The Necessity, Excellency, Rarity, and Beauty of Holiness
Thomas Brooks, 1662
And so I come now to the last use of this doctrine, and
that is for comfort and consolation to
all those who have this genuine holiness, without which there is no
happiness. O sirs! open wide the everlasting doors of your souls, that not
a river—but a sea of joy and comfort may flow in upon you.
[1.] First, Know for your comfort—that genuine holiness is the seal of your eternal election.Some are elected to glorious offices in this world, others are elected to eternal glory in the heavenly world. Judas was chosen to be an apostle on earth—but not to be a saint in heaven, John 6:70; but the Thessalonians were elected to eternal glory in heaven, though they were not chosen to any glorious offices here on earth, 1 Thes. 1:4. It may be you are a poor creature, who never was, nor ever are likely to be, elected to any noble or honorable employments, either in church or state.
Oh, but if you are a holy person, then know for your everlasting comfort, that your genuine holiness is a genuine seal of your eternal election. It is the counterpart as it were, of all that gracious love, grace, and eternal favor which God bears unto you: Eph. 1:4, "He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world—that we should be holy." God did not choose us either because we were holy, or because he foresaw that in time we would be holy—but he chose us to that very end that we should be holy. Look! as Esther was first chosen out among the virgins, Esther 1, and then purified and decked with rich and royal ornaments and garments, before she was brought into the presence of the king: so God first chooses poor sinners, and then he purifies them, and adorns them with the rich and glorious garments of grace and holiness, Psalm 45:13, so that they may be fit to enter into his royal presence!
1 Thes. 1:4, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." Verse 5, "For our gospel came not unto you in word only; but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit." Verse 9, "And how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." When the gospel comes in power and in the Holy Spirit, and turns people from idols to serve the living God—it is a clear and evident sign of their election. Genuine sanctification is a sure evidence, a fair copy of a man's election. Look! as the original is known by the picture, and the cause by the effect—just so, election is known by genuine sanctification.
A Christian need never put himself to the charge of
making a ladder to climb up to heaven, to search the records of glory, to
see whether his name is written in the book of life, in the book of
election or not. Rather, he should make a strict and diligent inquiry
whether he is really and thoroughly sanctified or not; for where there is
genuine sanctification, there the glorious image of God's election is in
the golden characters stamped upon the soul. A man may have his name set
down in the chronicles—yet lost; engraved in durable marble—yet perish;
set upon a monument equal to a Colossus—yet be ignominious; inscribed on
the hospital gates—yet go to hell; written in the front of his own
house—yet another come to possess it. All these are but writings in the
dust, or upon the waters—where the characters perish as soon as
they are made; they no more prove a man eternally happy, than the fool
could prove Pontius Pilate eternally happy because his name was written in
the Apostles creed. But in genuine sanctification, a man may see
his name so clearly written in the book of God's election, as that it
shall remain legible to all eternity. But,
[2.] Secondly, If you are a holy person, if you have that genuine holiness, without which there is no eternal happiness, then know for your comfort—that the Lord takes singular pleasure, delight, and delight, both in your holiness and in your person.Psalm 149:4-5, "For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the faithful rejoice in this honor. Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds." The Hebrew word signifies pleasure, delight, enjoyment, contentment, etc. Oh! God takes singular pleasure, singular delight, singular enjoyment, and singular contentment in all his saints, in all his sanctified ones! Holiness is the express image of God, and therefore he cannot but take pleasure in it, and in all those who bear it!
Zeph. 3:13, "The people of Israel who survive will do no wrong to each other, never telling lies or deceiving one another. They will live peaceful lives, lying down to sleep in safety; there will be no one to make them afraid." Well! here are glorious characters of their holiness; but what pleasure, what delight, etc., does God take in these holy ones? Why, certainly very much, as you may see in verse 17, "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing!" Look! as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, Isaiah 62:4-5—just so, will the Lord rejoice over his holy ones! Look, that delight, enjoyment, and contentment which the bridegroom takes in his bride—the same, yes, greater, God takes in all his sanctified ones. Yes, look, as a fond father joys over his dear child that he carries in his arms, or dandles upon his knee with singing: so God will joy over all his holy ones, which are his fondlings, with singing; such is the singular delight, satisfaction, and enjoyment which he takes in them.
Look! as the farmer delights much in that ground which was once barren—but is now fruitful; and as the captain takes a great deal of pleasure in that soldier who once deserted—but is now returned, and fights valiantly and resolutely against all opposers and adversaries; and as the father takes a great deal of joy, contentment, and satisfaction in the return, reformation, and amendment of his prodigal son, Luke 15—even so, a holy God is wonderfully delighted, pleased, enamored, and even overjoyed, when such as brought forth nothing but the thorns and briers of wickedness, Heb. 6:7-8—does now bring forth the pleasant fruits of righteousness and holiness, Heb. 2:10; and when such as have run from Christ the captain of their salvation, and run from their profession, and run from their principles, and run almost from everything that is good—shall now return to the captain of their salvation, and fight it out most valiantly and resolutely against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and when such as have proved prodigals, and spent all that portion, all that stock, and all that treasure that they have been entrusted with—shall now break off their sins, and humble themselves, and reform their lives, and mend their ways! God is so infinitely pleased and delighted in these, that he records their names in heaven: "However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven!" Luke 10:20. It is matter of the greatest joy in the world, for a man to have his name enrolled in heaven. Look! as it is the sinner's hell that his name is engraved in the book of damnation—just so, it is the believer's heaven that his name is engraved in the book of election. "And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire!" Revelation 20:15.
I have read of a senator who, relating to his son the great honors that were assigned to some soldiers whose names were written in a certain book, whereupon the son was very importunate to see that book. His father shows him the outside, and he earnestly desired him to open it. "No," says the father, "by no means, for it is sealed by the council." Then says the son, "Please tell me if my name is written there!" His father replies, "No! because all the names of those soldiers were kept secret in the breasts of the senators." The son, studying how he might get some satisfaction, desired his father to acquaint him with the merits of those soldiers whose names were written in that book. The father relates to him their noble achievements, and worthy acts of valor, wherewith they had eternalized their names. "Such honorable people are written in this book," said he, "and none but such must be written in this book." Whereupon the son, consulting with his own heart that he had no such trophies to show—but had spent his time in courting of ladies, rather than in encountering of knights, and that he was better adapted for a dance than for a march, and that he knew no war drum—but only the violin, nor had he any courage—but to be drunk and rant. Hereupon he presently retired himself, repented, entered into a combat with his own lusts, and subdued them, and became temperate, brave, valiant, and virtuous. Now, when the soldiers came to receive their wreaths, their crowns, their honors, etc., he steps in and demands a wreath, a crown for himself. But being asked upon what grounds his demand was grounded, he answered, "If honors be given to conquerors, then they must be given to me too, for I have gotten the noblest conquest of all." And it being asked to explain, he answered, "These other soldiers have subdued strange foes, and conquered their outward enemies—but I have subdued myself, I have conquered the enemies which were in my own bosom!"
O sirs, there are no men's names written in the book of life but theirs who by grace and holiness have subdued and brought under their sinful selves, and who have conquered the corruptions which are in their own bosoms, that is, in respect of their dominion. There are many who are exceeding inquisitive to know whether their names are written in heaven or not. I would say to such, there is no such way to know this—as by your holiness. Have you broken off your sins by sound repentance? Has the gospel changed your inside and your outside? Has it made you a new creature, and turned you from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to Jesus Christ? etc. Then, without all question, your name is written in heaven, and you are the person who has the greatest cause in the world to rejoice! [Phil. 4:3; Heb. 11:38.]
Again, the holy Christian is the best man in the world, nay, he is such a one "of whom this world is not worthy," and therefore God cannot but take singular pleasure and delight in him. Many there are, who are accounted deep scholars, great linguists, profound philosophers, good grammarians, excellent mathematicians, sharp logicians, cunning politicians, fine rhetoricians, sweet musicians, etc.. But the truth is, he is the best grammarian, who has learned to speak the truth from his heart; and he is the best astronomer, who has his thoughts in heaven; and he is the best musician, who has learned practically to sing out the praises of God; and he is the best arithmetician, who knows how to number his days; and he is the best philosopher, who every day grows holier and holier; and he is the best skilled in economics, who trains up his family in the fear of the Lord; and he is the best politician, who is as good at taking and giving Scriptural counsel; and he is the best linguist, who speaks the language of Canaan; and therefore God cannot but take the greatest contentment and satisfaction in such.
Again, the holy Christian is the only man for whom God has wrought the greatest miracles. He can tell you that he was blind—but now God has given him eyes to see sin to be the greatest evil, and Christ to be the choicest good. He can tell you that once he was so deaf—that though God called very often and very loud upon him, by his word and by his works, by his rods at home and by his judgments abroad, and by his Spirit and conscience that were still a-preaching in his bosom—sometimes life, sometimes death, sometimes heaven, and sometimes hell—yet he could not hear! But now God has given him a hearing ear, so that now he can with delight hear the sweet music of the promises on the one hand; and with a holy trembling listen to the voice of divine threatenings on the other hand. He can tell you that once he was so dumb—that if he might have had the whole world, he could not have spoke a good word for God, nor for his ways, nor for his people, nor for his ordinances, nor for any of his concernments in the world. Oh! but now his tongue is as the pen of a ready writer, Psalm 45:1, and he is never better than when he is a-speaking either of God, or for God and his concerns. Now he can contend for the faith, and speak for saints, and plead for ordinances; and though in some cases he may lack power to act for God—yet he never lacks a tongue to speak for God. The spouse's lips drop honeycombs, in Canticles 4:11; "And the tongue of the just is as choice silver," in that Proverbs 10:20. Yes, his tongue is a tree of life, whose leaves are medicinal, in that Proverbs 12:18. He can tell you that once he was so lame—that he was not able to move one foot heavenwards or Christ-wards, or holiness-wards, etc. But now his feet delight, not only to go—but to run in all the ways of God's commands, Psalm 119:32. Yes, he can tell you that once he was dead—as to all his soul-concerns—but now he is alive, and the life that he leads in the flesh, is by faith in the Son of God, who has loved him and given himself for him, Gal. 2:20.
It was by a miracle that the river Jordan was driven back; and it is no less a miracle to see a sinner that was accustomed to do evil, habituated now to do good. That the tide of sin, which before did run so strong, should be so easily turned, that the sinner who, a little before was sailing hellward, and lacked neither wind nor tide to carry him there—should now suddenly alter his course, and tack about for heaven—what a miracle is this! To see the earthly man become heavenly, a carnal man become spiritual, a loose man become precise, a proud man become humble, a covetous man become liberal, and a harsh man become meek, etc., is to behold no less than miracles. To see a vile sinner, begin to live cross and contrary to himself in the ways of Christ and holiness, should be as astonishing in our eyes—as to see the sun go backward—or the dead to raise themselves! Now how can God but take infinite delight and pleasure in his holy ones, considering the many miracles that he has wrought both in them and for them?
Again, there are no people under heaven, who take any real pleasure, delight, contentment and satisfaction in God—but those who are genuinely holy. "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Isaiah 61:10
The covetous man takes pleasure and delight in his money-bags. The ambitious man takes pleasure and delight in his honors. The voluptuous man takes pleasure and delight in his lusts. The malicious man takes pleasure and delight in his revenge. The envious man takes pleasure and delight in the harms which befall others. The drunkard takes pleasure and delight in his cups. The adulterer takes pleasure and delight in his harlots. The gamester takes pleasure and delight in his shifts and tricks. The worldling takes pleasure and delight in his fopperies and fooleries. It is only the holy man who takes pleasure and delight in God. To delight and take pleasure in God, is a work too high, too hard, too spiritual, and too noble--for any but holy people! [Job 22:25-26; Cant. 2:3, and 7:6; Pa. 33:2, and 48:11; Isaiah 41:16; Joel 2:23; Hab. 3:18; Zech. 10:7.] To delight and take pleasure in God, is a work too high, too hard, too spiritual, and too noble—for any but holy people. There are none headed, nor hearted, nor spirited, nor anointed, nor principled, for taking pleasure in God—but holy ones.
Abraham did not take more pleasure in his Isaac, nor did Jacob take more delight in his Joseph, nor did David take more satisfaction in his Absalom, nor did Jonah take more contentment in his gourd—than a holy man—when he is himself—takes pleasure, delight, satisfaction, and contentment in God; and therefore how can God but take pleasure and delight in him? Shall the child take delight in the father, and shall not the father delight again in the child? and shall the wife take pleasure and satisfaction in the husband, and shall not the husband take pleasure and satisfaction again in her?
Look! as God hates those who hate him—just so, he takes
pleasure in those who take pleasure in him. Now what a singular cordial
and comfort is this to all God's holy ones, that God takes singular
pleasure, delight, satisfaction, and contentment in them! What though the
world hates you, and scorns you, and despises you, and prefers every
Barabbas and Judas before you—yet cheer up your spirits with this cordial,
and warm your hearts at this fire—that God takes singular pleasure and
delight in you! What does the child care—though others slight him—so long
as his father at home delights in him? What does the wife care—though
others despise her—as long as her husband at home honors her, and takes
pleasure in her him? What does the innocent person care—though the
malefactor at the bar rails upon him—as long as the judge upon the bench
acquits him him? What should a Christian care—though all the world should
abhor him—as long as the Lord takes singular pleasure and delight in him?
[3.] Thirdly, if you are a holy person, if you have that genuine holiness, without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that your genuine holiness is a substantial evidence of your genuine union with Christ.All true holiness is the immediate fruit of our genuine union with Christ. [John 17:20-21, and 15:5; Eph. 4:16; 1 Pet. 2:4-6; Eph. 5:25, to the end.] Upon our union with Christ, Christ is made not only wisdom, righteousness, and redemption—but he is also made sanctification to us, 1 Cor. 1:30. Christ and a holy person are one, as father and son are one, and they are one, as the vine and the branches are one, and they are one, as head and members are one; and they are one, as the foundation and the building are one; and they are one as husband and wife are one, and that which speaks out their oneness, their union, is their holiness. He who is in Christ is a new creature, 2 Cor. 5:17. He who is ingrafted into Christ, he who is initiated into Christ, he who is united unto Christ, he is a new creature; he has a new head, a new heart, a new lip, a new life, a new spirit, new principles, and new ends; he can truly say with that convert, "I am not the man that I was! I was a lion, holiness has made me a lamb! I was a wolf, holiness has made me a sheep! I was a raven, holiness has made me a dove!" etc. And what does all this speak out but a man's being in Christ—but a man's union with Christ? Renovation speaks out union, and union speaks out renovation. Renewing by Christ speaks out the soul's in-being in Christ, and the soul's in-being in Christ speaks out the soul's renewing by Christ. Look! as there could be no depravation but from our union with the first Adam—just so, there can be no renovation but through our union with the second Adam, Col. 3:10. But,
[4.] Fourthly, If you are a holy person, if you have that genuine holiness, without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that God will certainly bless all your blessings to you, and he will bless every estate and condition to you.Psalm 34:12-14. Most men have many blessings—but it is only the holy man who has his blessings blessed unto him: Gen. 22:17, "In blessing I will bless you," says God to holy Abraham, that is, I will bless your blessings to you. The holy person is in covenant with a holy God, and therefore all the blessings of the covenant are his. All those who partake of the holiness of the covenant, they shall certainly partake of the blessings of the covenant. [Psalm 50:5, and 105:42; Ezek. 36:25-26; Zech. 3:3-4; Psalm 84:11; Proverbs 12:21, etc.] Now this is one of the blessings of the covenant, that all our blessings shall be blessed unto us.
O Christian! all your right hand blessings shall be blessed unto you, and all your left hand blessings shall be blessed unto you; all the blessings of the upper springs shall be blessed unto you, and all the blessings of the lower springs shall be blessed unto you; and all the blessings of the throne shall be blessed unto you, and all the blessings of the footstool shall be blessed unto you. [A little, blessed by God, is better than a world enjoyed. If you are a holy man, the God of all mercies—and all the mercies of God, the God of all comforts—and all the comforts of God, are yours, and what would you have more?]
And as all your blessings shall be blessed unto you—just so, every estate and every condition shall be blessed unto you; you shall be blessed in health—and blessed in sickness; blessed in strength—and blessed in weakness; blessed in wealth—and blessed in want; blessed in honor—and blessed in dishonor; blessed in life—and blessed in death; you shall be blessed at home—and blessed abroad; blessed at board—and blessed at bed; blessed lying down—and blessed rising up; blessed in liberty—and blessed in bonds.
Look! as all the blessings of a wicked man are
cursed unto him; and as all the relations of a wicked man are
cursed unto him, and as all estates and conditions which are
incident to a wicked man are cursed unto him—just so, all the blessings
of a holy man are blessed unto him, and all the relations of a
holy man are blessed unto him, and all estates and conditions which
are incident to a holy man are blessed unto him. [Proverbs 3:33; Mal.
2:1-3; Lev. 26; Deut. 28.] Isaac tills the ground, and sows his seed, and
God blesses him with a hundredfold, Gen. 26:12; and Cain tills the ground,
and sows his seed—but the earth is cursed to him, and commanded not to
yield to him her strength, Gen. 4:12. But,
[5.] Fifthly, If you are a holy person, if you are one who has that genuine holiness, without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that your holiness is a glorious witness and evidence of your effectual calling.1 Pet. 1:15, "But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy." Many are externally called who are not internally called; and many are ineffectually called who are not effectually called, 1 Pet. 2:9. But now, genuine holiness—that speaks out an internal call, an effectual call—a call out of darkness into marvelous light; it speaks out such a call as makes sinners saints, slaves sons, enemies friends, and strangers favorites. As Joseph, a stranger, was called out of a prison, a dungeon, and made a very great favorite in Pharaoh's court, Gen. 41—just so, genuine holiness is a glorious witness and evidence that you are effectually called out of the prison of sin, and the dungeon of wrath, and made a favorite to the King of glory! 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 5:10; Gal. 4:6.
The author of this call is a holy God. Our holy calling depends upon the purpose of God, the power of God, and the grace and good pleasure of God. The means of our holy calling are the Spirit of God and the word of God. The ends of our calling are holiness and the glory of God. O sirs, you are not called upon the account of your parents' faith or nobility, nor upon the account of any intrinsic virtues in you, nor upon the account of any extrinsic services done by you—but upon the account of God's peculiar election and particular calling; and therefore by holiness make good the honor of your high calling.
And if any should object against you—the baseness of
your birth and poor outward state, put them in mind of your high and holy
calling, and ask them what they think of Lazarus, who is now asleep in
Abraham's bosom. And if others should object against you your former
wickedness, and cast your sins as dirt and dung in your faces, let them
know that Paul can tell them from heaven, that though once he was a
wretched blasphemer, and a bloody persecutor, that yet now he is a
glorious saint in heaven. But,
[6.] Sixthly, If you are a holy person, if you are one who has this genuine holiness, without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that your holiness is a blessed evidence of your adoption and sonship.John 1:12; Romans 8:17. If you are a holy person, then from a child of wrath—you have become a child of God, a child of love; and from an heir of hell—you have become an heir of heaven; and from a slave of Satan—you have become a son of God. Gal. 4:4-5, 7, "But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons, therefore you are no more a servant—but a son." Romans 8:14, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God." The leadings of the Spirit are all holy leadings, and there are none who are the sons of God but such as are under the holy leadings of the Spirit of God: Phil. 2:15, "That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." There are none worthy of this title of honor—namely, the sons of God—but such who in the main of their lives and conversations are blameless and harmless, without rebuke, and who are as shining lights in the world.
There are two ways whereby we may know fire to be real fire, and that differences real fire from painted fire, or from imaginary fire; the first is by the heat of it, and the other is by the flame of it. Now, though sometimes it so happens, that the fire does not flame—yet at that very time you may know it to be real fire by the heat it gives. Just so, there are two ways of knowing our adoption; the first is by the spirit of adoption, crying "Abba! Father! in our hearts," Gal. 4:6; and the other is by our sanctification and holiness, Romans 8:16. Now, though sometimes it may so fall out that the flame, the witness of the spirit of adoption, may be lacking—yet the heat of sanctification and holiness remains, and we may have recourse to this fire, and warm our hearts at it, and sit down satisfied and assured of our adoption. For as fire may be known to be fire by its heat, though it lack a flame—just so, though the spirit of adoption do not witness our adoption to us—yet we may know our adoption by our genuine sanctification and holiness.
Every holy person is a high-born person, for as his divine birth—just so, his divine adoption is high, very high, exceeding high, yes even as high as heaven itself, John 3:5, 8, and 1:12-13. It is a very high honor to be the son of a king, yes to be the son-in-law of a king, for so David reckoned it: 1 Sam. 18:23-24, "Is it a light thing to you to be a king's son-in-law, seeing that I am vile and lightly esteemed?" Oh then what an honor it is to be the son of God, to be the son of the King of kings, and Lord of lords! Rev. 1:6. It is a very high honor to be God's servant, and so David accounted it, as you may see in 2 Sam. 7:5, 8. And so did Theodosius the emperor, and Constantine the Great, and many others account it. Oh then what an honor must it be to be God's son!
The blessed apostle cannot speak of this high privilege but with great admiration; as you may see in 1 John 3:1, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" It is an infinite condescension in God, to honor us with the title of sons, and therefore we should never think of it, nor ever speak of it—but with much admiration. O sirs! what matter of admiration is this—that the great and glorious God, who has many millions of glorious angels attending Him—that He should look upon all holy people as His sons, and love them as His sons, and delight in them as His sons, and clothe them as His sons, and feed them as His sons, and protect them as His sons, and stand by them as His sons, and lay up for them as His sons, and lay out Himself for them as His sons! O sirs! what matter of admiration is this—that those who have not deserved a smile from God, a good word from God, a bit of bread from God, or a good look from God—should be made the sons of God!
What manner of love is this—that those who have so
highly provoked God, walked so cross and contrary to God, were so
exceeding unlike God, preferred every lust, and every toy and vanity
before God, fought many years under Satan's banner against God, refused
all the offers of mercy which have been made by God--that those who have
deserved to be reprobated by God, damned by God, and to be thrown to hell
by God—that these should be made the sons of God! Oh stand and wonder! Oh
stand and admire the freeness of His grace, and at the riches of His
[7.] Seventhly, If you are a holy person, if you are one who has that genuine holiness, without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that you are an undoubted heir of everlasting glory.[Romans 8:16-18; James 2:5; 2 Tim. 4:7-8] Romans 8:29-30, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son," (that is, in holiness,) "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Holiness is a most sure pledge of glory: 2 Thes. 2:13, "God has chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit;" Mat. 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God;" 1 John 3:2-3, "When he shall appear, we shall be like him" (that is, in glory) "for we shall see him as he is. And every man who has this hope in him, purifies himself, even as he is pure."
He who has a genuine hope, a lively hope, of being like to Christ in glory, and of reigning with Christ in heaven—will set seriously upon the work of self-purifying. There is no hope, compared to that hope which runs out into holiness, and which leads the soul on to the highest degrees of purification, and which enables a man to set up Christ's purity as the most perfect pattern and exact copy for his imitation. Titus 3:4-7, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."
Holiness is an infallible forerunner of glory; it is the first fruits of that eternal happiness and blessedness, which God has laid up for his children in the highest heavens. And oh, what cause of joy and gladness should this be to every holy heart! What though you should never more have a good day on earth; what though all the springs of comfort should be dried up on your right hand and on your left hand; what though God should never more smile on you in this world; what though the remaining part of your life should be filled up with crosses, losses, troubles, and trials; what though God should let Satan loose to tempt you, and wicked men grow strong to oppress you, and friends turn enemies to grieve you; yes, what if you should go to your grave with tears in your eyes, and with sorrow in your heart; yet as long as you are sure that you are an heir of glory, and that all the happiness of heaven is yours, and that your crown is safe, and that you shall be forever filled and satisfied with those everlasting pleasures and delights which are at God's right hand, Psalm 16:11; you have cause to joy and rejoice in the midst of all your sorrows and sufferings, yes, to glory and triumph in the hopes and expectations of a kingdom which shakes not, of a crown which withers not, of riches which corrupt not, and of an inheritance that fades not away. [Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 1:3- 4. See my "String of Pearls" on that very text.]
O sirs! it is not all the silks of Persia, nor all the spices of Egypt, nor all the gold of Ophir, nor all the treasures of both Indies, nor all the crowns and scepters in the world, no, nor even the worth of ten thousand worlds—which can be compared with that glory which is treasured up for all God's holy ones. They have an inheritance reserved in heaven for them, which cannot be moth-eaten, nor spoiled by hostile invasion, nor wrung from them by force, nor won from them by law, nor mortgaged for debt, nor impaired by public calamity, nor plundered by thieves and robbers, nor changed by kings or parliaments, no, nor robbed by death itself; and therefore, what infinite cause of joy and rejoicing have all such who are interested in such an inheritance, and in such a perfect happiness and complete blessedness which is reserved in heaven for all God's holy ones?
Oh, what a singular comfort must this be to a Christian, in the midst of all his miseries and distresses, when he is able to look upon God, and say, "This God is my God forever and ever, and he shall be my guide to glory," Psalm 73:24; and when he is able to look up to heaven and say, "This is my inheritance!" Yes, when he is able to look upon all the glory and happiness of the eternal world, and to say, "All this glory and happiness is mine, for I have that holiness that is the pledge of it, and the first fruits of it in my own soul. It was an observable saying of Macarius; "Those who are anointed with the spiritual oil of gladness," says he, "have received a sign of that incorruptible kingdom, namely, God's Spirit, for a pledge, they are the secretaries of the heavenly king, and relying confidently upon the Almighty, they enter into his palace, where the angels and the spirits of holy men are, although they be yet in this world; for although they are not yet come to the entire inheritance, which is prepared for them in that world—yet they are most sure of it by that pledge which they have newly received, as sure as if they were already crowned, and had the key of the kingdom in their own possession!"
It was a very sweet and comfortable speech which the
emperor told to son in his childhood, when he took him by the chin and
said, "You my son, shall one day sit upon a throne!" Just so, it is very
sweet and comfortable for the saints to consider, that however low and
contemptible they may be in the eyes of the world, that yet there is a day
a-coming when they shall sit upon a throne, and be crowned with glory, and
reign with Christ to all eternity. But,
[8.] Eighthly, If you are a holy person, if you have that genuine holiness, without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that all things shall be sanctified unto you.Tit. 1:15, "Unto the pure all things are pure—but unto those who are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." When a man's heart is once sanctified, then all things are sanctified to him; when a man's spirit and way are clean and pure, then all things are clean and pure to him. O sirs! this is so great and so glorious a privilege, to have all things sanctified to us, that it is more worth than a world, yes, than many worlds. Next to a man's interest in Christ, he cannot beg a greater mercy than this—that all things may be sanctified to him—that is, that all things may so work as to make him more and more holy: that every cross may make him more holy, and that every comfort may make him more holy; that every mercy may make him more holy, and that every misery may make him more holy; that every ordinance may make him more holy, and that every providence may make him more holy; that every affliction at home may make him more holy, and that every judgment abroad may make him more holy. Every condition is sweet when it is sanctified to us; sickness is as sweet as health when it is sanctified to us: weakness is as sweet as strength when it is sanctified to us; and poverty is as sweet as riches when it is sanctified to us; and disgrace is as sweet as honor when it is sanctified to us; and bonds are as sweet as liberty when they are sanctified to us; and death is as sweet as life when it is sanctified to us. Look! as no condition can be a happy condition which is not a sanctified condition—just so, no condition can be a miserable condition, which is a sanctified condition. Now this is only the holy man's privilege, the holy man's mercy, to have every estate and every condition sanctified unto him; and this indeed is the cream and crown of all our mercies to have them sanctified unto us, ay, and every bitter will be sweet, yes very sweet, when it is sanctified unto us.
What though your mercies, O Christian, are fewer
than others', and lesser than others', and leaner than others', and
shorter than others'—yet you have no reason to complain, as long as your
mercies are sanctified mercies. What though though your trials are
greater than others', and your burden is heavier than others', and your
sorrows are deeper than others', and your crosses comes thicker than
others'—yet you have no cause to complain, as long as they are sanctified.
Are you a holy person? Oh then remember for your comfort—that every bit of
bread you eat is sanctified, and every draught you drink is sanctified,
and every suit of clothes you wear is sanctified; the beds you lie on are
sanctified, and the stools you sit on are sanctified; the very air you
breath in is sanctified, and the very ground you tread on is sanctified;
every penny in your purse is sanctified, and every dollar in your shop is
sanctified; whatever you have at home is sanctified, and whatever you have
abroad is sanctified. And oh! how should the sense of these things sweeten
all your bitters, and turn your hell into heaven, and wipe all tears from
your eyes, and turn your sighing into singing, and your mourning into
rejoicing, etc. "We know that God causes everything to work together for
the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28. But,
[9.] Ninthly, If you are a holy person, if you have that genuine holiness, without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that you are a person very high in favor with God, you are one of his special treasured people.Deut. 14:2, "You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you to be his own special treasure from all the nations of the earth." "He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a special people, eager to do good works." All God's holy ones are his treasured ones, God has a peculiar respect for their persons: Dan. 9:23, "O Daniel! you are greatly beloved," or as the Hebrew word, signifies, you are a man of desires. Now Daniel is called a man of desires, because the desires of God run out strongly after him, as one who was singularly beloved of him, and as one who was highly in favor with him.
And as God has a peculiar respect for their persons—just so, he has a peculiar respect for their duties and services: Proverbs 15:8, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord—but the prayer of the upright is his delight." God takes more delight to hear the prayers of the upright, and to grant the prayers of the upright, than the upright takes delight to pray. However burdensome and troublesome their prayers may be to others—yet they are still delightful to God; but more of this in the next particular.
And as God has a peculiar respect for their services—just so, he has a peculiar respect for their tears, for he puts them into his bottle, Psalm 56:8. And as he has a peculiar respect for their tears—just so, he has a peculiar respect for their names, for he writes them in his book, Luke 10:20. And as he has a peculiar respect for their names—just so, he has a peculiar respect for their blood, Psalm 116:15; and this Cain found by woeful experience, from the cry of his brother's blood.
O sirs! God by making of you holy, has made you like
himself, like his Son, like his Spirit, and like his most glorious angels,
which excel in strength; and what does this speak out but God's special
favor? God makes many rich, and many great, and many honorable, and many
mighty, and many wise, and many noble, and many beautiful, and many
successful, whom he will never make holy. But in making of you holy, God
has made you spiritually great, rich, honorable, wise, and beautiful,
etc., Eph. 1:3, and this speaks you out to be highly in the favor of God.
Holiness is a singular fruit of God's special favor and love. God has a
common favor and love for all men, yes, for the worst of men; witness that
common preservation, and common protection, and common provision, which he
grants to them. But God has a special love and favor, and this runs out
only to his holy ones, Eph. 2:4-5. Holiness is a divine beam, a heavenly
drop, a choice pledge of God's special favor and love. O sirs! though the
world may slight you, and enemies revile you, and friends disfavor you—yet
let this support you, let this rejoice you—that you are God's treasured
possession! "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your
God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be
his people, his treasured possession." Deuteronomy 7:6. But,
[10.] Tenthly, If you are a holy person, if you are one who has that genuine holiness, without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that all your duties and services are very pleasing, delightful, and acceptable to the Lord.Acts 10:4; Mal. 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:21; and this roundly follows upon the former, for whenever a man's person comes to be accepted of God, and to be in favor with God—then all his services and sacrifices comes to be acceptable to God; Gen. 4:5, "And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof, and the Lord had respect unto Abel--and to his offering." God had first a respect to his person in Christ, and then to his offering; and so his sacrifice was accepted for the man, and not the man for the sacrifice: Heb. 11:4, "By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead."
God will always welcome the holy man into his presence, and he shall always have his ear at command, Isaiah 45:11; God will still be a-warming his heart, and a-cheering up his spirit, and a-satisfying of his soul, in meeting of him in all holy means, and in giving gracious answers to all his requests: Isaiah 66:5, "You welcome those who cheerfully do good, who follow godly ways." Proverbs 21:8, "The guilty walk a crooked path; the innocent travel a straight road."
When God has cleansed a man's heart, and sanctified his nature, then his work, his pious work, is right; it is then right in the eye of God, and in the account of God, and in estimation of God; and therefore his petitions are as soon granted as they are offered, (Isaiah 65:24,) and his requests performed as soon as they are mentioned. Psalm 32:5, "I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin, Selah." [Selah here is a special note of observation, to work us to a serious marking of the things which are mentioned, as things which are of special weight, and of highest concernment to us.] Holy David had an inward purpose and resolution to confess his sin—but before he could do it God throws him his pardon: "you forgave the iniquity of my sin." God loves to be beforehand with his people in acts of grace and favor. God's eye and his ear was in David's heart—before David's confession could be in his tongue.
Oh the delight of God! Oh the pleasedness of God, with the duties and services of his holy ones! Psalm 4:3, "But know that the Lord has set apart him who is godly for himself: the Lord will hear, when I call upon him," that is, the Lord will approve of my prayer, he will accept of my prayer, he will delight in my prayer, and he will answer my prayer when I call unto him; and what more can the godly man desire? Psalm 61:1, "Hear my cry, O God, attend unto my prayer." Aquinas says that some read the words thus, "Attend unto my songs"—and so the words may be safely read from the Hebrew word, which signifies to shout or shrill out for joy—to note that the prayers of the saints are like pleasant songs and delightful strains in the ears of God. No mirth, no music can be so pleasing to us—as the prayers of the saints are pleasing to God, Cant. 2:14: Psalm 141:2, "Let my prayer come before you as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." What is more sweet, what is more pleasing, and what is more perfuming than incense? why, the prayers of the saints, as they are in the hands of a mediator, are as sweet and pleasing to God—as incense that is made up of the choicest and sweetest spices are sweet and pleasing unto us, Rev. 5:8, and 8:3-4.
1 Pet. 12, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers;" or rather, as the Greek has it, "his ears are to their prayers," that is, when their prayers are so faint and weak that they cannot reach to God, that they cannot travel as far as heaven—then God will come down to them, and lay his ears, as it were, unto their prayers! Oh, what matter of joy and comfort is this to all the holy seed, that God will graciously bow his ears to their prayers, when he turns his back with the greatest disdain and indignation upon the most costly sacrifices of the wicked!
O precious sons of Zion! who are daily lamenting and mourning over the weaknesses which cleaves to your best services—know for your comfort and joy, that though with Moses you can but stammer out a prayer, or with Hannah weep out a prayer, or with Hezekiah chatter out a prayer, or with Paul sigh and groan out a prayer—yet the Lord will own your prayers, and accept your prayers, and delight in your prayers. [God once accepted of a handful of meal for a sacrifice, and of a bit of goat's hair for an oblation. Artaxerxes, the Persian monarch, accepted with a cheerful countenance a little water, as a present from the hand of a poor laborer, etc.]
Oh, what a rare comfort is this for a Christian, to
consider, that when he is under outward needs and inward distresses; that
when he has sickness upon his body, and reproach upon his name, and death
knocking at his door—that in all these cases, and in all other cases, he
may run to God as to a father, and tell God how it is with him, and when
he has done that, he may sit down satisfied and assured of audience and
acceptance in heaven! O sirs! this is a privilege of more worth than a
thousand worlds! Had unsanctified people as many kingdoms to give as they
have hairs on their heads, they would give them all for an interest in
this privilege, when guilt and wrath is upon their consciences, and when
the arrows of the Almighty stick fast in them, and when the terrors of
death are round about them, and when the dreadful day of their account is
every moment remembered by them. Oh! if it is so great a favor to have the
ears of an earthly king at our pleasure, what a transcendent favor must it
be to have his ear at our pleasure—who is King of kings and Lord of lords!
and yet this favor has all his saints. But,
[11.] Eleventhly, If you are a holy person, if you are one who has that genuine holiness, without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that Jesus Christ will certainly preserve your holiness.Next to Christ, holiness is a Christian's choicest jewel, and this holiness, Christ will be sure to preserve. Self-preservation is natural to all creatures. Holiness is Christ's creature, Christ's image; and therefore he will certainly preserve it and maintain it. Christ cannot neglect himself, he cannot be lacking to himself. Now holiness is himself; and therefore if there is but a spark of holiness in a dunghill of corruption, Christ will certainly own it, nourish it, and preserve it. He who is once really holy shall be forever holy. Let the world, the flesh, and the devil, do what they can, the holy seed shall still remain in all God's sanctified ones. [Phil. 1:6; Heb. 12:2; 1 Thes. 5:23, and 3:12-13; Eph. 5:25-27; 1 John 3:9.]
Though a holy man may fall sadly, lamentably, frequently, foully—yet he shall never fall totally, he shall never fall finally, because that holiness which is in him, is a lasting, yes, an everlasting and abiding principle, which can never be destroyed or extirpated. A wicked person may be turned into a holy man—but a holy man can never be turned into a profane person again. A change into holiness, is an unchangeable change; the state of holiness is an unchangeable state.
It is true, the fallen angels quickly lost that stock of holiness that God had put into their hands; and Adam lost all his holiness upon the turn of a hand. He broke and proved a bankrupt almost as soon as God had set him up in paradise. But the state and condition of all the saints is a better and a safer state and condition than either the angels' or than Adam's was; and that partly because their state was mutable though perfect—but the state of the saints is an unchangeable state, though it be for the present an imperfect state. And partly because God put that stock of holiness which the angels and Adam had into their own hands—but now the saints' holiness is not a stock put in their own hands—but in Christ's hands! For not only their persons, but their holiness is "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation," 1 Pet. 1:5. As Christ is to manage our salvation for us—just so, he is to manage our grace and holiness for us; and therefore, as he will most certainly make sure the one—just so, he will as certainly preserve the other. Once a son of God--forever a son of God! Though the servant may be turned out of doors—yet the son abides in the house forever, as Christ speaks, John 8:35. He who is once sanctified shall be forever blessed.
Holiness is an abiding seed, an immortal seed. It is a royal gift, which being once given, shall never be taken away from him who has it. I readily grant that the strength of holiness, and the luster and shine of holiness, and the sense and feeling of holiness, and the comfort and sweetness of holiness, and the lively stirrings and operations of holiness, may be somewhat abated and lessened in the soul; but the seed of holiness, the substance of holiness, always remains in a converted soul, Romans 11:29, "God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable." There is always a divine fire—though sometimes it may lie under the ashes; there is always life and sap in the root—though there may be neither leaves nor blossoms on the tree. It is true, the best of saints may have their spiritual winters. And it is as true, that after their winter, there will certainly follow a spring of holiness.
It is most certain, that the truth and principle of holiness remains—under all a Christian's infirmities, darknesses, weaknesses, eclipses, clouds, failings, waverings, and wanderings; and the reasons are clear, because that great and glorious principle of holiness flows from God's unchangeable love, and is a fruit of the everlasting covenant, and the price of Christ's blood, and depends and hangs upon a perpetual union and communion with Christ, and is a sure pledge of a man's eternal enjoyment of Christ, and is always maintained and upheld by the everlasting arms of Christ, Deut. 33:26-27; Gen. 49:22-24.
To say that the saints may fall totally and finally from all that grace and holiness they have, is to say,
(1.) That the surety of the new covenant is grown very poor and weak, which is very little less than blasphemy, and quite contrary to that Heb. 7:21-22.
(2.) It is to say that the promises are yes and nay, quite contrary to what the apostle affirms in that 2 Cor. 1:20.
(3.) It is to say that the power of God is grown exceeding weak and contemptible, yes, it is to make sin and Satan stronger than God, which is quite contrary to the current of Scripture, 1 Pet. 1:5; John 10:27-31.
(4.) It is to say that the decree of God is mutable, which is cross and contrary to the apostle in that 2 Tim. 2:19.
(5.) It is to say that God's free, eternal, and
everlasting love has become changeable and inconstant, which is expressly
cross to that Jer. 31:3; Mal. 3:6; John 13:1, with many other scriptures.
Therefore that Arminian principle, which states that the saints may
fall totally and finally from grace and holiness—is to be forever
detested and abhorred. But,
[12.] Twelfthly and lastly, If you are a holy person, if you are one who has that genuine holiness without which there is no happiness, then know for your comfort—that all things shall work together for your good.Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose." All the afflictions, and all the temptations, and all the desertions, and all the oppressions, and all the oppositions, and all the persecutions, which befall a godly man, shall work for his good, Rev. 2:10. Every cross, every loss, and every disease, which befall the holy man shall work for his good. Every device, every snare, every method, every depth, every stratagem, and every enterprise of Satan against the holy man shall work for his good. They shall all help to make him more humble, more holy, more heavenly, more spiritual, more faithful, more fruitful, and more watchful, 2 Cor. 12:9-10. Every day of prosperity, and every night of adversity shall work for the holy man's good. Every storm and every calm, every bitter and every sweet, every cross and every comfort, shall work for the holy man's good. Hosea 2:5-7.
When God gives a mercy, that shall work for his good; and when God takes away a mercy, that shall work for his good. When God gives him large temporal goods, that shall work for his good; and when God cuts his temporal goods short, that shall work for his good. Yes, all the falls and all the sins of the saints shall work for their good. "As I get hurt by my graces—just so, I get good by my sins," said famous Mr. Foxe. Oh the care, the fear, the watchfulness, the tenderness, the zeal, the revenge—which God raises in the souls of his saints by their very falls! 2 Cor. 7:8-13. Oh the hatred, the indignation, and the detestation—which God raises in the hearts of his children against sin, by their very falling into sin! Oh what love to Christ, what thankfulness for Christ, what admiration of Christ, what cleaving to Christ, what exalting of Christ, and what drawing from Christ--are saints led to by their very falls! Oh what exercise of grace, what increase of grace, what magnifying of grace, what liftings up of divine power, and what a high price are holy men led to set upon the precious blood of Christ—and all by their falls!
It is the glory of God's holiness—that he can turn spiritual diseases into holy remedies! He can turn soul poisons into heavenly cordials! He can prevent sin by sin, and cure falling by falling!
One calls Romans 8:28 "the holy blind man's promise." And I may call it the holy lame man's promise, and the holy deaf man's promise, and the holy dumb man's promise, and the holy needy man's promise, and the holy sick man's, and the holy languishing man's promise, and the holy dying man's promise. Oh the comfort, oh the sweet, oh the contentment, oh the satisfaction, which this promise has afforded to many a precious saint, when other promises have not been at hand!
O Christian, what though friends and relations frown upon you, what though enemies are plotting and conspiring against you, what though needs, like an armed man, are ready to break in upon you, what though men rage and devils roar against you, what though sickness rages in your family, and death stands every day at your elbow—yet there is no reason for you to fear or faint, because all these things shall work for your good! Yes, there is wonderful cause of joy and rejoicing in all the afflictions and tribulations which come upon you, considering that they shall all work for your good.
O Christians! I am afraid, I am afraid, that you do not run so often as you should, to the breasts of this promise, nor draw that sweetness and comfort from it—that it would yield, and that your several cases may require.
And thus I am done with this use of comfort and consolation to all God's holy ones. You see what comfort, what consolation, yes, what strong consolation, waits upon all God's sanctified ones. I have been the longer upon this use—because the times require it, and the condition of God's people calls for the strongest cordials, and the choicest and the sweetest comforts.