The Biblical Doctrine of Santification
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, Oct. 29th, 1850
The solemn, but interesting and incontrovertible fact, that all real godliness is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, is but little credited, and still less acted upon. Vain mortals have, for the more part, fallen into this fatal mistake, that Christianity is but a profession within the reach of mental powers, to be attained to by dint of mortal effort, and is not a supernatural thing. Thousands in the day in which we live, study Christianity as they would study law or physic; study Christianity as they would study philosophy or science; just as though it were a thing within the reach of mortals, something over which man can exercise a sovereign control; and while they are thus pursuing it, uprises old lord free-will, sitting paramount, and declaring that the things of God are within the reach of all God's enemies.
My hearers, the wide contrast, expressed in the language of my text, between Israel and the heathens is scarcely believed. It is almost rejected; and, consequently, it is put to vain mortals as if it were a mere matter of their own choice what religion they shall be of; as if it were something for them to choose, quite losing sight of the solemn fact which is recorded in the text, "I, Jehovah, do sanctify Israel." Nor is there any sanctity, nor is there any spirituality, nor is there any godliness, where Jehovah Himself has not bestowed it as a free gift, in the most sovereign manner, and with the most permanent, immutable, eternal securities.
The Christianity that begins with man deceives his soul, amuses the devil, gratifies the world, insults Jehovah, and damns millions. The Christianity that originates with God, is His own life put into the soul of the worm, fostered, fed, and finished in its operations and work by His own almighty power, and fixed eternally upon His own throne with Himself to glorify His name. What a wide contrast! Heaven peopled with the religion of God! Hell thronged with the religion of man! Heaven occupied by those who possess a supernatural Christianity! Hell's gates crowded with the Christianity invented by mortals.!
Now, surely, it becomes you and me to ask ourselves seriously, which is ours, for "the heathen shall know that I, the Lord, do sanctify Israel."
We have been dwelling for weeks past upon some of the most prominent and glorious topics that are to be found in the precious Word of God, especially relative to the offices and fullness of Christ; and my soul rejoices that God sees fit, in His infinitely wise providence, and without my touch, to send them to the remotest corners of Europe. My anxiety is, this morning, that another important feature of our most holy faith should be most distinctly understood, personally received with extensive profit in your souls, and then sounded out through the length and breadth of our land; I mean the doctrine of sanctification.
Oh! What fatal mistakes are made upon that doctrine! How many take up a large portion of their lives in attempting to whitewash the sepulchre, to trim up and adorn old Adam, to rectify that which is past mending, and make a saint of old Adam-nature! All useless effort! All labouring in vain, and in the dark. And yet they call it sanctification, and talk about making progress in it, and set up a dogma which nobody can understand as a sort of test of orthodoxy, and which they are pleased to call "progressive sanctification." I have been asked repeatedly whether I am a believer in progressive sanctification, and I always answer, "I do not know;" I have said, "If you will tell me what it is, I will tell you whether or not I believe in it. But it is a phrase that I cannot find in my Book, and I cannot, therefore, tell you whether I believe it or not. I do not know what it is!" "Why, Sir," said one, rather earnestly and rather sarcastically, "Why, Sir, 'progressive sanctification!'" I said, "That is only a name, what is it?" "Why, you must know, Sir, why, 'progressive sanctification.'" I said, "That is no explanation whatever. Tell me what it is, and I will say if I believe it." "Why, 'progressive sanctification.'" I could get no more. Then I said, "Do you mean to tell me that old Adam-nature gets progressively better and better? If that is what you mean, I do not believe one word of it; for, I find, after forty years' advancement in Divine life, old Adam is as depraved as ever he was, only subdued and kept under." "Oh! No, it could not be that." "Then do you mean," I asked, "that the new nature gets holier and holier? I do not believe that, for "whosover is born of God cannot commit sin.'" "Oh! No, it is not that." "What is it then?" Still the answer was "progressive sanctification." At last I said, "Come now, do you mean that the new nature, which is God's gift, and God's workmanship, grows stronger and stronger, and that, consequently, old Adam is crucified, mortified, and kept under?" "Oh! Yes, yes, that is it!" Then I remarked, "Why, are you such a novice as to follow the old schoolmen for a word, and not use the pure Scripture phrase, 'growth in grace.'" Now I mention this anecdote here, merely to point out clearly what I mean by the old nature and the new nature.
First, then, let us look at sanctification, as the Holy Spirit's work in the sinner's heart; and next, glance at its exhibition before the heathen, "for the heathen shall know it."
Only these two leading features do I intend to present to your view this morning. May the Holy Ghost enable me to speak forth the words of truth and soberness concerning them both; and I trust He will give me language that shall not be misunderstood, that will carry its own meaning with it, so that you may be grounded and settled in the grand doctrine of sanctification.
I. We have said that, in the first place, we shall view it as the Holy Spirit's work to "sanctify Israel." And, without further introductory remarks, let me just at once declare that He gives a new, another, a spiritual life, yea, His own life, to sinners who were dead in trespasses and in sins. That is the religion of the Bible. I pass over the separating and setting apart until by-and-bye; and I come to the point that that sanctification which becomes conspicuous and visible is the giving of life Divine, life spiritual, the life of God, to and into the soul of a sinner dead in trespasses and in sins. Now, the modern scheme of divinity, goes on the supposition that man is not dead, goes on the supposition that the Word of God tells a falsehood, when in various places it declares him to be dead in trespasses and sins. Nay, if we go back to the fall of Adam and the description given of it by the Holy Ghost in His own words, they do not believe it. The sentence went forth, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," or, "dying, thou shalt die." Now you know that Adam did not die on the same day that he ate the forbidden fruit, as regards his animal existence, for he continued to live an animal and mental life; but he died as regards his spiritual existence, on the day he ate of the forbidden fruit. There was then left in manthe fair creation of Godno capacity for spiritual acts, nor for spiritual emotions, nor for spiritual communion; for instead of "walking with God in the cool of the day in the garden," to commune with Him, he ran and hid himself among the trees of the garden. He was left incapable of one spiritual function. If they only believe the doctrine of the fall, the funeral sermon of Arminianism would have to be preached immediately; and, if I am ambitious of any one thing, it is that I should have the honour of preaching it. If they only believe the doctrine of the fall, the idle pretensions of man's capability would perish with the belief. Oh! What specimens of it have we around us everywhere! You shall converse with men of intellect, with men of mind, with men of reading, with men of science, with men of education, with men of literature, with men who are decidedly great and clever in everything natural, yet when you come to converse about the life of God in the soul, God's method of saving sinners and of salvation in Christ, they will give you proof in less than five minutes that they are dead, that they are wholly incapable of comprehending, receiving, or understanding anything that pertains to the salvation of God, in a spiritual sense.
Otherwise, how am I to understand or receive the statement of the Holy Ghost to the Corinthians, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14) He cannot know them, any more than the dead can know what I am saying now, or the blind can see what my eyes behold. "Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." When the apostle congratulates the Ephesians with regard to the mighty work of grace in their hearts, he says, "You hath He quickened, who were", what? Very far wrong? Extremely ill? Dreadfully wounded? Half dead? No, no, no, no. "You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph. 2:1) The pride of man cannot brook this, but the Word of God proclaims it; and I am not to yield to the pride of man, but bow down to the statements of God's own Word. "You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." The apostle John puts it in another form, and says to his brethren who were regenerated by the power of the Holy Ghost, "We are of God" (1 John 5:19)that is, we have a life obtained from God, "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness;" like a corpse, "the whole world lieth in wickedness," "dead in trespasses and sins." The Son of God Himself speaks of it in the third chapter of the Gospel of St. John as a "new birth;" and what is that but participation in a new, another nature? It is emphatically set forth as the work of the Holy Spirit, to "take of the things of Christ and show them unto us;" to quicken the souls that are dead in sin, creating in them a capacity to enjoy God, another life, new eyes, new pursuits; in fact, a new creature, "old things passing away and all things becoming new." (2 Cor. 5:17) That is, where sanctification commences in the sinner's heart, the gift of life divine imparted by the power of the Holy Ghost. You cannot get it from a human priest. You cannot get it from baptism of any sort or kind, or from rites or ceremonies; it must come immediately from God, His own gift, His own work exclusively. "I, Jehovah, do sanctify Israel."
Let me here detain you to glance at the identity of the covenant seed in the grand operation of grace. Wherever the Holy Ghost implants spiritual life, that soul is identified, at once, as an Israelite. "The heathen shall know that I, the Lord, do sanctify Israel." Israel! And why not Philistines? Why not Moabites? Why not Ammonites? There is not one word about them in all the Book of God. I, Jehovah, do sanctify Israel." Now, let us bring the matter to close investigation, I beseech you. And who are Israel? The seed of a covenant Head; a ransomed people; an emancipated people; a peculiar people. Mark, I beseech you; if the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost has ever reached your heart and implanted the life divine, this is your identity of character, one of the Lord's redeemed, emancipated and brought out with a high hand and an outstretched arm; among "the peculiar people, zealous of good works," distinguished from all the nations of the earth around. Oh! The vast importance of this distinction. I would to God that it were kept up and maintained among the followers of the Lamb. What is the first feature of their peculiarity? They are circumcised in heart, and love God, and are distinguished from the Egyptians. Light is in their dwellings, when all else is dark and dead. They are brought out to serve the Lord God in the wilderness, to offer him a spiritual service. They are capable of beholding his glory, in the cloudy pillar as well as in the mercy-seat and the shekinah, and are really engaged with God, and under His care and keeping. I want to establish the distinction, that God's sanctified ones are a covenant people, descendants of a covenant Head, the offspring of Christ, of whom it is said, "He shall see his seed." (Isa. 53:10) Therefore, every sanctified soul of Adam's race is one of His seed.
Look well to this point. Am I really sanctified by the Holy Ghost, set apart from the world, and made partaker of the divine nature? Then am I Christ's offspring. Then am I separated from the world for Him; redeemed by His precious blood; brought out of Egyptian bondage, and cannot live under the taskmakers and under the yoke any longer. Then am I made to serve Jehovah, and worship Him "in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) Do examine this matter; because if this is ascertained to be so, Canaan is before you; the promised land, eternal rest, is waiting you, and God's oath and promises secure your possession of it. All depends on this testimony, that the Holy Ghost has sanctified you, and communicated life divine to you in personal experience. Do not allow the matter to pass without close investigation and prayer; and when I have finished this discourse, go hence to your closets and ask seriously, "O Holy Ghost, hast thou set up thy temple in my heart, set me apart for God, and given to me life divine?" Then your distinction as an Israelite, separated from the world, beloved of God, and saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, your identity is secure.
Let me now remark, that this is not done with when Jehovah's Spirit first implanted life divine in the soul, but He visits His sanctified ones with new supplies of grace; and these we want for every hour of our journey through the wilderness; "Grace for grace", new supplies. I want all the graces He has implanted supplied with reinforcements from above, according to the statement, "Grace for grace." My faith must have an increase. My love must be fanned into a flame, and He must do it. My humility must be deepened, and He must water it. My meekness must expand, and He must put His hand upon it for the purpose, and impart new supplies. My patience must have its perfect work, and He must call it into exercise. It is all His own doing; "I, Jehovah, do sanctify Israel." So that it follows that, as soon as the Holy Ghost has taken possession of the poor sinner's heart, His work is only commenced; and He goes on strengthening, confirming, feeding, supplying, enlightening, instructing, guiding, and leading on in the divine life, until He leads every elect vessel of mercy home to glory, along with His sanctified ones, to be placed within the temple above.
Think for a moment of our daily and hourly dependence. Think for a moment of the matter of fact, that we cannot advance a step in the divine life, that we cannot claim a promise even, or enjoy it, that we cannot surmount a difficulty, that we cannot meet an enemy, that we cannot sustain a trial, without communications of grace from on high. And therefore, says the apostle, when referring to Him in whom all is treasured up, "Of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16) But how came He to receive it? Is it within your reach, or within man's disposal, or dependent on anything in the creature? Oh, no! It is the prerogative and the ministry of the Holy Ghost "to take of the things which are Christ's and show them unto us" (John 16:15)"reveal them unto us; and, as Jesus said concerning Him, "He shall glorify me." Now, I want to live hourly in the expectation of this. If I get a little of the spirit of prayer bestowed upon me to go and deal afresh with God, before I can well close I want it repeated. If I get a spirit of gratitude for mercies received, I can scarcely complete my song, but unbelief will creep in, unless it is repeated and He communicates more of that spirit from on high. And so with all the strength I have for every day's trial or cross, all must come from above; the sustaining power is all His own. I want all my trials sanctified. I want all my afflictions sanctified. I want all my sorrows and crosses sanctified. Yea, every temptation sanctified; so that I may thereby be brought to enjoy Jesus' power to deliver me from, and raise me above, and make me conqueror over all that opposes my progress in the divine life: so that I find myself depending on the sanctifying power and the grace of the Holy Ghost every hour. I want His perpetual baptizing. I want it poured out from above upon me. I want to be accustomed hourly to His anointing my soul with His fresh oil." How blessed the fact that, while all the stores of life and grace are the appointment and gift of God the Father, all are treasured up in the person of God the Son, and are communicated by the perpetual ministry of God the Holy Ghost. "I, Jehovah, do sanctify Israel."
Follow this a little further, and we shall see that God's sanctified ones, who are receiving the visits of His grace and the communications from above which I have just named, are employed to glorify Him. Now, let us here again come a little close to the test. Do not attempt to satisfy me, do not attempt to satisfy yourselves with a lazy religion. All God's sanctified ones are employed; for He says to every one of them, "Son, go work in my vineyard today." (Matt. 21:28) Don't stop till tomorrow. Go every day. The believing family of God are called upon to glorify Him "with their bodies and spirits," because their bodies and spirits are the Lord's. The Gentiles may seek after what they shall eat and what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed. The world, which is represented in that phraseology of our Lord, will pursue their gains and profits of an earthly kind, their accumulations of wealth, their covetous plans, their pride, their gratifications of the flesh, their social and political schemes, their victories in war, or whatever else they please: it is all very well to the carnal, and the carnal mind pursues carnal things; but your business and mine, if we belong to God and are His sanctified ones, is the glorifying of His name with our bodies and our spirits, the glorifying of His name as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. How the heathen are to know it, we shall say something about by-and-bye.
Then I desire for myself and for every one of my hearers, that the question should be seriously put to our consciences, if it be God's design to employ His sanctified ones (and I have some faint hope that I am a sanctified one), how will He employ me? To what department of His vineyard am I appointed? What am I doing to exalt and honour Him? To testify of the power and preciousness of predestinating love, proving and exhibiting my likeness to the precious Christ of God, and my interest in His full salvation, and bearing testimony that I am the temple of the Holy Ghost, dwelling and walking in me? Is the advancement of truth dear to your heart? Is the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom your warm desire? Are the triumphs of the cross earnestly sought after by fervent prayer? And then, is the hand put to the work and the means of grace with which God has favoured us, in order that every possible effort may be made for the extension of the triumphs of the cross and the glory of the dear Redeemer's name? Oh! When I think of the avidity with which Infidels publish and circulate their horrid blasphemies at any expense and labour! Oh! When I think of the persevering energy with which Papists are labouring with press, pulpit, and intrigue of every sort, to set up Anti-Christ! And when I think of the rising early and sitting up late of men of merchandise to secure their objects and make fortunes, and compare these things with the poor, cold, tame, lethargic movements of Christians to glorify Christ, I am pained and overwhelmed with sorrow. O God! Employ thy sanctified ones, and let every child of thine be active and vigilant in extending the triumphs of the cross! Do not tell me you are incapable of doing anything. That is one of Satan's falsehoods and artifices to allure you to indulge in laziness. Do not tell me that you have no talent. I can receive none of these excuses. All God's sanctified ones have at least something to do in His vineyard for the glorying of His name. And I would have them take a lesson from one of our old martyrs, picked up from the lowest walk of life, illiterate, and without a penny which he could call his own; and who, when brought before a Roman pro-consul and sneeringly asked, "What can you do for your Christ?" Replied, "I cannot preach Him: I have no talent. I cannot support His cause; I have no money: but there are two things which I can do for Him; I can live for Him, and I can die for Him." Surely here was an instance which ought to be looked at as an example for us; for the Lord's sanctified ones have all some opportunities of glorifying His precious name.
The term, "sanctified," I promised to dwell a little upon, under the idea of separation, because, in many places in Scripture, the word signifies, to set apart, or separate for holy uses, or ends. We did not overlook this idea when I spoke of sanctification, as it is experienced by the children of God, and which becomes visible; and I think the views I have just enumerated are the scriptural views of it. Still, this is not less scriptural, though perhaps less important, there is, nevertheless, a vast importance attached to it. "Know thou that the Lord hath set apart"that is, sanctification, "hath set apart him that is godly for Himself." (Ps. 4:3) In the Epistle to the Corinthians the Holy Ghost, by the apostle, directs, respecting the sacred distinction of the followers of the Lamb, "Come out from among them, "the world", and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor. 6:17,18) All through the Old Testament dispensation we find the word used, in numerous instances, in this very sense. When the priests of the Israelites were exhorted and enjoined upon them. So, when our precious Lord said, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself," He did not mean to make Himself more holy, that is impossible. What did He mean? "I set Myself apart." As in the eternal purpose of the Father, so He set Himself apart for their sakes. "Say ye of Him, whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world;" (John 10:36) that is, set apart and distinctly appointed to His holy work and office.
Then, appealing to the Father, as in the chapter we read (John 17), he says, "As thou hast sent me into the world", that is, sanctified, "even so have I also sent them into the world;" (John 17:18) that is, sanctified, set apart, distinguished, taken out of the world. Consequently, in the same chapter, He says, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (John 17:16) Oh! My hearers, it is this I want to see, this separation from the world amongst the followers of the Lamb. Are you aware what was the greatest cause of the misery which the people of Israel of old ever felt, and which ultimately led to their entire dispersion? You will find it in Psalm 106:35., They were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works." And that is the cause of the low ebb to which vital godliness is reduced in our beloved country in the day in which we live. We "mingle with the heathen, and learn their works." They mingle with them, and learn their works, and avoid everything that would be likely to subject them to censure, as being Hyper-Calvinistic or Antinomian; two words which are made use of by the crafty to frighten the weak and the timid. The devil is assiduous in setting them forward; and I always regard them as similar to the cry of "Mad-dog," in the street, which intimates that the dog ought to be destroyed. But it is a mere sound; it is not a fair description; for you will find among those very persons who are so designated the holiest men that walk upon the face of the earth. Now I want this distinction from the world to be so kept up as to be seen of men; for depend upon it, if you are able to maintain the high character I have set forth under the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, you must wear the badge. Fear not, God separates His people from the world, and He watches over them with peculiar care. They are His saints, His family, His inheritance, His choice treasure, and He will not have them contaminated by being mingled with the world.
Here I might go a step further, and expose, for a moment, the worldly practices of some who pass for Christians, their parleying with temptation; their transacting business in the same doubtful manner, I was going to say something worse, as regards integrity as the world around them; their practice of making unlawful gains; their murdering a large portion of their time in the things which perish with the using; their lamentable backwardness in the things of God and the house of God, and in close living in communion with God. Oh! My hearers, I could weep tears of blood over some I have known of this description. My heart is sometimes ready to burst with grief, when I think of them, that they care so little about their distinction and dignity, and are so lost about concern for the honour of Christ and the extension of His kingdom. Oh! Where are the sanctified ones, separated from the world, not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world?
II. I must now proceed to the second feature of our subject, "The heathen shall know that I, Jehovah do sanctify Israel." The heathen shall know! The heathen! What, do you mean to send all out as missionaries to foreign lands and barbarous tribes, to make known what God has done for our souls? I do not think, at any rate at present, that all should be employed thus, for you need not go out of England, or out of London, or out of Camberwell, to find vast numbers of heathens. What! Say you, I thought this was one of the most civilized nations in the world. My friends, I did not say that it was not; but there is a vast difference between civilization and spiritualization; and I maintain that a graceless sinner is a heathen. I do not know any other distinction. He that believeth, and the Infidel, is the contrast in the Word of God. A graceless sinner may be very religious in his way, and yet a heathen. Shall I give you the Psalmist's description of them, which you will find in Psalm 115:4-7? The gods of the heathen are "silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not; they have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat." That is, all the senses are dormant, dead. The image has these representations of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet, and the like; but none of them can be set in motion, they are useless. "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth to them" (Ps. 115:8)including the whole graceless multitude of mankind, who have neither eyes nor ears, nose, mouth, hands nor feet, to move, in a spiritual point of view, just as is described in the opening part of my discourse; they are "dead in trespasses and in sin;" they are heathen; they know not God; they have no intimacy with Him; they are far off from Him. Heathens may be as well dressed as Christians, and in other things as well educated, and, in their general deportment, as polite, attentive, civil, and courteous; but that does not give them spiritual life. I can find all that is amiable in natural disposition, in conduct, in deportment, in appearance, and in manner, among those who have no Christianity; but when I come to the point, as a poor sinner stands in the sight of God, I insist that he is either a heathen or a saint; he is either a stranger to all enjoyment of God, or he is put in possession of the life of God in the soul, and is consequently intimate with God.
Say, how is it with you, my hearers? Are there any here who have not bowed the knee to my God, and know nothing about worshipping Him in spirit and in truth? Who have never passed from death unto life, and are not yet the temple of the Holy Ghost? Then you are heathens! For I cannot allow any middle character. I know that there have been, in all ages, very learned and philosophical heathens, perhaps some of the greatest of philosophers are among them, but their philosophy did not make them Christians. They knew nothing of God after all, they were heathens after all. And I beg you to carry this very severe distinction with you, and analyse it as closely as you possibly can; and if you can discover any middle course, if you can find any characters that are neither Christians or heathens, I shall be glad to know who and what they are; but I cannot find any such, dead or alive. Under the reigning power and sovereignty of the prince of the power of the air, or under the mighty influence and operation of rich and distinguishing grace. Look well to the statement which is given in the Epistle to the Corinthians, concerning this: light and darkness, Christ and Belial, the believer and the Infidel. Can there be any fellowship here? Is there any middle character? I do not find in all that description of persons any third description of character included. Therefore, whatever accomplishments or embellishments the mind of man may attain to, he is a heathen after all, if he has not the life of God in his soul. The contrast to this is, the regenerated, sanctified family of God. "Oh, Israel! Trust thou in the Lord, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." God's Israel are sanctified ones; we have already said, have a life divine bestowed upon them, and consequently form a direct contrast to the heathen around them, such a contrast, that they can see invisible things, hear the "still small voice" that speaks to their souls in secret, what the dearest relative at hand cannot hear. They can inhale, or, if I may use the expression, smell, the odour of the Redeemer's name. It is like ointment poured forth. They can taste the precious realities of the gospel, aye, and feast upon them too, as upon a feast of fat things on God's mountain. The Paschal Lamb is the dainty thing upon provision table every day. They can handle the Word of God with the hand of faith, and with this hand lay hold on eternal life itself; possessing all the powers and faculties of the new man, another creation, another nature; they live in a holy atmosphere, are supplied with holy provision, wear holy garments, the imputed righteousness of Christ, are instructed by the Holy Spirit, adorned with holy jewels, all the graces from on high, related to a Holy God, and destined to be pillars in His holy temple, to go no more out for ever.
What, then, will you mingle with the heathen, and learn their works? With a life so superior, with a dignity so supernatural, with prospects so bright, at an expense so vast as the atoning blood of Christ, will you degrade yourselves, will you suffer the heathen to triumph over you? Oh, to be able daily and hourly to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, that His likeness, His image, His mind, His Spirit may be exhibited by us, whilst we seek no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. This is the way to make it known, that the heathen shall know and see the contrast.
Not a few worldlings, whom I have thus set down as heathens, have been brought to acknowledge that there is something very singular, something very strange, something very mysterious, which they cannot fathom, in the Christianity which we possess. They cannot discover what that something is; and they never will until God gives it to them; it is His to bestow.
And this brings me to dwell for a moment on the absolute sovereignty of the grace which imparts it. "I, Jehovah, do it." Oh, how I wish that I could be more familiar with His doings, and jealous about my own! Oh, how I wish that every spiritual act that a believer is able to perform, might be instantly traced, as the apostle did his, to the hand of God! When speaking of his activity in the cause of Jesus, the apostle says, "I laboured more abundantly than they all;" (1 Cor. 15:10) but at once he checks himself, and adds, "yet, not I, but the grace of God in me; "as though he had said, "It is not my doing." The power of Christ rested upon him. The Holy Ghost spoke to him to go hither and thither to preach, and mightily moved him. He was living, acting, travelling, and preaching under the immediate power of the Spirit. And here let me remind you, that the first possession of life divine is an act of absolute sovereignty in its bestowment, and of invincible grace to bear down all before it in its reception. Jehovah asks not the cooperation of man, but works as a sovereign; and while His sovereign love bestows, His invincible grace communicates, and defies man's rebellion, and challenges even the devil's grasp. He gives the command, "Let my Son go and serve me in the wilderness;" and He brings Him out with a high hand and an outstretched arm. Oh, the blessedness of tracing all our Christianity up to God! Oh, the blessedness of subscribing to that article of the apostle's creed, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17)
Then, having laid the foundation in absolute sovereignty, see how he goes on in the next verse of the same chapter in St. James Epistle to describe its operations: "of His own will begat He us, by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures." Oh, the vast importance of having this distinction between us and the heathens, and the preservation of that distinction as the work of God, an act of the operation of His absolute power! "I, the Lord, will do it, and the heathen shall know it." Now here is a glorious distinction, that the heathen shall know it. They must not only acknowledge that what is done is a good thing, but that it is supernatural and beyond the creature's power; and admit, as the heathen monarch of old did, in the case of the deliverance of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abed-nego, that it is the work of Him whose dwelling is not upon this earth, that it is a supernatural, Divine work.
Another point which will be conspicuous to the heathen is, your circumspection; for, when God sanctifies, He makes the recipient of His sanctifying grace very circumspect. Was it not this that our Lord had especial eye to, when He said to His disciples, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) The heathen will see that. The heathen will not see the secret intercourse that is going on in your heart with God. They cannot see the hidden springs of life. They cannot see the secret purpose of predestinating love, from whence all proceeds; but they can see your circumspection. They can see how you walk; they can see what spirit, and mind, and temper, you exhibit. They can see whether there is anything about you, in your whole conduct and deportment, which gives the lie to your profession; and they will not be backward in talking about it. They discover it in a moment. Oh, how important, therefore, is that solemn advice of the apostle! "Be ye therefore holy, even as He who hath called you is holy." (1 Pet. 1:15)
Now, amidst all that is coming upon us as a nation, look well, I beseech you, to circumspection. Do not let your consciences upbraid you, that the means of grace were neglected when they were within your reach. If brought before magistrates for Jesus' name, do not let them taunt you with the fact, that your lives were like those of the rest of the world. Oh, what a torment it would prove to a Christian's conscience, if, when arraigned at a tribunal for Christ's sake and His cause, some base act of dishonesty or unprincipled conduct, should be thrown before him! I entreat you, brethren, to cry for the grace of circumspection, that, as long as you are permitted to worship God in peace, you may give no occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme; and that, when the fatal times come, in which the pure and simple worship we are enjoying this morning, will be suspended, we shall have nought to reproach ourselves with.
One point more before I close: it relates to the enjoyment, the experimental enjoyment, which sanctifying grace imparts when we stand before the heathen as a distinguished people, and the heathen shall know it. I have heard of such delightful instances as ungodly persons saying of such and such an one, "Oh, it is of no use to ask him to go for a walk on the Sabbath; he always goes to his chapel. It is of no use to ask him to go to the theatre, to Drury Lane or Covent Garden; he is a Methodist." Thus you see how you are known to the heathen. "It is of no use to ask him to go to the pothouse, to join in our midnight revels; he has done with it all. The world is dead to him, and he is dead to the world. Most likely you will find him at the prayer meeting, or at the weekly lecture, or sitting over his Bible, studying its Divine truths, or in communion with God." "The heathen shall know." Then what enjoyment shall flow into the soul, that Jehovah shall have given us grace enough to maintain our distinction, to bring us into communion with Himself, to keep up the fellowship which He is the author of, to constrain us to follow after Him, to call forth all our powers in glorifying Him, and enable us to go on our way singing, until we join the everlasting song of those who surround the throne in glory, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." Amen. (Rev. 1:5,6)
And are my hearers on the way to this? Is eternal glory in view? Does the sound of the golden harps seem already to reach the soul, and enrapture it with ardent longings to touch the strings with immortal fingers, within the veil? Are the family of God girding up their loins, and trimming their lamps, rejoicing in the sanctifying operations of the Holy Ghost, standing distinguished from the heathen, apart from the world, on the alert for the glory of God, on tiptoe for bliss, with outstretched wings, ready to be gone, and waiting to be like Christ and to see Him as He is? May the Eternal Spirit put you, and keep you, in that position, until the hour of your translation shall come; and then give you a glorious entrance, abundantly administered, into His everlasting kingdom, and His name shall have all the glory.