The Course of Faith, or
The Practical Believer Delineated

By John Angell James, 1852

Faith in Relation to SANCTIFICATION

God created man in his own image, which consisted of true holiness. No spot of guilt was upon his conscience—nor of depravity upon his heart. The light of truth irradiated his understanding; the glow of perfect love warmed his heart; the volitions of his will were all on the side of purity; his conscience was the seat of perfect peace; and the beauties of holiness adorned his character. His whole soul was in harmony with the untainted scenes of Paradise, in the bowers of which he walked in undisturbed friendship with God. No sorrow wrung his heart—no care wrinkled his brow—no anxiety broke his rest. He passed away with awe from the mysterious tree of knowledge of good and evil, to eat with joy of the tree of life in the midst of the garden. He was happy, because he was holy. He sinned, and his whole moral relation and condition was altered—he fell under the condemnation of the law he had violated, and became the subject of inward corruption. An entire change passed over his nature—he not only became guilty—but depraved—his understanding became darkened—his affections selfish and earthly—his will prone to choose what is wrong—and his conscience benumbed. If he be recovered from this state of double misery, he must be both pardoned and sanctified. His relation and his state must both be changed. Neither of these alone will meet his case. He has lost God's favor, and cannot be saved without being restored to that—and as he has also lost God's image, so neither can he be saved unless that too be restored to him. The covenant of God's love and mercy in Christ Jesus—the glorious scheme of redeeming grace—meets the whole case of fallen man, by providing not only justification—but sanctification.

Wonderful provision! Pardon for the guilty! Sanctification for the unholy! The condition of the sinner may be likened to that of a condemned criminal shut up in prison, and infected with a deadly plague! What he needs, is both the cure of his plague, and the reversal of his sentence--neither alone will meet his case. If he is only pardoned—he will die of the plague. If he be only cured of the plague—he will suffer the sentence of the law. So it is with fallen man—he is both depraved and condemned. If he be only pardoned—his depravity will be his misery. If he could by any means be reformed—he is still under sentence of death. The glory as well as completeness of the gospel scheme is, that it provides a cure for the diseases of the soul in sanctification, as well as a pardon from the condemnation of the law in justification!

The verb "to sanctify," in its etymological meaning, signifies to 'consecrate', or 'set apart from a common to a sacred use'. It is also synonymous, or nearly so, with the verb "to purify," and is used synonymously with it—with this difference, however—that purification is employed sometimes in a generic sense, including both justification and sanctification. Where the purification, or cleansing, is by blood, there the word signifies justification—and where by water, sanctification. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." "Who has washed us from our sins in His own blood." In these passages, the purification of the conscience, or pardon, is spoken of. It is in this view of purification also we are to understand the apostle, where in the Epistle to the Hebrews, he speaks of sanctification as if it were the same as justification. "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." "For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified." Hebrews 10:10, 14. Now the whole context proves that the apostle is speaking of pardon, not of holiness; and yet he uses the word "sanctify," which must be understood as one of the two specific varieties of purification. Justification, or pardon, being the purification of the conscience from guilt; sanctification being the purification of the heart and life from depravity. It is important to notice the apostle's use of the word sanctify in the manner just pointed out, to guard the reader of the Epistle to the Hebrews from supposing that in other parts of Scripture, and in theological terminology, it is confounded with justification, and means nothing more or less than holiness.

SANCTIFICATION then, means that work of grace which is carried on in the soul of the believer by the Spirit of God, through the instrumentality of Divine truth, whereby they are made more and more like God, in righteousness and true holiness.

It will be perceived by an attentive reader, that there is an essential difference between JUSTIFICATION and sanctification—these two always go together—but they are essentially distinct in their specific nature. Justification is a change of our relation to God—from being an enemy, we become a child. Sanctification is a change of our nature, in which we lose the spirit of an enemy, and acquire that of a son. Justification is that which we receive for the sake of Christ's atonement—sanctification is that which we receive by the work of the Sprit in us. Justification is complete at once—sanctification is progressive. In justification, we receive God's love to us—in sanctification, we exercise our love to God. Upon a right understanding of the difference of these two blessings, depends our correct knowledge of the whole scheme of redemption. All will be confusion in our ideas, if we do not perceive this difference. Our growth in grace will be impeded, and our consolation will be obstructed and diminished.

Sanctification differs from REGENERATION, only as the progress of a thing differs from its commencement. Regeneration is the birth of the child of God—sanctification is his growth. In regeneration the principle of spiritual life is imparted—in sanctification the spiritual life is developed and exercised.

There is another distinction necessary to be observed, and that is, the difference between sanctification and the COMMON MORALITY of life. There are many people who are very amiable in their dispositions, very just in their transactions, very excellent in all their social relations, very lovely in their general character; but who at the same time, whatever esteem and affection they may have—are not in a state of sanctification. They have never been convinced of sin—have never exercised faith in Christ—have never been born of the Spirit—have never been brought to love God. All this loveliness of character is but the beautiful wildflower in the wilderness of unrenewed humanity. There can be no true holiness apart from the principle of supreme love to God. Until this is implanted in the soul, we are under the dominion of supreme selfishness—and all these excellences may be traced up to self! God's law is not obeyed—God's glory is not sought, because God himself is not loved. There is, there can be no holiness, whatever there may be of what is called morality, if there be no love to God. Can that be holiness to the Lord, in which God's authority is not distinctly recognized; nor submission to his will professed; nor his glory sought? In such a case, the very principle of holiness is wanting. And a melancholy spectacle it is to see so much general excellence of character as we sometimes witness, all fruitless as regards another world, to its possessor, for want of that Divine principle which transmutes all this apparently beautiful morality into true religion.

Sanctification, then, is holiness; or that supreme love to God, and just love to man, which is required by the law of God. It is, as we have said—the development and continued energy and exercise of the Divine life implanted in the soul by regeneration. If we described sanctification in theological phraseology, we should say it is a dying more and more unto sin—and a living more and more unto righteousness. Sanctification is advancing in the Divine life. Sanctification is the mortification of our inbred corruptions. Sanctification is the investing of our character with the beauties of holiness. Sanctification is becoming more and more like God in his moral character. All these are instructive and impressive descriptions of our sanctification; but still more so are the representations given of it in the Word of God. Sanctification is–
"the law of God written on the heart,"
"the well of water springing up into everlasting life,"
"bearing much fruit,"
"being crucified with Christ,"
"being dead with Christ,"
"living unto God,"
"walking in newness of life,"
"walking not after the flesh—but after the Spirit,"
"mortifying our members which are upon the earth,"
"not being conformed to this world—but being transformed by the renewing of our mind,"
"running the Christian race with patience, laying aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets us,"
"working out our salvation with fear and trembling,"
"following after love,"
"being changed into the image of God, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord,"
"cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God,"
"walking in the Spirit,"
"being filled with all the fullness of God,"
"abounding in love more and more, being filled with the fruits of righteousness,"
"being fruitful in every good work,"
"being blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke,"
"having our hearts established unblameable in holiness,"
"sanctified wholly,"
"being perfect in every good work,"
"being holy, as God is holy,"
"growing in grace."

All these passages, and innumerable others, describe the work of sanctification—and O, what a work! It is almost enough to terrify us to consider what we have to do, and how defectively we are to do it. In reading over these passages of sacred Scripture, we are ready to exclaim– "Who then can be saved!" "Who is sufficient for these things?" And it is in reference to these it is said– "Thus is the will of God, even your sanctification." 1 Thess. 4:3. "Christ is made unto us sanctification." 1 Cor. 1:30. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Heb. 12:14.

In sanctification there is a Divine agency and a human instrumentality. The Divine agency is the work of the Spirit of God—hence the expressions–
"sanctification of the Spirit,"
"born of the Spirit,"
"living in the Spirit,"
"walking in the Spirit,"
"led by the Spirit,"
"sealed by the Spirit."

To quote more passages would be unnecessary. The whole work of true religion in the human soul is Divine! Every holy perception, every holy inclination, every holy affection, every holy volition—is from God. Our holy life is as much a work of the Divine Spirit as our conversion. It is he who "works in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure." It is he who in a way we cannot wholly comprehend—but which from our own consciousness we know is in no sense at variance with the laws of our mental economy or our freedom of choice and action—makes us holy.

Not, however, independently of means and instrumentality. If the Spirit is the agent; the truth, as it is in Jesus, is the instrumental means of our sanctification. Holiness is not a physical—but a moral creation; and the influence which imparts it is quite different from that physical power which moves, governs, and rules the material creation. The Divine power which regenerates and sanctifies the soul is of a kind peculiar to this work. It is, if we may so speak, a Divine, efficient, moral suasion—but the the mode of operation is beyond our penetration.

Frequent reference is made to the SCRIPTURE, as the instrument of holiness. "Sanctify them through your truth—your Word is truth." John 17:17. So prayed the Savior of the world for his apostles—in which petition he recognizes at once the instrumentality of truth—and the efficient agency of God. So in another place– "Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you." John 15:3. To this effect are the words of the apostle– "God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification, and belief of the truth." 2 Thess. 2:13. "The Word of God which effectually works also in you who believe." 1 Thess. 2:13. "Of his own will he begat us, with the Word of truth." James 1:18. "Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, . . . being born again, not of corruptible seed . . . by the Word of God." 1 Peter 1:22, 23. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." John 6:63.

In all these passages, and many more might have been selected, the truth is most clearly and positively stated to be the means of our sanctification. Now it is the work of the Sprit to cause this truth to be so attended to by the judgment, so understood in a peculiar and spiritual manner, and so felt, as to move the will of man to choose and pursue holiness, and to reject sin. We are not to imagine that the work of the Spirit annihilates the faculties, or destroys the freedom of the soul—but guides and directs these faculties by the spiritual light which he introduces. It is man's own act to repent, to believe, to love, to obey, according to the truth set before the mind; but to this it is led by the Spirit of God.

We now come very clearly to see the office of faith in sanctification. In the Acts of the Apostles we have these two expressions– "Purifying their hearts by faith." Chap. 15:9. "That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified, by faith that is in me." Chap. 26:18. What in one place is called "sanctified," is in the other called "purified;" sustaining what has been said, that sanctification means purifying. It will be our business now to make it obvious that faith has a work to perform in sanctification—as necessary and as important as in justification.

There are some writers who represent the system of faith, as it is set forth by the evangelical divines, as tending to weaken the obligations to holiness. They are able to understand how the law, with its precepts and penalties, should operate in keeping men from sin; but they do not see how the gospel, with its promises and privileges, should conduce to the same end; forgetting, or indeed not understanding, what the apostle says, that "by faith we establish the law."

Then there are others, who most willingly consent to the doctrine of full justification through the righteousness of Christ; but who, while they see pretty clearly the business of faith in this act of God's grace (justification), do not see as clearly faith's work in sanctification. This it will be our business now to unfold.

1. Faith sanctifies by the respect which it pays to the whole Word of God. It must be borne in mind, as I have just said, that the work of sanctification is carried on, by the instrumentality of the Scriptural truth. The Scripture presents all those laws to be obeyed, in obedience to which sanctification consists—all those sins to be avoided which are opposed to it—all those motives to obey the one and avoid the other, which in the hand of the Spirit induce it—together with numerous examples of iniquity on the one hand, and righteousness oil the other—which attract to holiness and repel from sin!

It is impossible not to be struck with the adaptation of the Bible to produce holiness. Every part of it—its precepts, threatenings, promises, examples—all are adapted to make men holy. The Scriptures are a testimony against sin—and for righteousness. Some writers, in their misguided zeal for the work of the Spirit, have disparaged not only the Bible—but God's wisdom in employing it as his great moral instrument for the salvation of man, by affirming that there is no more adaptation in the Bible to convert the sinner, than in the wind which blew upon the valley of dry bones to awaken the dead. They resolve the whole work of conversion into an arbitrary operation of God—irrespective of all means. This is to contradict the Word of God, which speaks of conversion and sanctification being carried on by the truth—and entirely to exclude the work of faith in this important business.

It is by an intelligent understanding, and a cordial belief of the truth, that it is made to bear upon the heart, conscience, and life. A man reads his Bible, in which, if he believes it, he sees the nature, the necessity, the means and motives of holiness; and it is by believing these things, they become obligatory upon the conscience. Sanctification is not a series of blind impulses in the mind—of unmeaning raptures of the soul, or of mystic silence; but of intelligent acts of conformity to the will of God, as his will is made known in his Word; and it is only by knowing and believing the Word that this can be achieved. How powerfully sometimes is a single precept, threatening, promise, or example of the Scripture impressed upon the mind, in the way of deterring from sin—or urging to holiness. But it is the firm belief that it is the Word of God which gives it all its power.

2. Faith sanctifies by the direct and prevailing regard it has to the work of Christ, as set forth in the Word of God. Sanctifying faith, like that which justifies, while it takes in the whole field of revelation—dwells especially on the scenes of Calvary. There it is drawn by an irresistible attraction—there it dwells with an intense delight—from thence it derives its sources of consolation, and motives to obedience. Yes, the great object of sanctifying faith is a crucified Savior! Who does not add his "Amen," to the words of Watts—

"O, the sweet wonders of that cross,
Where God the Savior loved and died!
Her noblest life my spirit draws,
From his dear wounds and bleeding side."

Now the death of Christ, intelligently apprehended by faith, operates in three ways for our sanctification.

A. The death of Christ, apprehended by faith, presents the strongest motives to holiness—by setting forth in the most vivid and striking manner, the holiness and justice of God, and his determination to punish transgression; the immutable authority of the Divine law; the evil nature of sin; and the fearfulness of falling into the hands of the living God. Not all the judgments God ever inflicted—nor all the threatenings he ever denounced, give such an impressive warning against sin, and admonition to righteousness—as the death of Christ. The torments of the bottomless pit are not so dreadful a demonstration of God's hatred of sin as the agonies of the cross.

B. There is another way in which the death of Christ apprehended by faith, tends to holiness—and that is by opening a medium by which our obedience to God can be accepted by him.

Chalmers, in a sermon upon "The Purifying Influence of the Christian Faith," has set this in a clear and interesting point of view. "It first takes away a wall of partition, which, in the case of every man who has not received this doctrine, lies across the path of his obedience at the very commencement. So long as I think that it is quite impossible for me so to run as to obtain, I will not move a single footstep. Under the burden of a hopeless controversy between me and God, I feel as it were weighed down to the inactivity of despair. I live without hope; and so long as I do so, I live without God in the world. And besides—God, while the object of my terror, is also the object of my aversion. The helpless necessity under which I labor, so long as the question of my guilt remains unmoved—is to dread the Being—whom I am commanded to love. I may occasionally cast a feeble regard towards that distant and inaccessible Lawgiver; but so long as I view him shrouded in the 'darkness of frowning majesty', I can place in him no trust, and I can bear towards him no filial tenderness. I may occasionally consult the requirements of his law; but when I look to the uncancelled sentence that is against me, I can never tread, with hopeful or assured footsteps, on the career of obedience.

"But let me look unto Christ lifted up for our offences; and see the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and which was contrary unto us, nailed to his cross, and there blotted out, and taken out of the way—and then I see the barrier in question leveled to the ground! I now behold the way of repentance cleared of the obstructions, by which it was once rendered utterly impassable. 'This is the will of God, even your sanctification', may be sounded a thousand times in the ear of an unbeliever, and leave him as immoveable as it found him because, while under a sense of unexpiated guilt, he sees a mighty mountain before him, which he cannot scale. But if the same words be sounded in the ears of a believer, they will put him into motion. For to him the mountain is thrown down, and the rough way is made smooth, and the the hills are brought low, and the valley of separation is filled—and he is made to see the salvation of God. The path of obedience is made level before him, and he enters it with the inspiration of a new and invigorating principle; and that love to God, which the consciousness of guilt will ever keep at a distance from the heart, now takes up the room of this terrifying, and paralyzing, and alienating sentiment.

"The reception of this doctrine of atonement is just as much the turning point of a new character, as it is the turning point of a new hope; and it is the very point, in the history of every human soul, at which the alacrity of gospel obedience takes its commencement, as well as the cheerfulness of gospel anticipations. Until this doctrine is believed, there is no attempt at obedience at all; or else, it is such an obedience as is totally unanimated by the life and the love of real godliness. And it is not until this doctrine has taken possession of the mind, that any man can take up the language of the Psalmist, and say– Lord, I am your servant—you have loosed my bonds!"

C. In the death of Christ, we see the most perfect model of holiness! He was sinless to the end, and gave in his death the most wonderful instance of cheerful, willing, and suffering obedience to the will of God—that the universe ever witnessed! How stupendous an act of submission was it, that he who was in the form of God, should humble himself in the form of a servant to be obedient unto death—even the death of the cross! How much of our sanctification consists of obedience. What can we refuse to do in this way after we have seen what Christ has done?

D. The death of Christ supplies the most powerful appeals to our gratitude and love. What can be so mighty in moving us as these states of mind! What will not fervent love and intense gratitude do! What sin will not a soul abandon—what duty will it not perform that is under the constraining influence of the love of Christ! Here was the apostle's motive to holiness– "I am crucified with Christ—nevertheless I live; yet not I—but Christ lives in me—and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Gal. 2:20.

3. Faith operates on our sanctification, by the regard it bears, the credit it gives, to the promised aid of the Holy Spirit. We have already shown that it is by his agency the whole work of grace is carried on in the soul. But what assures us that we shall have the Spirit? What encourages us to expect his necessary aid? The numerous promises of the Word of God. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to those who ask him? Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." This is an absolute promise to be believed; and it is only one of many which might be quoted in which God engages to bestow his sanctifying grace. "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises—that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature." 2 Peter 1:4. Now, the believer credits these promises; and believing, receives the aid of the Spirit. The grace is in the promise, so to speak; and it is the work of faith to draw it out from thence into the soul. It produces that waiting, dependent, expectant frame, to which God delights to give the blessing. It opens the soul to the coming blessing.

4. Faith unites the soul vitally to Christ, and thus draws from him all that grace which is in him for the believer's spiritual welfare. The true believer is a branch of the living vine. John 15:1. He is a member of the body of which Christ is the Divine Head. Ephes. 1, 23. As the branch derives its sap from the tree, and the member its life from the head, so the believer derives all sanctifying grace from Christ. All our life of sanctification, as well as of justification, is in Jesus. "It has pleased the Father that in him all fullness should dwell, that out of his fullness we may receive, and grace for grace." It is only as we abide in him, look to him, depend on him, we can have any measure of holiness. "In the Lord alone, we have righteousness and strength." "He is made unto us not only wisdom, and righteousness—but sanctification, and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:30. This, in my opinion, is the design of the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, viewed in connection with the beginning of the eighth, to show that sanctification can no more be obtained by the law, than justification can—and that sanctification is as much in Christ for us, as justification.

5. But, lastly, faith operates in sanctification, by the regard it bears to the future world, as set forth before us in the Word of God. That future world is represented as consisting of two states—heaven for the righteous, and hell for the wicked. These are believed by the real Christian. In reference to the former, his "faith is the confidence of things hoped for—the conviction of things not seen." He believes the reality, the certainty, the glory of the heavenly state, and knowing that it is prepared only for those who by holiness are prepared for it; he strives after that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." He looks up to the portals of immortality, and sees this solemn inscription– "And there shall never enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie—but they only have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates of the city, who do his commandments." Reading this, he says– "I must be sanctified, or renounce all hope of heaven!" Filled with this conviction he meets the fiercest temptation, with some such words as these—

"In vain the world accosts my ear,
And tempts my heart anew,
I cannot buy your bliss so dear,
Nor part with heaven for you."

Nor is this all; the very representation which the Scriptures give of HEAVEN, assists the work of sanctification. The heaven of the Bible is not a Mahommedan Paradise of sensual delights. The heaven of the Bible is a holy world, a state of moral perfection, a condition of existence from which sin is forever excluded—where the soul is wrought to a perfect conformity to the image of God—in thought, affection, and volition. The place of heaven is holy—the society of heaven is holy—the occupation of heaven is holy. Heaven is, in short, the region of unsullied purity. It is, therefore, so represented to us, that it is impossible to contemplate it devoutly—to desire it longfully—to prepare for it truly—without growing holy! Every glance of the eye at its pearly gates—its gold paved streets—its nightless day—its sinless inhabitants—inflames the mind with a desire after greater sanctification, as the only fitness for all its glories. Hence it is said– "Everyone who has this hope in him, purifies himself, even as he is pure." 1 John 3:3. Men's characters are, if not actually formed, yet sustained and consolidated by the nature and quality of their hopes—so is the Christian's.

And then turn to the dreadful reverse—the awful, horrid contrast—the dark world of HELL. That orb of evil which draws all sin to itself. Scripture declares that unrepented sin, unmortified sin, unforsaken sin—shall sink the transgressor to those regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where neither peace nor hope can ever dwell. "But cowards who turn away from me, and unbelievers, and the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all liars—their doom is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death." Rev. 21:8. Dreadful description, and not more dreadful than true! Faith sees and trembles. It stands afar off, and hearing "the wailing and gnashing of teeth," and seeing "the smoke of their torment ascending up forever and ever," is filled with holy solemnity, and is prepared to pluck out a right eye, and to cut off a right hand or right foot—rather than be cast into that place– "where their worm never dies—and their fire is never quenched." Mark 9:44. Hell is as truly an object of Christian belief as heaven, and while the contemplation of heaven has a direct tendency to draw us to holiness—the contemplation of hell has a tendency no less direct, to drive us from sin!

Let us now meditate on the various inferences which this subject suggests to us.

1. It is scarcely necessary to insist upon the indispensable NECESSITY of holiness to entitle us to the character of a true believer. We are not Christians, and cannot be Christians—if we are not changed in our moral nature from sin to holiness. Holiness was the image of God in which man was created in the beginning—the image which he lost by the fall—and to restore which to our nature was the design of the whole scheme of redemption. It is a mistake to suppose the chief end of Christ's death was to save us from hell. "He died to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." Titus 2:14. Without a new and holy nature, from which shall emanate the fruits of righteousness in our character and conduct, we can be Christians only in name. Sanctification is as essential to salvation as justification, indeed it is a part of it!

We must be born again, which is the starting point of sanctification; and we must grow in holiness, as the evolutions and energies of the new life implanted by regeneration. Without holiness, whatever amiable and lovely qualities of a general kind we may possess, we are still the children of wrath—the enemies of God—the subjects of unrenewed corruption—the heirs of perdition—and going on to everlasting destruction! An unholy man cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The laws of heaven forbid his entrance into that holy state. if he could enter, its blessed inhabitants would retire from him, as the healthy inhabitants of a town would shrink from a person who had come among them infected with the plague. He would find nothing in heaven to suit his taste; no one to associate with him—like a person under fever, he would be unable to relish a single viand at the heavenly feast, and recoil by a kind of moral hydrophobia from the water of the fountain of life.

But the unsanctified can gain no entrance into that blessed world—and any expectation he may entertain of it, is but as the hope of the hypocrite, which will perish in the day when God takes away his soul; and he will be doomed to the bitterness of disappointment, in that hour when he expected to rise to the felicities of fruition.

2. It is of immense consequence for professors to examine themselves to ascertain if they are truly sanctified. Profession is very common—and so is self-delusion. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:21-23. These are words solemn enough to fill the whole church with anxiety and alarm. How prevalent, according to this passage, is self-deception! MANY will say. How far it may be carried—even to the judgment tribunal! How unlikely are the subjects of it—professors, preachers, workers of miracles! I tremble as I write! I tremble for multitudes all around!

Never, no never, were professors more in danger of self-deception than in this age. If the standard of true religion is the New Testament, then a great proportion of the members of all our churches cannot be true Christians --but are merely nominalists, evangelical formalists, and legalistic pharisees!

Let anyone study the Bible description of holiness—the setting forth of sanctification as we find it in—our Lord's Sermon on the Mount—the sixth, eighth, and twelfth chapters of the Epistle to the Romans—the thirteenth of the first Epistle to the Corinthians—the third chapters of the Epistle to the Ephesians and Philippians—and the address of our Lord to the seven churches in Asia, in the book of the Revelation—and say if our churches will stand this test. Do we see the work of sanctification in their spirit, character, and conduct? Is holiness to the Lord inscribed upon them? Are they shining as lights in the world, so that men see their good works? Verily, I think not. The description of the church of Sardis is that which characterizes the state of the Christian world in this day, and a fearful one it is– "You have a name, that you live, and are dead." Let the call for examination then, be sounded forth. Let Christians test themselves on the subject of sanctification.

Let them go into their closet in solemn seriousness, and with the Bible open and God's omniscient eye upon them, ask the question– "Is holiness my desire—my intense desire—my pursuit—my steady, vigorous, earnest pursuit? Do I subject all my wishes—my plans—my tastes—my purposes—to this? Do I deliberately will to be holy—not satisfying myself with vague desires? Do I hate sin as sin—and not merely because of its consequences? Do I resist it in thought, feeling, and desire? Do I mortify every evil corruption of my heart—and am I diligently employed in digging up its roots in the soul, as well as lopping its branches in the conduct? Am I striving after purity of heart? Is my aim to be freed from all sin as well as some sin—or am I endeavoring to atone for the retention of some sins I value, by the surrender of others I am not strongly tempted to commit? Am I satisfied to be as holy as others; or am I striving to be as holy as God requires? Do I mourn over every degree of imperfection; and am I watching and praying against it? Am I striving after perfection—really endeavoring to be cleansed 'from all filthiness of flesh and spirit?' Do I feel that holiness is my very calling, and do I know that I am following it up as such?"

Ah, this is the test, and this the manner of applying it; and so applied, how many must be cut off from the true Christian hope. And yet is there anything here but what the Word of God contains? If we fall under conviction that we are not yet sanctified, let us not put aside the matter as a thing that, however it may be regretted, cannot be helped; and say– "If I am wrong, how many are in the same condition." True. But will that help you? Is it any consolation to perish in a crowd? Will it comfort you to go down to the pit with a multitude?

3. Let the true Christian pant after holiness. Believer, you are justified—and can never be more so than you now are. That work of grace is perfected—and what is perfect cannot be improved. There are no degrees in justification. "It is finished." Blessed thought! You are "accepted in the beloved." Your sanctification is the evidence of this. But sanctification has degrees. You "have not attained, neither are you already perfect. Forgetting the things which are behind, reach forward unto those which are before." Dwell upon the value, the blessedness of holiness—the comfort of purity—the peace of righteousness—the happiness of purity. In some respects sanctification is a greater blessing than justification. Justification frees from punishment; but sanctification from the sin that deserves punishment. Justification exempts from hell; but sanctification gives us the temper of heaven. Justification gives the title to life; sanctification the life itself. Justification restores us to the favor of God; sanctification restores to us the image of God, without which even his favor would be no benefit. Justification is only the means, of which sanctification is the end; for our "conscience is purged from dead works, that we might serve the living and true God." Justification is a relative perfection; sanctification a personal one, and personal changes are above relative ones. Justification has nothing in God to which it is like; but sanctification is his very image. Justification is the blessing of a fallen sinner; holiness the blessing of creatures that have never sinned. Justification is the pledge of glory; sanctification its pledge. Justification is a benefit to the individual who possesses it; being one of those secret transactions which take place within the veil of heaven, and in the chambers of the heart; but sanctification is a social blessing; the change which it involves goes on in public, and by the power of example and influence, benefits those who witness it.

Besides all this, holiness is the end of all God's dealings towards us in grace and providence. If he chose us from eternity, it is that we might be holy. If he calls us in time, it is to holiness. If he gave Christ to die for us, it is to purify us from all iniquity. If he pours out the Spirit, it is to sanctify us. If he gave us the Scriptures, it is that by them we might be made holy. If he chastises us by affliction, it is "that we might be partakers of his holiness." It runs through all his designs and all his plans, to carry on our sanctification.

Christians, see your work—your duty—your privilege. Grow in grace. "This is the will of God—even your sanctification." 1 Thess. 4:5. Be it your will also. You are not yet perfect. Seek to be so. Go on unto perfection. It is an apostolic command. Let nothing less satisfy you. It is your unquestionable duty to seek after it. You are not under the law for justification—but you are for sanctification; and that law demands perfect love—perfect obedience. Your justification by the gospel has not released you from sanctification by conformity to the law. The law tolerates no sin—but condemns all. To suppose that the law does not demand perfect obedience, is to say that it allows you to sin a little. To affirm that the gospel has abolished the law, in its demands of perfect obedience, is to contradict the apostle, who says– "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yes, we establish the law." Rom. 3:31. The law, which is the distant echo of God's own voice, is ever saying to you– "Holier, holier, still." Be it your reply– "Yes, Lord, holier, holier, still."

Desire—yes, long—yes, pant after more intense holiness. Your own comfort requires holiness. What troubles you like sin? What is your greatest distress—but your low degrees of holiness? The "work of righteousness is peace; the fruit of righteousness is quietness and assurance forever." "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom—but by the grace of God, we have lived in the world." 2 Cor. 1:12. "If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things—but if our heart condemns us not, then we have confidence towards God."1 John 3:20, 21.

God's glory requires my holiness—He is honored by his people's conformity to his image. Holiness is the reflection of his own bright rays of moral excellence from his people's character. Religion gains credit by my holiness. Oh, what would be the commanding power of Christianity in our world, if all professing Christians were but seen to be eminent in sanctification and striving after perfect holiness—devout towards God—just towards man—lovely in every social virtue—chaste, truthful, temperate and moderate in all things—in whom the beauties of holiness would be seen in all their attractions. How would the people of the world be struck when they saw a higher morality than their own dead virtue, animated by piety, and overflowing with a divine and spiritual life. They might not love and imitate it—but they would admire it, and like Satan before the seraph stand abashed, and feel how awful goodness is. The sneers and sarcasms against the saints would cease, when the saintly excellences shone forth in all their splendor. Such models of virtue would appear too sacred for contempt. It is the more eminent sanctification of the church that is needed for the conversion of the world—and a holier church would make a holier world, and we cannot expect a holier world until we have a holier church.

But what are the MEANS of obtaining greater sanctification?

We must feel we NEED holiness, which is not generally the case. Christians are lamentably content to remain as they are. Under the fatal opiate that there is no perfection in this world, they are reconciling themselves to all kinds and all degrees of imperfections. They are quite satisfied with a perfect justification, without seeking after a perfect sanctification.

Next to feeling our need, we must cherish an intense DESIRE after holiness—and this desire must come out in the form of a deliberate purpose and fixed resolution. "I must, and God helping me, I WILL be more holy," should be the determination of every believer. Men are afraid to bind themselves with a deliberate resolve—but they ought to do so. They will never be more holy until they resolve to be so. This thing will not come by wishing—but only by willing.

There must be the daily, and diligent, and prayerful study of the SCRIPTURES. This is the divinely appointed means of sanctification. We must read the Word, not out of a mere superstitious reverence for the Bible, as a book that so much of it ought to be read every day—but without any distinct object in perusing it, except it be to avoid the reproaches of conscience for not reading it—not simply to be acquainted with its contents, and to admire its sublimities of doctrine, or its beauties of poetry—not merely to furnish ourselves with the weapons for controversy; no—nor even to draw forth the waters of consolation—but to be made holy. We should approach the Bible with this prayer upon our lips, and going forth from the heart– "Sanctify me by your truth." There is a spirit of holiness, as well as letter of holiness pervading the Word of God—it is redolent with sanctity—an atmosphere of holiness surrounds it—and it is this we should endeavor to inhale in coming to its divine pages. If it does not make us holy, it does nothing for us effectually! It is only as we are sanctified, we enter into God's design in giving us this blessed volume.

Nor must we omit the exercise of our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We need as much to regard Christ in our sanctification—as in our justification. There is perpetual allusion to this in the New Testament. Christ, as a teacher, has shown us by precept what sanctification is, in his Sermon upon the Mount. As an example, he has exhibited to us his own conduct; he was an embodiment of holiness—a living pattern of purity. As our atonement, he has made holiness attainable by us through the gift of the Divine Spirit conferred upon us, a fruit of his mediation. By our union with him by faith, we derive the virtues and efficacy of his mediation. Hence, we are crucified with Christ—buried with Christ—quickened with Christ—risen with Christ—and walk in newness of life with Christ. On him our faith must be fixed, to derive from him all that is necessary for our new and spiritual existence.

And if we would increase in sanctification, we must be much in prayer for the influence of the Divine Spirit. Sanctification, as we have already shown, is his work; but for this work, he will be importuned by us in prayer. No man can be eminently holy—but by being much in his closet; for "this thing goes not forth but by prayer and fasting." In praying for the Spirit, we should understand what we ask for—that we need to have our corruptions, those we have indulged and cherished, mortified; that we need to have right eyes plucked out, and right hands cut off. This is what we mean by being sanctified. Many people pray for the Spirit to make them holy; but then they use the term holy in the most vague and indeterminate sense, forgetting that holiness means the putting away of those very sins they love! No man prays with sincerity for Divine help in sanctification, who does not mean that he wants help to put away every sin he has—even the dearest or most gainful; and not only the greatest sins—but the least sins. To ask God to sanctify us, and yet not to determine to renounce the sins we know we are committing—is a dreadful mockery of God!

When a worldly-minded believer prays to be really sanctified, he means that he has really determined to put away his worldly-mindedness, and to become spiritual. When a passionate, or revengeful, or malicious believer prays for real sanctification, he means that he has resolved to alter and improve his temper, and that he wants the Spirit to assist him. So if the covetous believer prays for real sanctification, he means that he has resolved to put away his love of money, and is really desirous that God would assist him to do so.

Oh, the insincerity and hypocrisy of multitudes in praying for the Spirit to make them holy. They do not want to be sanctified, and in asking for it; they do but add hypocrisy to all their other sins.

But where the heart is sincere, and the believer really desires to be made holy, where it can honestly say—

"Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made you mourn.
And drove you from my breast.

"The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from your throne,
And worship only Thee!"

In that case, the Spirit shall be granted, provided the blessing be asked in faith. Such a soul, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and beseeching Divine help with fervor, and expecting to receive it, shall grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing God has more frequently promised to bestow—nothing he is more willing to bestow—nothing he is more glorified in bestowing—than his Holy Spirit, to those who ask for sanctification.