THE HOLY SPIRIT, An Experimental and Practical View by Octavius Winslow
"The Sanctification of the Spirit" or
"The Necessity and the Nature of True Holiness"
"Through sanctification of the Spirit." 2 Thess. 2, 13.
We have already briefly intimated that one most important feature in the work of the indwelling Spirit is the sanctification of the believer. What was merely glanced at in the preceding chapter will now, by the assistance of that same Teacher who has promised to guide into all spiritual truth, be more fully unfolded. While yet upon the threshold of our subject, let it be premised that there is an order, as well as a harmony, in the operations of the Spirit, which it is highly important should be observed. An ignorance or an oversight of this has led to great and fatal perversions of the Gospel, especially that part which relates to the doctrine now under discussion. All the self-righteousness of the Pharisee, and all the self-devotion of the deluded disciple of the papal superstition, have their origin here. Now the order of the Spirit is this: regeneration of the heart first, then its sanctification. Reverse this, and we derange every part of His work and, as far as our individual benefit extends, render it entirely useless. Sanctification is not the first and immediate duty of an unrenewed person. Indeed, it is utterly impossible that it should be so. Sanctification has its commencement and its daily growth in a principle of life implanted in the soul by the eternal Spirit; and to look for holiness in an individual still dead in sins is to look for fruit where no seed was sown, for the actings of life where no vital principle exists. It is to expect, in the language of our Lord, to "gather grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles." The first and imperative duty of an unrenewed man is to prostrate himself in deep abasement and true repentance before God. The lofty look must be brought low, and the rebellious will must be humbled; in the posture of one overwhelmed with a sense of guilt, he must look by faith to a crucified Savior, and draw from Him life, pardon and acceptance. It is most solemnly true that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord"; yet all attempts towards the attainment of holiness before repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will but disappoint the soul that looks for it.
This work of renewal done, sanctification is a comparatively easy and a delightful task. Motives and exhortations to a life of holiness now find a ready response in the heart,
already the temple of the Holy Spirit. The "incorruptible seed" sown there, germinates into the plant, and blossoms
and ripens into the fruits of holiness. The well of "living water" created there springs up and pours forth its stream of life and purity, adorning and fertilising the garden of the
Lord. Let us then be careful not to disturb the arrangement, and reverse the order of the blessed Spirit in His work. From lack of such care, great errors have arisen, and souls have gone into eternity fearfully and fatally deceived. Especially cautious should they be in this matter who are appointed to the office of spiritual instruction, to whose care immortal souls are entrusted, lest, in a matter involving interests so precious and so lasting, anyone listening to their teaching should pass into eternity ignorant of the one and true method of salvation.
Let the reader prayerfully follow us while we endeavor to unfold the necessity of sanctification in the believer, its gospel nature, and the means employed by the Spirit in its production.
There exists an absolute and solemn NECESSITY for sanctification in a child of God. To remind the reader of this may at first sight appear a needless work, so self-evident, and so immediate an effect of regeneration by the Spirit does it seem. And yet the advanced believer, much more the sincere inquirer after a more perfect knowledge of the will of God, needs to be perpetually reminded of the solemn necessity, for his own happiness and his Father's glory, of a daily growth in all holiness. And as the believer is, after regeneration, an active agent in the furtherance of this great work, and as there is a perpetual proneness, through the many infirmities of the flesh, to settle down in a state of ease and sloth in it, the importance of being reminded of this necessity will immediately appear.
The first ground on which this necessity rests is the holiness of God. The nature of the God whose temple he is pleads for the sanctification of the believer. We have to do with a holy God who, from the very necessity and purity of His being, can have no fellowship with sin. He must hate, He must abhor it. A stronger plea for the sanctification of the child of God can nowhere be found. Let us for a moment trace this argument as it runs like a golden thread through every part of God's Word. We see its commencement in the Old Testament. Levit. 11. 44, 45: "For I am the Lord your God you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy . . . I am the Lord that brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy." Levit. 19. 2: "Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy."
And that these commandments and this standard may not seem to belong exclusively to the Old Testament saints, the apostle Peter embodies them, as of equal force and solemnity, in his writings to the saints of the New Testament. 1 Peter 1. 15, 16: "But as he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of conversation: because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy." If this motive to sanctification came clothed with such solemnity and power, and was so felt by the Jewish church, what should be its authority and influence with the church as it now exists! The increased power and solemnity of this motive is drawn from the more resplendent exhibition of God's holiness in the cross of Christ. The saints of the Old Testament were not favored with such a development of the Divine purity as an argument to sanctification. But we possess it; so that if we continue in sin after we have believed, we are "without excuse," and God is "clear when He judges." The cross is God's grand demonstration of His holiness. Here has He, as it were, unveiled His great perfections, and shown what a sin-hating, holiness-loving God He is. What! Could He not pass by His dear Son? Did He give Him up to the "shame and the spitting"? Why did He not withhold his "darling from the power of the dog"? Did justice sheath its sword in the heart of Jesus? Did it smite the Shepherd? And why all this? The answer comes from Calvary, "I, the Lord, am a holy God." And then follows the precept- O how touching!- "Be holy, for I am holy." See how the justice of God (and what is the justice of God but His holiness in exercise?) revealed itself as a "consuming fire" on Calvary. Our dear Lord was "a whole burned offering" for His people; and the fire that descended and consumed the sacrifice was the holiness of God in active and fearful exercise. Here then springs the solemn necessity for sanctification in the believer. The God he loves is holy, his Father is holy- and He has written out that holiness in awful letters in the cross of His well-beloved Son, "Be holy, for I am holy." We must study God in Christ. There we see His holiness, justice, wisdom, grace, truth, love and mercy, all unfolded in their richest glory and most benevolent exercise.
The necessity for sanctification also springs from the work of Christ. The Lord Jesus became incarnate, and died as much for the sanctification as for the pardon and justification of His church; as much for her deliverance from the indwelling power of sin as from the condemnatory power of sin. His work would have been but partial and incomplete if no provision had been made for the holiness of the believer. But He came not only to blot out sin but to rend asunder its chain, not only to remove its curse but to break its scepter. The believer in Jesus may be but imperfectly aware how closely associated his sanctification is with the obedience and death of Christ. Indeed the very death of Christ for sin outside of him, is the death of sin inside of him; no inroads are made upon the dominion of indwelling sin, no conquests obtained, no flesh crucified, no besetting sin laid aside, but only as the believer hangs daily upon the cross. Observe how the Holy Spirit connects the two- the death of Christ and the holiness of the believer: thus in John 17. 19: "And for their sakes," says Jesus, "I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." As their High-priest to atone and purify, He set Himself apart as a holy sacrifice to the Lord God for the church's sake. "For their sakes I sanctify myself"- or set myself apart. Oh, what a motive to holiness is this, saint of God! Can you resist it? Yet again the connection is un folded. Tit. 2. 14: "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Eph. 5. 25, 26: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." Thus clearly does the Holy Spirit unfold the close and beautiful relationship between the death of Christ and the death of sin.
The covenant of grace enforces the sanctification of the believer. "It is the eternal and immutable purpose of God," observes Dr. John Owen, "that all who are His in a peculiar manner, all whom He designs to bring unto blessedness in the everlasting enjoyment of Himself, shall, antecedently there unto, be made holy." For the security and attainment of this, all provision has been made in the everlasting covenant of grace. The very election of the believer to eternal life provides for and secures his holiness. There could not possibly be any holiness without election, because election provides the means of its attainment. Thus clearly does the Spirit of truth unfold it. 2 Thess. 2. 13: "We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." Again, Eph. 1. 4: "According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Let this be clearly understood. On the ground of no foreseen holiness in the creature, did God thus purpose to save him; but seeing the indispensable necessity of sanctification in order to eternal glory- the impossibility of the one without the other- He chose us in Christ "that we should be holy."
Let not the Christian reader turn away from, or treat lightly, this precious revealed truth of God's Word- an election of a people unto holiness here, and glory hereafter. The prejudice of education, early modes of thought, a preconceived system, and most of all the neglect of a close and prayerful investigation of God's Word for himself, may lead to the rejection of the doctrine. But he who first objects to it, and then renounces it, without a thorough and prayerful sifting of its scriptural claims to belief, stands on solemn ground, and his attitude may have fearful consequences. What God has revealed, "that call not you common." What He has commanded, do not turn from, lest you be found to have turned from God Himself. Why it has pleased the Lord to choose a people in this way, it is not our province to inquire, nor, we believe, would it be for our happiness to know. We do not attempt to explain the doctrine, much less to account for it. We simply and, we trust, scripturally state it, leaving God to vindicate and bless it. He is the best defender and apologist of His own sacred truth. "Secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Dent. 29. 29.) The secret thing in the doctrine of election is why God has done it; the thing which is revealed is that He has done it. Let us not then seek to be wise above what is written, though it is our duty, as an acute writer has remarked, to be wise up to what is written, leaving the more perfect knowledge of the things that are now seen as "through a glass darkly," to that period of perfect illumination when we shall "know, even as we are known." But thus much we know, that it is the eternal purpose of God, revealed and provided for in the covenant of grace, that all who are chosen, called, and justified, shall, with a view to their being glorified, be "partakers of His holiness." Heaven is a holy place, its inhabitants are a holy people, and He whose glory fills the temple is a holy God. Behold then the provision God has made for the sanctification of the believer in the everlasting covenant of grace. The foundation is laid in the death of Christ, it commences in the effectual calling of the Spirit and, by all the precious assurances of grace, wisdom and strength provided in the covenant, it is carried forward to a glorious completion.
We would only specify, as one more consideration pleading for the sanctification of the believer, his own personal happiness. Holiness is necessary to the comfort of the believer, as it is an essential element of his Christian character. Sanctification is a part of the new creation. Although not the first step the soul takes into the new world of holiness, it yet immediately follows. Regeneration is the commencement of the reign of holiness, or (to change the figure) the planting of the germ, which time and the Lord's covenant dealings cause to take deep root and to put forth its lovely and fragrant flower. In proportion as the sanctification of a believer advances, his real happiness advances with it. Holiness brings its own peculiar and high enjoyment. It is from heaven, and conveys into the heart the happiness of heaven; so that he who is most holy has most of the material of heaven in his soul. O how loudly does the happiness of a child of God plead for his holiness! As his soul approximates to the likeness of God, his circumstances, trying as they may be, cannot remove the fine edge of his inward and concealed enjoyments. Indeed, sanctified by the indwelling Spirit, trials only heighten those enjoyments, and are found the most effective helps to the maturing of holiness in his soul.
These are some of the grounds on which the necessity of sanctification is enforced in the Divine Word. It will now be proper to unfold its gospel NATURE.
What is true sanctification? The question is vastly more important than would at first sight appear. Unscriptural views of sanctification have been found to exist, not only among the unregenerate, but even in the church of Christ. Yet every dear child of God who honestly desires to follow the Lord fully and to live as a temple of the Holy Spirit, deeply feels the necessity of the Spirit's teaching in a matter so personal and so momentous as this. How much do we who now write and they who read need, while contemplating this subject, the anointings of the Holy One and the eye that looks at the blood that cleanses from all sin!
Sanctification has been defined as "the work of the Holy Spirit whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness." Briefly and emphatically, it is a progressive conformity of the whole man to the Divine nature. Under the Levitical dispensation the term sanctified had a peculiar meaning. People and things were said to be sanctified which were separated, set apart and offered to God. Thus the furniture of the temple was pronounced holy, or sanctified; the ark, the altar, all the utensils of the temple and the vestments of the priest were regarded as sanctified, because set apart and dedicated to God. For the same reason, people were said to be sanctified who were solemnly consecrated to the service.
The dispensation of ritual having passed away, the word, by an easy and natural accommodation, has assumed a more comprehensive and evangelical meaning; and is now employed to set forth the advance of the believer in a conformity of heart to the will and image of God. In explaining the nature of sanctification, we would first of all establish from the Scripture the spirituality of the Divine law. There is a sense, as we have elsewhere shown, in which the believer is dead to the law. His union to Christ has delivered him from the law as a covenant of works. "You have died to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him that is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." Again, "Now we are delivered from the law, that being dead (marg. being dead to that) wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." (Rom. 7. 4, 6.) This then is the deadness to which the apostle refers. It is a release from the law as a ground of acceptance. The believer is "accepted in the Beloved"- pardoned, justified, and sanctified in Christ. He is married to Christ- is one with Christ. As such he is delivered from the law, under whose condemnation he once rested: being dead to that wherein he was held, it can no longer assert its claims, or exact obedience as the condition of life. It can no longer threaten or condemn. Shut up in the faith of Jesus, and receiving pardon and justification through Him, he is beyond the power of the law as a covenant of life, and is screened from its vengeance as a source of condemnation. No single truth has the Holy Spirit more clearly written out than this. He has shown, too, that it forms the basis of sanctification in the justified believer. His release from a covenant of works and his translation into the covenant of grace, his deliverance from the law and his union to Christ, form the ground of all holy liberty, filial obedience and spiritual fruitfulness. Those who are under the law are under the curse- but "there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus"- therefore the believer in Christ is not under the law.
But we come to the sense in which they "that are in Christ Jesus" have yet to do with the law. Released from it as a covenant of life, it yet remains obligatory as a rule of obedience to Christ. If we suppose that the law has lost all authority and use- to be entirely abrogated- we must suppose that the relation of God to His creatures as their moral Governor has also ceased- that, having laid aside all rule of obedience, He has with it abdicated the throne of the universe, and that man has ceased to be the subject of a moral government. But, far from this, the law of God remains in all its dignity, purity and force. The believer in Christ is released from it as a ground of acceptance, but not as a standard of holiness. Is it true that Christ is the standard and pattern of a believer's holiness? Undoubtedly. Then we argue that the moral law was the standard of Christ's holiness; therefore it must necessarily be the standard of the believer's. The whole life of Jesus was a conformity to the purity of the Divine law which was His standard of holiness and His pattern of obedience; therefore in following the example of Christ we are being conformed to the purity of the law "in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter."
Sanctification, then, is a growing conformity to the spirituality of the Divine law. The sincere believer acknowledges "that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good"; he knows "that the law is spiritual." He therefore "delights in the law of God after the inward man." Does his faith in Jesus "make void the law"? "God forbid." Instead, his faith "establishes the law," reflects its spirituality, maintains its purity, vindicates its holiness and glorifies its Divine Author. The closer then the resemblance of the believer to the spirituality of the law of God in his life, his temper, and habit of his mind, his principles, his daily walk in the world and out of the world, among the saints or as surrounded by the ungodly, the more thoroughly is the work of sanctification advancing in his soul.
In all this there is a more simple surrender of the will to God. The holy Robert Leighton has remarked that to say from the heart "Your will be done " constitutes the very essence of sanctification. There is much truth in this, more than perhaps strikes the mind at the first view. Before conversion, the will- the governing principle of the soul- is the seat of all opposition to God. It rises against God, His government, His law, His providence, His grace, His Son; to all that appertains to God, the unrenewed will of man is hostile. Here lies the depth of man's unholiness. The will is against God; and so long as it refuses to obey Him, the creature must remain unholy. Now it needs no lengthy argument to show that when the will, as renewed by the Holy Spirit, is made to submit to God, the holiness of the believer must be in proportion to the degree of its submission. There could not be perfect holiness in heaven, were there the slightest preponderance of the will of the creature towards itself. The angels and " the spirits of just men made perfect" are supremely holy because their
wills are supremely swallowed up in the will of God. "Your
will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven." The will of God is supremely obeyed in heaven, and in this consist the holiness and the felicity of its glorious inhabitants.
Now in exact proportion as God's will "is done on earth" by the believer, he drinks from the pure fountain of holiness; and as he is enabled by the grace of Christ in all things to look up to God with filial love and to say, "Not my will, O
my Father, but Yours be done," he attains the very essence of sanctification. Let us trace out this subject. It is God's revealed will that His child should be holy- "this is the will of God, even your sanctification." When the will of the believer rises and blends itself with God's will here, and in the spirit of sonship responds, "Lord, is it your will that I should be holy? Then make me so in body, in soul and in spirit. Subdue all my corruptions, break the power of my lusts; bring every thought, affection, word and look into sweet obedience to Yourself; rule in the midst of Your enemies"- how truly does the work of sanctification advance in the soul!
It is the revealed will of God that His child should maintain a walk in all things pleasing to Him: "that you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." When the believer's will fully acquiesces in this, and the heart is drawn out in earnest and agonizing prayer for an upright walk, worthy of his high calling and of the Lord by whom he is called, for more fruitfulness in every good work, and for an increase of faith, love and knowledge of God, who will not say that such a soul is rapidly growing in sanctification?
It is the revealed will of God that the believer should walk as an obedient child: " O that you had hearkened to my commandments! then had your peace been as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea." And, when these are the responsive breathings of his soul: " I love your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold; therefore I esteem all your precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. I will run the way of your commandments, when you shall enlarge my heart "- such a soul is maturing in holiness, and is becoming fitted " for the inheritance of the saints in light."'
It is the revealed will of God that His child should meekly and silently bow to His chastening hand: "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by him." And when the tried and afflicted believer "hears the rod, and He who has appointed it," and with a humble and filial acquiescence, justifies the wisdom and the love and even the tenderness that sent it- surely such a soul is a rich partaker of God's holiness. In all these particulars, there is a surrender of the will to God, and consequently an approximation to the holiness of His nature. The point we are now considering is one of great importance. It involves as much your holy and happy walk as it does the glory of God. We put the simple questions- can there be any advance of sanctification in the soul when the will is running counter to the Divine will?- and can that believer walk happily when there is a constant opposition in his mind to all the dealings
of his God and Father? O no! Holiness and happiness are closely allied; and both are the offspring of a humble, filial,
and complete surrender of the will in all things to God. Such an attainment in holiness is not soon or easily gained. Far from it. In many, it is the work of years; in all, of painful
discipline. It is not on the high mount of joy, but in the low valley of humiliation, that this precious and holy surrender is learned. It is not in the summer day- when all things smile and wear a sunny aspect- then it were easy to say, "Your will be done"; but when a cloudy and a wintry sky looks down upon you, when the chill blast of adversity blows, when health fails, when friends die, when wealth departs, when the heart's fondest endearments are yielded, when the Isaac is called for, when the world turns its back- when all is gone and you are like a tree of the desert, over which the tempest has swept, stripping it of every branch- when you are brought so low that it would seem to you that you could not be any lower- then to look up with filial love and exclaim, "My Father, Your will be done!" Oh, this is holiness, this is happiness indeed.
It may be that God, your God and Father, is dealing in this way with you now. Has he taken from you health? Has he asked for the surrender of your Isaac? Have riches taken to themselves wings? Does the world frown? Ah! little do you realize how God is now about to unfold to you the depths of His love, and to cause your will sweetly, and filially, and entirely to flow into His. Let me repeat the observation- a higher degree of sanctification there cannot be than a will entirely swallowed up in God's. Earnestly pray for it, diligently seek it. Be jealous of the slightest opposition of your mind, watch against the least rebellion of the will, wrestle for an entire surrender- to be where, and to be what, your covenant God and Father would have you; and so shall you be made a partaker of His holiness.
Furthermore, sanctification includes a growing resemblance to the likeness of Christ. How beautifully and explicitly has
the Holy Spirit unfolded this in His Word! This was the exhortation of our dear Lord, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart"; and throughout the writings of His apostles the same truth is exhibited: "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." Rom. 8. 29. "Speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." Eph. 4. 15.
Here is the glorious pattern of a child of God. Sanctification is a conformity to the image and the example of Christ. The more the believer is growing like Jesus, the more he is growing in holiness. And on the contrary, the less resemblance there is to Christ in his principles, in the habit of his mind, in his spirit, temper, daily walk, in every action and in every look, the less is he advancing in the great work of holiness. O how many who profess His dear name, and who are expecting to be with Him forever, never pause to consider what resemblance they bear to Him now! Were they to deal faithfully with conscience in the much-neglected duty of self-examination, were they to bring themselves to this great standard- how far below it would they be found to have come! How much in their principles, in their governing motives, in their temper, spirit, and daily conduct, how much in their walk in the world, in their deportment in the church, and in their more concealed conduct in their families, would be discovered that was unlike Christ! How much that was "from beneath," how little that was "from above"- how much of the "image of the earthy," how little of the "image of the heavenly"! But, look at the image of our dear Lord- how lowly, how holy it is! Look at His poverty of spirit, lowliness of heart, humility of deportment, tenderness, gentleness, forgiveness of injuries, self-denial, prayerfulness, zeal for His Father's glory, yearnings for the salvation of men. O to be like Jesus!- to grow up into Him in all things! This is to "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing"; this is to realize "the will of God, even our sanctification." Let it not then be forgotten that an advancing believer is one growing in a resemblance and conformity to the image and example of Christ.
We must include, though in general terms, as involved in the growing sanctification of the believer, an increasingly tender conscience, a soft and gentle walk, deepening views of sin, looking at it more directly in the light of the cross, mourning over, confessing, hating, and crucifying it there. Nor must we omit a more complete investiture of the Christian with the graces of the Spirit; the active graces- faith, love, zeal, self-denial; the passive graces- meekness, patience, gentleness, peace. There are some, and not a few cases, in which all of these features distinguish a believer advancing in sanctification.
Having thus briefly considered the nature of sanctification, we now proceed to the main design of this chapter which was to show THE AGENCY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT in its production.
The work of sanctification is pre-eminently the product of the Spirit. He is the great Sanctifier of the soul. We have shown that the implantation of the germ of holiness in regeneration is of Him. For let it ever be borne in mind that a renewed soul has within it the "incorruptible seed" of holiness. Although its growth in many instances may be slow and scarcely perceptible, although during a long period of his journey the believer may be the subject of strong corruptions and clinging infirmities, which, in a degree, act like frosts upon the tender scion, checking its advance to maturity- yet the seed is there. Indwelling sin cannot destroy it, the frosts cannot kill it, it is "incorruptible" and therefore cannot be corrupted. In process of time, under the tender and faithful culture of the eternal Spirit, it shall deepen and expand its roots, and put forth its branches and its boughs, and then shall appear the fruit, "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear". It will vary in its degree of fruitfulness among the saints, in "some thirty, some sixty, some an hundredfold," but in all it will be of the same nature and the product of the same Spirit.
It has been the constant effort of Satan to divert men from the great point we are now considering. In two ways has he proved successful. First, in setting them upon the work of mortification of sin before regeneration; and second, in setting them upon the same work after conversion, in their own strength. With regard to the first, we have shown at some length that sanctification is not the work of an unbeliever; that, although it is solemnly true that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord," yet the attainment of holiness is an utter impossibility so long as the heart remains a stranger to the regenerating operations of the Holy Spirit. Repentance and faith are the first necessities in order of time for an unconverted man. With regard to the second effort of Satan to deceive the soul, it is equally ruinous to all true mortification of sin. No child of God can accomplish this mighty work in his own strength. Here lies the secret, be assured, of all our failure and disappointment in the work. Forgetting that he who would prove victorious in this warfare must first learn the lesson of his own weakness and insufficiency, and, thus schooled, must go forth in the "strength that is in Christ Jesus," and in the "power of His might," taking the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit- forgetting this important truth, we march to the overthrow of our giant corruptions in our own fancied wisdom and power; and the result always has been, and with the same means ever will be, our complete discomfiture. Oh! when shall we learn that we are nothing- that we have "no might"- and that our feeblest enemy will triumph if his overthrow be attempted in our own insufficiency?
The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause of all holiness in the believer. If we look into the prophecy of Ezekiel, we find clear intimations of the promise of the Spirit to this effect. There God unfolds what may be regarded as the foundation of all sanctification- the removal of the stony heart and the implanting of a new spirit. Ezek. 11.19: "I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you." Ezek. 36. 26: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." Let us see the doctrine as more clearly unfolded in the writings of the apostles. Rom. 8. 9: "You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." 1 Cor. 6. 11: "And such were some of you:, but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 2 Thess. 2. 13: "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth." 1 Pet. 1. 2: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit." We are far from excluding the Father and the Son from any part in this great work- we believe they are deeply interested in it, as the Divine Word shows in Jude 1: "Those who are sanctified by God the Father." 1 Cor. 1. 2: "Those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus." But the Holy Spirit is the special and immediate Agent to whom the work of sanctifying the believer is assigned.
Let us now attempt to show IN WHAT WAY HE SANCTIFIES THE BELIEVER. First, by leading to a deeper acquaintance with the existence and power of indwelling sin. Perhaps the first impression of the reader is, how can this be? How does the breaking up of the deep fountain of inbred sin lead to the quieting of its dark and turbulent waves? But the Holy Spirit works in a way contrary to the dictates of our poor reason- in a way often that we never should have conceived, and by methods we should never have selected. This is one method of His operation in subduing our iniquities, and in making us partakers of the Divine holiness. The knowledge of indwelling sin, its existence and power, is often exceedingly defective at conversion, and this ignorance may continue for years after. We just see sin enough to alarm the conscience, awaken conviction and take us to Christ. As a thing against God, we hate it, mourn over it and seek its pardon through the atoning blood. This is followed by a sweet and lively sense of its blotting out and a growing desire after Divine conformity. But, oh, the unknown depths of sin!- these we have never explored. What infinite wisdom and love are seen in hiding these depths at first from our knowledge! Were the Lord fully to have revealed the hidden evils of the heart at the period when grace was yet in the bud, and faith was feeble, and our views of the Lord Jesus dim, and the "new creature" yet in its infancy, deep and dark despair must have gathered around the soul. With perhaps just knowledge enough of Christ to go to Him as a Savior, with just faith enough to touch the hem of His garment, the eternal Spirit first disclosed to us the existence and the guilt of sin; a full disclosure might have shut us up in hopeless despair. As believers it is sweet to remember the tender love of God in our espousals, to trace the gentleness of His first dealings with us in conversion, and to bear in mind that what He was then, He is at this moment.
But trace the work of the Spirit in the days after our experience. He comes, in accordance with the design of the covenant of grace, to sanctify, having called and quickened us. He is about to enlarge the "kingdom of God within" us, to stamp more deeply and bring out more vividly and broadly on the soul the varied lineaments of the Divine image. He is about to purify the temple more thoroughly, to take a fresh possession for God, to expel every rival that, by slow and imperceptible degrees, may have insinuated itself there; in a word, He is about to sanctify us. And how does He commence the work? By leading us into the chamber of imagery, by disclosing the depths of indwelling sin. Sin whose existence we had never imagined, He shows to have its principal dwelling in the heart. Iniquity that we had never thought of, He reveals as lurking in secret ambush within. O what darkness, what evil, and what baneful principles are found to have existed for so long, where we thought all was light, holiness and rectitude! We start, we shudder, and we shrink away, aghast at the discovery. "What! " says the alarmed soul, does all this evil dwell in me? Have I carried about with me for so long these sinful desires? Have I dwelling in me the seeds of such deep and dark depravity? Wonder of wonders is it, that the flood has not long since carried me away- that these deep evils have not broken out, to the wounding of my peace, and to the dishonoring of my God and Savior." Thus made acquainted with his own heart, almost a stranger to him before, the Holy Spirit awakens in his soul an ardent desire for holiness. In view of such a discovery, where can he fly but to the throne of grace? There, then, he goes weeping, mourning, confessing- and his prayer is, "Lord, subdue these evils of my heart- I am overwhelmed with astonishment. I lie down in shame, and my confusion covers me, that I should have harbored so long these treacherous foes against You, God of holiness and love. Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Now the Spirit deepens and strengthens this desire for sanctification; the believer is set upon earnestly seeking holiness of heart; he sees such an iniquity in sin as he never saw before, and seeing it, he abhors it, and abhorring it, he takes it to the Spirit of holiness, that He might overcome and subdue it. Thus, in leading the believer into a deeper acquaintance with the existence and power of indwelling sin, does the blessed Spirit sanctify the soul, by making it the occasion of stirring up its desires for holiness. So do not be cast down at the discovery of the hidden evil of your heart. Sweet is the evidence it affords to the fact that the Holy Spirit is working there. Whatever be the sin that is brought to light- pride, deceit, carnality, inordinate affection, evil thoughts, unbelief, impatience, whatever it be- He is revealing it to you, not unnecessarily to wound and grieve you- O no, he is a loving and a gentle Spirit- but to beget this desire in your heart, "Lord, conform me to Your image- make me holy as You are holy."
Another process by which the Spirit sanctifies, is by deepening and strengthening the Divine life in the soul. There is, in every believer, a spiritual life. This life is from God. He is therefore said to be a "partaker of the Divine nature." This new and Divine life is, from its very nature, holy, and therefore opposed to the flesh. The flesh and the Spirit are ever hostile the one to the other, "for the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other." Paul, referring to his own experience, corroborates this statement. "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Now the advance of the believer in true sanctification is just in proportion to the state of the Divine life within him. If it be low and declining, feeble and drooping, then the flesh gains the ascendancy and the root of sin is strengthened. If, on the contrary, the life of God in the soul is deepening and expanding, healthy and vigorous; if the "kingdom of God within," which is the new creation, is filling up every avenue of the mind, extending its conquests, and bringing every thought and affection into captivity to Christ; then the great work of sanctification is advancing, and "the law of the mind" is prevailing against "the law of sin."
There is an idea; fatal to all true sanctification of sin, which some believers, especially those who are young in experience, are prone to entertain, that nothing is to be done in the soul after a man has believed, that the work of conversion having taken place, all is accomplished. So far from this being the case, he has but just entered upon the work of sanctification, just started in the race, just buckled on the armor. The conflict can hardly be said to have begun in conversion; and therefore to rest indolently with the idea that the soul has nothing more to do than to accept of Christ as his salvation- that there are no corruptions to subdue, no sinful habits to cut off, no long-existing and deeply-embedded sins to mortify, root and branch, and no high and yet higher degrees in holiness to attain- is to form a most contracted view of the Christian life, such a view as, if persisted in, must necessarily prove detrimental to the spiritual advance of the believer.
The work of sanctification is a great and a daily work. It commences at the very moment of our translation into the kingdom of Christ on earth, and does not cease until the moment of our translation into the kingdom of God in heaven. The notion, so fondly cherished by some, of perfect sinlessness here, is as fatal to true sanctification as it is contrary to God's Word. They know but little of their own heart, who do not know, that sin (to borrow the language of John Owen), "not only still abides in us, but is still acting, still laboring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh." They know little who do not know that in their "flesh there dwells no good thing," that "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," and will retain its fleshly nature and propensities to the very last. Let us not exult "as though we had already attained, or were already perfect"; let us not be "ignorant of Satan's devices," one of which is to build us up in the belief that, in the present life, a man may cease from the work of mortification. The Lord keep the reader from cherishing so erroneous an idea. The work of sanctification is the work of a man's life. "When sin lets us alone (as has been remarked) we may let sin alone." But when is the day, indeed, when is the hour, that sin does not strive for the mastery, and in which the believer can say that he has completely slain his enemy? He may, "through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body," and if he does, "he shall live"; but as the heart is the natural and luxuriant soil of every noxious weed of sin, and as another springs up as soon as one is cut down, indeed as the same root appears again above the surface with new life and vigor, it requires a ceaseless care and vigilance, a perpetual mortification of sin in the body, until we throw off this cumbrous clay and go where sin is known no more.
In this way does the Spirit deepen the holiness of the child of God. He strengthens the Divine life within him; He invigorates the principle of holiness; waters, and revives, and expands the germ; infuses new life into His own blessed work; gives a new spring to faith, a new impulse to obedience, enlarges the heart with the love of Christ, and excites such a thirsting for holiness as none but God Himself can satisfy.
We would not omit to notice the influence of sanctified afflictions, which, through the eternal Spirit, are a powerful means of sanctification to the soul. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted," has been the exclamation and the testimony of many of the Lord's covenant and tried people. It is often difficult at the time to justify the wisdom and the goodness of God in His dealings with His saints. David found it so, when he saw with envy the prosperity of the wicked. Job found it so, when in the hour and depth of his afflictions, he exclaimed, "You are become cruel to me: with your strong hand you oppose yourself against me." Jeremiah found it so, when in his affliction he said, "He has hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he has made my chain heavy." And yet where is the furnace-tried, tempest-tossed believer that has not had to say, "In very faithfulness has he afflicted me"? During the pressure of the trial, at the moment when the storm was the heaviest, he may have thought, "all these things are against me"; but soon he has been led to justify the wisdom, and the love, and the faithfulness, and the tenderness of his covenant God and Father in His dealings, and to sing, in sweeter notes than ever,
"It is my happiness below
Not to live without the cross,
But the Savior's power to know,
Sanctifying every loss." (Cowper.)
The furnace is a needed process of sanctification. If not, why has God so ordered it? If not, why is it that so many of
His people are "chosen in the furnace of affliction"? Why do
all, more or less, pass through it? The furnace is needed. It is needed to "purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." It is needed to consume the dross and the tin which adhere so closely to the precious ore, to burn up the chaff that mingles with the precious grain, to purify the heart, to refine the affections, to chasten the soul, to wean it from a poor, empty world, to draw it from the creature, and to center it in God. O the blessed effects of this sanctified process! Who can fully unfold them? That must be blessed indeed which makes sin more exceedingly sinful, which weans and draws away from earth, which endears Jesus and His precious blood and righteousness, and which makes the soul a "partaker of His holiness." This is the blessed tendency of the sanctified discipline of the covenant. In this way does the Holy Spirit often sanctify the child of God.
Are you a child of affliction? Ah! how many whose eye falls on this question shall say, "I am the man that has seen affliction!" So too was your Lord and Master, and so too have been the most holy and eminent of His disciples. Then "think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy." This is the path along which all the Lord's covenant people are led, and in this path, thorny though it be, they pluck some of their choicest flowers, and find some of their sweetest fruits. I am not addressing myself to those who are strangers to sanctified sorrow, whose voyage so far has been over a smooth and summer sea, whose heart's affections have never been sundered, whose budding hopes have never been blighted, whose spring blossoms have never fallen just when the fruit was beginning to appear, or whose sturdy oaks around which they fondly and closely clung have never been stricken at their side; to such I speak a mystery when I speak of the peculiar and costly blessings of sanctified affliction. It is not so with the experienced child of God, the "man that has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath." He is a witness to the truth of what I say. From this mine, he will tell you, he has dug his richest ore. In this field he has found his sweetest fruit. The knowledge of God to which he has here attained- His tender, loving and wise dealings with His people, His glorious character and perfections, His unchangeable love and faithfulness; the knowledge of Christ- His all-sufficiency and fulness, His sympathy and love; the knowledge of himself- his poverty, vileness and unworthiness: O where, and in what other school, could these high attainments have been made but in the low valley of humiliation, and beneath the discipline of the covenant of grace? Thus does the Spirit sanctify the soul through the medium of God's afflictive dispensations; thus they deepen the work of grace in the heart awaken the soul from its spiritual drowsiness- empty, humble, and lay it low- thus they lead to prayer, to self-examination, and afresh to the atoning blood; in this way, and by these means, the believer advances in holiness "through sanctification of the Spirit."
Again, it is by simple, close, and searching views of the cross of Christ that the Spirit most effectually sanctifies the believer. This is the true and great method of gospel sanctification. Here lies the secret of all real holiness, and, may I not add, of all real happiness? For if we separate happiness from holiness, we separate that which, in the covenant of grace, God has wisely and indissolubly united. The experience of the true believer must testify to this. We are only happy as we are holy- as the body of sin is daily crucified, as the power of the indwelling principle of sin is weakened, and as the outward deportment more beautifully and closely corresponds to the example of Jesus. Let us not then look for a happy life apart from a holy one. Trials we may have; indeed if we are the Lord's covenant ones, we shall have them, for He Himself has said, "in the world you shall have tribulation"; disappointments we may meet with- broken cisterns, thorny roads, wintry skies; but if we are walking in fellowship with God, walking in the light, growing up into Christ in all things, the Spirit of adoption dwelling in us, and leading to a filial and unreserved surrender- oh, there is happiness unspeakable, even though in the very depth of outward trial. A holy life is a happy life. This is God's order, it is His appointment, and therefore must be wise and good.
The Spirit especially and effectually sanctifies by unfolding the cross of Jesus. We desire to enlarge upon this point, not only because He Himself presents it in His Word as one of vast importance, but from the sober conviction of our judgment that there is no great advance in holiness without a growing knowledge of Christ, as the sanctification of the believer. A reference to God's Word, will place this truth in its proper light. Matt. 1. 21: "And you shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." Not only shall He save them from the guilt and condemnation of sin, but also from the indwelling power or reign of sin, so that "sin shall not have dominion over" them. We shall presently show more fully how, in His sacerdotal office, He accomplishes this.
Again, 1 Cor. 1. 2: "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus." But the most striking allusion to this important truth is found in the 30th verse, where the Lord Jesus is especially spoken of as made of God the sanctification of His people: "But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Now it is essential to a right reception of the subject that we should know in what points of view Christ is made our sanctification; so that believing in Him and receiving Him as such, we may "grow up into Him in all things."
In the first place, the atoning work of Christ lays the foundation of sanctification. He opens a way by which God, so to speak, can deal with the soul in the great business of its holiness. Only upon the broad basis of His law honored, His holiness secured, and His justice satisfied, can God, in the way of mercy, have communication with the sinner. Here we see the great glory of Jesus as the God-Man Mediator. His atoning work opens a channel through which God, without compromising a single perfection of His nature, can communicate the saving and sanctifying power of His grace to the soul. The obedience and blood-shedding of our adorable Lord, are ever, in the Divine Word, connected with the sanctification of the church. A few examples will suffice to show this.
Speaking of the legal, but imperfect sanctification by the sacrifices under the law, the apostle supplies an argument in favor of the superior sanctification by the blood of Christ. Heb. 9. 13, 14: "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and
the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
Again, in Rom. 6. 3- 6, the following phrases occur "Planted in the likeness of his death" "our old man crucified with him" "the body of sin destroyed" "that henceforth we should not serve sin." Let the reader also consult the following passages: Rom. 5. 9; 1 Pet. 3. 18; Col. 1. 14; Heb. 2. 14, 15; 1 John 4. 10. Thus does the atoning blood of Jesus lay the foundation of all future degrees of sanctification. The cross of Christ is, so to speak, the starting point of the soul in this glorious career of holiness, and the goal to which it again returns. By it, the body of sin is wounded, and wounded fatally; from it, pardon, and peace, and holiness flow; and through it, the soul daily rises to God in a holy surrender of itself to His service. Let no man dream of true mortification of sin, of real sanctification of heart, who does not deal constantly, closely and believingly with the atoning
blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings the cross into the soul
and lays it upon the heart to be the death of sin. "I am crucified with Christ." "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus"- and see how the cross lifted him above the world and deadened him to it- "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Thus did Paul breathe after and attain unto holiness.
The intercession of our Lord Jesus pleads for and secures the sanctification of the believer. In this sense it may be said that He is "made of God unto us sanctification." The Christian reader may be but imperfectly aware how closely connected is every spiritual grace and blessing that he receives with the advocacy of Jesus at the right hand of God. (The Lord increase our faith in this great and sanctifying truth!) While yet upon earth, our dear Lord commenced that work of intercession for the sanctification of the church, which He ascended up on high more fully to carry on. This was the burden of His prayer, and it forms, as John Owen observes, "the blessed spring of our holiness"- "Sanctify them through your truth." And not only would He leave it, as it were, as a model of the intercession of His exalted priesthood, but, for our encouragement, He would provide an evidence of its success. To Peter, about to pass through a severe temptation, He says, "I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not." Nor did his faith fail. It was sifted, it was severely shaken, it was powerfully tried, but it failed not; not a particle of the pure gold was lost in the refining, not a grain of the pure,wheat in the sifting: and why?- because Jesus had interceded, and His intercession was all-prevailing. O the vast and costly blessings that flow into the soul from the intercession of Christ! Never shall we know the full extent of this, until we pass within the veil. We shall then know the secret of our spiritual life- of all our supports, consolations and victories; why it was that the spark in the ocean was not quite extinguished, why the vessel in the storm and amid the breakers did not quite become a wreck; why, when temptations assailed, and crosses pressed, and afflictions overwhelmed, and unbelief prevailed, that our faith still did not fail, and our bark was not driven from its moorings, and that "out of the depths" we were enabled to cry, "Thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ." The secret will then disclose itself- the intercession of Jesus our great High Priest.
How sweet and consoling to the believer is this view of our exalted Emmanuel in the hour of bereavement, when confined to his chamber of solitude, or languishing upon his bed of "pining sickness." Too deeply absorbed in sorrow, it may be, to give utterance to his anguished spirit in prayer- his bodily frame so weakened by disease, and racked by pain, as to render the mind unfit for close and connected spiritual thought- O how sweet is then the intercession of Jesus; how sweet to know that, in the hour of the soul's extremity when human sympathy and power are exhausted, "Jesus has entered into heaven, now to appear in the presence of God" for His suffering child. And when all utterance has failed on earth; when the heart is broken and the lips are sealed, then to look up and see our elder Brother, the Brother born for our adversity, the exalted High Priest waving the golden censer before the throne, while the cloud of His atoning merit goes up before the mercy-seat, bearing as it ascends, the person, the name, the circumstances and the needs of the sufferer below- precious gospel, that opens to the eye of faith so sweet a prospect as this! When you cannot think of Him, afflicted soul, He is thinking of you; when you cannot pray to Him, He is praying for you, for "He ever lives to make intercession."
But our Lord Jesus is the sanctification of the believer in still another and blessed sense. View Him as the Head of all mediatorial fulness to His people. "It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell." "And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." Here is sanctification for the believer who is mourning over the existence and power of indwelling sin, feeling it to be his greatest burden and the cause of his deepest sorrow. In the growing discovery of the hidden evil- each successive view, it may be, deeper and darker than the former- where is he to look but unto Jesus? Where can he fly, but to His cross? Hemmed in on every side by a host of spiritual Philistines, no avenue of escape presenting itself, the eternal Spirit leads the soul to a simple view of Jesus, opens to him the vast treasury of His grace, and the free welcome to all comers. And what does he find in that fulness? All that he needs to pardon sin, to hide deformity, to overcome unbelief, and break the power of strong corruption; he finds that there is enough in Christ to make him holy, that, in simply taking his sins to Jesus, they are pardoned; in taking his strong infirmities, they are subdued; in taking his needs, they are supplied; in a word, he finds Christ to be his "wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption."
We close this chapter with a few remarks in the way of caution, direction and encouragement in this great work.
Do not mistake the nature of true sanctification. It is an internal and radical work. It has its seat in the heart. A mere external mortification of sinful habits does not come up to the standard of gospel sanctification. True, this is included
in real holiness, yet it may exist without a holy heart. A man may cut off outward sins, and leave the principle of all sin yet remaining in its unsubdued power. We may visit a forest, and level a tall cedar to the earth; yet, if we leave the root deeply embedded in the soil, the vital principle yet remaining in all its vigor, what marvel if, in course of time, that root shall again shoot forth, and branch out as before? True sanctification is a daily mortification of the root of sin in the heart- the continual destruction of the principle. The Word of God bears us out in this; Gal. 5. 24: "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Rom. 6. 6: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Do not rest short of this. Would you be holy as God is holy, and happy as the saints in glory are happy?- then must you reach after this and rest not until you attain it.
Again we would urge- seek high attainments in holiness. Do not be satisfied with a low measure of grace, with a stunted religion, with just enough Christianity to admit you into heaven. O how many are thus content, satisfied to leave the great question of their acceptance to be decided in another world, and not in this, resting upon some slight evidence, in itself faint and equivocal, perhaps a former experience, some impressions or sensations or transient joys long since passed away; and thus they are content to live, and thus content to die. You should not be satisfied with anything short of a present Christ, received, enjoyed and lived upon. Forget the things that are behind, reach forth unto higher attainments in sanctification, seek to have the daily witness, daily communion with God; and for your own sake, for the sake of others, and for Christ's sake, "give all diligence to make your calling and election sure."
Beware of self-dependence in this work. Remember the words that Jesus once spoke to His disciples, and now speaks to you, "Without me you can do nothing." Self-trust, self-complacency, self-boasting, all must be crucified; and, strong only in the strength that is in Christ Jesus, must the believer gird himself to the work. Our wisdom is to go in our weakness and folly to Jesus. In this lies the great secret of our victory: "When I am weak, then am I strong." "My grace is sufficient for you." "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Do not forget that the truth of God is the great instrument of sanctification. "Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth." There is that in the truth of God, which, when brought into the soul by the power of the Holy Spirit, always sanctifies. It is holy truth; it unfolds a holy God, reveals a holy law, exhibits a holy sacrifice, and enforces by the most holy motives the sanctity of the most holy precepts. In proportion as the renewed mind is brought into a close and constant contact with God's truth, it grows nearer to its spirit. Let then "the word of Christ dwell richly in you in all wisdom" and spiritual understanding. Be close, diligent and prayerful students of the Word of God. Do not separate the doctrine from the precept, nor the precept from the promise; every part is essential to the sanctification of the believer; to secure this great end, the doctrine, the precept and the promise must be alike received, and brought into active, holy exercise.
Deal much and closely with the atoning blood of Jesus. There is no victory over the indwelling power of sin, and there is no pardon for the guilt of sin, but as the soul deals with the blood of Christ. The great object of our dear Lord's death was to destroy the works of the devil. Sin is the great work of Satan. To overcome this, to break its power, subdue its dominion, repair its ruins and release from its condemnation, the blessed Son of God suffered the ignominious death of the cross. All that bitter agony which He endured, all that mental suffering, the sorrow of His soul in the garden, the sufferings of His body on the cross- all was for sin. "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Tit. 2. 14. "He gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it and that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish." Eph. 5. 25- 27. See, then, the close and beautiful connection between the death of Christ and the death of sin. All true sanctification comes through the cross! Reader, seek it there. The cross brought into your soul by the eternal Spirit, will be the death of your sins. Go to the cross- oh, go to the cross of Jesus. In simplicity of faith, go; with the strong corruption, go; with the burden of guilt, go; go to the cross! You will find nothing but love there, nothing but welcome there, nothing but purity there. The precious blood of Jesus "cleanses from all sin." And while you are kept low beneath the cross, your enemy dares not approach you, sin shall not have dominion over you, nor shall Satan your accuser condemn you.
Deal much and closely with the fulness of grace that is in Jesus. All this grace in Christ is for the sanctification of the believer. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell," for the necessities of His people; and what necessities so great and urgent as those which spring from indwelling sin? Take the corruption, whatever be its nature, directly and simply to Jesus: the very act of taking it to Him weakens its power; indeed it is half way to victory. The blessed state of mind- the holy impulse that leads you to your secret place, there to fall prostrate before the Lord in lowliness of spirit, brokenness of heart and humble confession of sin, with the hand of faith on the head of Jesus, the atoning Sacrifice is a mighty achievement of the indwelling Spirit over the power of indwelling sin. Learn to take the guilt as it comes, and the corruption as it rises, directly and simply to Jesus. Do not allow the guilt of sin to remain long upon the conscience. The moment there is the slightest consciousness of a wound received, take it to the blood of Christ. The moment a mist dims the eye of faith, so that you cannot see clearly the smile of your Father's countenance, take it that instant to the blood of atonement. Let there be no distance between God and your soul. Sin separates. But sin immediately confessed, mourned over and forsaken, brings God and the soul together in sweet, close and holy fellowship. O the oneness of God and the believer in a sin-pardoning Christ! Who can know it? Only one who has experienced it. To cherish, then, the abiding sense of this holy, loving oneness, the believer (to use the figure of the tabernacle) must wash daily in the brazen laver that is outside- then, entering in within the veil, he may "draw near" the mercy-seat and ask what he will of Him who dwells between the cherubim. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Heb. 10. 19-22.
Thank God for the smallest victory gained. Praise Him for any evidence that sin has not entire dominion. Every fresh triumph achieved over some strong and besetting weakness is a glorious battle won. No victory that ever flushed the cheek of an Alexander or a Caesar can be compared with his, who, in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, overcomes a single corruption. If "he that rules his spirit is better than he that takes a city," then he who masters one corruption of his nature has more real glory than the greatest earthly conqueror that ever lived. O how God is glorified, how Jesus is honored and how the Spirit is magnified in the slaying of one spiritual enemy at the foot of the cross! Cheer up, precious soul! You have every encouragement to persevere in the great business of sanctification. True, it is a hard fight; true, it is a severe and painful contest, but the victory is yours! The "Captain of your salvation" has fought and conquered for you, and now sits upon His throne of glory, cheering you on, and supplying you with all needed strength for the warfare in which you are engaged. Then "fight the good fight of faith," "act like men," "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," for you shall at length "overcome through the blood of the Lamb" and be "more than conquerors through Him that has loved us." Here, beneath the cross, would I breathe for you the desire and the prayer once offered by the apostle of the Gentiles in behalf of the church of the Thessalonians, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Amen and Amen.