earthly—his will prone to choose what is wrong—and his
conscience benumbed. If he be recovered from this state of double misery, he
must be both pardoned and sanctified. His relation and his state must both
be changed. Neither of these alone will meet his case. He has lost
God's favor, and cannot be saved without being restored to that—and as he
has also lost God's image, so neither can he be saved unless that too be
restored to him. The covenant of God's love and mercy in Christ Jesus—the
glorious scheme of redeeming grace—meets the whole case of fallen man, by
providing not only justification—but sanctification.
Wonderful provision! Pardon for the guilty!
Sanctification for the unholy! The condition of the sinner may be likened to
that of a condemned criminal shut up in prison, and infected with a deadly
plague! What he needs, is both the cure of his plague, and the reversal of
his sentence--neither alone will meet his case. If he is only pardoned—he
will die of the plague. If he be only cured of the plague—he will suffer the
sentence of the law. So it is with fallen man—he is both depraved and
condemned. If he be only pardoned—his depravity will be his misery. If he
could by any means be reformed—he is still under sentence of death. The
glory as well as completeness of the gospel scheme is, that it provides a
cure for the diseases of the soul in sanctification, as well as a pardon
from the condemnation of the law in justification!
The verb "to sanctify," in its etymological meaning,
signifies to 'consecrate', or 'set apart from a common to a sacred use'. It
is also synonymous, or nearly so, with the verb "to purify," and is used
synonymously with it—with this difference, however—that purification is
employed sometimes in a generic sense, including both justification and
sanctification. Where the purification, or cleansing, is by blood, there the
word signifies justification—and where by water, sanctification. "The blood
of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." "Who has washed us from our sins
in His own blood." In these passages, the purification of the conscience, or
pardon, is spoken of. It is in this view of purification also we are to
understand the apostle, where in the Epistle to the Hebrews, he speaks of
sanctification as if it were the same as justification. "By the which
will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once
for all." "For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are
sanctified." Hebrews 10:10, 14. Now the whole context proves that the
apostle is speaking of pardon, not of holiness; and yet he uses the word
"sanctify," which must be understood as one of the two specific varieties of
purification. Justification, or pardon, being the purification of the
conscience from guilt; sanctification being the purification of the
heart and life from depravity. It is important to notice the apostle's use
of the word sanctify in the manner just pointed out, to guard the reader of
the Epistle to the Hebrews from supposing that in other parts of Scripture,
and in theological terminology, it is confounded with justification, and
means nothing more or less than holiness.
means that work of grace which is carried on in the soul of the believer by
the Spirit of God, through the instrumentality of Divine truth, whereby they
are made more and more like God, in righteousness and true holiness.
It will be perceived by an attentive reader, that there
is an essential difference between
and sanctification—these two always go together—but they are essentially
distinct in their specific nature. Justification is a change of our
relation to God—from being an enemy, we become a child. Sanctification
is a change of our nature, in which we lose the spirit of an enemy,
and acquire that of a son. Justification is that which we receive for the
sake of Christ's atonement—sanctification is that which we receive by the
work of the Sprit in us. Justification is complete at once—sanctification is
progressive. In justification, we receive God's love to us—in
sanctification, we exercise our love to God. Upon a right understanding of
the difference of these two blessings, depends our correct knowledge of the
whole scheme of redemption. All will be confusion in our ideas, if we do not
perceive this difference. Our growth in grace will be impeded, and our
consolation will be obstructed and diminished.
Sanctification differs from
only as the progress of a thing differs from its commencement. Regeneration
is the birth of the child of God—sanctification is his growth.
In regeneration the principle of spiritual life is imparted—in
sanctification the spiritual life is developed and exercised.
There is another distinction necessary to be observed,
and that is, the difference between sanctification and the
of life. There are many people who are very amiable in their dispositions,
very just in their transactions, very excellent in all their social
relations, very lovely in their general character; but who at the same time,
whatever esteem and affection they may have—are not in a state of
sanctification. They have never been convinced of sin—have never exercised
faith in Christ—have never been born of the Spirit—have never been brought
to love God. All this loveliness of character is but the beautiful
wildflower in the wilderness of unrenewed humanity. There can be no true
holiness apart from the principle of supreme love to God. Until this is
implanted in the soul, we are under the dominion of supreme selfishness—and
all these excellences may be traced up to self! God's law is not
obeyed—God's glory is not sought, because God himself is not loved. There
is, there can be no holiness, whatever there may be of what is called
morality, if there be no love to God. Can that be holiness to the Lord, in
which God's authority is not distinctly recognized; nor submission to his
will professed; nor his glory sought? In such a case, the very principle of
holiness is wanting. And a melancholy spectacle it is to see so much general
excellence of character as we sometimes witness, all fruitless as regards
another world, to its possessor, for want of that Divine principle which
transmutes all this apparently beautiful morality into true religion.
Sanctification, then, is holiness; or that supreme love
to God, and just love to man, which is required by the law of God. It is, as
we have said—the development and continued energy and exercise of the Divine
life implanted in the soul by regeneration. If we described sanctification
in theological phraseology, we should say it is a dying more and more unto
sin—and a living more and more unto righteousness. Sanctification is
advancing in the Divine life. Sanctification is the mortification of our
inbred corruptions. Sanctification is the investing of our character with
the beauties of holiness. Sanctification is becoming more and more like God
in his moral character. All these are instructive and impressive
descriptions of our sanctification; but still more so are the
representations given of it in the Word of God. Sanctification is–
"the law of God written on the heart,"
"the well of water springing up into everlasting life,"
"bearing much fruit,"
"being crucified with Christ,"
"being dead with Christ,"
"living unto God,"
"walking in newness of life,"
"walking not after the flesh—but after the Spirit,"
"mortifying our members which are upon the earth,"
"not being conformed to this world—but being transformed by the renewing of
"running the Christian race with patience, laying aside every weight and the
sin that so easily besets us,"
"working out our salvation with fear and trembling,"
"following after love,"
"being changed into the image of God, from glory to glory, even as by the
Spirit of the Lord,"
"cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfecting
holiness in the fear of God,"
"walking in the Spirit,"
"being filled with all the fullness of God,"
"abounding in love more and more, being filled with the fruits of
"being fruitful in every good work,"
"being blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke,"
"having our hearts established unblameable in holiness,"
"being perfect in every good work,"
"being holy, as God is holy,"
"growing in grace."
All these passages, and innumerable others, describe the
work of sanctification—and O, what a work! It is almost enough to terrify us
to consider what we have to do, and how defectively we are to do it. In
reading over these passages of sacred Scripture, we are ready to exclaim–
"Who then can be saved!" "Who is sufficient for these things?" And it is in
reference to these it is said– "Thus is the will of God, even your
sanctification." 1 Thess. 4:3. "Christ is made unto us sanctification." 1
Cor. 1:30. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Heb. 12:14.
In sanctification there is a Divine agency and a human
instrumentality. The Divine agency is the work of the Spirit of
God—hence the expressions–
"sanctification of the Spirit,"
"born of the Spirit,"
"living in the Spirit,"
"walking in the Spirit,"
"led by the Spirit,"
"sealed by the Spirit."
To quote more passages would be unnecessary. The whole
work of true religion in the human soul is Divine! Every holy
perception, every holy inclination, every holy affection, every holy
volition—is from God. Our holy life is as much a work of the Divine
Spirit as our conversion. It is he who "works in us to will and to do
according to his good pleasure." It is he who in a way we cannot wholly
comprehend—but which from our own consciousness we know is in no sense at
variance with the laws of our mental economy or our freedom of choice and
action—makes us holy.
Not, however, independently of means and instrumentality.
If the Spirit is the agent; the truth, as it is in Jesus, is the
instrumental means of our sanctification. Holiness is not a physical—but a
moral creation; and the influence which imparts it is quite different from
that physical power which moves, governs, and rules the material creation.
The Divine power which regenerates and sanctifies the soul is of a kind
peculiar to this work. It is, if we may so speak, a Divine, efficient, moral
suasion—but the the mode of operation is beyond our penetration.
Frequent reference is made to the SCRIPTURE, as the
instrument of holiness. "Sanctify them through your truth—your Word is
truth." John 17:17. So prayed the Savior of the world for his apostles—in
which petition he recognizes at once the instrumentality of truth—and the
efficient agency of God. So in another place– "Now you are clean through the
Word which I have spoken unto you." John 15:3. To this effect are the words
of the apostle– "God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through
sanctification, and belief of the truth." 2 Thess. 2:13. "The Word of God
which effectually works also in you who believe." 1 Thess. 2:13. "Of his own
will he begat us, with the Word of truth." James 1:18. "Seeing you have
purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, . . . being
born again, not of corruptible seed . . . by the Word of God." 1 Peter 1:22,
23. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life."
In all these passages, and many more might have been
selected, the truth is most clearly and positively stated to be the means
of our sanctification. Now it is the work of the Sprit to cause this truth
to be so attended to by the judgment, so understood in a peculiar and
spiritual manner, and so felt, as to move the will of man to choose and
pursue holiness, and to reject sin. We are not to imagine that the work of
the Spirit annihilates the faculties, or destroys the freedom of the
soul—but guides and directs these faculties by the spiritual light which he
introduces. It is man's own act to repent, to believe, to love, to obey,
according to the truth set before the mind; but to this it is led by the
Spirit of God.
We now come very clearly to see the office of faith in
sanctification. In the Acts of the Apostles we have these two expressions–
"Purifying their hearts by faith." Chap. 15:9. "That they may receive
forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified, by
faith that is in me." Chap. 26:18. What in one place is called "sanctified,"
is in the other called "purified;" sustaining what has been said, that
sanctification means purifying. It will be our business now to make it
obvious that faith has a work to perform in sanctification—as
necessary and as important as in justification.
There are some writers who represent the system of faith,
as it is set forth by the evangelical divines, as tending to weaken the
obligations to holiness. They are able to understand how the law,
with its precepts and penalties, should operate in keeping men from sin; but
they do not see how the gospel, with its promises and privileges,
should conduce to the same end; forgetting, or indeed not understanding,
what the apostle says, that "by faith we establish the law."
Then there are others, who most willingly consent to the
doctrine of full justification through the righteousness of Christ; but who,
while they see pretty clearly the business of faith in this act of God's
grace (justification), do not see as clearly faith's work in sanctification.
This it will be our business now to unfold.
1. Faith sanctifies by the respect which it pays to the
whole Word of God. It must be borne in mind,
as I have just said, that the work of sanctification is carried on, by the
instrumentality of the Scriptural truth. The Scripture presents all those
laws to be obeyed, in obedience to which sanctification consists—all
those sins to be avoided which are opposed to it—all those motives
to obey the one and avoid the other, which in the hand of the Spirit induce
it—together with numerous examples of iniquity on the one hand, and
righteousness oil the other—which attract to holiness and repel from sin!
It is impossible not to be struck with the adaptation of
the Bible to produce holiness. Every part of it—its precepts, threatenings,
promises, examples—all are adapted to make men holy. The Scriptures are a
testimony against sin—and for righteousness. Some writers, in
their misguided zeal for the work of the Spirit, have disparaged not only
the Bible—but God's wisdom in employing it as his great moral instrument for
the salvation of man, by affirming that there is no more adaptation in the
Bible to convert the sinner, than in the wind which blew upon the valley of
dry bones to awaken the dead. They resolve the whole work of conversion into
an arbitrary operation of God—irrespective of all means. This is to
contradict the Word of God, which speaks of conversion and sanctification
being carried on by the truth—and entirely to exclude the work of faith in
this important business.
It is by an intelligent understanding, and a cordial
belief of the truth, that it is made to bear upon the heart, conscience, and
life. A man reads his Bible, in which, if he believes it, he sees the
nature, the necessity, the means and motives of holiness; and it is by
believing these things, they become obligatory upon the conscience.
Sanctification is not a series of blind impulses in the mind—of unmeaning
raptures of the soul, or of mystic silence; but of intelligent acts of
conformity to the will of God, as his will is made known in his Word; and it
is only by knowing and believing the Word that this can be achieved. How
powerfully sometimes is a single precept, threatening, promise, or example
of the Scripture impressed upon the mind, in the way of deterring from
sin—or urging to holiness. But it is the firm belief that it is the Word of
God which gives it all its power.
2. Faith sanctifies by the direct and prevailing regard
it has to the work of Christ, as set forth
in the Word of God. Sanctifying faith, like that which justifies, while it
takes in the whole field of revelation—dwells especially on the scenes of
Calvary. There it is drawn by an irresistible attraction—there it dwells
with an intense delight—from thence it derives its sources of consolation,
and motives to obedience. Yes, the great object of sanctifying faith is a
crucified Savior! Who does not add his "Amen," to the words of Watts—
"O, the sweet wonders of that cross,
Where God the Savior loved and died!
Her noblest life my spirit draws,
From his dear wounds and bleeding side."
Now the death of Christ, intelligently apprehended by
faith, operates in three ways for our sanctification.
A. The death of Christ, apprehended by faith, presents
the strongest motives to holiness—by setting forth in the most vivid and
striking manner, the holiness and justice of God, and his determination
to punish transgression; the immutable authority of the Divine law; the evil
nature of sin; and the fearfulness of falling into the hands of the living
God. Not all the judgments God ever inflicted—nor all the threatenings he
ever denounced, give such an impressive warning against sin, and admonition
to righteousness—as the death of Christ. The torments of the bottomless pit
are not so dreadful a demonstration of God's hatred of sin as the agonies of
B. There is another way in which the death of Christ
apprehended by faith, tends to holiness—and that is by opening a medium
by which our obedience to God can be accepted by him.
Chalmers, in a sermon upon "The Purifying Influence of
the Christian Faith," has set this in a clear and interesting point of view.
"It first takes away a wall of partition, which, in the case of every man
who has not received this doctrine, lies across the path of his obedience at
the very commencement. So long as I think that it is quite impossible for me
so to run as to obtain, I will not move a single footstep. Under the burden
of a hopeless controversy between me and God, I feel as it were weighed down
to the inactivity of despair. I live without hope; and so long as I do so, I
live without God in the world. And besides—God, while the object of my
terror, is also the object of my aversion. The helpless necessity under
which I labor, so long as the question of my guilt remains unmoved—is to
dread the Being—whom I am commanded to love. I may occasionally cast a
feeble regard towards that distant and inaccessible Lawgiver; but so long as
I view him shrouded in the 'darkness of frowning majesty', I can place in
him no trust, and I can bear towards him no filial tenderness. I may
occasionally consult the requirements of his law; but when I look to the
uncancelled sentence that is against me, I can never tread, with hopeful or
assured footsteps, on the career of obedience.
"But let me look unto Christ lifted up for our offences;
and see the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and which was
contrary unto us, nailed to his cross, and there blotted out, and taken out
of the way—and then I see the barrier in question leveled to the ground! I
now behold the way of repentance cleared of the obstructions, by which it
was once rendered utterly impassable. 'This is the will of God, even your
sanctification', may be sounded a thousand times in the ear of an
unbeliever, and leave him as immoveable as it found him because, while under
a sense of unexpiated guilt, he sees a mighty mountain before him, which he
cannot scale. But if the same words be sounded in the ears of a believer,
they will put him into motion. For to him the mountain is thrown down, and
the rough way is made smooth, and the the hills are brought low, and the
valley of separation is filled—and he is made to see the salvation of God.
The path of obedience is made level before him, and he enters it with the
inspiration of a new and invigorating principle; and that love to God, which
the consciousness of guilt will ever keep at a distance from the heart, now
takes up the room of this terrifying, and paralyzing, and alienating
"The reception of this doctrine of atonement is just as
much the turning point of a new character, as it is the turning point of a
new hope; and it is the very point, in the history of every human soul, at
which the alacrity of gospel obedience takes its commencement, as well as
the cheerfulness of gospel anticipations. Until this doctrine is believed,
there is no attempt at obedience at all; or else, it is such an obedience as
is totally unanimated by the life and the love of real godliness. And it is
not until this doctrine has taken possession of the mind, that any man can
take up the language of the Psalmist, and say– Lord, I am your servant—you
have loosed my bonds!"
C. In the death of Christ, we see the most perfect
model of holiness! He was sinless to the end, and gave in his death the
most wonderful instance of cheerful, willing, and suffering obedience to the
will of God—that the universe ever witnessed! How stupendous an act of
submission was it, that he who was in the form of God, should humble himself
in the form of a servant to be obedient unto death—even the death of the
cross! How much of our sanctification consists of obedience. What can we
refuse to do in this way after we have seen what Christ has done?
D. The death of Christ supplies the most powerful
appeals to our gratitude and love. What can be so mighty in moving us as
these states of mind! What will not fervent love and intense gratitude do!
What sin will not a soul abandon—what duty will it not perform that is under
the constraining influence of the love of Christ! Here was the apostle's
motive to holiness– "I am crucified with Christ—nevertheless I live; yet not
I—but Christ lives in me—and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live
by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Gal.
3. Faith operates on our sanctification, by the regard it
bears, the credit it gives, to the promised aid of the Holy Spirit.
We have already shown that it is by his agency
the whole work of grace is carried on in the soul. But what assures us that
we shall have the Spirit? What encourages us to expect his necessary aid?
The numerous promises of the Word of God. "If you then, being evil, know how
to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which
is in heaven give good things to those who ask him? Ask, and it shall be
given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto
you." This is an absolute promise to be believed; and it is only one of many
which might be quoted in which God engages to bestow his sanctifying grace.
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises—that by
these we might be partakers of the divine nature." 2 Peter 1:4. Now, the
believer credits these promises; and believing, receives the aid of the
Spirit. The grace is in the promise, so to speak; and it is the work of
faith to draw it out from thence into the soul. It produces that waiting,
dependent, expectant frame, to which God delights to give the blessing. It
opens the soul to the coming blessing.
4. Faith unites the soul vitally to Christ, and thus
draws from him all that grace which is in him for the believer's spiritual
welfare. The true believer is a branch of
the living vine. John 15:1. He is a member of the body of which Christ is
the Divine Head. Ephes. 1, 23. As the branch derives its sap from the tree,
and the member its life from the head, so the believer derives all
sanctifying grace from Christ. All our life of sanctification, as well as of
justification, is in Jesus. "It has pleased the Father that in him all
fullness should dwell, that out of his fullness we may receive, and grace
for grace." It is only as we abide in him, look to him, depend on him, we
can have any measure of holiness. "In the Lord alone, we have righteousness
and strength." "He is made unto us not only wisdom, and righteousness—but
sanctification, and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:30. This, in my opinion, is the
design of the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, viewed in
connection with the beginning of the eighth, to show that sanctification can
no more be obtained by the law, than justification can—and that
sanctification is as much in Christ for us, as justification.
5. But, lastly, faith operates in sanctification, by the
regard it bears to the future world, as set forth before us in the Word of
God. That future world is represented as
consisting of two states—heaven for the righteous, and hell for the wicked.
These are believed by the real Christian. In reference to the former, his
"faith is the confidence of things hoped for—the conviction of things not
seen." He believes the reality, the certainty, the glory of the heavenly
state, and knowing that it is prepared only for those who by holiness are
prepared for it; he strives after that "holiness without which no man shall
see the Lord." He looks up to the portals of immortality, and sees this
solemn inscription– "And there shall never enter into it anything that
defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie—but they only
have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates of the
city, who do his commandments." Reading this, he says– "I must be
sanctified, or renounce all hope of heaven!" Filled with this conviction he
meets the fiercest temptation, with some such words as these—
"In vain the world accosts my ear,
And tempts my heart anew,
I cannot buy your bliss so dear,
Nor part with heaven for you."
Nor is this all; the very representation which the
Scriptures give of HEAVEN, assists the work of sanctification. The
heaven of the Bible is not a Mahommedan Paradise of sensual delights.
The heaven of the Bible is a holy world, a state of moral perfection,
a condition of existence from which sin is forever excluded—where the soul
is wrought to a perfect conformity to the image of God—in thought,
affection, and volition. The place of heaven is holy—the society of heaven
is holy—the occupation of heaven is holy. Heaven is, in short, the region of
unsullied purity. It is, therefore, so represented to us, that it is
impossible to contemplate it devoutly—to desire it longfully—to prepare for
it truly—without growing holy! Every glance of the eye at its pearly
gates—its gold paved streets—its nightless day—its sinless
inhabitants—inflames the mind with a desire after greater sanctification, as
the only fitness for all its glories. Hence it is said– "Everyone who has
this hope in him, purifies himself, even as he is pure." 1 John 3:3. Men's
characters are, if not actually formed, yet sustained and consolidated by
the nature and quality of their hopes—so is the Christian's.
And then turn to the dreadful reverse—the awful, horrid
contrast—the dark world of HELL. That orb of evil which draws all sin
to itself. Scripture declares that unrepented sin, unmortified sin,
unforsaken sin—shall sink the transgressor to those regions of sorrow,
doleful shades, where neither peace nor hope can ever dwell. "But cowards
who turn away from me, and unbelievers, and the corrupt, and murderers, and
the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all
liars—their doom is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the
second death." Rev. 21:8. Dreadful description, and not more dreadful than
true! Faith sees and trembles. It stands afar off, and hearing "the wailing
and gnashing of teeth," and seeing "the smoke of their torment ascending up
forever and ever," is filled with holy solemnity, and is prepared to pluck
out a right eye, and to cut off a right hand or right foot—rather than be
cast into that place– "where their worm never dies—and their fire is never
quenched." Mark 9:44. Hell is as truly an object of Christian belief as
heaven, and while the contemplation of heaven has a direct tendency to draw
us to holiness—the contemplation of hell has a tendency no less direct, to
drive us from sin!
Let us now meditate on the various inferences which this
subject suggests to us.
1. It is scarcely necessary to insist upon the
indispensable NECESSITY of holiness to entitle us to the character of a true
believer. We are not Christians, and cannot
be Christians—if we are not changed in our moral nature from sin to
holiness. Holiness was the image of God in which man was created in the
beginning—the image which he lost by the fall—and to restore which to our
nature was the design of the whole scheme of redemption. It is a mistake to
suppose the chief end of Christ's death was to save us from hell. "He died
to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people
zealous of good works." Titus 2:14. Without a new and holy nature, from
which shall emanate the fruits of righteousness in our character and
conduct, we can be Christians only in name. Sanctification is as
essential to salvation as justification, indeed it is a part of it!
We must be born again, which is the starting point of
sanctification; and we must grow in holiness, as the evolutions and energies
of the new life implanted by regeneration. Without holiness, whatever
amiable and lovely qualities of a general kind we may possess, we are still
the children of wrath—the enemies of God—the subjects of unrenewed
corruption—the heirs of perdition—and going on to everlasting destruction!
An unholy man cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The laws of heaven forbid
his entrance into that holy state. if he could enter, its blessed
inhabitants would retire from him, as the healthy inhabitants of a town
would shrink from a person who had come among them infected with the plague.
He would find nothing in heaven to suit his taste; no one to associate with
him—like a person under fever, he would be unable to relish a single viand
at the heavenly feast, and recoil by a kind of moral hydrophobia from the
water of the fountain of life.
But the unsanctified can gain no entrance into that
blessed world—and any expectation he may entertain of it, is but as the hope
of the hypocrite, which will perish in the day when God takes away his soul;
and he will be doomed to the bitterness of disappointment, in that hour when
he expected to rise to the felicities of fruition.
2. It is of immense consequence for professors to examine
themselves to ascertain if they are truly sanctified.
Profession is very common—and so is self-delusion. "Not everyone who says to
me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the
will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord,
Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons
and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew
you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:21-23. These are words solemn
enough to fill the whole church with anxiety and alarm. How prevalent,
according to this passage, is self-deception! MANY will say. How far
it may be carried—even to the judgment tribunal! How unlikely are the
subjects of it—professors, preachers, workers of miracles! I tremble as I
write! I tremble for multitudes all around!
Never, no never, were professors more in danger of
self-deception than in this age. If the standard of true religion is the New
Testament, then a great proportion of the members of all our churches cannot
be true Christians --but are merely nominalists, evangelical formalists, and
Let anyone study the Bible description of holiness—the
setting forth of sanctification as we find it in—our Lord's Sermon on the
Mount—the sixth, eighth, and twelfth chapters of the Epistle to the
Romans—the thirteenth of the first Epistle to the Corinthians—the third
chapters of the Epistle to the Ephesians and Philippians—and the address of
our Lord to the seven churches in Asia, in the book of the Revelation—and
say if our churches will stand this test. Do we see the work of
sanctification in their spirit, character, and conduct? Is holiness to the
Lord inscribed upon them? Are they shining as lights in the world, so that
men see their good works? Verily, I think not. The description of the church
of Sardis is that which characterizes the state of the Christian world in
this day, and a fearful one it is– "You have a name, that you live, and
are dead." Let the call for examination then, be sounded forth. Let
Christians test themselves on the subject of sanctification.
Let them go into their closet in solemn seriousness, and
with the Bible open and God's omniscient eye upon them, ask the question–
"Is holiness my desire—my intense desire—my pursuit—my steady, vigorous,
earnest pursuit? Do I subject all my wishes—my plans—my tastes—my
purposes—to this? Do I deliberately will to be holy—not satisfying
myself with vague desires? Do I hate sin as sin—and not merely because of
its consequences? Do I resist it in thought, feeling, and desire? Do I
mortify every evil corruption of my heart—and am I diligently employed in
digging up its roots in the soul, as well as lopping its branches in the
conduct? Am I striving after purity of heart? Is my aim to be freed from
all sin as well as some sin—or am I endeavoring to atone for the
retention of some sins I value, by the surrender of others I am not strongly
tempted to commit? Am I satisfied to be as holy as others; or am I striving
to be as holy as God requires? Do I mourn over every degree of imperfection;
and am I watching and praying against it? Am I striving after
perfection—really endeavoring to be cleansed 'from all filthiness of flesh
and spirit?' Do I feel that holiness is my very calling, and do I know that
I am following it up as such?"
Ah, this is the test, and this the manner of applying it;
and so applied, how many must be cut off from the true Christian hope. And
yet is there anything here but what the Word of God contains? If we fall
under conviction that we are not yet sanctified, let us not put aside the
matter as a thing that, however it may be regretted, cannot be helped; and
say– "If I am wrong, how many are in the same condition." True. But will
that help you? Is it any consolation to perish in a crowd? Will it
comfort you to go down to the pit with a multitude?
3. Let the true Christian pant after holiness.
Believer, you are justified—and can never be
more so than you now are. That work of grace is perfected—and what is
perfect cannot be improved. There are no degrees in justification. "It is
finished." Blessed thought! You are "accepted in the beloved." Your
sanctification is the evidence of this. But sanctification has
degrees. You "have not attained, neither are you already perfect. Forgetting
the things which are behind, reach forward unto those which are before."
Dwell upon the value, the blessedness of holiness—the comfort of purity—the
peace of righteousness—the happiness of purity. In some respects
sanctification is a greater blessing than justification. Justification frees
from punishment; but sanctification from the sin that deserves punishment.
Justification exempts from hell; but sanctification gives us the temper of
heaven. Justification gives the title to life; sanctification the life
itself. Justification restores us to the favor of God; sanctification
restores to us the image of God, without which even his favor would be no
benefit. Justification is only the means, of which sanctification is the
end; for our "conscience is purged from dead works, that we might serve the
living and true God." Justification is a relative perfection; sanctification
a personal one, and personal changes are above relative ones. Justification
has nothing in God to which it is like; but sanctification is his very
image. Justification is the blessing of a fallen sinner; holiness the
blessing of creatures that have never sinned. Justification is the pledge of
glory; sanctification its pledge. Justification is a benefit to the
individual who possesses it; being one of those secret transactions which
take place within the veil of heaven, and in the chambers of the heart; but
sanctification is a social blessing; the change which it involves goes on in
public, and by the power of example and influence, benefits those who
Besides all this, holiness is the end of all God's
dealings towards us in grace and providence. If he chose us from
eternity, it is that we might be holy. If he calls us in time, it is
to holiness. If he gave Christ to die for us, it is to purify us from
all iniquity. If he pours out the Spirit, it is to sanctify us. If he
gave us the Scriptures, it is that by them we might be made holy. If
he chastises us by affliction, it is "that we might be partakers of
his holiness." It runs through all his designs and all his plans, to carry
on our sanctification.
Christians, see your work—your duty—your privilege. Grow
in grace. "This is the will of God—even your sanctification." 1 Thess. 4:5.
Be it your will also. You are not yet perfect. Seek to be so. Go on unto
perfection. It is an apostolic command. Let nothing less satisfy you. It is
your unquestionable duty to seek after it. You are not under the law for
justification—but you are for sanctification; and that law demands
perfect love—perfect obedience. Your justification by the gospel
has not released you from sanctification by conformity to the law. The law
tolerates no sin—but condemns all. To suppose that the law does not demand
perfect obedience, is to say that it allows you to sin a little. To affirm
that the gospel has abolished the law, in its demands of perfect obedience,
is to contradict the apostle, who says– "Do we then make void the law
through faith? God forbid; yes, we establish the law." Rom. 3:31. The law,
which is the distant echo of God's own voice, is ever saying to you–
"Holier, holier, still." Be it your reply– "Yes, Lord, holier, holier,
Desire—yes, long—yes, pant after more intense holiness.
Your own comfort requires holiness. What troubles you like sin? What
is your greatest distress—but your low degrees of holiness? The "work of
righteousness is peace; the fruit of righteousness is quietness and
assurance forever." "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience,
that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom—but by the
grace of God, we have lived in the world." 2 Cor. 1:12. "If our heart
condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things—but if our
heart condemns us not, then we have confidence towards God."1 John 3:20, 21.
God's glory requires my holiness—He is honored by his
people's conformity to his image. Holiness is the reflection of his own
bright rays of moral excellence from his people's character. Religion
gains credit by my holiness. Oh, what would be the commanding power of
Christianity in our world, if all professing Christians were but seen to be
eminent in sanctification and striving after perfect holiness—devout towards
God—just towards man—lovely in every social virtue—chaste, truthful,
temperate and moderate in all things—in whom the beauties of holiness would
be seen in all their attractions. How would the people of the world be
struck when they saw a higher morality than their own dead virtue, animated
by piety, and overflowing with a divine and spiritual life. They might not
love and imitate it—but they would admire it, and like Satan before the
seraph stand abashed, and feel how awful goodness is. The sneers and
sarcasms against the saints would cease, when the saintly excellences shone
forth in all their splendor. Such models of virtue would appear too sacred
for contempt. It is the more eminent sanctification of the church that is
needed for the conversion of the world—and a holier church would make a
holier world, and we cannot expect a holier world until we have a holier
But what are the MEANS of obtaining greater
We must feel we NEED holiness,
which is not generally the case. Christians are lamentably content to remain
as they are. Under the fatal opiate that there is no perfection in this
world, they are reconciling themselves to all kinds and all degrees of
imperfections. They are quite satisfied with a perfect justification,
without seeking after a perfect sanctification.
Next to feeling our need,
we must cherish an intense DESIRE
after holiness—and this desire must come
out in the form of a deliberate purpose and fixed resolution. "I must, and
God helping me, I WILL be more holy," should be the determination of every
believer. Men are afraid to bind themselves with a deliberate resolve—but
they ought to do so. They will never be more holy until they resolve to be
so. This thing will not come by wishing—but only by willing.
There must be the daily, and diligent, and prayerful
study of the SCRIPTURES. This is the
divinely appointed means of sanctification. We must read the Word, not out
of a mere superstitious reverence for the Bible, as a book that so much of
it ought to be read every day—but without any distinct object in perusing
it, except it be to avoid the reproaches of conscience for not
reading it—not simply to be acquainted with its contents, and to admire its
sublimities of doctrine, or its beauties of poetry—not merely to furnish
ourselves with the weapons for controversy; no—nor even to draw forth the
waters of consolation—but to be made holy. We should approach the Bible with
this prayer upon our lips, and going forth from the heart– "Sanctify me by
your truth." There is a spirit of holiness, as well as letter of holiness
pervading the Word of God—it is redolent with sanctity—an atmosphere of
holiness surrounds it—and it is this we should endeavor to inhale in coming
to its divine pages. If it does not make us holy, it does nothing for us
effectually! It is only as we are sanctified, we enter into God's design in
giving us this blessed volume.
Nor must we omit the
exercise of our faith in our Lord
Jesus Christ. We need as much to regard
Christ in our sanctification—as in our justification. There is perpetual
allusion to this in the New Testament. Christ, as a teacher, has
shown us by precept what sanctification is, in his Sermon upon the Mount. As
an example, he has exhibited to us his own conduct; he was an
embodiment of holiness—a living pattern of purity. As our atonement,
he has made holiness attainable by us through the gift of the Divine Spirit
conferred upon us, a fruit of his mediation. By our union with him by
faith, we derive the virtues and efficacy of his mediation. Hence, we are
crucified with Christ—buried with Christ—quickened with Christ—risen with
Christ—and walk in newness of life with Christ. On him our faith must be
fixed, to derive from him all that is necessary for our new and spiritual
And if we would increase in sanctification,
we must be much in prayer for
the influence of the Divine Spirit.
Sanctification, as we have already shown, is his work; but for this work, he
will be importuned by us in prayer. No man can be eminently holy—but by
being much in his closet; for "this thing goes not forth but by prayer and
fasting." In praying for the Spirit, we should understand what we ask
for—that we need to have our corruptions, those we have indulged and
cherished, mortified; that we need to have right eyes plucked out, and right
hands cut off. This is what we mean by being sanctified. Many people pray
for the Spirit to make them holy; but then they use the term holy in the
most vague and indeterminate sense, forgetting that holiness means the
putting away of those very sins they love! No man prays with sincerity for
Divine help in sanctification, who does not mean that he wants help to put
away every sin he has—even the dearest or most gainful; and not only the
greatest sins—but the least sins. To ask God to sanctify us, and yet not to
determine to renounce the sins we know we are committing—is a dreadful
mockery of God!
When a worldly-minded believer prays to be really
sanctified, he means that he has really determined to put away his
worldly-mindedness, and to become spiritual. When a passionate, or
revengeful, or malicious believer prays for real sanctification, he means
that he has resolved to alter and improve his temper, and that he wants the
Spirit to assist him. So if the covetous believer prays for real
sanctification, he means that he has resolved to put away his love of money,
and is really desirous that God would assist him to do so.
Oh, the insincerity and hypocrisy of multitudes in
praying for the Spirit to make them holy. They do not want to be sanctified,
and in asking for it; they do but add hypocrisy to all their other sins.
But where the heart is sincere, and the believer really
desires to be made holy, where it can honestly say—
"Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made you mourn.
And drove you from my breast.
"The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from your throne,
And worship only Thee!"
In that case, the Spirit shall be granted, provided the
blessing be asked in faith. Such a soul, hungering and thirsting after
righteousness, and beseeching Divine help with fervor, and expecting to
receive it, shall grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus
Christ. There is nothing God has more frequently promised to bestow—nothing
he is more willing to bestow—nothing he is more glorified in bestowing—than
his Holy Spirit, to those who ask for sanctification.