En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Archive for the ‘J.C. Ryle’ Category

Are You Born Again?

Posted by Scott on December 8, 2008

Are You Born Again?
by J.C. Ryle

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” — John 3:3.


This is one of the most important questions in religion. Jesus Christ says, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”


Are you born again?

It is not enough to reply, “I belong to the church; and I suppose I am. ” Thousands of nominal Christians have none of the marks and signs of being born again which the Scripture has given us.

Would you like to know the marks and signs of being born again? Give me your attention, and I will show them to you out of the first epistle of John.

First of all, John says,

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin;” and again, “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” — John 3:9; 5:18.

A man born again, or regenerate, does not commit sin as a habit. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination, as an unregenerate man does. There was probably a time when he did not think whether his actions were sinful or not, and never felt grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. Now he hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, counts it his greatest plague, groans under the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be delivered from it altogether. In one word, sin no longer pleases him, nor is even a matter of indifference; it has become the abominable thing which he hates. He cannot prevent its dwelling within him. If he said he had no sin, there would be no truth in him (1 John 1:8). But he can say that he cordially abhors it, and the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all. He cannot prevent bad thoughts arising within him, and short-comings, omissions, and defects appearing, both in his words and actions. He knew, as James says, that “In many things we offend all” (James 3:2). But he can say truly, and as in the sight of God, that things are a daily grief and sorrow to him, and that his whole nature does not consent unto them.

I place this mark before you. What would the Apostle say about you?
Are you born again?

Secondly, John says,

“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God” —1 John 5:1

A man born again, or regenerate, then, believes that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour by whom his soul can be pardoned; that He is the divine person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and that beside Him there is no Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness, but in Christ he sees ground for the fullest confidence, and trusting in Him he believes that his sins are all forgiven. He believes that for the sake of Christ’s finished work and death upon the cross, he is reckoned righteous in God’s sight, and may look forward to death and judgment without alarm. He may have his fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you he feels as if he had not faith at all. But ask him whether he will rest his hopes of eternal life on his own goodness, his own amendments, his prayers, his minister, or his church, and see what he will reply. Ask him whether he will give up Christ, and place his confidence in any other way of religion. Depend upon it, he would say that though he does feel weak and bad, he would not give up Christ for all the world. Depend upon it, he would say he found preciousness in Christ, a suitableness to his own soul in Christ, that he found nowhere else, and that he must cling to him.

I place this mark before you. What would the Apostle say about you?
Are you born again?

Thirdly, John says,

“Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him” —1 John 2:29.

The man born again, or regenerate, then is, a holy man. He endeavors to live according to God’s will, to do the things that please God, to avoid the things that God hates. His aim and desire is to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His wish is to be continually looking to Christ as his example as well as his Saviour, and to show himself Christ’s friend by doing whatsoever Christ commands. No doubt he is not perfect. None will tell you that sooner than himself. He groans under the burden of indwelling corruption cleaving to him. He finds an evil principle within him constantly warring against Grace, and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence. In spite of all shortcomings, the average bent and bias of his way is holy—his doings are holy, his tastes holy, and his habits holy. In spite of all this swerving and turning aside, like a ship beating up against a contrary wind, the general course of his life is in one direction—toward God and for God. And though he may sometimes fell so low that he questions whether he is a Christian at all, he will generally be able to say with old John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world, but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the Grace of God I am what I am.”

I place this mark also before you. What would the Apostle say about you?
Are you born again?

Fourthly, John says,

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” — I John 3:14

A man born again, or regenerate, then, has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for those who are of one mind with himself. Like his Lord and Saviour, he loves the worst of sinners, and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home as when he is in their company. He is never so happy as when he is among the saints and the excellent of the earth. Others may value learning, or cleverness, or agreeableness, or riches or rank, in the society they choose. The regenerate man values Grace. Those who have most Grace, and are mot like Christ, are those he most loves. He feels that they are members of the same family with himself. He feels that they are his fellow-soldiers, warring against the same enemy. He feels that they are his fellow-travelers, journeying along the same road. He understands them, and they understand him. He and they may be very different in many ways—in rank, in station, in wealth. What matter? They are Jesus Christ’s people. They are his Father’s sons and daughters. Then he cannot help loving them.

I place this mark also before you. What would the Apostle say about you?
Are you born again?

Fifthly, John says,

“Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world” — I John 5:4.

A man born again, or regenerate, does not make the world’s opinion his rule of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the stream of the world’s way, notions and customs. “What may will say?” is no longer a turning-point with him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which most around him call happiness. He cannot enjoy their enjoyments: they weary him: they appear to him vain, unprofitable, and unworthy of an immortal being. He overcomes the fear of the world. He is content to do many things which all around him think unnecessary, to say the least. They blame him: it does not move him. They ridicule him: he does not give way. He loves the praise of God more than the praise of men. He fears offending Him more than giving offense to man. He has counted the cost. It is a small thing with him no whether he is blamed or praised. He is no longer the servant of fashion and custom. To please the world is quite a secondary consideration with him. His first aim is to please God.

I place this mark also before you. What would the Apostle say about you?
Are you born again?

Sixthly, John says,

“He that is begotten of God keepeth himself” — I John 5:18.

A man born again, or regenerate, is very careful of his own soul. He endeavors not only to keep clear of sin, but also to keep clear of everything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He feels that evil communications corrupt the heart, and that evil is for more catching than good, just as disease is more infectious than health. He is careful about the employment of his time: his chief desire about it is to spend it profitably. He is careful about the friendships he forms: it is not enough for him that people are kind and amiable and good-natured; all this is very well; but will they do good to his soul? He is careful over his own daily habits and behavior: he tries to recollect that his own heart is deceitful, the world full of wickedness, and devil always laboring to do him harm; and, therefore, he would fain be always on his guard. He desires to live like a solider in an enemy’s country, to wear his armor continually, and to be prepared for temptation. He finds by experience that his soul is ever among enemies, and he studies to be watchful, humble, prayerful man.

I place this mark also before you. What would the Apostle say about you?
Are you born again?

Such are the six great marks of being born again. Let every one who has gone so far with me, read them over with attention, and lay them to heart.

 

I know there is a vast difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks in different people. In some they are faint, dim, feeble, and hardly to be discerned. In others they are bold, sharp, clear, plain, and unmistakable, so that any one may read them. Some of these marks are more visible in some, and others are more visible in others. It seldom happens that all are equally manifest in one and the same soul. All this I am quite ready to allow.

 

But still after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six marks of being born of God. Here is an inspired Apostle writing one of the last general epistles to the Church of Christ, telling us that a man born of God, Does not commit sin, Believes that Jesus is the Christ, Does righteousness, Loves the brethren, Overcomes the world, and Keeps himself. I ask the reader to observe all this.

Now what shall we say to these things? What they can say who hold that regeneration is only an admission to outward church privileges, I am sure I do not know. For myself I say boldly, I can only come to one conclusion. That conclusion is, that only those persons are born again who have these six marks about them; and that all men and women who have not these marks, and not born again. And I firmly believe that this is the conclusion to which the Apostle wished us to come.

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Christ is All!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2008

by J.C. Ryle

“Christ is all” (Col. 3:11).

The words of the text which heads this page are few, short and soon spoken; but they contain great things. Like those golden sayings, “To me to live is Christ,” “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me,” they are singularly rich and suggestive (Phil. 1:21; Gal. 2:20).

These three words are the essence and substance of Christianity. If our hearts can really go along with them, it is well with our souls. If not, we may be sure we have yet much to learn.

Let me try to set before my readers in what sense Christ is all, and let me ask them, as they read, to Judge themselves honestly, that they may not make shipwreck in the judgment of the last day.

I purposely close this volume with a message on this remarkable text. Christ is the mainspring both of doctrinal and practical Christianity. A right knowledge of Christ is essential to a right knowledge of sanctification as well as justification. He that follows after holiness will make no progress unless he gives to Christ His rightful place. I began the volume with a plain statement about sin. Let me end it with an equally plain statement about Christ.
 

1. Christ is all in the counsels of God

a. There was a time when this earth had no being. Solid as the mountains look, boundless as the sea appears, high as the stars in heaven look, they once did not exist. And man, with all the high thoughts he now has of himself, was a creature unknown.

And where was Christ then?

Even then Christ was “with God” and “was God” and was “equal with God” (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6). Even then He was the beloved Son of the Father “You loved Me,” He says, “before the foundation of the world.” “I had glory with You before the world began.” “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was” (John 17:5, 24; Prov. 8:23). Even then He was the Savior if “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20), and believers were “chosen in Him” (Eph. 1:4).

b. There came a time when this earth was created in its present order. Sun, moon and stars, sea, land and all their inhabitants were called into being, and made out of chaos and confusion. And, last of all, man was formed out of the dust of the ground.

And where was Christ then?

Hear what the Scripture says: “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). “By Him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth” (Col. 1:16). “And You, Lord, in the beginning have laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Your hands” (Heb. 1:10). “When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth: when He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the foundations of the deep: when He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him” (Prov. 8:27–30). Can we wonder that the Lord Jesus, in His preaching, should continually draw lessons from the book of nature? When He spoke of the sheep, the fish, the ravens, the corn, the lilies, the fig tree, the vine, He spoke of things which He Himself had made.

c. There came a day when sin entered the world. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and fell. They lost that holy nature in which they were first formed. They forfeited the friendship and favor of God, and became guilty, corrupt, helpless, hopeless sinners. Sin came as a barrier between themselves and their holy Father in heaven. Had He dealt with them according to their deserts, there had been nothing before them but death, hell and everlasting ruin.

And where was Christ then?

In that very day He was revealed to our trembling parents as the only hope of salvation. The very day they fell, they were told that the seed of the woman should yet bruise the serpent’s head, that a Savior born of a woman should overcome the devil, and win for sinful man an entrance to eternal life (Gen. 3:15). Christ was held up as the true light of the world, in the very day of the Fall; and never has any name been made known from that day by which souls could be saved, excepting His By Him all saved souls have entered heaven, from Adam downwards; and without Him none have ever escaped hell.

d. There came a time when the world seemed sunk and buried in ignorance of God. After four thousand years the nations of the earth appeared to have clean forgotten the God that made them. Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Grecian and Roman empires had done nothing but spread superstition and idolatry. Poets, historians, philosophers had proved that, with all their intellectual powers, they had no right knowledge of God, and that man, left to himself, was utterly corrupt. “The world, by wisdom, knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21). Excepting a few despised Jews in a corner of the earth, the whole world was dead in ignorance and sin.

And what did Christ do then?

He left the glory He had had from all eternity with the Father, and came down into the world to provide a salvation. He took our nature upon Him, and was born as a man. As a man He did the will of God perfectly, which we all had left undone; as a man He suffered on the cross the wrath of God which we ought to have suffered. He brought in everlasting righteousness for us. He redeemed us from the curse of a broken law. He opened a fountain for all sin and uncleanness. He died for our sins. He rose again for our justification. He ascended to God’s right hand, and there sat down, waiting until His enemies should be made His footstool. And there He sits now, offering salvation to all who will come to Him, interceding for all who believe in Him, and managing by God’s appointment all that concerns the salvation of souls.

e. There is a time coming when sin shall be cast out from this world. Wickedness shall not always flourish unpunished, Satan shall not always reign, creation shall not always groan, being burdened. There shall be a time of restitution of all things. There shall be a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Rom. 8:22; Acts 3:21; 2 Pet. 3:13; Isa. 11:9).

And where shall Christ be then? And what shall He do?

Christ Himself shall be King. He shall return to this earth, and make all things new. He shall come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and the kingdoms of the world shall become His. The heathen shall be given to Him for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. To Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord. His dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 11:15; Ps. 2:8; Phil. 2:10, 11; Dan. 7:14).

f. There is a day coming when all men shall be judged. The sea shall give up the dead which are in it, and death and hell shall deliver up the dead which are in them. All that sleep in the grave shall awake and come forth, and all shall be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:13; Dan. 12:2).

And where will Christ be then?

Christ Himself will be the Judge. “The Father . . . has all judgment unto the Son.” “When the Son of man shall come in His glory: then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.” “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad” (John 5:22; Matt. 25:31, 32; 2 Cor. 5:10).

Now if any reader of this message thinks little of Christ, let him know this day that he is very unlike God! You are of one mind, and God is of another. You are of one judgment, and God is of another. You think it enough to give Christ a little honor, a little reverence, a little respect. But in all the eternal counsels of God the Father, in creation, redemption, restitution and judgment—in all these, Christ is “all”.

Surely we shall do well to consider these things. Surely it is not written in vain “He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent Him” (John 5:23).
 

2. Christ is all in the Bible

In every part of both Testaments Christ is to be found—dimly and indistinctly at the beginning, more clearly and plainly in the middle, fully and completely at the end—but really and substantially everywhere.

Christ’s sacrifice and death for sinners, and Christ’s kingdom and future glory, are the light we must bring to bear on any book of Scripture we read. Christ’s cross and Christ’s crown are the clue we must hold fast, if we would find our way through Scripture difficulties. Christ is the only key that will unlock many of the dark places of the Word. Some people complain that they do not understand the Bible. And the reason is very simple. They do not use the key. To them the Bible is like the hieroglyphics in Egypt. It is a mystery, just because they do not know and employ the key.

a. It was Christ crucified who was set forth in every Old Testament sacrifice. Every animal slain and offered on an altar was a practical confession that a Savior was looked for who would die for sinners—a Savior who should take away man’s sin, by suffering, as his Substitute and Sin–bearer, in his stead (1 Peter 3:18). It is absurd to suppose that an unmeaning slaughter of innocent beasts, without a distinct object in view, could please the eternal God!

b. It was Christ to whom Abel looked when he offered a better sacrifice than Cain. Not only was the heart of Abel better than that of his brother, but he showed his knowledge of vicarious sacrifice and his faith in an atonement. He offered the firstlings of his flock, with the blood thereof, and in so doing declared his belief that without shedding of blood there is no remission (Heb. 11:4).

c. It was Christ of whom Enoch prophesied in the days of abounding wickedness before the flood “Behold,” he said, “the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all” (Jude 14, 15).

d. It was Christ to whom Abraham looked when he dwelt in tents in the land of promise. He believed that in his seed, in one born of his family, all the nations of the earth should be blessed. By faith he saw Christ’s day, and was glad (John 8:56).

e. It was Christ of whom Jacob spoke to his sons, as he lay dying. He marked out the tribe out of which He would be born, and foretold that “gathering together” unto Him which is yet to be accomplished. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10).

f. It was Christ who was the substance of the ceremonial law which God gave to Israel by the hand of Moses. The morning and evening sacrifice, the continual shedding of blood, the altar, the mercy–seat, the high priest, the passover, the day of atonement, the scapegoat—all these were so many pictures, types and emblems of Christ and His work. God had compassion upon the weakness of His people. He taught them Christ, line upon line, and, as we teach little children, by similitudes. It was in this sense especially that “the law was a schoolmaster to read” the Jews “unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24).

g. It was Christ to whom God directed the attention of Israel by all the daily miracles which were done before their eyes in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud and fire which guided them, the manna from heaven which every morning fed them, the water from the smitten rock which followed them—all and each were figures of Christ The bronze serpent, on that memorable occasion when the plague of fiery serpents was sent upon them, was an emblem of Christ (1 Cor. 10:4; John 3:14).

h. It was Christ of whom all the judges were types. Joshua and David and Gideon and Jephthah and Samson, and all the rest whom God raised up to deliver Israel from captivity—all were emblems of Christ. Weak and unstable and faulty as some of them were, they were set for examples of better things in the distant future. All were meant to remind the tribes of that far higher Deliverer who was yet to come.

i. It was Christ of whom David the king was a type. Anointed and chosen when few gave him honor, despised and rejected by Saul and all the tribes of Israel, persecuted and obliged to flee for his life, a man of sorrow all his life, and yet at length a conqueror—in all these things David represented Christ.

j. It was Christ of whom all the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi spoke. They saw through a glass darkly. They sometimes dwelt on His sufferings, and sometimes on His glory that should follow (1 Pet. 1:11). They did not always mark out for us the distinction between Christ’s first coming and Christ’s second coming. Like two candles in a straight line, one behind the other, they sometimes saw both the advents at the same time, and spoke of them in one breath. They were sometimes moved by the Holy Spirit to write of the times of Christ crucified, and sometimes of Christ’s kingdom in the latter days. But Jesus dying, or Jesus reigning, was the thought you will ever find uppermost in their minds.

k. It is Christ, I need hardly say, of whom the whole New Testament is full. The Gospels are Christ living, speaking and moving among men. The Acts are Christ preached, published and proclaimed. The Epistles are Christ written of, explained and exalted. But all through, from first to last, there is one name above every other, and that is the name of Christ.

I charge every reader of this message to ask himself frequently what the Bible is to him. Is it a Bible in which you have found nothing more than good moral precepts and sound advice? Or is it a Bible in which you have found Christ? Is it a Bible in which Christ is all? If not, I tell you plainly, you have hitherto used your Bible to very little purpose. You are like a man who studies the solar system, and leaves out in his studies the sun, which is the center of all. It is no wonder if you find your Bible a dull book!
 

3. Christ is all in the religion of all true Christians.

In saying this, I wish to guard myself against being misunderstood. I hold the absolute necessity of the election of God the Father, and the sanctification of God the Spirit, in order to effect the salvation of everyone that is saved. I hold that there is a perfect harmony and unison in the action of the three People of the Trinity, in bringing any man to glory, and that all three cooperate and work a joint work in his deliverance from sin and hell. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father is merciful, the Son is merciful, the Holy Spirit is merciful. The same Three who said at the beginning, “Let us create,” said also, “Let us redeem and save.” I hold that everyone who reaches heaven will ascribe all the glory of his salvation to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three People in one God.

But, at the same time, I see clear proof in Scripture, that it is mind of the blessed Trinity that Christ should be prominently and distinctly exalted, in the matter of saving souls. Christ is set forth as the Word, through whom God’s love to sinners is made known. Christ’s incarnation and atoning death on the cross are the great corner–stone on which the whole plan of salvation rests. Christ is the way and door, by which alone approaches to God are to be made. Christ is the root into which all elect sinners must be grafted. Christ is the only meeting–place between God and man, between heaven and earth, between the Holy Trinity and the poor sinful child of Adam. It is Christ whom God the Father has sealed and appointed to convey life to a dead world (John 6:27). It is Christ to whom the Father has given a people to be brought to glory. It is Christ of whom the Spirit testifies, and to whom He always leads a soul for pardon and peace. In short, it has “pleased the Father than in Christ all fullness should dwell” (Col. 1:19). What the sun is in the skies of heaven, that Christ is in true Christianity.

I say these things by way of explanation. I want my readers clearly to understand, that in saying, “Christ is all,” I do not mean to shut out the work of the Father and of the Spirit. Now let me show what I do mean.

a. Christ is all in a sinner’s justification before God.

Through Him alone we can have peace with a holy God. By Him alone we can have admission into the presence of the Most High, and stand there without fear. “We have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.” In Him alone can God be just, and justify the ungodly (Eph. 3:12; Rom. 3:26).

With which can any mortal man come before God? What can we bring as a plea for acquittal before that glorious Being, in whose eyes the very heavens are not clean?

Shall we say that we have done our duty to God? Shall we say that we have done our duty to our neighbor? Shall we bring forward our prayers, our regularity, our morality, our amendments, our churchgoing? Shall we ask to be accepted because of any of these?

Which of these things will stand the searching inspection of God’s eye? Which of them will actually justify us? Which of them will carry us clear through judgment and land us safe in glory?

None, none, none! Take any commandment of the ten, and let us examine ourselves by it. We have broken it repeatedly. We cannot answer God one of a thousand. Take any of us, and look narrowly into our ways, and we are nothing but sinners. There is but one verdict we are all guilty, all deserve hell, all ought to die. With which can we come before God?

We must come in the name of Jesus, standing on no other ground, pleading no other plea than this: “Christ died on the cross for the ungodly, and I trust in Him. Christ died for me, and I believe on Him.” The garment of our Elder Brother, the righteousness of Christ, this is the only robe which can cover us, and enable us to stand in the light of heaven without shame.

The name of Jesus is the only name by which we shall obtain an entrance through the gate of eternal glory. If we come to that gate in our own names, we are lost, we shall not be admitted, we shall knock in vain. If we come in the name of Jesus, it is a passport and shibboleth, and we shall enter and live.

The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. When the angels are separating the children of Adam in the last day, if we are not found marked with that atoning blood, we had better never have been born.

Oh, let us never forget that Christ must be all to that soul who would be justified! We must be content to go to heaven as beggars, saved by free grace, simply as believers in Jesus, or we shall never be saved at all.

Is there a thoughtless, worldly soul among the readers of this book? Is there one who thinks to reach heaven by saying hastily at the last, “Lord have mercy on me,” without Christ? Friend, you are sowing misery for yourself, and unless you alter, you will awake to endless woe.

Is there a proud, formal soul among the readers of this book? Is there anyone thinking to make himself fit for heaven, and good enough to pass muster by his own doings? Brother, you are building a Babel, and you will never reach heaven in your present state.

But is there a laboring, heavy–laden one among the readers of this book? Is there one who wants to be saved, and feels a vile sinner? I say to such an one, “Come to Christ, and He shall save you. Come to Christ, and cast the burden of your soul on Him. Fear not only believe.”

Do you fear wrath? Christ can deliver you from the wrath to come. Do you feel the curse of a broken law? Christ can redeem you from the curse of the law. Do you feel far away? Christ has suffered, to bring you near to God. Do you feel unclean? Christ’s blood can cleanse all sin away. Do you feel imperfect? You shall be complete in Christ. Do you feel as if you were nothing? Christ shall be all in all to your soul. Never did saint reach heaven with any tale but this “I was washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).

b. Christ is not only all in the justification of a true Christian, but He is also all in his sanctification. I would not have anyone misunderstand me. I do not mean for a moment to undervalue the work of the Spirit. But this I say, that no man is ever holy until he comes to Christ and is united to Him. Until then his works are dead works, and he has no holiness at all. First you must be joined to Christ, and then you shall be holy. “Without Him, separate from Him, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

And no man can grow in holiness except he abides in Christ. Christ is the great root from which every believer must draw his strength to go forward. The Spirit is His special gift, His purchased gift for His people. A believer must not only “receive Christ Jesus the Lord” but “walk in Him, and be rooted and built up in Him” (Col. 2:6, 7).

Would you be holy? Then Christ is the manna you must daily eat, like Israel in the wilderness of old. Would you be holy? Then Christ must be the rock from which you must daily drink the living water. Would you be holy? Then you must be ever looking unto Jesus, looking at His cross, and learning fresh motives for a closer walk with God, looking at His example, and taking Him for your pattern. Looking at Him, you would become like Him. Looking at Him, your face would shine without your knowing it. Look less at yourself and more at Christ, and you will find besetting sins dropping off and leaving you, and your eyes enlightened more and more every day (Heb. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18).

The true secret of coming up out of the wilderness is to come up leaning on the Beloved (Song 8:5). The true way to be strong is to realize our weakness, and to feel that Christ must be all. The true way to grow in grace is to make use of Christ as a fountain for every minute’s necessities. We ought to employ Him as the prophet’s wife employed the oil—not only to pay our debts, but to live on also. We should strive to be able to say, “The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (2 Kings 4:7; Gal. 2:20).

I pity those who try to be holy without Christ! Your labor is all in vain. You are putting money in a bag with holes. You are pouring water into a sieve. You are rolling a huge round stone uphill. You are building up a wall with untempered mortar. Believe me, you are beginning at the wrong end. You must come to Christ first, and He shall give you His sanctifying Spirit. You must learn to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

c. Christ is not only all in the sanctification of a true Christian, but all in his comfort in time present. A saved soul has many sorrows. He has a body like other men, weak and frail. He has a heart like other men, and often a more sensitive one too. He has trials and losses to bear like others, and often more. He has his share of bereavements, deaths, disappointments, crosses. He has the world to oppose a place in life to fill blamelessly, unconverted relatives to bear with patiently, persecutions to endure and a death to die.

And who is sufficient for these things? What shall enable a believer to bear all this? Nothing but the consolation there is in Christ (Phil. 2:1).

Jesus is indeed the Brother born for adversity. He is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother, and He alone can comfort His people. He can be touched with the feeling of their infirmities, for He suffered Himself (Heb. 4:15). He knows what sorrow is, for He was a Man of sorrows. He knows what an aching body is, for His body was racked with pain. He cried, “All my bones are out of joint” (Ps. 22:14). He knows what poverty and weariness are, for He was often wearied and had not where to lay His head. He knows what family unkindness is, for even His brethren did not believe Him. He had no honor in His own house.

And Jesus knows exactly how to comfort His afflicted people. He knows how to pour in oil and wine into the wounds of the spirit, how to fill up gaps in empty hearts, how to speak a word in season to the weary, how to heal the broken heart, how to make all our bed in sickness, how to draw near when we are faint, and say, “Fear not I am your salvation” (Lam. 3:57).

We talk of sympathy being pleasant. There is no sympathy like that of Christ. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. He knows our sorrows. In all our pain He is pained, and like the good physician, He will not measure out to us one drop of sorrow too much. David once said, “In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Ps. 104:19). Many a believer, I am sure, could say as much. “If the Lord Himself had not stood by me, the deep waters would have gone over my soul” (Ps. 124:5).

How a believer gets through all his troubles appears wonderful. flow he is carried through the fire and water he passes through seems past comprehension. But the true account of it is just this, that Christ is not only justification and sanctification, but consolation also.

Oh, you who want unfailing comfort, I commend you to Christ! In Him alone there is no failure. Rich men are disappointed in their treasures. Learned men are disappointed in their books. Husbands are disappointed in their wives. Wives are disappointed in their husbands. Parents are disappointed in their children. Statesmen are disappointed when, after many a struggle, they attain place and power. They find out, to their cost, that it is more pain than pleasure, that it is disappointment, annoyance, incessant trouble, worry, vanity and vexation of spirit. But no man was ever disappointed in Christ.

d. But as Christ is all in the comforts of a true Christian in time present, so Christ is all in his hopes for time to come. Few men and women, I suppose, are to be found who do not indulge in hopes of some kind about their souls. But the hopes of the vast majority are nothing but vain fancies. They are built on no solid foundation. No living man but the real child of God—the sincere, thorough–going Christian—can give a reasonable account of the hope that is in him. No hope is reasonable which is not scriptural.

A true Christian has a good hope when he looks forward; the worldly man has none. A true Christian sees light in the distance; the worldly man sees nothing but darkness. And what is the hope of a true Christian? It is just this that Jesus Christ is coming again, coming without sin, coming with all His people, coming to wipe away every tear, coming to raise His sleeping saints from the grave, coming to gather together all His family, that they may be forever with Him.

Why is a believer patient? Because he looks for the coming of the Lord. He can bear hard things without murmuring. He knows the time is short. He waits quietly for the King.

Why is he moderate in all things? Because he expects his Lord soon to return. His treasure is in heaven, his good things are yet to come. The world is not his rest, but an inn; and an inn is not home. He knows that “He that shall come will soon come, and will not tarry.” Christ is coming, and that is enough (Heb. 10:37).

This is indeed a “blessed hope!” (Titus 2:13.) Now is the school–time, then the eternal holiday. Now is the tossing on the waves of a troublesome world, then the quiet harbor. Now is the scattering, then the gathering. Now is the time of sowing, then the harvest. Now is the working season, then the wages. Now is the cross, then the crown.

People talk of their “expectations” and hopes from this world. None have such solid expectations as a saved soul. He can say, “My soul, wait you only upon God; my expectation is from Him” (Ps. 62:5).

In all true saving religion Christ is all in justification, all in sanctification, all in comfort, all in hope. Blessed is that mother’s child that knows it, and far more blessed is he that feels it, too. Oh, that men would prove themselves, and see what they know of it for their own souls!
 

4. Christ will be all in heaven

I cannot dwell long on this point. I have not power, if I had space and room. I can ill describe things unseen and a world unknown. But this I know, that all men and women who reach heaven will find that even there also Christ is all.

Like the altar in Solomon’s temple, Christ crucified will be the grand object in heaven. That altar struck the eye of everyone who entered the temple gates. It was a great bronze altar, twenty cubits broad, as broad as the front of the temple itself (2 Chron. 3:4; 4:1). So in like manner will Jesus fill the eyes of all who enter glory. In the midst of the throne, and surrounded by adoring angels and saints, there will be “the Lamb that was slain.” And “the Lamb shall be the light, of the place” (Rev. 5:6; 21:23).

The praise of the Lord Jesus, will be the eternal song of all the inhabitants of heaven. They will say with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain …. Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever” (Rev. 5:12, 13).

The service of the Lord Jesus will be one eternal occupation of all the inhabitants of heaven. We shall “serve Him day and night in His temple” (Rev. 7:15). Blessed is the thought that we shall at length attend on Him without distraction, and work for Him without weariness.

The presence of Christ Himself shall be one everlasting enjoyment of the inhabitants of heaven. We shall see His face, and hear His voice, and speak with Him as friend with friend (Rev. 22:4). Sweet is the thought that whoever may be warning at the marriage supper, the Master Himself will be there. His presence will satisfy all our wants (Ps. 17:15).

What a sweet and glorious home heaven will be to those who have loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity! Here we live by faith in Him, and find peace, though we see Him not. There we shall see Him face to face, and find He is altogether lovely. “Better, indeed will be the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire!” (Eccl. 6:9.)

But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of going to heaven, when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honor here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas, what could you do in heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and a burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late!

I trust I have now shown how deep are the foundations of that little expression “Christ is all”.

I might easily add to the things I have said, if space permitted. The subject is not exhausted. I have barely walked over the surface of it. There are mines of precious truth connected with it, which I have left unopened.

I might show how Christ ought to be all in a visible church. religious buildings, numerous religious services, gorgeous ceremonies, troops of ordained men, all, all are nothing in the sight of God, if the Lord Jesus Himself in all His offices is not honored, magnified and exalted. That church is but a dead carcass in which Christ is not all.

I might show how Christ ought to be all in a ministry. The great work which ordained men are intended to do is to lift up Christ. We are to be like the pole on which the bronze serpent was hung. We are useful so long as we exalt the great object of faith, but useful no further. We are to be ambassadors to carry tidings to a rebellious world about the King’s Son, and if we teach men to think more about us and our office than about Him, we are not fit for our place. The Spirit will never honor that minister who does not testify of Christ, who does not make Christ all.

I might show how language seems exhausted in the Bible, in describing Christ’s various offices. I might describe how figures seem endless, which are employed in unfolding Christ’s fullness. The High Priest, the Mediator, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Advocate, the Shepherd, the Physician, the Bridegroom, the Head, the Bread of Life, the Light of the world, the Way, the Door, the Vine, the Rock, the Fountain, the Sun of Righteousness, the Forerunner, the Surety, the Captain, the Prince of life, the Amen, the Almighty, the Author and Finisher of faith, the Lamb of God, the King of saints, the Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Counselor, the Bishop of souls—all these, and many more, are names given to Christ in Scripture. Each is a fountain of instruction and comfort for everyone who is willing to drink of it. Each supplies matter for useful meditation.

But I trust I have said enough to throw light on the point I want to impress on the minds of all who read this message. I trust I have said enough to show the immense importance of the practical conclusions with which I now desire to finish the subject.

1. Is Christ all? Then let us learn the utter uselessness of a Christless religion. There are only too many baptized men and women who practically know nothing at all about Christ. Their religion consists in a few vague notions and empty expressions. They “trust they are no worse than others.” They “keep to their church”. They “try to do their duty”. They “do nobody any harm.” They “hope God will be merciful to them”. They “trust the Almighty will pardon their sins, and take them to heaven when they die”. This is about the whole of their religion!

But what do these people know practically about Christ? Nothing, nothing at all! What experimental acquaintance have they with His offices and work, His blood, His righteousness, His mediation, His priesthood, His intercession? None, none at all! Ask them about a saving faith, ask them about being born again of the Spirit, ask them about being sanctified in Christ Jesus. What answer will you get? You are a barbarian to them. You have asked them simple Bible questions. But they know no more about them experimentally than a Buddhist or a Turk. And yet this is the religion of hundreds and thousands of people who are called Christians all over the world!

If any reader of this message is a man of this kind, I warn him plainly that such Christianity will never take him to heaven. It may do very well in the eye of man. It may pass muster very decently at the vestry meeting, in the place of business, in the House of Commons, or in the streets. But it will never comfort you. It will never satisfy your conscience. It will never save your soul.

I warn you plainly that all notions and theories about God being merciful without Christ, and excepting through Christ, are baseless delusions and empty fancies. Such theories are as purely an idol of man’s invention as the idol of Juggernaut. They are all of the earth, earthy. They never came down from heaven. The God of heaven has sealed and appointed Christ as the one only Savior and way of life, and all who would be saved must be content to be saved by Him, or they will never be saved at all.

Let every reader take notice. I give you fair warning this day. A religion without Christ will never save your soul.

2. Let me say another thing: Is Christ all? Then learn the enormous folly of joining anything with Christ in the matter of salvation. There are multitudes of baptized men and women who profess to honor Christ, but in reality do Him great dishonor. They give Christ a certain place in their system of religion, but not the place which God intended Him to fill. Christ alone is not all in all to their souls. No! It is either Christ and the church, or Christ and the sacraments, or Christ and His ordained ministers, or Christ and their own repentance, or Christ and their own goodness, or Christ and their own prayers, or Christ and their own sincerity and charity, on which they practically rest their souls.

If any reader of this message is a Christian of this kind, I warn him also plainly, that his religion is an offense to God. You are changing God’s plan of salvation into a plan of your own devising. You are in effect deposing Christ from His throne, by giving the glory due to Him to another.

I care not who it is that teaches such religion, and on whose word you build. Whether he be pope or cardinal, archbishop or bishop, dean or archdeacon, presbyter or deacon, Episcopalian or Presbyterian, Baptist or Independent, Wesleyan or Plymouth brother, whoever adds anything to Christ, teaches you wrong.

I care not what it is that you add to Christ. Whether it be the necessity of joining the church of Rome, or of being an Episcopalian, or of becoming a free churchman, or of giving up the liturgy, or of being dipped—whatever you may practically add to Christ in the matter of salvation, you do Christ an injury.

Take heed what you are doing. Beware of giving to Christ’s servants the honor due to none but Christ. Beware of giving the Lord’s ordinances the honor due unto the Lord. Beware of resting the burden of your soul on anything but Christ, and Christ alone.

3. Let me say another thing. Is Christ all? Then let all who want to be saved, apply direct to Christ. There are many who hear of Christ with the ear and believe all they are told about Him. They allow that there is no salvation excepting in Christ. They acknowledge that Jesus alone can deliver them from hell, and present them faultless before God.

But they seem never to get beyond this general acknowledgment. They never fairly lay hold on Christ for their own souls. They stick fast in a state of wishing and wanting and feeling and intending, and never get any further. They see what we mean; they know it is all true. They hope one day to get the full benefit of it, but at present they get no benefit whatever. The world is their all Politics are their all. Pleasure is their all. Business is their all. But Christ is not their all.

If any reader of this message is a man of this kind, I warn him also plainly, he is in a bad state of soul. You are as truly in the way to hell in your present condition, as Judas Iscariot or Ahab or Cain. Believe me, there must be actual faith in Christ, or else Christ died in vain, so far as you are concerned. It is not looking at the bread that feeds the hungry man, but the actual eating of it. It is not gazing on the lifeboat that saves the shipwrecked sailor, but the actual getting into it. It is not knowing and believing that Christ is a Savior that can save your soul, unless there are actual transactions between you and Christ. You must be able to say, “Christ is my Savior, because I have come to Him by faith, and taken Him for my own.” “Much of religion,” said Luther, “turns on being able to use possessive pronouns. Take from me the word ‘my, ’ and you take from me God!”

Hear the advice I give you this day, and act upon it at once. Stand still no longer, waiting for some imaginary frames and feelings which will never come. Hesitate no longer under the idea that you must first of all obtain the Spirit, and then come to Christ. Arise and come to Christ just as you are. He waits for you, and is as willing to save as He is mighty. He is the appointed Physician for sin–sick souls. Deal with Him as you would with your doctor about the cure of a disease of your body. Make a direct application to Him and tell Him all your wants. Take with you words this day, and cry mightily to the Lord Jesus for pardon and peace, as the thief did on the cross. Do as that man did cry, “Lord, remember me” (Luke 23:42). Tell Him you have heard that He receives sinners, and that you are such. Tell Him you want to be saved, and ask Him to save you. Rest not until you have actually tasted for yourself that the Lord is gracious. Do this, and you shall find, sooner or later, if you are really in earnest, that Christ is all.

4. One more thing let me add. Is Christ all? Then let all His converted people deal with Him as if they really believed it. Let them lean on Him and trust Him far more than they have ever done yet. Alas, there are many of the Lord’s people who live far below their privileges! There are many truly Christian souls who rob themselves of their own peace and forsake their own mercies. There are many who insensibly join their own faith, or the work of the Spirit in their own hearts, to Christ, and so miss the fullness of gospel peace. There are many who make little progress in their pursuit of holiness and shine with a very dim light. And why is all this? Simply because in nineteen cases out of twenty men do not make Christ all in all.

Now I call on every reader of this message who is a believer, I beseech him for his own sake, to make sure that Christ is really and thoroughly his all in all. Beware of allowing yourself to mingle anything of your own with Christ.

Have you faith? It is a priceless blessing. Happy indeed are they who are willing and ready to trust Jesus. But take heed you do not make a Christ of your faith. Rest not on your own faith, but on Christ.

Is the work of the Spirit in your soul? Thank God for it. It is a work that shall never be overthrown. But oh, beware lest, unawares to yourself, you make a Christ of the work of the Spirit! Rest not on the work of the Spirit, but on Christ.

Have you any inward feelings of religion, and experience of grace? Thank God for it. Thousands have no more religious feeling than a cat or dog. But oh, beware lest you make a Christ of your feelings and sensations! They are poor, uncertain things and sadly dependent on our bodies and outward circumstances. Rest not a grain of weight on your feelings. Rest only on Christ.

Learn, I entreat you, to look more and more at the great object of faith, Jesus Christ, and to keep your mind dwelling on Him. So doing you would find faith and all the other graces grow, though the growth at the time might be imperceptible to yourself. He that would prove a skillful archer must look not at the arrow, but at the mark.

Alas, I fear there is a great piece of pride and unbelief still sticking in the hearts of many believers! Few seem to realize how much they need a Savior. Few seem to understand how thoroughly they are indebted to Him. Few seem to comprehend how much they need Him every day. Few seem to feel how simply and like a child they ought to hang their souls on Him. Few seem to be aware how full of love He is to His poor, weak people, and how ready to help them! And few therefore seem to know the peace and joy and strength and power to live a godly life, which is to be had in Christ.

Change your plan, reader, if your conscience tells you are guilty; change your plan, and learn to trust Christ more. Physicians love to see patients coming to consult them; it is their office to receive the sickly, and if possible to effect cures. The advocate loves to be employed; it is his calling. The husband loves his wife to trust him and lean upon him; it is his delight to cherish her and promote her comfort. And Christ loves His people to lean on Him, to rest in Him, to call on Him, to abide in Him.

Let us all learn and strive to do so more and more. Let us live on Christ. Let us live in Christ. Let us live with Christ. Let us live to Christ. So doing, we shall prove that we fully realize that Christ is all. So doing, we shall feel great peace, and attain more of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

-Scott Bailey 2008

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The Church Which Christ Builds!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2008

by J.C. Ryle

“Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Do we belong to the Church which is built upon a rock? Are we members of the only Church in which our souls can be saved? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration. I ask the attention of all who read this message, while I try to show the one true, holy, catholic Church, and to guide men’s feet into the only safe fold. What is this Church? What is it like? What are its marks? Where is it to be found? On all these points I have something to say. I am going to unfold the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, which stand at the head of this page. He declares, “Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Let us consider this in more detail:

1. We have, firstly, a Building mentioned in the text. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks of “My Church.”

Now what is this Church? Few inquiries can be made of more importance than this. For want of due attention to this subject, the errors that have crept into the world are neither few nor small.

The Church of our text is no material building. It is no temple made with hands of wood or brick or stone or marble. It is a company of men and women. It is no particular visible Church on earth. It is not the Eastern Church or the Western Church. It is not the Church of England or the Church of Scotland. Above all, it certainly is not the Church of Rome. The Church of our text is one that makes far less show than any visible Church in the eyes of man, but is of far more importance in the eyes of God.

The Church of our text is made up of all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, of all who are really holy and converted people. It comprehends all who have repented of sin, and fled to Christ by faith, and been made new creatures in Him. It comprises all God’s elect, all who have received God’s grace, all who have been washed in Christ’s blood, all who have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness, all who have been born again and sanctified by Christ’s Spirit. All such, of every name and rank and nation and people and tongue, compose the Church of our text. This is the body of Christ. This is the flock of Christ. This is the bride. This is the Lamb’s wife. This is “the holy catholic and apostolic Church,” of the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. This is “the blessed company of all faithful people” spoken of in the communion service of the Church of England. This is “the Church on the Rock.”

The members of this Church do not all worship God in the same way, or use the same form of government. Some of them are governed by bishops, and some of them by elders. Some of them use a prayer book when they meet for public worship, and some of them use none. The thirty–fourth Article of the Church of England most wisely declares, “It is not necessary that ceremonies should be in all places one and alike.” But the members of this Church all come to one throne of grace. They all worship with one heart. They are all led by one Spirit. They are all really and truly holy. They can all say, “Alleluia,” and they can all reply, “Amen.”

This is that Church, to which all visible Churches on earth are servants and handmaidens. Whether they are Episcopalian, Independent, or Presbyterian, they all serve the interests of the one true Church. They are the scaffolding behind which the great building is carried on. They are the husk, under which the living kernel grows. They have their various degrees of usefulness. The best and worthiest of them is that which trains up most members for Christ’s true Church. But no visible Church has any right to say, “We are the only true Church. We are the men, and wisdom shall die with us.” No visible Church should ever dare to say, “We shall stand for ever. The gates of hell shall not prevail against me.”

This is that Church to which belong the Lord’s gracious promises of preservation, continuance, protection and final glory. “Whatever,” says Hooker, “we read in Scripture, concerning the endless love and saving mercy, which God shows towards His Churches, the only proper subject thereof is this Church, which we properly term the mystical body of Christ.” Small and despised as the true Church may be in this world, it is precious and honorable in the sight of God. The temple of Solomon in all its glory was mean and contemptible, in comparison with that Church which is built upon a rock.

I trust the things I have just been saying will sink down into the minds of all who read this message. See that you hold sound doctrine upon the subject of “the Church.” A mistake here may lead on to dangerous and soul–ruining errors. The Church which is made up of true believers, is the Church for which we, who are ministers, are specially ordained to preach. The Church which comprises all who repent and believe the gospel, is the Church to which we desire you to belong. Our work is not done, and our hearts are not satisfied, until you are made a new creature, and are a member of the one true Church. Outside of the Church which is “built on the rock” there can be No Salvation.

2. Our text contains not merely a building, but a Builder. The Lord Jesus Christ declares, “I will build My Church.” The true Church of Christ is tenderly cared for by all the three People of the blessed Trinity. In the plan of salvation revealed in the Bible, beyond doubt, God the Father chooses, God the Son redeems and God the Holy Spirit sanctifies every member of Christ’s mystical body. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three People and one God, cooperate for the salvation of every saved soul. This is truth, which ought never to be forgotten. Nevertheless, there is a peculiar sense in which the help of the Church is laid on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is peculiarly and pre–eminently the Redeemer and Savior of the Church. Therefore it is, that we find Him saying in our text, “I will build—the work of building is My special work.”

It is Christ who calls the members of the Church in due time. They are “the called of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6). It is Christ who quickens them. “The Son quickens whom He will” (John 5:21). It is Christ who washes away their sins. He “has loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5). It is Christ who gives them peace. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). It is Christ who gives them eternal life. “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:28). It is Christ who grants them repentance. “Him has God exalted . . . to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance” (Acts 5:31). It is Christ who enables them to become God’s children. “To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12). It is Christ who carries on the work within them when it is begun. “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). In short, it has “pleased the Father that in Christ should all fullness dwell” (Col. 1:19). He is the Author and Finisher of faith. He is the life. He is the head. From Him every joint and member of the mystical body of Christians is supplied. Through Him they are strengthened for duty. By Him they are kept from falling. He shall preserve them to the end, and present them faultless before the Father’s throne with exceeding great joy. He is all things in all believers.

The mighty agent by whom the Lord Jesus Christ carries out this work in the members of His Church, is, without doubt, the Holy Spirit. He it is who applies Christ and His benefits to the soul. He it is who is ever renewing, awakening, convincing, leading to the cross, transforming, taking out of the world stone after stone and adding it to the mystical building. But the great chief Builder, who has undertaken to execute the work of redemption and bring it to completion, is the Son of God, the “Word who was made flesh.” It is Jesus Christ who “builds.”

In building the true Church, the Lord Jesus condescends to use many subordinate instruments. The ministry of the gospel, the circulation of the Scriptures, the friendly rebuke, the word spoken in season, the drawing influence of afflictions—all, all are means and appliances by which His work is carried on, and the Spirit conveys life to souls. But Christ is the great superintending Architect, ordering, guiding, directing all that is done. Paul may plant and Apollos water, but God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). Ministers may preach, and writers may write, but the Lord Jesus Christ alone can build. And except He builds, the work stands still.

Great is the wisdom with which the Lord Jesus Christ builds His Church! All is done at the right time, and in the right way. Each stone in its turn is put in its right place. Sometimes He chooses great stones, and sometimes He chooses small stones. Sometimes the work goes on fast, and sometimes it goes on slowly. Man is frequently impatient, and thinks that nothing is doing. But man’s time is not God’s time. A thousand years in His sight are but as a single day. The great Builder makes no mistakes. He knows what He is doing. He sees the end from the beginning. He works by a perfect, unalterable and certain plan. The mightiest conceptions of architects, like Michelangelo and Wren, are mere trifling and child’s play, in comparison with Christ’s wise counsels respecting His Church.

Great is the condescension and mercy which Christ exhibits in building His Church! He often chooses the most unlikely and roughest stones, and fits them into a most excellent work. He despises none, and rejects none, on account of former sins and past transgressions. He often makes Pharisees and publicans become pillars of His house. He delights to show mercy. He often takes the most thoughtless and ungodly, and transforms them into polished corners of His spiritual temple.

Great is the power which Christ displays in building His Church! He carries on His work in spite of opposition from the world, the flesh and the devil. In storm, in tempest, through troublous times, silently, quietly, without noise, without stir, without excitement, the building progresses, like Solomon’s temple. “I will work,” He declares, “and who shall let it?” (Isa. 43:13).

The children of this world take little or no interest in the building of this Church. They care nothing for the conversion of souls. What are broken spirits and penitent hearts to them? What is conviction of sin, or faith in the Lord Jesus to them? It is all “foolishness” in their eyes. But while the children of this world care nothing, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God. For the preserving of the true Church, the laws of nature have often times been suspended. For the good of that Church, all the providential dealings of God in this world are ordered and arranged. For the elect’s sake, wars are brought to an end, and peace is given to a nation. Statesmen, rulers, emperors, kings, presidents, heads of governments, have their schemes and plans, and think them of vast importance. But there is another work going on of infinitely greater moment, for which they are only the “axes and saws” in God’s hands (Isa. 10:15). That work is the erection of Christ’s spiritual temple, the gathering in of living stones into the one true Church.

We ought to feel deeply thankful that the building of the true Church is laid on the shoulders of One that is mighty. If the work depended on man, it would soon stand still. But, blessed be God, the work is in the hands of a Builder who never fails to accomplish His designs! Christ is the almighty Builder. He will carry on His work, though nations and visible Churches may not know their duty. Christ will never fail. That which He has undertaken He will certainly accomplish.

3. The Lord Jesus Christ tells us, “Upon this rock will I build My Church.” This is the Foundation upon which the Church is built. What did the Lord Jesus Christ mean, when He spoke of this foundation? Did He mean the apostle Peter, to whom He was speaking? I think assuredly not. I can see no reason, if He meant Peter, why He did not say, “Upon you will I build My Church.” If He had meant Peter, He would surely have said, “I will build My Church on you,” as plainly as He said, “To you will I give the keys.” No, it was not the person of the apostle Peter, but the good confession which the apostle had just made! It was not Peter, the erring, unstable man, but the mighty truth which the Father had revealed to Peter. It was the truth concerning Jesus Christ Himself which was the rock. It was Christ’s mediatorship, and Christ’s Messiahship. It was the blessed truth that Jesus was the promised Savior, the true Surety, the real Intercessor between God and man. This was the rock, and this the foundation, upon which the Church of Christ was to be built.

The foundation of the true Church was laid at a mighty cost. It was necessary that the Son of God should take our nature upon Him, and in that nature live, suffer and die, not for His own sins, but for ours. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go to the grave, and rise again. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go up to heaven, to sit at the right hand of God, having obtained eternal redemption for all His people. No other foundation could have met the necessities of lost, guilty, corrupt, weak, helpless sinners.

That foundation, once obtained, is very strong. It can bear the weight of the sins of all the world. It has borne the weight of all the sins of all the believers who have built on it. Sins of thought, sins of the imagination, sins of the heart, sins of the head, sins which everyone has seen, and sins which no man knows, sins against God, and sins against man, sins of all kinds and descriptions—that mighty rock can bear the weight of all these sins, and not give way. The mediatorial office of Christ is a remedy sufficient for all the sins of all the world.

To this one foundation every member of Christ’s true Church is joined. In many things believers are disunited and disagreed. In the matter of their soul’s foundation they are all of one mind. Whether Episcopalians or Presbyterians, Baptists or Methodists, believers all meet at one point. They are all built on the rock. Ask where they get their peace and hope and joyful expectation of good things to come. You will find that all flows from that one mighty source, Christ the Mediator between God and man, and the office that Christ holds as the High Priest and Surety of sinners.

Look to your foundation, if you would know whether or not you are a member of the one true Church. It is a point that may be known to yourself. Your public worship we can see; but we cannot see whether you are personally built upon the rock. Your attendance at the Lord’s table we can see; but we cannot see whether you are joined to Christ, and one with Christ, and Christ in you. Take heed that you make no mistake about your own personal salvation. See that your own soul is upon the rock. Without this, all else is nothing. Without this, you will never stand in the day of judgment. Better a thousand times in that day to be found in a cottage “upon the rock,” than in a palace upon the sand!

4. I proceed in the fourth place to speak of the implied trials of the Church, to which our text refers. There is mention made of “the gates of hell.” By that expression we are meant to understand the power of the prince of hell, even the devil. (Compare Ps. 9:13; 107:18; Isa. 38:10).

The history of Christ’s true Church has always been one of conflict and war. It has been constantly assailed by a deadly enemy, Satan, the prince of this world. The devil hates the true Church of Christ with an undying hatred. He is ever stirring up opposition against all its members. He is ever urging the children of this world to do his will, and to injure and harass the people of God. If he cannot bruise the head, he will bruise the heel. If he cannot rob believers of heaven, he will vex them by the way.

Warfare with the powers of hell has been the experience of the whole body of Christ for six thousand years. It has always been a bush burning, though not consumed, a woman fleeing into the wilderness, but not swallowed up (Ex. 3:2; Rev. 12:6, 16). The visible Churches have their times of prosperity and seasons of peace, but never has there been a time of peace for the true Church. Its conflict is perpetual. Its battle never ends.

Warfare with the powers of hell is the experience of every individual member of the true Church. Each has to fight. What are the lives of all the saints, but records of battles? What were such men as Paul and James and Peter and John and Polycarp and Chrysostom and Augustine and Luther and Calvin and Latimer and Baxter, but soldiers engaged in a constant warfare? Sometimes the people of the saints have been assailed, and sometimes their property. Sometimes they have been harassed by calumnies and slanders, and sometimes by open persecution. But in one way or another the devil has been continually warring against the Church. The “gates of hell” have been continually assaulting the people of Christ.

We who preach the gospel can hold out to all who come to Christ “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). We can offer boldly to you, in our Master’s name, the peace of God which passes all understanding. Mercy, free grace and full salvation are offered to everyone who will come to Christ, and believe on Him. But we promise you no peace with the world, or with the devil. We warn you, on the contrary, that there must be warfare, so long as you are in the body. We would not keep you back, or deter you from Christ’s service. But we would have you “count the cost,” and fully understand what Christ’s service entails (Luke 14:28).

a. Marvel not at the enmity of the gates of hell. “If you were of the world, the world would love his own” (John 15:19). So long as the world is the world, and the devil the devil, so long there must be warfare, and believers in Christ must be soldiers. The world hated Christ, and the world will hate true Christians, as long as the earth stands. As the great Reformer Luther said, “Cain will go on murdering Abel so long as the Church is on earth.”

b. Be prepared for the enmity of the gates of hell. Put on the whole armor of God. The tower of David contains a thousand bucklers, all ready for the use of God’s people. The weapons of our warfare have been tried by millions of poor sinners like ourselves, and have never been found to fail.

c. Be patient under the enmity of the gates of hell. It is all working together for your good. It tends to sanctify. It will keep you awake. It will make you humble. It will drive you nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ. It will wean you from the world. It will help to make you pray more. Above all, it will make you long for heaven. It will teach you to say with heart as well as lips, “Come, Lord Jesus. Your kingdom come.”

d. Be not cast down by the enmity of hell. The warfare of the true child of God is as much a mark of grace as the inward peace which he enjoys. No cross, no crown! No conflict, no saving Christianity! “Blessed are you,” said our Lord Jesus Christ, “when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake.” If you are never persecuted for religion’s sake, and all men speak well of you, you may well doubt whether you belong to “the Church on the rock” (Matt. 5:11; Luke 6:26).

5. There remains one thing more to be considered: the Security of the true Church of Christ. There is a glorious promise given by the Builder, “The gates of hell shall not prevail.”

He who cannot lie has pledged His word, that all the powers of hell shall never overthrow His Church. It shall continue and stand, in spite of every assault. It shall never be overcome. All other created things perish and pass away, but not the Church which is built on the rock.

Empires have risen and fallen in rapid succession. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Tyre, Carthage, Rome, Greece, Venice—where are all these now? They were all the creations of man’s hand, and have passed away. But the true Church of Christ lives on.

The mightiest cities have become heaps of ruins. The broad walls of Babylon have sunk to the ground. The palaces of Nineveh are covered with mounds of dust. The hundred gates of Thebes are only matters of history. Tyre is a place where fishermen hang their nets. Carthage is a desolation. Yet all this time the true Church stands. The gates of hell do not prevail against it.

The earliest visible Churches have in many cases decayed and perished. Where is the Church of Ephesus and the Church of Antioch? Where is the Church of Alexandria and the Church of Constantinople? Where are the Corinthian, and Philippian, and Thessalonian Churches? Where, indeed, are they all? They departed from the Word of God. They were proud of their bishops and synods and ceremonies and learning and antiquity. They did not glory in the true cross of Christ. They did not hold fast the gospel. They did not give the Lord Jesus His rightful office, or faith its rightful place. They are now among the things that have been. Their candlestick has been taken away. But all this time the true Church has lived on.

Has the true Church been oppressed in one country? It has fled to another. Has it been trampled on and oppressed in one soil? It has taken root and flourished in some other climate. Fire, sword, prisons, fines, penalties, have never been able to destroy its vitality. Its persecutors have died and gone to their own place, but the Word of God has lived and grown and multiplied. Weak as this true Church may appear to the eye of man, it is an anvil which has broken many a hammer in times past, and perhaps will break many more before the end. He that lays hands on it is touching the apple of His eye (Zech. 2:8).

The promise of our text is true of the whole body of the true Church. Christ will never be without a witness in the world. He has had a people in the worst of times. He had seven thousand in Israel even in the days of Ahab. There are some now, I believe, in the dark places of the Roman and Greek Churches who, in spite of much weakness, are serving Christ. The devil may rage horribly. The Church in some countries may be brought exceedingly low. But the gates of hell shall never entirely “prevail.”

The promise of our text is true of every individual member of the Church. Some of God’s people have been so much cast down and disturbed, that they have despaired of their safety. Some have fallen sadly, as David and Peter did. Some have departed from the faith for a time, like Cranmer and Jewell. Many have been tried by cruel doubts and fears. But all have got safe home at last, the youngest as well as the oldest, the weakest as well as the strongest. And so it will be to the end. Can you prevent tomorrow’s sun from rising? Can you prevent the tide in the Bristol Channel from ebbing and flowing? Can you prevent the planets moving in their respective orbits? Then, and then alone, can you prevent the salvation of any believer, however feeble, the final safety of any living stone in that Church which is built upon the rock, however small or insignificant that stone may appear.

The true Church is Christ’s body. Not one bone in that mystical body shall ever be broken. The true Church is Christ’s bride. Those whom God has joined in everlasting covenant shall never be put asunder. The true Church is Christ’s flock. When the lion came and took a lamb out of David’s flock, David arose and delivered the lamb from his mouth. Christ will do the same. He is David’s greater Son. Not a single sick lamb in Christ’s flock shall perish. He will say to His Father in the last day, “Of those who You gave Me I have lost none” (John 18:9). The true Church is the wheat of the earth. It may be sifted, winnowed, buffeted, tossed to and fro. But not one grain shall be lost. The tares and chaff shall be burned. The wheat shall be gathered into the barn. The true Church is Christ’s army. The Captain of our salvation loses none of His soldiers. His plans are never defeated. His supplies never fail. His muster–roll is the same at the end as it was at the beginning. Of the men that marched gallantly out of England a few years ago in the Crimean war, how many never came back! Regiments that went forth, strong and cheerful, with bands playing and banners flying, laid their bones in a foreign land, and never returned to their native country. But it is not so with Christ’s army. Not one of His soldiers shall be missing at last. He Himself declares, “They shall never perish” (John 10:28).

The devil may cast some of the members of the true Church into prison. He may kill and burn and torture and hang. But after he has killed the body, there is nothing more that he can do. He cannot hurt the soul. When the French troops took Rome a few years ago, they found on the walls of a prison cell, under the Inquisition, the words of a prisoner. Who he was, we know not. But his words are worthy of remembrance. “Though dead, he yet speaks.” He had written on the walls, very likely after an unjust trial, and a still more unjust excommunication, the following striking words “Blessed Jesus, they cannot cast me out of Your true Church.” That record is true! Not all the power of Satan can cast out of Christ’s true Church one single believer.

I trust that no reader of this message will ever allow fear to prevent his beginning to serve Christ. He to whom you commit your soul has all power in heaven and earth, and He will keep you. He will never let you be cast away. Relatives may oppose. Neighbors may mock. The world may slander and ridicule and jest and sneer. Fear not! Fear not! The powers of hell shall never prevail against your soul. Greater is He that is for you, than all they that are against you.

Fear not for the Church of Christ, when ministers die, and saints are taken away. Christ can ever maintain His own cause. He will raise up better servants and brighter stars. The stars are all in His right hand. Leave off all anxious thought about the future. Cease to be cast down by the measures of statesmen, or the plots of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Christ will ever provide for His own Church. Christ will take care that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” All is going on well, though our eyes may not see it. The kingdoms of this world shall yet become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ.

I will now conclude this message with a few words of practical application.

1. My first word of application shall be a question. What shall that question be? What shall I ask? I will return to the point with which I began. I will go back to the first sentence with which I opened my message. I ask you, whether you are a member of the one true Church of Christ? Are you in the highest, the best sense, a “Churchman” in the sight of God? You know now what I mean. I look far beyond the Church of England. I am not speaking of church or chapel. I speak of “the Church built upon the rock.” I ask you, with all solemnity, are you a member of that Church? Are you joined to the great Foundation? Are you on the rock? Have you received the Holy Spirit? Does the Spirit witness with your spirit, that you are one with Christ, and Christ with you? I beseech you, in the name of God, to lay to heart these questions, and to ponder them well. If you are not converted, you do not yet belong to the “Church on the rock.”

Let every reader of this message take heed to himself, if he cannot give a satisfactory answer to my inquiry. Take heed, take heed, that you do not make shipwreck of your soul to all eternity. Take heed, lest at last the gates of hell prevail against you, the devil claim you as his own, and you be cast away forever. Take heed, lest you go down to the pit from the land of Bibles, and in the full light of Christ’s gospel. Take heed, lest you are found at the left hand of Christ at last, a lost Episcopalian or a lost Presbyterian, a lost Baptist or a lost Methodist, lost because, with all your zeal for your own party and your own communion table, you never joined the one true Church.

2. My second work of application shall be an invitation. I address it to everyone who is not yet a true believer. I say to you, come and join the one true Church without delay. Come and join yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ in an everlasting covenant not to be forgotten.

Consider well what I say. I charge you solemnly not to mistake the meaning of my invitation. I do not bid you leave the visible Church to which you belong. I abhor all idolatry of forms and parties. I detest a proselytizing spirit. But I do bid you come to Christ and be saved. The day of decision must come some time. Why not this very hour? Why not today, while it is called today? Why not this very night, before the sun rises tomorrow morning? Come to Him, who died for sinners on the cross, and invites all sinners to come to Him by faith and be saved. Come to my Master, Jesus Christ. Come, I say, for all things are now ready. Mercy is ready for you. Heaven is ready for you. Angels are ready to rejoice over you. Christ is ready to receive you. Christ will receive you gladly, and welcome you among His children. Come into the ark. The flood of God’s wrath will soon break upon the earth. Come into the ark and be safe.

Come into the lifeboat of the one true Church. This old world will soon break into pieces! Hear you not the tremblings of it? The world is but a wreck hard upon a sandbank. The night is far spent, the waves are beginning to rise, the wind is getting up, the storm will soon shatter the old wreck. But the lifeboat is launched, and we, the ministers of the gospel, beseech you to come into the lifeboat and be saved. We beseech you to arise at once and come to Christ.

Do you ask, “How can I come? My sins are too many. I am too wicked yet. I dare not come.” Away with the thought! It is a temptation of Satan. Come to Christ as a sinner. Come just as you are. Hear the words of that beautiful hymn:

“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Your blood was shed for me,
And that You bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.”

This is the way to come to Christ. You should come, waiting for nothing, and tarrying for nothing. You should come, as a hungry sinner, to be filled; as a poor sinner, to be enriched ; as a bad, undeserving sinner, to be clothed with righteousness. So coming, Christ would receive you. “Him that comes” to Christ, He “will in no wise cast out.” Oh, come, come to Jesus Christ! Come into the true Church by faith and be saved.

3. Last of all, let me give a word of exhortation to all believers into whose hands this message may fall.

Strive to live a holy life. Walk worthy of the Church to which you belong. Live like citizens of heaven. Let your light shine before men, so that the world may profit by your conduct. Let them know whose you are, and whom you serve. Be epistles of Christ, known and read of all men, written in such clear letters, that none can say of you, “I know not whether this man be a member of Christ or not.” He that knows nothing of real, practical holiness is no member of the Church on the rock.

Strive to live a courageous life. Confess Christ before men. Whatever station you occupy, in that station confess Christ. Why should you be ashamed of Him? He was not ashamed of you on the cross. He is ready to confess you now before His Father in heaven. Why should you be ashamed of Him? Be bold. Be very bold. The good soldier is not ashamed of his uniform. The true believer ought never to be ashamed of Christ.

Strive to live a joyful life. Live like men who look for that blessed hope—the second coming of Jesus Christ. This is the prospect to which we should all look forward. It is not so much the thought of going to heaven, as of heaven coming to us, that should fill our minds. “There is a good time coming” for all the people of God, a good time for all the Church of Christ, a good time for all believers—a bad time for the impenitent and unbelieving, but a good time for true Christians. For that good time, let us wait and watch and pray.

The scaffolding will soon be taken down. The last stone will soon be brought out. The top stone will be placed upon the edifice. Yet a little time, and the full beauty of the Church which Christ is building shall be clearly seen.

The great Master Builder will soon come Himself. A building shall be shown to assembled worlds, in which there shall be no imperfection. The Savior and the saved shall rejoice together. The whole universe shall acknowledge, that in the building of Christ’s Church all was well done. “Blessed,” it shall be said in that day, if it was never said before, “BLESSED ARE ALL WHO BELONG TO THE CHURCH ON THE ROCK!”

-Scott Bailey 2008

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Sanctification!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2008

by J.C. Ryle

“Sanctify them through Your truth.” (John 17:17).

“This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” (1 Thess. 4:3).

The subject of sanctification is one which many, I fear, dislike exceedingly. Some even turn from it with scorn and disdain. The very last thing they would like is to be a “saint” or a “sanctified” man. Yet the subject does not deserve to be treated in this way. It is not an enemy, but a friend.

It is a subject of the utmost importance to our souls. If the Bible is true, it is certain that unless we are “sanctified,” we shall not be saved. There are three things which, according to the Bible, are absolutely necessary to the salvation of every man and woman in Christendom. These three are justification, regeneration and sanctification. All three meet in every child of God: he is both born again and justified and sanctified. He who lacks any one of these three things is not a true Christian in the sight of God and, dying in that condition, will not be found in heaven and glorified in the last day.

It is a subject which is peculiarly seasonable in the present day. Strange doctrines have risen up of late upon the whole subject of sanctification. Some appear to confound it with justification. Others fritter it away to nothing, under the presence of zeal for free grace, and practically neglect it altogether. Others are so much afraid of “works” being made a part of justification that they can hardly find any place at all for “works” in their religion. Others set up a wrong standard of sanctification before their eyes and, failing to attain it, waste their lives in repeated secessions from church to church, chapel to chapel and sect to sect, in the vain hope that they will find what they want. In a day like this, a calm examination of the subject, as a great leading doctrine of the gospel, may be of great use to our souls.

Now let us consider the true nature of sanctification, its visible marks, and how it is compared to and contrasted with justification.

If, unhappily, the reader is one of those who cares for nothing but this world, and makes no profession of religion, I cannot expect him to take much interest in what I am writing. You will probably think it an affair of “words and names” and nice questions, about which it matters nothing what you hold and believe. But if you are a thoughtful, reasonable, sensible Christian, I venture to say that you will find it worthwhile to have some clear ideas about sanctification.

1. The nature of sanctification

Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Spirit, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart and makes him practically godly in life. The instrument by which the Spirit effects this work is generally the Word of God, though He sometimes uses afflictions and providential visitations “without the Word” (1 Peter 3:1). The subject of this work of Christ by His Spirit is called in Scripture a “sanctified” man. *

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require: not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness,” but their “sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30). Let us hear what the Bible says: “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified.” “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it.” “Christ . . . gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” “Christ . . . bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.” Christ “has . . . reconciled [you] in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” (John 17:19; Eph. 5:25, 26; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24; Col. 1:22). Let the meaning of these five texts be carefully considered. If words mean anything, they teach that Christ undertakes the sanctification, no less than the justification, of His believing people. Both are alike provided for in that “everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure,” of which the Mediator is Christ. In fact, Christ in one place is called “He who sanctifies,” and His people “they who are sanctified” (Heb. 2:11).

The subject before us is of such deep and vast importance that it requires fencing, guarding, clearing up and marking out on every side. A doctrine which is needful to salvation can never be too sharply developed or brought too fully into light. To clear away the confusion between doctrines and doctrines, which is so unhappily common among Christians, and to map out the precise relation between truths and truths in religion is one way to attain accuracy in our theology. I shall therefore not hesitate to lay before my readers a series of connected propositions or statements, drawn from Scripture, which I think will be found useful in defining the exact nature of sanctification. Each proposition would admit of being expanded and handled more fully, and all of them deserve private thought and consideration. Some of them may be disputed and contradicted; but I doubt whether any of them can be overthrown or proved untrue. I only ask for them a fair and impartial hearing.

1. Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian. “He who abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit” (John 15:5). The branch which bears no fruit is no living branch of the vine. The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God. The faith which has not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a “dead faith, because it is alone.” It is not the gift of God. It is not the faith of God’s elect. In short, where there is no sanctification of life, there is no real faith in Christ. True faith works by love. It constrains a man to live unto the Lord from a deep sense of gratitude for redemption. It makes him feel that he can never do too much for Him that died for him. Being much forgiven, he loves much. He whom the blood cleanses walks in the light. He who has real lively hope in Christ purifies himself even as He is pure (James 2:17–20; Titus 1:1; Gal. 5:6; 1 John 1:7; 3:3).

2. Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He who is born again and made a new creature receives a new nature and a new principle and always lives a new life. A regeneration, which a man can have and yet live carelessly in sin or worldliness, is a regeneration invented by uninspired theologians, but never mentioned in Scripture. On the contrary, St. John expressly says that “He who is born of God does not commit sin,” “does righteousness,” “loves the brethren,” “keeps himself” and “overcomes the world” (1 John 2:29; 3:9–14; 5:4–18). Simply put, the lack of sanctification is a sign of non–regeneration. Where there is no holy life, there has been no holy birth. This is a hard saying, but a Biblical truth; whomever is born of God, it is written, “cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).

3. Sanctification is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9). The Spirit never lies dormant and idle within the soul: He always makes His presence known by the fruit He causes to be borne in heart, character and life. “The fruit of the Spirit,” says St. Paul, “is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” and such like (Gal. 5:22). Where these things are to be found, there is the Spirit; where these things are wanting, men are dead before God. The Spirit is compared to the wind; and, like the wind, He cannot be seen by our bodily eyes. But, just as we know there is a wind by the effect it produces on waves and trees and smoke, so we may know the Spirit is in a man by the effects He produces in the man’s conduct. It is nonsense to suppose that we have the Spirit if we do not also “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). We may depend on it as a positive certainty that, where there is no holy living, there is no Holy Spirit. The seal that the Spirit stamps on Christ’s people is sanctification. As many as are actually “led by the Spirit of God, they,” and they only, “are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).

4. Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election. The names and number of the elect are a secret thing, no doubt, which God has wisely kept in His own power and not revealed to man. It is not given to us in this world to study the pages of the book of life and see if our names are there. But if there is one thing clearly and plainly laid down about election, it is this—that elect men and women may be known and distinguished by holy lives. It is expressly written that they are “elect through sanctification,” “chosen to salvation through sanctification,” “predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son,” and “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy.” Hence, when St. Paul saw the working “faith” and laboring “love” and patient “hope” of the Thessalonian believers, he said, “I know your election of God” (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:3, 4). He who boasts of being one of God’s elect, while he is willfully and habitually living in sin, is only deceiving himself and talking wicked blasphemy. Of course, it is hard to know what people really are; and many who make a fair show outwardly in religion may turn out at last to be rotten–hearted hypocrites. But where there is not, at least, some appearance of sanctification, we may be quite certain there is no election. The church catechism correctly and wisely teaches that the Holy Spirit “sanctifies all the elect people of God.”

5. Sanctification is a reality that will always be seen. Like the great Head of the church, from whom it springs, it “cannot be hid.” “Every tree is known by his own fruit” (Luke 6:44). A truly sanctified person may be so clothed with humility that he can see in himself nothing but infirmity and defects. Like Moses, when he came down from the mount, he may not be conscious that his face shines. Like the righteous, in the mighty parable of the sheep and the goats, he may not see that he has done anything worthy of his Master’s notice and commendation: “When saw we You an hungry, and fed You?” (Matt. 25:37). But whether he sees it himself or not, others will always see in him a tone and taste and character and habit of life unlike that of other men. The very idea of a man being “sanctified” while no holiness can be seen in his life is flat nonsense and a misuse of words. Light may be very dim; but if there is only a spark in a dark room, it will be seen. Life may be very feeble; but if the pulse only beats a little, it will be felt. It is just the same with a sanctified man: his sanctification will be something felt and seen, though he himself may not understand it. A “saint,” in whom nothing can be seen but worldliness or sin, is a kind of monster not recognized in the Bible!

6. Sanctification is a reality for which every believer is responsible. In saying this I would not be mistaken. I hold as strongly as anyone that every man on earth is accountable to God and that all the lost will be speechless and without excuse at the last day. Every man has power to “lose his own soul” (Matt. 26:26). But, while I hold this, I maintain that believers are eminently and peculiarly responsible and under a special obligation to live holy lives. They are not as others, dead and blind and unrenewed; they are alive unto God and have light and knowledge and a new principle within them. Whose fault is it, if they are not holy, but their own? On whom can they throw the blame, if they are not sanctified, but themselves? God, who has given them grace and a new heart and a new nature, has deprived them of all excuse if they do not live for His praise. This is a point which is far too much forgotten. A man who professes to be a true Christian, while he sits still, content with a very low degree of sanctification (if indeed he has any at all), and coolly tells you he “can do nothing,” is a very pitiable sight and a very ignorant man. Against this delusion let us watch and be on our guard. The Word of God always addresses its precepts to believers as accountable and responsible beings. If the Savior of sinners gives us renewing grace and calls us by His Spirit, we may be sure that He expects us to use our grace and not to go to sleep. It is forgetfulness of this which causes many believers to “grieve the Holy Spirit” and makes them very useless and uncomfortable Christians.

7. Sanctification is a thing which admits of growth and degrees. A man may climb from one step to another in holiness and be far more sanctified at one period of his life than another. More pardoned and more justified than he is when he first believes he cannot be, though he may feel it more. More sanctified he certainly may be, because every grace in his new character may be strengthened, enlarged and deepened. This is the evident meaning of our Lord’s last prayer for His disciples when He used the words, “Sanctify them,” and of St. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians: “The very God of peace sanctify you” (John 17:17; 1 Thess. 5:23). In both cases the expression plainly implies the possibility of increased sanctification, while such an expression as “justify them” is never once in Scripture applied to a believer, because he cannot be more justified than he is. I can find no warrant in Scripture for the doctrine of “imputed sanctification.” It is a doctrine which confuses differing principles and leads to evil consequences. confuse things that differ and to lead to very evil consequences. Not least, it is a doctrine which is flatly contradicted by the experience of all the most eminent Christians. If there is any point on which God’s holiest saints agree, it is this: that they see more and know more and feel more and do more and repent more and believe more as they get on in spiritual life, and in proportion to the closeness of their walk with God. In short, they “grow in grace,” as St. Peter exhorts believers to do; and “abound more and more,” according to the words of St. Paul (2 Peter 3:18; 1 Thess. 4:1).

8. Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshiping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper. I lay it down as a simple matter of fact that no one who is careless about such things must ever expect to make much progress in sanctification. I can find no record of any eminent saint who ever neglected them. They are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man. Let men call this legal doctrine if they please, but I will never shrink from declaring my belief that there are no “spiritual gains without pains.” Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.

9. Sanctification is a thing which does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict. By conflict I mean a struggle within the heart between the old nature and the new, the flesh and the spirit, which are to be found together in every believer (Gal. 5:17). A deep sense of that struggle, and a vast amount of mental discomfort from it, are no proof that a man is not sanctified. No, rather, I believe, they are healthy symptoms of our condition and prove that we are not dead, but alive. A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within. He may be known by his warfare as well as by his peace. In saying this, I do not forget that I am contradicting the views of some well–meaning Christians who hold the doctrine called “sinless perfection.” I cannot help that. I believe that what I say is confirmed by the language of St. Paul in the seventh chapter of Romans. That chapter I commend to the careful study of all my readers. I am quite satisfied that it does not describe the experience of an unconverted man, or of a young and unestablished Christian; but of an old experienced saint in close communion with God. None but such a man could say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). I believe, furthermore, that what I say is proved by the experience of all the most eminent servants of Christ that have ever lived. The full proof is to be seen in their journals, their autobiographies and their lives. Believing all this, I shall never hesitate to tell people that inward conflict is no proof that a man is not holy, and that they must not think they are not sanctified because they do not feel entirely free from inward struggle. Such freedom we shall doubtless have in heaven, but we shall never enjoy it in this world. The heart of the best Christian, even at his best, is a field occupied by two rival camps, and the “company of two armies” (Song 6:13). Let the words of the thirteenth and fifteenth Articles be well considered by all churchmen: “The infection of nature does remain in them that are regenerated. Although baptized and born again in Christ, we offend in many things; and if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” *

10. Sanctification is a thing which cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God. The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more or less full of defects and imperfections. They are either wrong in their motive or defective in their performance and in themselves are nothing better than “splendid sins,” deserving God’s wrath and condemnation. To suppose that such actions can stand the severity of God’s judgment, atone for sin and merit heaven is simply absurd. “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:20–28). The only righteousness in which we can appear before God is the righteousness of another—even the perfect righteousness of our Substitute and Representative, Jesus Christ the Lord. His work, and not our work, is our only title to heaven. This is a truth which we should be ready to die to maintain. For all this, however, the Bible distinctly teaches that the holy actions of a sanctified man, although imperfect, are pleasing in the sight of God. “With such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16). “Obey your parents . . . for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col. 3:20). “We . . . do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). Let this never be forgotten, for it is a very comfortable doctrine. Just as a parent is pleased with the efforts of his little child to please him, though it be only by picking a daisy or walking across a room, so is our Father in heaven pleased with the poor performances of His believing children. He looks at the motive, principle and intention of their actions and not merely at their quantity and quality. He regards them as members of His own dear Son, and for His sake, wherever there is a single eye, He is well pleased. Those churchmen who dispute this would do well to study the twelfth Article of the Church of England.

11. Sanctification is a thing which will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great Day of Judgment. It will be utterly useless to plead that we believed in Christ unless our faith has had some sanctifying effect and been seen in our lives. Evidence, evidence, evidence will be the one thing wanted when the great white throne is set, when the books are opened, when the graves give up their tenants, when the dead are arraigned before the bar of God. Without some evidence that our faith in Christ was real and genuine, we shall only rise again to be condemned. I can find no evidence that will be admitted in that day, except sanctification. The question will not be how we talked and what we professed, but how we lived and what we did. Let no man deceive himself on this point. If anything is certain about the future, it is certain that there will be a judgment; and if anything is certain about judgment, it is certain that men’s “works” and “doings” will be considered and examined in it (John 5:29; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:13). He who supposes works are of no importance because they cannot justify us is a very ignorant Christian. Unless he opens his eyes, he will find to his cost that if he comes to the bar of God without some evidence of grace, he had better never have been born.

12. Sanctification, in the last place, is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven. Most men hope to go to heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there. Heaven is essentially a holy place; its inhabitants are all holy; its occupations are all holy. To be really happy in heaven, it is clear and plain that we must be somewhat trained and made ready for heaven while we are on earth. The notion of a purgatory after death, which shall turn sinners into saints, is a lying invention of man and is nowhere taught in the Bible. We must be saints before we die if we are to be saints afterwards in glory. The favorite idea of many, that dying men need nothing except absolution and forgiveness of sins to fit them for their great change, is a profound delusion. We need the work of the Holy Spirit as well as the work of Christ; we need renewal of the heart as well as the atoning blood; we need to be sanctified as well as to be justified. It is common to hear people saying on their deathbeds, “I only want the Lord to forgive me my sins, and take me to rest.” But those who say such things forget that the rest of heaven would be utterly useless if we had no heart to enjoy it! What could an unsanctified man do in heaven, if by any chance he got there? Let that question be fairly looked in the face and fairly answered. No man can possibly be happy in a place where he is not in his element and where all around him is not congenial to his tastes, habits and character. When an eagle is happy in an iron cage, when a sheep is happy in the water, when an owl is happy in the blaze of noonday sun, when a fish is happy on the dry land—then, and not until then, will I admit that the unsanctified man could be happy in heaven. *

2. The visible evidence of sanctification

What are the visible marks of a sanctified man? What may we expect to see in him? This is a very wide and difficult department of our subject. It is wide because it necessitates the mention of many details which cannot be handled fully in the limits of a message like this. It is difficult because it cannot possibly be treated without giving offense. But truth should be spoken despite risk, and truth of this great magnitude should especially be spoken in our present day.

1. True sanctification then does not consist in mere talk about religion. This is a point which ought never to be forgotten. The vast increase of education and preaching in these latter days makes it absolutely necessary to raise a warning voice. People hear so much of gospel truth that they contract an unholy familiarity with its words and phrases and sometimes talk so fluently about its doctrines that you might think them true Christians. In fact it is sickening and disgusting to hear the cool and flippant language which many pour out about “conversion,” “the Savior,” “the gospel,” “finding peace,” “free grace” and the like, while they are notoriously serving sin or living for the world. Can we doubt that such talk is abominable in God’s sight and is little better than cursing, swearing and taking God’s name in vain? The tongue is not the only member that Christ bids us give to His service. God does not want His people to be mere empty tubs, sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. We must be sanctified, not only “in word and in tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).

2. True sanctification does not consist in temporary religious feelings. This again is a point about which a warning is greatly needed. Mission services and revival meetings are attracting great attention in every part of the land and producing a great sensation. The Church of England seems to have taken a new lease of life and exhibits a new activity, and we ought to thank God for it. But these things have their attendant dangers as well as their advantages. Wherever wheat is sown, the devil is sure to sow tares. Many, it may be feared, appear moved and touched and roused under the preaching of the gospel, while in reality their hearts are not changed at all. A kind of animal excitement from the contagion of seeing others weeping, rejoicing or affected, is the true account of their case. Their wounds are only skin deep, and the peace they profess to feel is skin deep also. Like the stony–ground hearers, they receive the Word with joy (Matt. 13:20); but after a little they fall away, go back to the world and are harder and worse than before. Like Jonah’s gourd, they come up suddenly in a night and perish in a night. Let these things not be forgotten. Let us beware in this day of healing wounds slightly, and crying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Let us urge on everyone who exhibits new interest in religion to be content with nothing short of the deep, solid, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Reaction, after false religious excitement, is a most deadly disease of soul. When the devil is only temporarily cast out of a man in the heat of a revival, and by and by returns to his house, the last state becomes worse than the first. Better a thousand times begin more slowly, and then “continue in the Word” steadfastly, than begin in a hurry, without counting the cost, and by and by look back, with Lot’s wife, and return to the world. I declare I know no state of soul more dangerous than to imagine we are born again and sanctified by the Holy Spirit because we have picked up a few religious feelings.

3. True sanctification does not consist in outward formalism and external devoutness. This is an enormous delusion, but unhappily a very common one. Thousands appear to imagine that true holiness is to be seen in an excessive quantity of bodily religion—in constant attendance on church services, reception of the Lord’s Supper, and observance of fasts and saints’ days; in multiplied bowings and turnings and gestures and postures during public worship; in wearing peculiar dresses, and the use of pictures and crosses. I freely admit that some people take up these things from conscientious motives and actually believe that they help their souls. But I am afraid that in many cases this external religiousness is made a substitute for inward holiness; and I am quite certain that it falls utterly short of sanctification of heart. Above all, when I see that many followers of this outward, sensuous, and formal style of Christianity are absorbed in worldliness and plunge headlong into its pomps and vanities without shame, I feel that there is need of very plain speaking on the subject. There may be an immense amount of “bodily service,” while there is not a jot of real sanctification.

4. Sanctification does not consist in retirement from our place in life and the renunciation of our social duties. In every age it has been a snare with many to take up this line in the pursuit of holiness. Hundreds of hermits have buried themselves in some wilderness, and thousands of men and women have shut themselves up within the walls of monasteries and convents, under the vain idea that by so doing they would escape sin and become eminently holy. They have forgotten that no bolts and bars can keep out the devil and that, wherever we go, we carry that root of all evil, our own hearts. To become a monk or a nun or to join a “house of mercy” is not the high road to sanctification. True holiness does not make a Christian evade difficulties, but face and overcome them. Christ would have His people show that His grace is not a mere hot–house plant, which can only thrive under shelter, but a strong, hardy thing which can flourish in every relation of life. It is doing our duty in that state to which God has called us, like salt in the midst of corruption and light in the midst of darkness, which is a primary element in sanctification. It is not the man who hides himself in a cave, but the man who glorifies God as master or servant, parent or child, in the family and in the street, in business and in trade, who is the scriptural type of a sanctified man. Our Master Himself said in His last prayer, “I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil” (John 17:15).

5. Sanctification is not merely the occasional performance of right actions. Rather, it is the continual work of a new heavenly principle within, which runs through one’s daily conduct in everything he does, big or small. It is not like a pump, which only sends forth water when worked upon from without, but like a perpetual fountain, from which a stream is ever flowing spontaneously and naturally. Even Herod, when he heard John the Baptist, “did many things,” while his heart was utterly wrong in the sight of God (Mark 6:20). Just so there are scores of people in the present day who seem to have spasmodic fits of “goodness,” as it is called, and do many right things under the influence of sickness, affliction, death in the family, public calamities or a sudden qualm of conscience. Yet all the time any intelligent observer can see plainly that they are not converted and that they know nothing of “sanctification.” A true saint, like Hezekiah, will be whole–hearted. He will count God’s commandments concerning all things to be right and “hate every false way” (2 Chr. 31:21; Ps. 119:104).

6. Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual respect to God’s law and habitual effort to live in obedience to it as the rule of life. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a Christian has nothing to do with the law and the Ten Commandments because he cannot be justified by keeping them. The same Holy Spirit who convinces the believer of sin by the law and leads him to Christ for justification will always lead him to a spiritual use of the law, as a friendly guide, in the pursuit of sanctification. Our Lord Jesus Christ never made light of the Ten Commandments; on the contrary, in His first public discourse, the sermon on the mount, He expounded them and showed the searching nature of their requirements. St. Paul never made light of the law; on the contrary, he says, “The law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (1 Tim. 1:8; Rom. 7:22). He who pretends to be a saint, while he sneers at the Ten Commandments and thinks nothing of lying, hypocrisy, swindling, ill temper, slander, drunkenness and breach of the seventh commandment, is under a fearful delusion. He will find it hard to prove that he is a “saint” in the last day!

7. Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual endeavor to do Christ’s will and to live by His practical precepts. These precepts are to be found scattered everywhere throughout the four Gospels, and especially in the sermon on the mount. He who supposes they were spoken without the intention of promoting holiness and that a Christian need not attend to them in his daily life is really little better than a lunatic, and at any rate is a grossly ignorant person. To hear some men talk and read some men’s writings, one might imagine that our blessed Lord, when He was on earth, never taught anything but doctrine and left practical duties to be taught by others! The slightest knowledge of the four Gospels ought to tell us that this is a complete mistake. What His disciples ought to be and to do is continually brought forward in our Lord’s teaching. A truly sanctified man will never forget this. He serves a Master who said, “You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14).

8. Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual desire to live up to the standard which St. Paul sets before the churches in his writings. That standard is to be found in the closing chapters of nearly all his Epistles. The common idea of many persons that St. Paul’s writings are full of nothing but doctrinal statements and controversial subjects—justification, election, predestination, prophecy and the like—is an entire delusion and a melancholy proof of the ignorance of Scripture which prevails in these latter days. I defy anyone to read St. Paul’s writings carefully, without finding in them a large quantity of plain practical directions about the Christian’s duty in every relation of life, and about our daily habits, temper and behavior to one another. These directions were written down by inspiration of God for the perpetual guidance of professing Christians. He who does not attend to them may possibly pass muster as a member of a church or a chapel, but he certainly is not what the Bible calls a “sanctified” man.

9. Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual attention to the active graces which our Lord so beautifully exemplified, and especially to the grace of charity. “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:34, 35). A sanctified man will try to do good in the world and to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of all around him. He will aim to be like his Master, full of kindness and love to everyone—and this not in word only, by calling people “dear,” but by deeds and actions and self–denying work, according as he has opportunity. The selfish Christian professor who wraps himself up in his own conceit of superior knowledge and seems to care nothing whether others sink or swim, go to heaven or hell, so long as he walks to church or chapel in his Sunday best and is called a “sound member”—such a man knows nothing of sanctification. He may think himself a saint on earth, but he will not be a saint in heaven. Christ will never be found the Savior of those who know nothing of following His example. Saving faith and real converting grace will always produce some conformity to the image of Jesus (Col. 3:10). *

10. Genuine sanctification, in the last place, will show itself in habitual attention to the passive graces of Christianity. When I speak of passive graces, I mean those graces which are especially shown in submission to the will of God and in bearing and forbearing towards one another. Few people, perhaps, unless they have examined the point, have an idea how much is said about these graces in the New Testament and how important a place they seem to fill. This is the special point which St. Peter dwells upon in commending our Lord Jesus Christ’s example to our notice: “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:21–23). This is the one piece of profession which the Lord’s prayer requires us to make: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us,” and the one point that is commented upon at the end of the prayer. This is the point which occupies one third of the list of the fruits of the Spirit supplied by St. Paul. Nine are named and three of these, patience, gentleness and meekness, are unquestionably passive graces (Gal. 5:22, 23). I must plainly say that I do not think this subject is sufficiently considered by Christians. The passive graces are no doubt harder to attain than the active ones, but they are precisely the graces which have the greatest influence on the world. Of one thing I feel very sure: it is nonsense to pretend to sanctification unless we follow after the meekness, gentleness, patience and forgivingness of which the Bible makes so much. People who are habitually giving way to peevish and cross tempers in daily life and are constantly sharp with their tongues and disagreeable to all around them, spiteful people, vindictive people, revengeful people, malicious people—of whom, alas, the world is only too full—all such know little as they should know about sanctification.

3. The distinction between justification and sanctification

I now propose to consider, in the last place, the distinction between justification and sanctification. Wherein do they agree, and wherein do they differ?

This branch of our subject is one of great importance, though I fear it will not seem so to all my readers. I shall handle it briefly, but I dare not pass it over altogether. Too many are apt to look at nothing but the surface of things in religion and regard nice distinctions in theology as questions of “words and names,” which are of little real value. But I warn all who are in earnest about their souls that the discomfort which arises from not “distinguishing things that differ” in Christian doctrine is very great indeed; and I especially advise them, if they love peace, to seek clear views about the matter before us. Justification and sanctification are two distinct things, we must always remember. Yet there are points in which they agree and points in which they differ. Let us try to find out what they are.

In what, then, are justification and sanctification ALIKE?

a. Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.

b. Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.

c. Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.

d. Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person, he also begins to be a sanctified person. He may not feel it, but it is a fact.

e. Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit’s grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a fitness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

Such are the points on which justification and sanctification agree. Let us now reverse the picture and see wherein they differ.

a. Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.

b. The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.

c. In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance, and God bids us fight and watch and pray and strive and take pains and labor.

d. Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.

e. Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.

f. Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures and the moral renewal of our hearts.

g. Justification gives us our title to heaven and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our fitness for heaven and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.

h. Justification is the act of God about us and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

I commend these distinctions to the attention of all my readers, and I ask them to ponder them well. I am persuaded that one great cause of the darkness and uncomfortable feelings of many well–meaning people in the matter of religion is their habit of confounding, and not distinguishing, justification and sanctification. It can never be too strongly impressed on our minds that they are two separate things. No doubt they cannot be divided, and everyone that is a partaker of either is a partaker of both. But never, never ought they to be confounded, and never ought the distinction between them to be forgotten.

The nature and visible marks of sanctification have been brought before us. What practical reflections ought the whole matter to raise in our minds?

1. For one thing, let us all awake to a sense of the perilous state of many professing Christians. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord; without sanctification there is no salvation (Heb. 12:14). Then what an enormous amount of so–called religion there is which is perfectly useless! What an immense proportion of church–goers and chapel–goers are in the broad road that leads to destruction! The thought is awful, crushing and overwhelming. Oh, that preachers and teachers would open their eyes and realize the condition of souls around them! Oh, that men could be persuaded to “flee from the wrath to come”! If unsanctified souls can be saved and go to heaven, the Bible is not true. Yet the Bible is true and cannot lie! What must the end be!

2. Let us make sure work of our own condition and never rest until we feel and know that we are “sanctified” ourselves. What are our tastes and choices and likings and inclinations? This is the great testing question. It matters little what we wish and what we hope and what we desire to be before we die. What are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified or not? If not, the fault is all our own.

3. If we would be sanctified, our course is clear and plain: we must begin with Christ. We must go to Him as sinners, with no plea but that of utter need, and cast our souls on Him by faith, for peace and reconciliation with God. We must place ourselves in His hands, as in the hands of a good physician, and cry to Him for mercy and grace. We must wait for nothing to bring with us as a recommendation. The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.

4. If we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ. He is the Head from which every member must be supplied (Eph. 4:16). To live the life of daily faith in the Son of God and to be daily drawing out of His fullness the promised grace and strength which He has laid up for His people—this is the grand secret of progressive sanctification. Believers who seem at a standstill are generally neglecting close communion with Jesus, and so grieving the Spirit. He who prayed, “Sanctify them,” the last night before His crucifixion is infinitely willing to help everyone who by faith applies to Him for help and desires to be made more holy.

5. Let us not expect too much from our own hearts here below. At our best we shall find in ourselves daily cause for humiliation and discover that we are needy debtors to mercy and grace every hour. The more light we have, the more we shall see our own imperfection. Sinners we were when we began, sinners we shall find ourselves as we go on: renewed, pardoned, justified, yet sinners to the very last. Our absolute perfection is yet to come, and the expectation of it is one reason why we should long for heaven.

6. Finally, let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification and contending for a high standard of holiness. While some are satisfied with a miserably low degree of attainment, and others are not ashamed to live on without any holiness at all, content with a mere round of church–going and chapel–going, but never getting on, like a horse in a mill, let us stand fast in the old paths, follow after eminent holiness ourselves and recommend it boldly to others. This is the only way to be really happy.

Let us feel convinced, whatever others may say, that holiness is happiness and that the man who gets through life most comfortably is the sanctified man. No doubt there are some true Christians who from ill health, or family trials, or other secret causes, enjoy little sensible comfort and go mourning all their days on the way to heaven. But these are exceptional cases. As a general rule, in the long run of life, it will be found true, that “sanctified” people are the happiest people on earth. They have solid comforts which the world can neither give nor take away. “The ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness.” “Great peace have those who love Your law.” It was said by One who cannot lie: “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” But it is also written, “There is no peace unto the wicked” (Prov. 3:17; Ps. 119:165; Matt. 11:30; Isa. 48:22).

-Scott Bailey 2008

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Holiness!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2008

HOLINESS

by J.C. Ryle

“Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

The text which heads this page opens up a subject of deep importance. That subject is practical holiness. It suggests a question which demands the attention of all professing Christians: are we holy? Shall we see the Lord?

That question can never be out of season. The wise man tells us, “There is . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Eccl. 3:4, 7); but there is no time, no, not a day, in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we?

That question concerns all ranks and conditions of men. Some are rich and some are poor, some learned and some unlearned, some masters and some servants; but there is no rank or condition in life in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we?

I ask to be heard today about this question. How stands the account between our souls and God? In this hurrying, bustling world, let us stand still for a few minutes and consider the matter of holiness. I believe I might have chosen a subject more popular and pleasant. I am sure I might have found one more easy to handle. But I feel deeply I could not have chosen one more seasonable and more profitable to our souls. It is a solemn thing to hear the Word of God saying, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

I will endeavor, by God’s help, to examine what true holiness is and the reason why it is so needful. In conclusion, I will try to point out the only way in which holiness can be attained. Having considered the doctrinal side, let us now turn to the plain and practical application.

1. The nature of true practical holiness

First then, let me try to show what true practical holiness is: what sort of persons are those whom God calls holy?

A man may go great lengths and yet never reach true holiness. It is not knowledge—Balaam had that; nor great profession—Judas Iscariot had that; nor doing many things—Herod had that; nor zeal for certain matters in religion—Jehu had that; nor morality and outward respectability of conduct—the young ruler had that; nor taking pleasure in hearing preachers—the Jews in Ezekiel’s time had that; nor keeping company with godly people—Joab and Gehazi and Demas had that. Yet none of these were holy! These things alone are not holiness. A man may have any one of them and yet never see the Lord.

What then is true practical holiness? It is a hard question to answer. I do not mean that there is any want of scriptural matter on the subject. But I fear lest I should give a defective view of holiness and not say all that ought to be said, or lest I should say things about it that ought not to be said, and so do harm. Let me, however, try to draw a picture of holiness, that we may see it clearly before the eyes of our minds. Only let it never be forgotten, when I have said all, that my account is but a poor imperfect outline at the best.

a. Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man.

b. A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin and to keep every known commandment. He will have a decided bent of mind towards God, a hearty desire to do His will, a greater fear of displeasing Him than of displeasing the world, and a love to all His ways. He will feel what Paul felt when he said, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22), and what David felt when he said, “I esteem all Your precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:128).

c. A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labor to have the mind that was in Him and to be conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29). It will be his aim to bear with and forgive others, even as Christ forgave us; to be unselfish, even as Christ pleased not Himself; to walk in love, even as Christ loved us; to be lowly–minded and humble, even as Christ made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself. He will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth; that He came not to do His own will; that it was His meat and drink to do His Father’s will; that He would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others; that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults; that He thought more of godly poor men than of kings; that He was full of love and compassion to sinners; that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin; that He sought not the praise of men, when He might have had it; that He went about doing good; that He was separate from worldly people; that He continued instant in prayer; that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way when God’s work was to be done. These things a holy man will try to remember. By them he will endeavor to shape his course in life. He will lay to heart the saying of John: “He who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6), and the saying of Peter, that “Christ . . . suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). Happy is he who has learned to make Christ his “all,” both for salvation and example! Much time would be saved, and much sin prevented, if men would oftener ask themselves the question: “What would Christ have said and done if He were in my place? “

d. A holy man will follow after meekness, patience, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue. He will bear much, forbear much, overlook much and be slow to talk of standing on his rights. We see a bright example of this in the behavior of David when Shimei cursed him, and of Moses when Aaron and Miriam spoke against him (2 Sam. 16:10; Num. 12:3).

e. A holy man will follow after temperance and self–denial. He will labor to mortify the desires of his body, to crucify his flesh with his affections and lusts, to curb his passions, to restrain his carnal inclinations, lest at any time they break loose. Oh, what a word is that of the Lord Jesus to the apostles: “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life” (Luke 21:34), and that of the apostle Paul: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27).

f. A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness. He will endeavor to observe the golden rule of doing as he would have men do to him and speaking as he would have men speak to him. He will be full of affection towards his brethren, towards their bodies, their property, their characters, their feelings, their souls. “He who loves another,” says Paul, “has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8). He will abhor all lying, slandering, backbiting, cheating, dishonesty and unfair dealing, even in the least things. The shekel and cubit of the sanctuary were larger than those in common use. He will strive to adorn his religion by all his outward demeanor and to make it lovely and beautiful in the eyes of all around him. Alas, what condemning words are the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and the sermon on the mount, when laid alongside the conduct of many professing Christians!

g. A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others. He will not stand all the day idle. He will not be content with doing no harm; he will try to do good. He will strive to be useful in his day and generation and to lessen the spiritual wants and misery around him as far as he can. Such was Dorcas: “full of good works and almsdeeds, which she did”—not merely purposed and talked about, but did. Such a one was Paul: “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you,” he says, “though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (Acts 9:36; 2 Cor. 12:15).

h. A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it. He knows his own heart is like tinder and will diligently keep clear of the sparks of temptation. Who shall dare to talk of strength when David can fall? There is many a hint to be gleaned from the ceremonial law. Under it the man who only touched a bone or a dead body or a grave or a diseased person became at once unclean in the sight of God. And these things were emblems and figures. Few Christians are ever too watchful and too particular about this point.

i. A holy man will follow after the fear of God. I do not mean the fear of a slave, who only works because he is afraid of punishment and would be idle if he did not dread discovery. I mean rather the fear of a child, who wishes to live and move as if he was always before his father’s face, because he loves him. What a noble example Nehemiah gives us of this! When he became governor at Jerusalem, he might have been chargeable to the Jews and required of them money for his support. The former governors had done so. There was none to blame him if he did. But he says, “So did not I, because of the fear of God” (Neh. 5:15).

j. A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. He will see more evil in his own heart than in any other in the world. He will understand something of Abraham’s feeling, when he says, “I am dust and ashes,” and Jacob’s, when he says, “I am less than the least of all Your mercies,” and Job’s, when he says, “I am vile,” and Paul’s, when he says, “I am chief of sinners.” Holy Bradford, that faithful martyr of Christ, would sometimes finish his letters with these words: “A most miserable sinner, John Bradford.” Good old Mr. Grimshaw’s last words, when he lay on his deathbed, were these: “Here goes an unprofitable servant.”

k. A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life. He will try, not merely to fill his place as well as others who take no thought for their souls, but even better, because he has higher motives and more help than they. Those words of Paul should never be forgotten: “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord”: “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Col. 3:23; Rom. 12:11). Holy persons should aim at doing everything well and should be ashamed of allowing themselves to do anything ill if they can help it. Like Daniel, they should seek to give no “occasion” against themselves, except concerning the law of their God (Dan. 6:5). They should strive to be good husbands and good wives, good parents and good children, good masters and good servants, good neighbors, good friends, good subjects, good in private and good in public, good in the place of business and good by their firesides. Holiness is worth little indeed if it does not bear this kind of fruit. The Lord Jesus puts a searching question to His people when He says, “What do you more than others?” (Matt. 5:47).

l. Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual–mindedness. He will endeavor to set his affections entirely on things above and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come. He will aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim traveling to his home. To commune with God in prayer, in the Bible, and in the assembly of His people—these things will be the holy man’s chief enjoyments. He will value everything and place and company, just in proportion as it draws him nearer to God. He will enter into something of David’s feeling, when he says, “My soul follows hard after You”; “You are my portion” (Ps. 63:8; 119:57).

Here let me insert that I am not without fear that my meaning will be mistaken, and the description I have given of holiness will discourage some tender conscience. I would not willingly make one righteous heart sad or throw a stumbling block in any believer’s way. I do not say for a moment that holiness shuts out the presence of indwelling sin. No, far from it. It is the greatest misery of a holy man that he carries about with him a “body of death”; that often when he would do good “evil is present with him”; that the old man is clogging all his movements and, as it were, trying to draw him back at every step he takes (Rom. 7:21). But it is the excellence of a holy man that he is not at peace with indwelling sin, as others are. He hates it, mourns over it and longs to be free from its company. The work of sanctification within him is like the wall of Jerusalem—the building goes forward “even in troublous times” (Dan. 9:25).

Neither do I say that holiness comes to ripeness and perfection all at once or that these graces I have touched on must be found in full bloom and vigor before you can call a man holy. No, far from it. Sanctification is always a progressive work. Some men’s graces are in the blade, some in the ear, and some are like full corn in the ear. All must have a beginning. We must never despise “the day of small things.” And sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work. The history of the brightest saints that ever lived will contain many a “but” and “however” and “notwithstanding” before you reach the end. The gold will never be without some dross, the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem. The sun himself has spots upon his face. The holiest men have many a blemish and defect when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. Their life is a continual warfare with sin, the world and the devil; and sometimes you will see them not overcoming, but overcome. The flesh is ever lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and in many things they offend all (Gal. 5:17; James 3:2).

But still, for all this, I am sure that to have such a character as I have faintly drawn, is the heart’s desire and prayer of all true Christians. They press towards it, if they do not reach it. They may not attain to it, but they always aim at it. It is what they strive and labor to be, if it is not what they are.

And this I do boldly and confidently say, that true holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen and known and marked and felt by all around him. It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savor will be perceived. It is a precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid.

I am sure we should all be ready to make allowance for much backsliding, for much occasional deadness in professing Christians. I know a road may lead from one point to another and yet have many a winding and turn, and a man may be truly holy and yet be drawn aside by many an infirmity. Gold is not the less gold because mingled with alloy, nor light the less light because faint and dim, nor grace the less grace because young and weak. But after every allowance, I cannot see how any man deserves to be called “holy” who willfully allows himself in sins and is not humbled and ashamed because of them. I dare not call anyone “holy” who makes a habit of willfully neglecting known duties and willfully doing what he knows God has commanded him not to do. Well says Owen, “I do not understand how a man can be a true believer unto whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow and trouble.”

Such are the leading characteristics of practical holiness. Let us examine ourselves and see whether we are acquainted with it. Let us prove our own selves.

2. The importance of practical holiness

Can holiness save us? Can holiness put away sin, cover iniquities, make satisfaction for transgressions, pay our debt to God? No, not a whit. God forbid that I should ever say so. Holiness can do none of these things. The brightest saints are all “unprofitable servants.” Our purest works are not better than filthy rags when tried by the light of God’s holy law. The white robe, which Jesus offers and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness, the name of Christ our only confidence, the Lamb’s book of life our only title to heaven. With all our holiness we are no better than sinners. Our best things are stained and tainted with imperfection. They are all more or less incomplete, wrong in the motive or defective in the performance. By the deeds of the law shall no child of Adam ever be justified. “By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9).

Why then is holiness so important? Why does the apostle say, “Without it no man shall see the Lord”? Let me set out in order a few reasons.

a. For one thing, we must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it. The Lord Jesus says to His people, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). “Be you . . . perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Paul tells the Thessalonians, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). And Peter says, “As He which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, ‘Be you holy, for I am holy’”(1 Pet. 1:15, 16). “In this,” says Leighton, “law and gospel agree.”

b. We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15); and to the Ephesians, “Christ . . . loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it” (Eph. 5:25, 26); and to Titus, “[He] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). In short, to talk of men being saved from the guilt of sin, without being at the same time saved from its dominion in their hearts, is to contradict the witness of all Scripture. Are believers said to be elect? It is “through sanctification of the Spirit.” Are they predestinated? It is “to be conformed to the image of God’s Son.” Are they chosen? It is “that they may be holy.” Are they called? It is “with a holy calling.” Are they afflicted? It is that they may be “partakers of holiness.” Jesus is a complete Savior. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin; He does more—He breaks its power (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 12:10).

c. We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The twelfth Article of our church says truly, that “Although good works cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by its fruits.” James warns us there is such a thing as a dead faith, a faith which goes no further than the profession of the lips and has no influence on a man’s character (James 2:17). True saving faith is a very different kind of thing. True faith will always show itself by its fruits; it will sanctify, it will work by love, it will overcome the world, it will purify the heart. I know that people are fond of talking about deathbed evidences. They will rest on words spoken in the hours of fear and pain and weakness, as if they might take comfort in them about the friends they lose. But I am afraid in ninety–nine cases out of a hundred, such evidences are not to be depended on. I suspect that, with rare exceptions, men die just as they have lived. The only safe evidence that we are one with Christ, and Christ in us, is holy life. Those who live unto the Lord are generally the only people who die in the Lord. If we would die the death of the righteous, let us not rest in slothful desires only; let us seek to live His life. It is a true saying of Traill’s: “That man’s state is nothing, and his faith unsound, that finds not his hopes of glory purifying to his heart and life.”

d. We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. This is a point on which He has spoken most plainly, in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of John: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me.” “If a man love Me he will keep My words.” “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:14). Plainer words than these it would be difficult to find, and woe to those who neglect them! Surely that man must be in an unhealthy state of soul who can think of all that Jesus suffered, and yet cling to those sins for which that suffering was undergone. It was sin that wove the crown of thorns; it was sin that pierced our Lord’s hands and feet and side; it was sin that brought Him to Gethsemane and Calvary, to the cross and to the grave. Cold must our hearts be if we do not hate sin and labor to get rid of it, though we may have to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye in doing it.

e. We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God. Children in this world are generally like their parents. Some, doubtless, are more so and some less; but it is seldom indeed that you cannot trace a kind of family likeness. And it is much the same with the children of God. The Lord Jesus says, “If you were Abraham’s children you would do the works of Abraham.” “If God were your Father, you would love Me” (John 8:39, 42). If men have no likeness to the Father in heaven, it is vain to talk of their being His “sons.” If we know nothing of holiness, we may flatter ourselves as we please; but we have not got the Holy Spirit dwelling in us; we are dead and must be brought to life again; we are lost and must be found. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they,” and they only, “are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). We must show by our lives the family we belong to. We must let men see by our good conversation that we are indeed the children of the Holy One, or our sonship is but an empty name. “Say not,” says Gurnall, “that you have royal blood in your veins, and are born of God, except you can prove your pedigree by daring to be holy.”

f. We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others. We cannot live to ourselves only in this world. Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them. They are a silent sermon which all can read. It is sad indeed when they are a sermon for the devil’s cause, and not for God’s. I believe that far more is done for Christ’s kingdom by the holy living of believers than we are at all aware of. There is a reality about such living which makes men feel and obliges them to think. It carries a weight and influence with it which nothing else can give. It makes religion beautiful and draws men to consider it, like a lighthouse seen afar off. The day of judgment will prove that many besides husbands have been won “without the Word” by a holy life (1 Pet. 3:1). You may talk to persons about the doctrines of the gospel, and few will listen, and still fewer understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape. There is a meaning about holiness which not even the most unlearned can help taking in. They may not understand justification, but they can understand charity.

I believe there is far more harm done by unholy and inconsistent Christians than we are at all aware of. Such men are among Satan’s best allies. They pull down by their lives what ministers build with their lips. They cause the chariot wheels of the gospel to drive heavily. They supply the children of this world with a never–ending excuse for remaining as they are. “I cannot see the use of so much religion,” said an irreligious tradesman not long ago; “I observe that some of my customers are always talking about the gospel and faith and election and the blessed promises and so forth, and yet these very people think nothing of cheating me of pence and halfpence when they have an opportunity. Now, if religious persons can do such things, I do not see what good there is in religion.” I grieve to be obliged to write such things, but I fear that Christ’s name is too often blasphemed because of the lives of Christians. Let us take heed lest the blood of souls should be required at our hands. From murder of souls by inconsistency and loose walking, good Lord, deliver us! Oh, for the sake of others, if for no other reason, let us strive to be holy!

g. We must be holy, because our present comfort depends much upon it. We are sadly apt to forget that there is a close connection between sin and sorrow, holiness and happiness, sanctification and consolation. God has so wisely ordered it, that our well–being and our well–doing are linked together. He has mercifully provided that even in this world it shall be man’s interest to be holy. Our justification is not by works, our calling and election are not according to our works; but it is vain for anyone to suppose that he will have a lively sense of his justification, or an assurance of his calling, so long as he neglects good works or does not strive to live a holy life. “Hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His commandments.” “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts” (1 John 2:3; 3:19). A believer may as soon expect to feel the sun’s rays upon a dark and cloudy day, as to feel strong consolation in Christ while he does not follow Him fully. When the disciples forsook the Lord and fled, they escaped danger; but they were miserable and sad. When, shortly after, they confessed Him boldly before men, they were cast into prison and beaten; but we are told, “They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Oh, for our own sakes, if there were no other reason, let us strive to be holy! He who follows Jesus most fully will always follow Him most comfortably.

h. Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we will never be prepared to enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of heaven is a holy Being. The angels are holy creatures. Holiness is written on everything in heaven. The book of Revelation says expressly, “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie” (Rev. 21:27).

How will we ever be at home and happy in heaven if we die unholy? Death works no change. The grave makes no alteration. Each will rise again with the same character in which he breathed his last. Where will our place be if we are strangers to holiness now?

Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself, and by whose side would you sit down? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy if you had not been holy on earth?

Now perhaps you love the company of the light and the careless, the worldly–minded and the covetous, the reveler and the pleasure–seeker, the ungodly and the profane. There will be none such in heaven.

Now perhaps you think the saints of God too strict and particular and serious. You rather avoid them. You have no delight in their society. There will be no other company in heaven.

Now perhaps you think praying and Scripture reading and hymn singing dull and melancholy and stupid work, a thing to be tolerated now and then, but not enjoyed. You reckon the Sabbath a burden and a weariness; you could not possibly spend more than a small part of it in worshiping God. But remember, heaven is a never–ending Sabbath. The inhabitants thereof rest not day or night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” and singing the praise of the Lamb. How could an unholy man find pleasure in occupation such as this?

Do you think that such a one would delight to meet David and Paul and John, after a life spent in doing the very things they spoke against? Would he take sweet counsel with them and find that he and they had much in common? Do you think, above all, that he would rejoice to meet Jesus, the crucified One, face to face, after cleaving to the sins for which He died, after loving His enemies and despising His friends? Would he stand before Him with confidence and join in the cry, “This is our God . . . we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isa. 25:9)? Do you not think rather that the tongue of an unholy man would cleave to the roof of his mouth with shame, and his only desire would be to be cast out? He would feel a stranger in a land he did not know, a black sheep amid Christ’s holy flock. The voice of cherubim and seraphim, the song of angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven would be a language he could not understand. The very air would seem an air he could not breathe.

I do not know what others may think, but to me it does seem clear that heaven would be a miserable place to an unholy man. It cannot be otherwise. People may say in a vague way they “hope to go to heaven,” but they do not consider what they say. There must be a certain “fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light.” Our hearts must be somewhat in tune. To reach the holiday of glory, we must pass through the training school of grace. We must be heavenly–minded and have heavenly tastes in the life that now is, or else we will never find ourselves in heaven in the life to come.

And now, before I go any further, let me say a few words by way of application.

1. The most pertinent question to ask is this: “Are you holy?” Listen, I pray you, to the question I put to you this day. Do you know anything of the holiness of which I have been speaking?

I do not ask whether you attend your church regularly, whether you have been baptized and received the Lord’s Supper, whether you have the name of Christian. I ask something more than all this: are you holy, or are you not?

I do not ask whether you approve of holiness in others, whether you like to read the lives of holy people and to talk of holy things and to have on your table holy books, whether you mean to be holy and hope you will be holy some day. I ask something further: are you yourself holy this very day, or are you not?

And why do I ask so straitly and press the question so strongly? I do it because the Scripture says, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” It is written, it is not my fancy; it is the Bible, not my private opinion; it is the word of God, not of man: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Alas, what searching, sifting words are these! What thoughts come across my mind as I write them down! I look at the world and see the greater part of it lying in wickedness. I look at professing Christians and see the vast majority having nothing of Christianity but the name. I turn to the Bible, and I hear the Spirit saying, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

Surely it is a text that ought to make us consider our ways and search our hearts. Surely it should raise within us solemn thoughts and send us to prayer.

You may try to put me off by saying you feel much and think much about these things: far more than many suppose. I answer, “This is not the point. The poor lost souls in hell do as much as this. The great question is not what you think, and what you feel, but what you do.”

You may say, it was never meant that all Christians should be holy and that holiness, such as I have described, is only for great saints and people of uncommon gifts. I answer, “I cannot see that in Scripture. I read that every man who has hope in Christ purifies himself” (1 John 3:3). “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

You may say, it is impossible to be so holy and to do our duty in this life at the same time: the thing cannot be done. I answer, “You are mistaken.” It can be done. With Christ on your side, nothing is impossible. It has been done by many. David and Obadiah and Daniel and the servants of Nero’s household are all examples that go to prove it.

You may say, if you were so holy you would be unlike other people. I answer, “I know it well. It is just what you ought to be. Christ’s true servants always were unlike the world around them—a separate nation, a peculiar people, and you must be so too, if you would be saved!”

You may say, at this rate very few will be saved. I answer, “I know it. It is precisely what we are told in the sermon on the mount.” The Lord Jesus said so eighteen hundred years ago. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14). Few will be saved because few will take the trouble to seek salvation. Men will not deny themselves the pleasures of sin and their own way for a little season. They turn their backs on an “inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away.” “You will not come to Me,” says Jesus, “that you might have life” (John 5:40).

You may say, these are hard sayings; the way is very narrow. I answer, “I know it. So says the sermon on the mount.” The Lord Jesus said so eighteen hundred years ago. He always said that men must take up the cross daily and that they must be ready to cut off hand or foot, if they would be His disciples. It is in religion as it is in other things, there are no gains without pains. That which costs nothing is worth nothing.

Whatever we may think fit to say, we must be holy if we would see the Lord. Where is our Christianity if we are not? We must not merely have a Christian name and Christian knowledge; we must have a Christian character also. We must be saints on earth if ever we mean to be saints in heaven. God has said it, and He will not go back: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” “The pope’s calendar,” says Jenkyn, “only makes saints of the dead, but Scripture requires sanctity in the living.” “Let not men deceive themselves,” says Owen, “sanctification is a qualification indispensably necessary unto those who will be under the conduct of the Lord Christ unto salvation. He leads none to heaven but whom He sanctifies on the earth. This living Head will not admit of dead members.”

Surely we need not wonder that Scripture says, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). Surely it is clear as noonday that many professing Christians need a complete change, new hearts, new natures, if ever they are to be saved. Old things must pass away; they must become new creatures. “Without holiness no man,” be he who he may, “no man shall see the Lord.”

2. Let me speak a little to believers. I ask you this question, “Do you think you feel the importance of holiness as much as you should?”

I admit I fear the temper of the times about this subject. I doubt exceedingly whether it holds that place which it deserves in the thoughts and attention of some of the Lord’s people. I would humbly suggest that we are apt to overlook the doctrine of growth in grace and that we do not sufficiently consider how very far a person may go in a profession of religion, and yet have no grace and be dead in God’s sight after all. I believe that Judas Iscariot seemed very like the other apostles. When the Lord warned them that one would betray Him, no one said, “Is it Judas?” We had better think more about the churches of Sardis and Laodicea than we do.

I have no desire to make an idol of holiness. I do not wish to dethrone Christ and put holiness in His place. But I must candidly say I wish sanctification was more thought of in this day than it seems to be, and I therefore take occasion to press the subject on all believers into whose hands these pages may fall. I fear it is sometimes forgotten that God has married together justification and sanctification. They are distinct and different things, beyond question; but one is never found without the other. All justified people are sanctified, and all sanctified are justified. What God has joined together let no man dare to put asunder. Tell me not of your justification unless you have also some marks of sanctification. Boast not of Christ’s work for you unless you can show us the Spirit’s work in you. Do not think that Christ and the Spirit can ever be divided. I do not doubt that many believers know these things, but I think it good for us to be put in remembrance of them. Let us prove that we know them by our lives. Let us try to keep in view this text more continually: “Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

I must frankly say that the overly–sensitive approach many people take towards the subject of holiness is a dangerous error. Some would think it more dangerous to approach the subject, yet the opposite is the case! Yet if we exalt Christ as the “way, the truth and the life,” how can we refuse to speak strongly about those who call themselves after His name?

I would say it with all reverence, but say it I must: I sometimes fear if Christ were on earth now, there are not a few who would think His preaching legal; and if Paul were writing his Epistles, there are those who would think he had better not write the latter part of most of them as he did. But let us remember that the Lord Jesus did speak the sermon on the mount and that the Epistle to the Ephesians contains six chapters and not four. I grieve to feel obliged to speak in this way, but I am sure there is a cause.

That great divine, John Owen, the Dean of Christ Church, used to say, more than two hundred years ago, that there were people whose whole religion seemed to consist in going about complaining of their own corruptions and telling everyone that they could do nothing of themselves. I am afraid that after two centuries the same thing might be said with truth of some of Christ’s professing people in this day. I know there are texts in Scripture which warrant such complaints. I do not object to them when they come from men who walk in the steps of the apostle Paul and fight a good fight, as he did, against sin, the devil and the world. But I never like such complaints when I see ground for suspecting, as I often do, that they are only a cloak to cover spiritual laziness and an excuse for spiritual sloth. If we say with Paul, “O wretched man that I am,” let us also be able to say with him, “I press toward the mark.” Let us not quote his example in one thing, while we do not follow him in another (Rom. 7:24; Phil. 3:14).

I do not set up myself to be better than other people; and if anyone asks, “What are you, that you write in this way?” I answer, “I am a very poor creature indeed.” But I say that I cannot read the Bible without desiring to see many believers more spiritual, more holy, more single–eyed, more heavenly–minded, more whole–hearted than they are in the nineteenth century. I want to see among believers more of a pilgrim spirit, a more decided separation from the world, a conversation more evidently in heaven, a closer walk with God; and therefore I have written as I have.

Is it not true that we need a higher standard of personal holiness in this day? Where is our patience? Where is our zeal? Where is our love? Where are our works? Where is the power of religion to be seen, as it was in times gone by? Where is that unmistakable tone which used to distinguish the saints of old and shake the world? Truly our silver has become dross, our wine mixed with water, and our salt has very little savor. We are all more than half asleep. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Let us awake and sleep no more. Let us open our eyes more widely than we have done up to this time. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us.” “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God” (Heb. 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:1). “Did Christ die,” says Owen, “and shall sin live? Was He crucified in the world, and shall our affections to the world be quick and lively? Oh, where is the spirit of him, who by the cross of Christ was crucified to the world, and the world to him?”

3. A word of advice

Would you be holy? Would you become a new creature? Then you must begin with Christ. You will do just nothing at all and make no progress until you feel your sin and weakness and flee to Him. He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him. Christ is not wisdom and righteousness only to His people, but sanctification also. Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all, and sad work they make of it. They toil and labor and turn over many new leaves and make many changes; and yet, like the woman with the issue of blood, before she came to Christ, they feel “nothing bettered, but rather worse” (Mark 5:26). They run in vain and labor in vain, and little wonder; for they are beginning at the wrong end. They are building up a wall of sand; their work runs down as fast as they throw it up. They are baling water out of a leaky vessel; the leak gains on them, not they on the leak. Other foundation of holiness can no man lay than that which Paul laid, even Christ Jesus. Without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). It is a strong but true saying of Traill’s: “Wisdom out of Christ is damning folly; righteousness out of Christ is guilt and condemnation; sanctification out of Christ is filth and sin; redemption out of Christ is bondage and slavery.”

Do you want to attain holiness? Do you feel this day a real hearty desire to be holy? Would you be a partaker of the divine nature? Then go to Christ. Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Linger not. Do not think to make yourself ready. Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn,

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Your cross I cling;
Naked, flee to You for dress;
Helpless, look to You for grace.”

There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification until we go to Christ. Holiness is His special gift to His believing people. Holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts by the Spirit whom He puts within them. He is appointed a “Prince and a Savior . . . to give repentance” as well as remission of sins. To as many as receive Him, He gives power to become sons of God (Acts 5:31; John 9:12, 13). Holiness comes not of blood: parents cannot give it to their children; nor yet of the will of the flesh: man cannot produce it in himself; nor yet of the will of man: ministers cannot give it to you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him. It is the fruit of being a living branch of the true Vine. Go then to Christ and say, “Lord, not only save me from the guilt of sin, but send the Spirit, whom You did promise, and save me from its power. Make me holy. Teach me to do Your will.”

Would you continue holy? Then abide in Christ. (John 15:4, 5). It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, a full supply for all a believer’s wants. He is the Physician to whom you must daily go if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must daily eat and the Rock of which you must daily drink. His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean as you come up out of the wilderness of this world. You must not only be rooted, you must also be built up in Him. Paul was a man of God indeed, a holy man, a growing thriving Christian, and what was the secret of it all? He was one to whom Christ was all in all. He was ever looking unto Jesus. “I can do all things,” he says, “through Christ which strengthens me.” “I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Let us go and do likewise (Heb. 12:2; Phil. 4:13; Gal. 2:20).

May all who read these pages know these things by experience and not by hearsay only! May we all feel the importance of holiness far more than we have ever done yet! May our years be holy years with our souls, and then they will be happy ones! Whether we live, may we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, may we die unto the Lord; or, if He comes for us, may we be found in peace, without spot, and blameless!

-Scott Bailey 2008

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