HOLINESS ITS NATURE, HINDRANCES, DIFFICULTIES, AND ROOTS

By J. C. RYLE, D.D.

Weekly read.

                                                                                   CHAPTER 02 –Sanctification

                                                                “Sanctify them through Thy truth.”—John 23 :17.

                                                 “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.”—1 Thess. 4:  3.

“This is the will of God, even your sanctification.”—1 Thess 4: 3.The subject of sanctification is one which many, I fear, dislike exceedingly. Some even turn from it with scorn and disdain. The very last thing they would like is to be a “saint,” or a “sanctified” man. Yet the subject does not deserve to be treated in this way. It is not an enemy, but a friend.It is a subject of the utmost importance to our souls. If the Bible be true, it is certain that unless we are “sanctified,” we shall not be saved. There are three things which, according to the Bible, are absolutely necessary to the salvation of every man and woman in Christendom. These three are, justification, regeneration, and sanctification. All three meet in every child of God: he is both born again, and justified, and sanctified. He that lacks any one of these three things is not a true Christian in the sight of God, and dying in that condition will not be found in heaven and glorified in the last day.

It is a subject which is peculiarly seasonable in the present day. Strange doctrines have risen up of late upon the whole subject of sanctification. Some appear to confound it with justification. Others fritter it away to nothing, under the pretence of zeal for free grace, and practically neglect it altogether. Others are so much afraid of “works” being made a part of justification, that they can hardly find any place at all for “works” in their religion. Others set up a wrong standard of sanctification before their eyes, and failing to attain it, waste their lives in repeated secessions from church to church, chapel to chapel, and sect to sect, in the vain hope that they will find what they want. In a day like this, a calm examination of the subject, as a great leading doctrine of the Gospel, may be of great use to our souls.

Let us consider, firstly, the true nature of sanctification.  Let us consider, secondly, the visible marks of sanctification.III. Let us consider, lastly, wherein justification and sanctification agree and are like one another, and wherein they differ and are unlike. If, unhappily, the reader of these pages is one of those who care for nothing but this world, and make no profession of religion, I cannot expect him to take much interest in what I am writing. You will probably think it an affair of “words, and names,” and nice questions, about which it matters nothing what you hold and believe. But if you are a thoughtful, reasonable, sensible Christian, I venture to say that you will find it worth while to have some clear ideas about sanctification.  In the first place, we have to consider the nature of sanctification.
 
What does the Bible mean when it speaks of a “sanctified” man? Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separateshim from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practically godly in life. The instrument by which the Spirit effects this work is generally the Word of God, though He sometimes uses afflictions and providential visitations “without the Word.” (1 Peter 3:1.) 
 
The subject of this work of Christ by His Spirit is called in Scripture a “sanctified” man. 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.” (1 Cor. 1: 30.) Let us hear what the Bible says: “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified.”—“Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it.”—“Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”—“Christ bore our sinsin His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.”—“Christ hath reconciled (you) in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.” (John 16: 19; Ephes. v.25; Titus 2: 14; 1 Peter 2: 24; Coloss.1: 22.) Let the meaning of these five texts be carefully considered.
 
If words mean anything, they teach that Christ undertakes the sanctification, no less than the justification of His believing people. Both are alike provided for in that “everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure,” of which the Mediator is Christ. In fact, Christ in one place is called “He that sanctifieth,” and His People, “they who are sanctified.” (Heb.2: 11.) The subject before us is of such deep and vast importance, that it requires fencing, guarding, clearing up, and marking out on every side. A doctrine which is needful to salvation can never be too sharply developed, or brought too fully into light. To clear away the confusionbetween doctrines and doctrines, which is so unhappily common among Christians, and to map out the precise relation between truths and truths in religion, is one way to attain accuracy in our theology. I shall therefore not hesitate to lay before my readers a series of connected propositions or statements, drawn from Scripture, which I think will be found useful in defining the exact nature of sanctification.
 
Sanctification, again, is a thing which cannot justify a man, and yet it pleases God. This may seem wonderful, and yet it is true. 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. “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.”—“We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Rom. 3:  20-28.)  
 
The only righteousness in which we can appear before God is the righteousness of another—even the perfect righteousness of our Substitute and Representative, Jesus Christ the Lord. His work, and not our work, is our only title to heaven. This is a truth which we should be ready to die to maintain.—For all this, however, the Bible distinctly teaches that the holy actions of a sanctified man, although imperfect, are pleasing in the sight of God. “With such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Heb. 13:  16.) “Obey your parents, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” (Col. 3: 20.) “We do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:  22.)
 
 Let this never be forgotten, for it is a very comfortable doctrine. Just as a parent is pleased with the efforts of his little child to please him, though it be only by picking a daisy or walking across a room, so is our Father in heaven pleased with the poor performances of His believing children. He looks at the motive, principle, and intention of their actions, and not merely at their quantity and quality. He regards them as members of His own dear Son, and for His sake, wherever there is a single eye, He is well-pleased. Those Churchmen who dispute this would do well to study the Twelfth Article of the Church of Era.