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The GOSPEL MYSTERY OF

SANCTIFICATION

 

Walter Marshall

 


Chapter Fourteen

That you may seek holiness and righteousness only by believing in Christ and walking in Him by faith, according to the former directions, take encouragement from the great advantages of this way and the excellent properties of it.

This direction may serve as an epilogue or conclusion by stirring us up unto a lively and cheerful embracing those gospel rules forementioned by several weighty motives. Many are kept from seeking godliness because they know not the way to it; or the way that they think of seems uncouth, unpleasant, disadvantageous and full of discouragement, like the way through the wilderness to Canaan, which wearied the Israelites and occasioned their many murmurings (Num. 21:4).

But this is a way so good and excellent that those that have the true knowledge of it, and desire heartily to be godly, cannot dislike it. I shall show the excellency of it in several particulars. But you should first call to mind what is the way I have taught, namely, union and fellowship with Christ, and by faith in Christ, as discovered in the gospel; not by the law, or in a natural condition, or by thinking to get it before we come to Christ, to procure Christ by it - which is striving against the stream; but that we must first apply Christ and His salvation to ourselves for our comfort, and that by confident faith; and then walk by that faith, according to the new man, in Christ, and not as in a natural condition; and use all means of holiness rightly for this end. Now, that this is an excellent advantageous way appears by the following desirable properties of it.

Firstly, it has this property that it tends to the abasement of all flesh and exaltation of God only, in His grace and power through Christ. And so it is agreeable to God's design in all His works and the end that He aims at (Rom. 11:6; Isa. 2:17; Ezek. 36:21-23, 31, 32; Ps. 145:4); and a fit means for the attaining the end that we ought to aim at in the first place, which is the hallowing, sanctifying and glorifying God's name in all things; and is the first and chief petition (Matt. 6:9); and is the end of all our actings (1 Cor. 10:31); and was the end of giving the law (Rom. 3:19, 20). God made all things for Christ, and would have Him have the preeminence in all (Col. 1:17, 18), that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13 ). And this property of it is a great argument to prove that it is the way of God, and has the character of His image stamped on it. We may say that it is like Him and a way according to His heart, as Christ proves His doctrine to be of God by this argument (John 7:18). And Paul proves the doctrine of justification, and of sanctification, and salvation by grace through faith to be of God, because it excludes all boastings of the creature (Rom. 3:27 , 28; 1 Cor. 1:29 , 30, 31; Eph. 3:8, 9). This property appears evidently in the mystery of sanctification by Christ in us through faith. For

1. It shows that we can do nothing by our natural will, or any power of the flesh, and that God will not enable us to do anything that way (Rom. 7:18), however nature is stirred up by the law or natural helps (Gal. 3:11, 21). And so it serves to work self-loathing and abasement, and to make us look on nature as desperately wicked, and past cure, and not to be reformed, but put off by putting on Christ. It remains wicked, and only wicked, after we have put on Christ.

2. It shows that all our good works and living to God are not by our own power and strength at all, but by the power of Christ living in us by faith; and that God enables us to act, not merely according to our natural power, as He enables carnal men and all other creatures, but above our own power by Christ united to us and in us through the Spirit. All men live, move and have their being in Him and, by His universal support and maintenance of nature in its being and activity, they act (Heb. 1:3), so that the glory of their actings as creatures belongs to God. But God acts more immediately in His people, who are one flesh and one Spirit with Christ, and act not by their own power, but by the power of the Spirit of Christ in them, as closely united to Him, and being the living temples of His Spirit; so that Christ is the immediate principal agent of all their good works, and they are Christ's works properly, who works all our works in us and for us; and yet they are the saints' works by fellowship with Christ, by whose light and power the faculties of the saints do act, and are acted (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:16, 17; Col. 1:11); so that we are to ascribe all our works to God in Christ and thank Him for them as free gifts (1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 1:11). God enables us to act, not by ourselves, as He does others, but by Himself. The wicked are supported in acting only according to their own nature, so they act wickedly; thus all are said to live, move and have their being in God (Acts 17:28). But God enables us to conquer sin, not by ourselves, but by Himself (Hos. 1:7); and the glory of enabling us does not only belong to Him, which the Pharisee could not but ascribe to him (Luke 18:11 ), but also the glory of doing all in us. And yet we work as one with Christ, even as He works as one with the Father, by the Father working in Him. We live as branches by the juice of the vine, act as members by the animal spirits of the head, and bring forth fruit by marriage to Him as our husband, and work in the strength of Him as the living bread that we feed on. He is all in the new man (Col. 3:11), and all the promises are made good in Him (2 Cor. 1:20 ).

Secondly, it has this property that it consists well with other doctrines of the gospel; which contrary errors do not. And hence this is the way to confirm us in many other points of the gospel, and therefore appears to be true by its harmony with other truths, and fit linking with them in the same golden chain of the mystery of godliness, and evidences them to be true by their harmony with it. I have showed that men's mistaking the true way of sanctification is the cause of perverting the Scripture in other points of faith, and of declining from the truth to Popish, Socinian and Arminian tenets, because men cannot seriously take that for truth which they judge not to be according to godliness. But this way of holiness will evidence that these gospel doctrines, which they refuse, are according to godliness; and that those tenets, which a blind zeal for holiness moves them to embrace, are indeed contrary to holiness, however Satan appears to their natural understandings as an angel of light in such tenets. Whatever men say, it is certain that legalists are indeed the Antinomians, I shall instance in some truths confirmed by it.

1. The doctrine of original sin, that is, not only the guilt of Adam's sin and a corrupt nature, but utter impotency to do spiritual good, and proneness to sin, which is death to God, in all people according to nature (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12). There is an utter inability to keep the law truly in any point. Many deny this doctrine, because they think that if people believe this they will excuse their sins by it, and be apt to despair of all striving to do good works and leave off all endeavours and grow licentious, and they think it will be more conducing to godliness to hold and teach either that there is no original sin or corruption derived from Adam, or at least, it is done away, either in the world by universal redemption, or in the church by baptism; and that there is free will restored, whereby people are able to incline themselves to do good, that men may be more encouraged to set upon good works and their neglect made inexcusable. All this is indeed forcible against seeking and endeavouring for holiness by the free will and power of nature, which is the way of endeavouring, which I directed you to avoid, and if there were no new way to holiness since the Fall, original sin might make us despair; but there is a new birth, a new heart, a new creature, and therefore we have directed you to the seeking of holiness by the Spirit of Christ, and willing good freely by a spiritual power, as new creatures, partakers of a divine nature in Christ. Yea, it is necessary to know the first Adam, that we may know the second (Rom. 5:12); to believe the Fall and original sin, that we may be stirred up to fly to Christ by faith for holiness by free gift, knowing that we cannot attain it by our own power and free will (2 Cor. 1:9; Matt. 9:12, 13; Rom. 7:24, 25; 2 Cor. 3:5; Eph. 5:14). There were no need of a new man or a new creation, if the old were not without strength and life (John 3:5, 6; Eph. 2:8).

But original deadness cannot hinder God's working faith, and hungerings and thirstings after Christ by the Spirit through the gospel, in those that God chooses to walk holily and blamelessly before Him in love (1 Thess. 1:4, 5; Acts 26:18). And so we are made alive in a new head and become branches of another vine, living to God by the Spirit, not by nature.

2. It confirms us in the doctrine of predestination, which many deny, because they say it takes men off from endeavours, as fruitless, by telling men that all events are predetermined. This argument would be more forcible against endeavours by the power of our own free will, but not at all against endeavours for holiness by the operation of God, giving us faith and all holiness by His own Spirit working in us through Christ. We are to trust on Christ for the grace of the elect and God's goodwill towards men (Matt. 3 17; Luke 2:14; Ps. 106:4, 5). Election by grace destroys seeking by works, but not by grace (Rom. 11:5, 6). And we are here taught to seek for salvation only in the way of the elect; and we may conclude that holiness is to be had by God's will, and not by our own; and it may move us to desire holiness by the will of God (Rom. 9:16; Ps. 110:3). And seeing it appears by this doctrine of sanctification through Christ that we are God's workmanship, as to all the good wrought in us (Phil. 2:12, 13; Eph. 2:10), we may well admit that He has appointed His pleasure from eternity without infringing the natural liberty of our corrupt wills, which reach not unto good works (Acts 15:18, cf. 36). Man's natural free will may well consist with God's decree, as in paradise, Decretum radix contigentiae.

3. It confirms us in the true doctrine of justification and reconciliation with God by faith, relying on the merits of Christ's blood, without any works of our own, and without considering faith as a work to procure favour by the righteousness of the act, but only as a hand to receive the gift, or as the very eating and drinking of Christ actually, rather than any kind of condition entitling us to Him as our food.

This great doctrine of the gospel many hate, as breaking the strongest bounds of holiness and opening a way to all licentiousness; for they reckon that the conditionality of works to attain God's favour and avoid His wrath, and the necessity of them to salvation are the most necessary and effectual impulsives to all holiness; and they account that the other doctrine opens the floodgates to licentiousness. And truly this consideration would be of some weight, if people were to be brought to holiness by moral suasion, and their natural endeavours stirred up by the terms of the law and by slavish fears and mercenary hopes; or the force of these motives would be altogether enervated by the doctrine of justification by free grace.

But I have already shown that a man, being a guilty dead creature, cannot be brought to serve God out of love by the force of any of these motives; and that we are not sanctified by any of our own endeavours to work holiness in ourselves, but rather by faith in Christ's death and resurrection, even the same whereby we are justified; and that the urging of the law stirs up sin; and that freedom from it is necessary to all holiness, as the apostle teaches (Rom. 6:11, 14; 7:4, 5). And this way of sanctification confirms the doctrine of justification by faith, as the apostle informs ( Rom. 8:1). For if we are sanctified, and so restored to the image of God and life by the Spirit, through faith, it is evident that God has taken us into His favour and pardoned our sins by the same faith, without the law; or else we should not have the fruits and effects of His favour thereby to our eternal salvation (Rom. 8:2). Yea, His justice would not admit His giving life without works, if we were not made righteous in Christ by the same faith. And we cannot trust to have holiness freely given us by Christ upon any rational round, except we can also trust on the same Christ for free reconciliation and forgiveness of sins for our justification; neither can guilty cursed creatures, that cannot work by reason of their deadness under the curse, be brought to a rational love of God, except they apprehend His loving them first freely, without works (1 John 4:19).

The great objection and reason of so many controversies and books written about it is because they think that men will trust to be saved, however they live. But sanctification is an effect of justification, and flows from the same grace; and we trust for them both by the same faith, and for the latter in order to the former. And such a faith, be it ever so confident, tends not to licentiousness, but to holiness; and we grant that justification by grace destroys holiness by legal endeavours, but not by grace. So that there is no need to live a Papist, and die an Antinomian.

4. It confirms us in the doctrine of real union with Christ, so plentifully held forth in Scripture, which doctrine some account a vain notion, and cannot endure it, because they think it works not holiness, but presumption; whereas I have shown that it is absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of spiritual life and holiness, which is treasured up in Christ - and that so inseparably that we cannot have it without a real union with Him (2 Cor. 13:5; 1 John 5:12; John 6:53; 15:5; 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 3:11). The members and branches cannot live without union with the vine and head; nor the stones be part of the living temple, except they be really joined mediately or immediately to the cornerstone.

5. It confirms us in the doctrine of certain final perseverance of the saints (John 3:36 ; 6:37 ; 5:24; 1 John 3:9; 1 Thess. 5:24; Phil. 1:6; John 10:28, 29; 4:14 ). They think this doctrine makes people careless of good works. I answer, it makes people careless of seeking them by their own natural strength and in a way of slavish fear, but careful and courageous in trusting on the grace of God for them, when they are brought by regeneration heartily to desire them (Rom. 6:14; Num. 13:30), setting upon the doing of them in that grace (1 Thess. 5:8-11). And I have shown that all fears of damnation will never bring persons to work out of love, and that nothing will do it, but a comfortable doctrine.

Thirdly, it has this excellent property , that it is the never-failing, effectually powerful, alone sufficient and sure way to attain to true holiness. They that have the truth in them find it; and the truly humbled find it. People strive in vain, when they seek it any other way; therefore venture with the lepers, else you die (2 Kings 7; Isa. 55:2, 3, 7). All other ways either stir up sin, or increase despair in you: as seeking holiness by the law and working under the curse does, and breeds but slavish and hypocritical obedience at best, and restrains sin only instead of mortifying it (Gal. 4:25). The Jews sought another way and could not attain it (Rom. 9). And all that seek it another way shall lie down in sorrow (Isa. 50:11). And that,

1. Because as we are under the law in our natural state, we are dead and children of wrath (Eph. 2:1, 3). And the law curses us, instead of helping us (Gal. 3:10), and gives no life by its obligation (Gal. 3:21). And we cannot work holiness in ourselves (Rom. 5:6). So that a humble person finds it in vain to seek holiness by the law or his own strength, for the law is weak through our flesh. Seeking a pure life without a pure nature is building without a foundation. And there is no seeking a new nature from the law, for it bids us make brick without straw, and says to the cripple, 'Walk', without giving any strength.

3. In this way only God is reconciled of us, even in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:7). And so He loves us and is a fit object of our love (1 John 4:19). And so in this way only we have a new and divine nature by the Spirit of Christ in us, effectually carrying us forth to holiness with life and love (Rom. 8:5; Gal. 5:17; 2 Peter 1:3, 4), and have new hearts according to the law, so that we serve God heartily according to the new nature, and cannot but serve Him (1 John 3:9). So that there is a sure foundation for godliness and love to God with all our heart, might and soul; and sin is not only restrained, but mortified; and not only the outside made clean, but the inside, and the image of God renewed; and holy actings surely follow. We sin not according to the old nature, though we are not perfect in degree because of the old nature.

Fourthly, it is a most pleasant way to those that are in it (Prov. 3:17), and that in several respects.

1. It is a most plain way, easy to be found, to one that sees his own deadness under the law, and is so renewed in the spirit of his mind as to know and be persuaded of the truth of the gospel. Though such may be troubled and pestered with many legal thoughts and workings, yet, when they seriously consider things, the way is so plain that they think it folly and madness to go any other way, so that the 'wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein' (Isa. 35: 8; Prov. 8:9). The enlightened soul cannot think of another way, when truly humbled (Prov: 4:18). And when we are in Christ, we have His Spirit to be our guide in this way (1 John 2:27 ; John 16:13). So that we need not be filled with such distracting thoughts about knowledge of our way, as legal spirits are about thousands of cases of conscience, which do so multiply upon them that they despair of finding out the way of religion by reason of so various doubts and manifold intricacies. Here we may be sure that God will so far teach us our duties as that we shall not be misled with error, so as to continue in it to destruction (Ps. 25:8, 9, 14). What a trouble it is to a traveller to be doubtful of his way and without a guide, when his business is of great importance, upon life and death! It is even a heart-breaking. But those that are in this way may be sure that, though they sometimes err, yet they shall not err destructively, but shall discern their way again (Gal. 5:7, 10).

2. It is easy to those that walk in it by the Spirit, though it be difficult to get into it by reason of the opposition of the flesh, or devil, scaring us or seducing us from it. Here you have holiness as a free gift received by faith, an act of the mind and soul. Whosoever will may come, take it and drink freely, and nothing is required but a willing mind (John 7:38; Isa. 55:1; Rev. 22:17). But the law is an intolerable burden (Matt. 23:4; Acts 15:10), if duty be laid on us by its terms. We are not left in this way to conquer lusts by our endeavours, which is a successless work, but what is duty is given, and the law is turned into promises (Heb. 8: 6-13; Ezek. 36:25, 26; Jer. 31:33; 32:40). We have all now in Christ (Col. 3:11; 2:9, 10, 15, 17). This is a catholic medicine, instead of a thousand. How pleasant would this free gift, holiness, be to us, if we knew our own wants, inabilities and sinfulness? How ready are some to toil continually and macerate their bodies in a melancholy legal way to get holiness, rather than perish for ever? And therefore, how ready should we be, when it is only, 'Take, and have; believe, and be sanctified and saved?' (2 Kings 5:13). Christ's burden is light by His Spirit's bearing it (Matt. 11: 30). No weariness, but renewing of strength (Isa. 40:31).

3. It is a way of peace (Prov. 3:17), free from fears and terrors of conscience that those meet with unavoidably, who seek salvation by works, for the 'law works wrath' (Rom. 4:15). It is not the way of mount Sinai, but of Jerusalem (Heb. 12:18, 22). The doubts of salvation that people meet with arise from putting some condition of works between Christ and themselves, as has appeared in this discourse. But our walking in this way is by faith, which rejects such fears and doubtings (John 14:1; Mark 5:36 ; Heb. 10:19 , 22). It is free from fears of Satan or any evil (Rom. 8:31, 32), and free from slavish fears of perishing by our sins (1 John 2:1, 2; Phil. 4:6, 7), faith laying hold on infinite grace, mercy and power to secure us: 'The Lord is the keeper and shade on the right hand' (Ps. 121:5). Free and powerful grace answers all objections.

4. It is a way that is paved with love, like Solomon's chariot (S. of S. 3:10 ). We are to set God's loving-kindness and all the gifts of His love still before our eyes (Ps. 26:3), Christ's death, resurrection, intercession before our eyes, which breed peace, joy, hope, love (Rom. 15:13; Isa. 35:10). You must believe, for your justification, adoption, the gift of the Spirit and a future inheritance, your death and resurrection with Christ. In believing for these things, your whole way is adorned with flowers and has these fruits growing on each side, so that it is through the garden of Eden, rather than the wilderness of Sinai (Acts 9:31). It is the office of the Spirit our guide, to be our comforter, and not a spirit of bondage (Rom. 8:15). Peace and joy are great duties in this way (Phil. 4:4-6). God does not drive us on with whips and terrors, and by the rod of the schoolmaster, the law, but leads us and wins us to walk in His ways by allurements (S. of S. 1:3; Hos. 11:3, 4). See such allurements (2 Cor. 5:15; 7:1; Rom. 12:1).

5. Our very moving, acting, walking in this way is a pleasure and delight. Every good work is done with pleasure; the very labour of the way is pleasant. Carnal men wish duties were not necessary, and they are burdensome to them; but they are pleasant to us, because we do not gain holiness by our own carnal wrestling with our lusts and crossing them out of carnal fear, with regret and grief, and setting conscience and the law against them, to hinder their actings; but we act naturally, according to the new nature and perform our new spiritual desires by walking in the ways of God through Christ; and our lusts and pleasures in sin are not only restrained, but taken away in Christ, and pleasures in holiness freely given us and implanted in us (Rom. 8:5; Gal. 5:17, 24; John 4:34; 40:8; 119:14, 16, 20). We have a new taste and savour, love and liking by the Spirit of Christ, and look on the law not as a burden, but as our privilege in Christ.

Fifthly, it is a high exalted way, above all other ways. Unto this way the prophet Habakkuk is exalted when, upon the failure of all visible helps and supports, he resolves to 'rejoice in the Lord', and 'joy in the God of his salvation', and making God his strength by faith, 'his feet should be as hinds' feet', and 'should walk upon His high places' (Hab. 3:18, 19). These are the 'heavenly places in Christ Jesus' that God has set us in, being quickened and raised up together with Him (Eph. 2:5, 6).

1. We live high here, for 'we live not after the flesh, but after the Spirit', and Christ in us with all His fullness ( Rom. 8: 1, 2; Gal. 2:20 ; 5:25 ). We walk in fellowship with God dwelling in us and walking in us (2 Cor. 6:16 , 18). And therefore our works are of higher price and excellency than the works of others, because they are 'wrought in God' (John 3:21 ), and are the fruits of God's Spirit (Gal. 5:23 ; Phil. 1:11 ). And we may know that they are accepted and good by our gospel principles, which others have not (Rom. 7:6).

2. We are enabled to the most difficult duties (Phil. 4:1, 3), and nothing is too hard for us. See the great works done by faith (Heb. 11; Mark 9:23 ) - works that carnal men think folly and madness to venture upon (they are so great), and honourable achievements in doing and suffering for Christ.

3. We walk in an honourable state with God, and on honourable terms - not as guilty creatures, to get our pardon by works; not as bond-servants, to earn our meat and drink; but as sons and heirs, walking towards the full possession of that happiness to which we have a title, and so we have much boldness in God's presence (Gal. 4:6, 7). We can approach nearer to God than others, and walk before Him confidently without slavish fear, not as strangers, but as such who are of His own family (Eph. 2:19, 20). And this prompts us to do greater things than others, walking as free men (Rom. 6:17, 18; John 8:35, 36). It is a kingly way; the law to us is a royal law, a law of liberty and our privilege - not a bond and yoke of compulsion.

4. It is the way only of those that are honourable and precious in the eyes of the Lord, even His elect and redeemed ones, whose special privilege it is to walk therein: 'No unclean beast goes there' (Isa. 35:8, 9). No carnal man can walk in this way, but only those that are taught of God (John 6:44 -46). Nor would it have come into their hearts without divine revelation.

5. The preparing this way cost Christ very dear. It is a costly way (Heb. 10:19, 20; 1 Peter 3:18).

6. It is a good old way, wherein you may follow the footsteps of all the flock.

7. It is the way to perfection. It leads to such holiness which shall, in a while, be absolutely perfect. It differs only in the degree and manner of manifestation from the holiness of heaven: there the saints live by the same Spirit, and the same God is all in all (1 Cor. 15:28; John 4:14 ); and have the image of the same spiritual man (1 Cor. 15:49 ). Only here we have but 'the first-fruits of the Spirit' (Rom. 8:23); and 'live by faith, and not by sight' (2 Cor. 5:7); and are 'not full grown in Christ' (Eph. 4:13). Sanctification in Christ is glorification begun, as glorification is sanctification perfected.

The Doctrine of Justification Opened and Applied

 


 The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification - Contents