The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Titian or Raphael, and the Queen’s Head on a village signboard. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny whistle and a cathedral organ.
The very animals whose smell is most offensive to us have no idea that they are offensive, and are not offensive to one another.
And man, fallen man, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect—perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope—perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping time to a second as he rolls round the sun—perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground.
No proof of the fulness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming and unanswerable as the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane, and cry at Golgotha, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’
Awful and tremendous as the right view of sin undoubtedly is, no one need faint and despair if he will take a right view of Jesus Christ at the same time.
The need for Christ to save
A little child is easily quieted and amused with gaudy toys, and dolls, and rattles, so long as it is not hungry; but once let it feel the cravings of nature within, and we know that nothing will satisfy it but food. Just so it is with man in the matter of his soul.
Once let him see his sin, and he must see his Saviour. He feels stricken with a deadly disease, and nothing will satisfy him but the great Physician. He hungers and thirsts, and he must have nothing less than the bread of life.
He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonouring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Saviour. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness,” but their “sanctification.” (1Corinthians 1:30.)
The nature of sanctification
- Sanctification is the invariable result of that vital union with Christ which true faith gives to a Christian.—“He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 15:5.)
- Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He that is born again and made a new creature, receives a new nature and a new principle, and always lives a new life.
- Sanctification is the only certain evidence of that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is essential to salvation. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” (Romans 8:9.) The Spirit never lies dormant and idle within the soul: He always makes His presence known by the fruit He causes to be borne in heart, character, and life.
- Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election. It is expressly written that they are “elect through sanctification – chosen unto salvation through sanctification – predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son – and chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that they should be holy.” – Hence, when St. Paul saw the working “faith” and labouring “love” and patient “hope” of the Thessalonian believers, he says, “I know your election of God.” (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4.)
- Sanctification is a thing that will always be seen. Whether he sees it himself or not, others will always see in him a tone, and taste, and character, and habit of life unlike that of other men. The very idea of a man being “sanctified,” while no holiness can be seen in his life, is flat nonsense and a misuse of words.
- Sanctification is a thing for which every believer is responsible. A man who professes to be a true Christian, while he sits still, content with a very low degree of sanctification (if indeed he has any at all), and coolly tells you he “can do nothing,” is a very pitiable sight, and a very ignorant man.
- Sanctification implies growth. If there is any point on which God’s holiest saints agree it is this: that they see more, and know more, and feel more, and do more, and repent more, and believe more, as they get on in spiritual life, and in proportion to the closeness of their walk with God.
- Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of Scriptural means. I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible- reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays. Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.
- Sanctification does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict. A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within.
- Sanctification cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God. The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more or less full of defects and imperfections. They are either wrong in their motive or defective in their performance, and in themselves are nothing better than “splendid sins,” deserving God’s wrath and condemnation. To suppose that such actions can stand the severity of God’s judgment, atone for sin, and merit heaven, is simply absurd.
- Sanctification will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great day of judgment. He who supposes works are of no importance, because they cannot justify us, is a very ignorant Christian. Unless he opens his eyes, he will find to his cost that if he comes to the bar of God without some evidence of grace, he had better never have been born.
- Sanctification is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven.
Visible marks of sanctification
- True sanctification then does not consist in talk about religion. We must be sanctified, not only “in word and in tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18.)
- True sanctification does not consist in temporary religious feelings. Let us urge on every one who exhibits new interest in religion to be content with nothing short of the deep, solid, sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. No state of soul is more dangerous than to imagine we are born again and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, because we have picked up a few religious feelings.
- True sanctification does not consist in outward formalism and external devoutness. In many cases this external religiousness is made a substitute for inward holiness.
- Sanctification does not consist in retirement from our place in life, and the renunciation of our social duties. Christ would have His people show that His grace is not a mere hothouse plant, which can only thrive under shelter, but a strong, hardy thing which can flourish in every relation of life. It is doing our duty in that state to which God has called us – like salt in the midst of corruption, and light in the midst of darkness – which is a primary element in sanctification. “I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15.)
- Sanctification does not consist in the occasional performance of right actions. It is the habitual working of a new heavenly principle within, which runs through all a man’s daily conduct, both in great things and in small.
- Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual respect to God’s law, and habitual effort to live in obedience to it as the rule of life. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a Christian has nothing to do with the law and the Ten Commandments, because he cannot be justified by keeping them.
- Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual endeavour to do Christ’s will, and to live by His practical commands. “You are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14.)
- Genuine sanctification will show itself in an habitual desire to live up to the standard which St. Paul sets before the Churches in his writings. That standard is to be found in the closing chapters of nearly all his Epistles.
- A sanctified man will try to do good in the world, and to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of all around him.
- Genuine sanctification, in the last place, will show itself in habitual attention to the passive graces of Christianity. Long-suffering, gentleness, and meekness, are unquestionably passive graces. (Galatians 5:22, 23.)
The distinction between sanctification and justification
There are points in which they agree and points in which they differ. Let us try to find out what they are.
In what are justification and sanctification alike?
- Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.
- Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.
- Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.
- Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person, he also begins to be a sanctified person.
- Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit’s grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.
In what do justification and sanctification differ?
- Justification is the counting a man to be righteous because of Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous.
- The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification, although imparted and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit involves us as we grow in obedience and trust.
- In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour.
- Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.
- Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.
- Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.
- Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.
- Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.
A few observations
- If unsanctified souls can be saved and go to heaven, the Bible is not true. Yet the Bible is true and cannot lie! What must the end be!
- What are our tastes, and choices, and likings, and inclinations? This is the great testing question. It matters little what we wish, and what we hope, and what we desire to be before we die. Where are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified or not?
- The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.
- If we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ.
- Our absolute perfection is yet to come, and the expectation of it is one reason why we should long for heaven.
- Let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification, and contending for a high standard of holiness.