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that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”* The language is highly figurative, but is not difficult to be understood. Our old man is our corrupt nature; and it is said to be crucified with Christ, to signify that, in virtue of his death upon the cross, the power of sin is broken. The proper effect of an atonement is not purification from the pollution of sin, but deliverance from guilt; but the former is ascribed to the sacrifice of Christ as well as the latter, because it brings us under the operation of grace, because it consecrates us to God, who gives the Holy Spirit to qualify us for his service. This remark is necessary to enable you to understand several passages of Scripture which speak of this subject, and to prevent you from misapprehending the language of Theologians, who sometimes express themselves in such a manner as might lead you to think, that the death of Christ is not only the meritorious, but the efficient cause of sanctification. This impression is made, when we are told that we are sanctified " by receiving the atonement into our hearts,” and by “having the blood of Christ conveyed into our hearts;" and even when such Scriptural expressions as have been quoted are used without explanation. The language of Scripture, with respect to the effect of the death of Christ, was better understood in the apostolic age than it is now, because sacrifices were then offered by both Jews and Gentiles, and every person knew their design, and the efficacy which they were supposed to exert. The language of Scripture is always proper and emphatic; but when metaphors occur, if we wish to convey distinct ideas into the minds of others, we must give the literal sense; and, if there is any danger of mistake, we should guard against it by the use of plain and appropriate terms. He who contents himself with telling us that we are sanctified by the death of Christ, or by the sprinkling of his blood, explains nothing; and, by dealing much in such phraseology, is apt to mislead.
In the third place, This work is ascribed to the Holy Ghost. Hence we read of the renovation and sanctification of the Spirit, † and our walking in God's statutes is said to be the effect of the inhabitation of the Spirit in our nearts. The grace by which we are sanctified, proceeds from the Father by the Son, and is applied by the Spirit. Thus all the Persons of the Trinity are concerned in our restoration. The part which each acts is important and necessary, and the office of the third Person is not less glorious than that of the second. Our attention is peculiarly directed to our Lord Jesus Christ; and it is right that it should be so, for he appears with great prominence in the scheme of our salvation, and offered the atonement by which all the divine perfections were glorified in the highest, and the everlasting covenant was confirmed. But without the co-operation of the Spirit, his labours and sufferings would have been in vain. In a state of moral insensibility, with blinded minds and unfeeling consciences, men would have made no use of the atonement for their reconciliation to God, and continuing in the pollution of sin, which renders them loathsome in his sight, they must have been excluded from his presence, and the blessedness of communion with him. Christ purchased redemption, but the Spirit applies it. The work of Christ was accomplished by his humiliation, and sorrows, and death; it, as it were, strikes our senses, and on this account makes a more powerful impression. But if we attentively consider the work of the Spirit, we shall perceive that it also displays grace, and love, and power, worthy of the highest admiration. To enter into a human soul foul with the deepest stains, in which every thing revolting to the holiness of his nature is exhibited, and to exert his influence there to purify it, and render it capable of the refined and exalted joys of religion, is a proof of condescension and benevolence surpassing conception. He meets with resistance, but he does not retire ; the resistance is strong, all the power of corrupt nature being called forth to oppose his design ; but he subdues it by the same Almighty energy which reduced the elemental chaos into order. In his plastic hands, man, an outcast from his Maker, so vile as to be the object of abhorrence, and so helpless as to be given over as irrecoverably lost, is transformed into a being adorned with the similitude of his Creator, devoted to his service, and destined to live in the happy seats of the spirits of light. Let us remember that we are under infinite obligations to our Sanctifier, as well as our Redeemer; and let his love be the subject of our devout meditations, and awaken our grateful praises.
* Rom. vi. 6.
† 2 Thess. ii. 13. 1 Peter i. 2. Tit. ii. 5, &c.
That the sanctification of the soul is the work of the Spirit we certainly know; but the manner in which it is effected, we are not able to explain. We know also that all things were created by God, but cannot tell how he created them; that in him we live and move and have our being, but are ignorant of the mode in which his power is exerted to sustain us. Our Lord signifies that there is something mysterious in this matter. “ The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”* Means are employed, but their efficacy depends solely upon him. It is his power which begins and carries on the change that takes place in the sentiments and affections of the soul. We cannot call it merely a moral power, consisting in the presentation of arguments and motives to the mind, because upon this supposition, it would differ in no respect from the means themselves, or from the part which one man may act in persuading and exciting another to the love and practice of virtue. If we call it a physical power, we must mean that the soul is endowed with new faculties of perception and feeling, or that its natural faculties are rendered capable of certain acts, for which they were previously unfit. The truth is, although this term has been sometimes applied to the power exerted in regeneration and sanctification, we cannot affix any distinct idea to it; and it is questionable whether those who use it, can explain what they mean to their own satisfaction or that of others. It would seem therefore to be the wisest and most modest plan, instead of attempting to describe the nature of this power, and the mode of exercising it, to content ourselves with the general knowledge of the fact, that it is owing to the operation of the Divine Spirit upon the soul—that it is sanctified.
A question has been agitated among divines, whether there is a formation of holy habits in the soul, or sanctification consists solely in the influence of the word upon its several faculties, upon the conscience, will, and affections, through the medium of the understanding. The controversy is somewhat obscure, and perhaps the parties have, occasionally at least, contended in the dark, and they were not always distinguished by metaphysical acumen. The point at issue seems to be, whether there is a real change effected in the soul itself, or it is only morally acted upon by the word of God, coming in demonstration of the Spirit and with power. Habit commonly signifies a disposition to act, or a power of acting acquired by previous acts. In the present case it signifies merely the disposition or power without a reference to previous acts, as it is acknowledged that the power or disposition is not the effect of our prior efforts, but of a divine operation. But if this is a just definition of habit, it must also be acknowledged that gracious habits are infused into the soul; for in saying so, we mean nothing more than that the subject of sanctification possesses certain dispositions, or inclinations, to act according to the rule laid down in the Scriptures. We may not be able to understand what constitutes a disposition or habit of the mind, but the fact is certain that there are habits,
* John iii, 8.
intellectual and moral; and there is no more difficulty in conceiving them to be formed by supernatural than by natural means. The great objection to the denial of habits, and the attribution of the holiness of Christians exclusively to the influence of the word, is that it represents them as not permanently but transiently holy, as having no indelible character impressed upon them, holy only when they feel the influence of the word. This view of the matter supposes a change not in their state, but in their exercise; for if the word were not acting upon them, they would be in all respects like other men who have never experienced its power. But it is implied in the idea of a saint, that he is possessed of holy dispositions when they are lying dormant, and all his faculties are in a state of inactivity; and that there remains something which distinguishes him from the unregenerate, even when he has fallen into sin. It must be acknowledged that this objection to the denial of holy habits is strong; and that, if what is called the grace of God in the heart is reduced to the direct or immediate operation of the word in exciting our faculties, it is not easy to see how a man can be a saint when he is asleep, or has his thoughts wholly engrossed by something different from religion; or is for a time under the prevailing power of temptation, like David or Peter. At the same time, there is a mode of speaking about habits which is unguarded, and has perhaps led to the opposite extreme of denying their existence, such language being used as imports that they are something distinct from the soul in which they reside; that the grace of God is a substance within a substance, and not merely an effect produced upon the soul or its faculties. We cannot speak of spiritual things without making use of terms which primarily relate to external objects; but some writers, from want of judgment and taste, indulging in an unnecessary grossness of language, materialize subjects, in conceiving which the senses and the imagination can give no assistance. Discarding such phraseology, we maintain that a change is produced in the soul by the mysterious operation of the Spirit, through which it acquires an inclination to act, or a power of acting in a particular manner; that this inclination or power is not occasional but habitual; that it remains when it is not in exercise, as any natural disposition is in the soul although it should not be excited by the presence of its proper object; and that there is at all times a specific difference between the renewed and the unrenewed man. " Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him."*
The pattern according to which believers are sanctified, is the holiness of the divine nature. “ Be ye holy, for I also am holy.” “Be ye perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”+ Man was created in the image of God, and the design of sanctification is to restore him to his original state. We are like our Maker in the spiritual essence of our souls, we are like him in power; that is, our rational and active nature exhibits some traces of those attributes; but our perfection and glory consists in our resemblance to his holiness. It is to the holiness of God as manifested in Christ, that believers are conformed by the agency of the Spirit; and hence Christ may also be considered as the pattern aster which believers are sanctified. I speak of him, not as the second Person of the Trinity, although in this character he is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, but as incarnate or clothed with our nature, and in it exhibiting all the graces and virtues which constitute our assimilation to God. We see in him what human nature was, when it was formed by the hand of the Creator and he looked upon it with approbation; and what it must become that it may be pleasing in his eyes, and may be admitted into his glorious presence.
Christ should be contemplated in two lights, as an atonement and as an example. In the one character he has made peace between us and our offended Maker; in the other he has shown us what our Maker is, in respect of his moral attributes, and what he requires us to be; how we should think, and feel, and act, so as to be imitators of God. That he is the pattern according to which those who are the subjects of divine grace are formed, is evident, from his own command to follow him; from the description of true Christians, as “having Christ dwelling in them;" from the purpose of God that all the members of his family should be conformed to the image of his Son; and from the effect of the Gospel upon believers, who are changed by it into “ the same image from glory to glory.” He is the “first-born among many brethren,” superior in dignity, and the model after which they are fashioned. We are exhorted to be followers of the saints;" and from the contemplation of their charaeter and conduct, we may derive much valuable instruction with respect to our duty, and powerful excitement to the performance of it. But we must not follow them implicitly, because we know that they were liable to error and infirmity, and that some of the most distinguished among them have given melancholy proofs of weakness and depravity. The apostle Paul has pointed out the limits within which they should be imitated. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."* Thus far we tread upon sure ground; but when we can trace no correspondence between them and him, it is our duty to forsake them. In him alone we can safely confide, in whose conduct the eye of omniscience did not perceive a single flaw, and whom the voice of the Father proclaimed to be “his beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased.” Let us look to him when we are “ running the race set before us."
* 1 John iii. 9.
41 Pet. i. 16. Matt. v. 48.
The rule of sanctification is the word of God. I mean, that this is the rule according to which the Spirit works, forming in us those dispositions which it promises or requires, and the rule according to which we should work in the whole course of our Christian profession. Those who have been emancipated from the service of sin, obey, according to an apostle, that form of doctrine which has been delivered to them; they walk in the light of the Lord and keep his testimonies and statutes. Without multiplying Scriptural references, it is evident to every attentive reader of the sacred writings, that the soul is sanctified by being brought under the illuminating and commanding influence of the word of God. Holiness is our conformity to what it enjoins; and when our thoughts, volitions, and aims, our words and actions, correspond with its letter and its spirit, we are saints in its estimation. No human rule has any right to interfere with our obedience, or should be permitted to dictate to us. Men have devised a variety of observances and practices, in which they have supposed holiness to consist; and, by punctual attention to them, have appeared to themselves and to others to have attained a high degree of sanctity. The Pharisees received with sacred respect the traditions of the elders, fasted often, gave more tithes than the law enjoined, frequently washed their hands and the vessels which they used, that they might avoid every kind of defilement. In imitation of them, many Christians have distinguished themselves by superstitious usages. They have withdrawn from human society, and spent their lives in deserts and monasteries. They have abstained from the flesh of animals, and confined themselves to a vegetable diet; they have macerated their bodies by frequent fasts and severe penances; they have gone on toilsome pilgrimages to visit holy places; they have bound themselves to devote a certain portion of their time to the repetition of prayers; they have entered into vows of poverty, celibacy, and blind obedience to their religious superiors. The professed design of these observances, was to promote the interests of piety and holiness; but they have uniformly failed, because they were not of Divine institution.
* 1 Cor. xi, 1.
As we cannot serve God by doing what he has not commanded, and still less by doing what he has forbidden, so it is presumptuous to expect his blessing upon means which, being introduced as supplementary to his ordinances, very plainly import that, in this respect, man is wiser than he. Even when used only as auxiliaries to holiness, they must be equally ineffectual, because the communication of grace depending absolutely upon his will, there is no reason to believe that human interference, whatever may be the motive, with a matter which it is his province to regulate, will induce him to deviate from his plan, and to give countenance to the idea, that we know better than our Maker what are the most proper expedients for our moral improvement. He who would please God and obtain his blessing, must adhere closely to his word, “which is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify him, and enjoy him for ever."
As there is a pattern and a rule of our sanctification, so there are means appointed for carrying it on, to the consideration of which I am naturally led by the preceding observation. Those suggested by human wisdom, we have rejected; let us attend to those which God himself has ordained.
First, It is evident that, as the word of God is the rule of holiness, so it is a mean admirably adapted to promote its own design; because it not only points out and inculcates our duty, but presents many considerations calculated to work powerfully upon the will and the affections. It not only delivers naked precepts, which recommend themselves to us by our perception of their conforniity to reason and truth ; but it exhibits them in all the loveliness of example, in the history of the saints, and particularly in that of our Redeemer. Holiness, if I may speak so, appears in an animated form, and, displaying all its graces before us, fixes our attention, and engages our love. The idea of the ancient philosopher is realized by the incarnation of virtue; and although his prediction is not fulfilled, that all men would fall down and adore it, yet this is the effect upon those whose hearts are made, by Divine grace, to feel its attractions. The word of God holds out the greatest encouragements to the study of holiness, in the promises of Divine assistance with which it is replenished. How well calculated these are to promote the design, will be manilest to every person who has seriously reflected upon his own moral weakness, and has feli the paralyzing effect of such meditation. ·How is it possible for me,' the sinner is apt to exclaim, when he is called to purify his heart, • how is it possible for me to cleanse myself from the pollution of sin? Can the Ethiopian change his skin, and the leopard his spots? Then may I, who am accustomed to do evil, learn to do well.' In this state of despondency, the word of God affords us relief by assurances of supernatural grace. When it says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling," it adds, “For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.". It places before us the most interesting motives—the love of God, and the love of Christ; the invaluable benefits which have already been bestowed upon us, and the new blessings which we may expect to obtain; the peace, the consolation, the joy, the hope with which our heavenly Father refreshes the souls, and recompenses, in this world, the services of his obedient children. In short, it displays before the eyes of the runner in the Christian race, the glorious prize which awaits him at the end of his course, the immortal crown which the righteous Judge will bestow upon him. We know, from experience, the efficacy of hope in stimulating and sustaining our exertion. The Scriptures enlist this principle of human nature in the service of religion, and exhort us to be “steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forausmuch as we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”+
* Phil. ii. 12, 13.
+ 1 Cor. xv. 58.