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THE NATURE OF SANCTIFICATION AND GOSPEL
Regeneration carried on by Sanctification.
In the regeneration and conversion of God's elect, which we have before described, consists the second part of the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Creation.Nor does he only begin this work, but he continues, preserves, and carries it on to perfection, in their sanctification; the nature and effects of which we are now to consider.
Our apostle in his first epistle to the Thessalonians (chap. 5.) having recommended many weighty evangelical duties, closes all with a fervent prayer for them (verse 23.): " And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and let your whole spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:" or, as I had rather read the words, " And God himself, even the God of peace, sanctify you throughout, that your whole spirit, soul and body, may be pre"served blameless." The reason hereof is, because all the graces and duties which he had enjoined, belonged to their sanctification; which though their own duty was not absolutely in their own power, but was a work of God upon them, therefore, that they might actually comply with his commands, he prays that God would thus sanctify them throughout; and that this shall be accomplished, he assures them from the faithfulness of God (verse 24.): "Faithful is he that calleth you; who will also do it." Now as this assurance did not arise from any thing peculiar to them, but from the faithfulness of God, it is equal with respect to all who are
effectually called: they shall all infallibly be sanctified throughout, and preserved blameless to the coming of Christ.
The author of this sanctification is here asserted to be God. He is the eternal spring and fountain of all holiness; there is none in any creature but what comes immediately from him; and therefore it is so emphatically expressed, even God himself; if he does it not, no other can; it must be wrought by God himself. He does it of himself, from his grace; by himself, or his own power; for himself, or his own glory: and that under this special consideration, as he is "the God of peace.
This title is frequently ascribed to God; and he is said to sanctify us as the God of peace, because it is a fruit and effect of that peace with himself, which he has made for us by Jesus Chirst; for without respect to this reconciliation, he would no more sanctify us than the fallen angels, for whom no peace or atonement was made. Further; By the sanctification of our nature and persons, God preserves that peace with
himself in exercise: for in the duties and fruits thereof consist all those actings towards him which a state of peace and friendship requires. It is holiness that keeps up a sense of peace with God, and prevents those spiritual breaches which the remainders of our enmity would occasion; and he is here said to sanctify us (OLOTELEIS) universally; that is, our whole nature is the subject of this work, and not any one faculty of it; and it shall be carried on to completeness and perfection. Both these ideas are afterwards expressed; for the subject of this sanctification he makes to be our whole nature, our entire spirits, souls, and bodies; and the end of the whole is, the preservation of us blameless in the peace of God to the coming of Christ.
Sanctification, as here described, is the immediate work of God by his Spirit upon our whole nature, proceeding from the peace made for us by Jesus Christ, whereby being changed into his likeness, we are kept entirely in peace with God, and are preserved un
blameable, or in a state of gracious acceptance with him to the end.
The nature of this work, and its effect, which is our holiness, with the necessity of them both, must be diligently considered. The importance of the truth itself, and the opposition made to it, render this absolutely necessary; indeed, our principal duty in this world is to know aright what it is to be truly holy.
One thing must be premised, viz. That there is a two-fold sanctification spoken of in Scripture: the first is common to persons and things, in their peculiar dedication to the service of God. Thus the priests and Levites, the tabernacle and temple were sanctified; but the other is what we now treat of, wherein this separation is not the first thing done, but an effect of it. This is real and internal, by the communication of a principle of holiness.
This sanctification of the Spirit is peculiarly connected with, and limited to the truth and grace of the Gospel; for holiness is the implanting and realizing of the Gospel in our souls. Hence it is termed (Eph. iv. 24.) (OSIOTES TES ALETHEIAS,) the holiness of truth ;which the Gospel ingenerates, and which consists in a conformity to it. Thus our Saviour praying for his disciples, says, "Sanctify them in (or by) thy truth; thy word is truth." John xvii. 17. This alone is that "truth which makes us free from sin and the law, to righteousness in holiness.It belongs neither to nature nor to the law. Nature is wholly corrupt and contrary to it. The law, indeed, for certain ends, was given by Moses;" but all "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." There never was, nor is, nor ever will be the least dram of holiness in the world, but what, flowing from Jesus Christ, is communicated by the Spirit, according to the truth and promise of the Gospel. There may be something like it, as to outward acts and effects; something that wears its livery, that is only the fruit of men's own endeavours in compliance with their convictions; but holiness it is not, nor of the same nature, though men are very apt to deceive themselves with it. Indeed, there is nothing in the
whole mystery of godliness which corrupt nature does not labour to debase, from the highest crown of it (which is the person of Christ, "God manifested in the flesh") to the lowest effect of his grace. The Lord Christ in his whole person, it would have to be but á mere man ;—in his obedience and suffering, to be only an example ;-in his doctrine, to be confined to the capacity of carnal reason; and the holiness he communicates by his Spirit, to be nothing but moral virtue. But these low and carnal imaginations are exceedingly unworthy of the grace of Christ, and the glory of the Gospel. Moral virtue is the best thing among men that is of themselves. It far exceeds in worth all that the honours, profits, and pleasures of the world can extend unto; and it is admirable to consider what instructions are given concerning it, what encomiums of its excellency and beauty are bestowed upon it by contemplative heathens, the wisest of whom were ready to acknowledge that there was yet something in it which they could only admire and not comprehend: and very eminent instances of the practice of it were given in the lives of some of them; whose examples of righteousness, temperance, and equanimity in all conditions, now rise up to the shame of many called Christians, and will be called over at the last day, as an aggravation of their condemnation. But to suppose that this moral virtue, however excellent, is that holiness of truth which believers receive by the Spirit of Christ, is to debase and overthrow it, and to drive men from seeking an interest in it. And hence it is that some, pretending great regard to it, yet despise what is really so, pleasing themselves with the empty name, or withered carcase of virtue, every way inferior, as interpreted in their practice, to the righteousness of heathens and this should excite our diligence in our enquiries after its real nature, that we deceive not ourselves with false appearances to our ruin.
2. It is our duty to inquire into the nature of evangelical holiness, because it is abstruse and mysterious, and indiscernible to the eye of carnal wisdom. We may say of it, as Job of wisdom,-" Whence cometh
wisdom, and where is the place of understanding, seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living?"-Destruction and Death say, we have heard of the fame thereof with "God understandeth the way, and knoweth the place of it; and to man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." This is that wisdom whose ways and residence are hidden from the natural reason and understanding of men, and therefore it is no wonder that it is despised as an enthusiastic fancy. Hence it often happens, as it did among the Pharisees, that those who are most zealous for a legal righteousness, walking in a strict attendance to duties, are the most implacable enemies of true evangelical holiness. They know it not, and therefore hate it; they have embraced something else in its place, and therefore despise and perse
3. Believers themselves are often much unacquainted with it, either as to their apprehension of its true nature, causes, and effects, or at least as to their own interest in it. As we know not of ourselves the "things that are wrought in us by the Spirit of God," so we seldom attend as we ought to his instruction of us in them. It may indeed seem strange, that as all believers are sanctified, they should not understand what is wrought and abides in them; but, alas! how little do we know of ourselves, of what we are, and whence are our natural powers and faculties! How little do we know of these souls of ours!-and what we do know, is by their operations. Is it strange then that we should be much in the dark as to this new nature, which is from above, and with which our natural reason has no acquaintance? It is new, it is wonderful, it is a work supernatural; and is known only by supernatural revelation.
4. We must also consider, that holiness is not confined to this life, but passes over into eternity and glory. Death has no power to destroy it, or divest us of it. Its acts indeed are transient, but its fruits abide for ever in their reward. They who die in the Lord rest from their labours, " and their works follow them."