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The GOSPEL MYSTERY OF

SANCTIFICATION

 

Walter Marshall

 


Chapter Eight

Be sure to seek for holiness of heart and life only in its due order, where God has placed it, after union with Christ, justification and the gift of the Holy Ghost and, in that order, seek it earnestly by faith as a very necessary part of your salvation.

I hope the reader will observe warily in all these directions, that the holiness aimed at as the great end in the whole discourse does not confide in the grace or act of faith required peculiarly by the gospel, which, though it be a saving gift of Christ, yet is here considered rather as a means precedent to the reception of Christ and all His salvation, than a part of His salvation received. But the holiness aimed at consists in conformity to the whole moral law, to which we are naturally obliged, if there had never been any gospel, or any such duty as believing in Christ for salvation.

Now, in this direction, three things are contained that are very necessary to guide us to the attainment of this great end, and therefore worthy of our serious consideration.

Firstly, it is a matter of high concern, to be acquainted with the due place and order in which God has settled this holy practice in the mystery of our salvation, and a great point of Christian wisdom to seek it only in that order. We know that God is the God of order, and that His infinite wisdom has appeared in appointing the order of His creatures, which we are forced to observe for attainment of our ends in worldly things; so also in spiritual things God has made an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure (2 Sam. 23:5). The benefits of it have an orderly dependence each upon the other, as links of the same golden chain, though several of them, and a title to them all, are given to us at one and the same time. And I think enough has been said already to show in what order God brings us to the practice of the moral law. He makes us first to be in Christ by faith, as branches in the vine, that we may bring forth much fruit (John 15:4, 5). He first purges our consciences from dead works by justification, that we may serve the living God (Heb. 9:14). He makes us first to live in the Spirit, and then to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). This is the order prescribed in the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, though the law prescribes a quite contrary method, that we should first perform its commands, that so we may be justified and live, and in this way it proves a killing letter to us. Now, mark well the great advantages you have for the attainment of holiness by seeking it in a right gospel order. You will have the advantage of the love God manifested towards you, in forgiving your sins, receiving you into favour, and giving you the spirit of adoption, and the hope of His glory freely through Christ, to persuade and constrain you by sweet allurements to love God again, who has so dearly loved you, and to love others for His sake, and to give up yourselves to the obedience of all His commands out of hearty love to Him. You will also enjoy the held of the Spirit of God to incline you powerfully to obedience, and to strengthen you for the performance of it against all your corruptions and the temptations of Satan, so that you will have both wind and tide to forward your voyage in the practice of holiness. Contrariwise, if you rush upon the immediate performance of the law, without taking Christ's righteousness and His Spirit in the way to it, you will find both wind and tide against you: your guilty consciences and corrupt dead natures will certainly defeat and frustrate all your enterprises and attempts to love God and serve Him in love, and you will but stir up sinful lusts instead of stirring up yourselves to true obedience, or, at best, you will but attain to some slavish and hypocritical performances. Oh, that people would be persuaded to consider the due place of holiness in the mystery of salvation, and to seek it only there where they have all the advantages of gospel grace to find it! Many miscarry in their zealous enterprises for godliness and, after they have spent much labour in vain, God makes a breach on them, even to their everlasting destruction, as He did on Uzza, to a temporal destruction, because they did not seek Him after the due order (1 Chron. 13:10).

Secondly, we are to look upon holiness as a very necessary part of that salvation that is received by faith in Christ. Some are so drenched in a covenant of works that they accuse us for making good works needless to salvation, if we will not acknowledge them to be necessary, either as conditions to procure an interest in Christ, or as preparatives to fit us for the receiving Him by faith. And others, when they are taught by the Scriptures, that we are saved by faith, through faith, without works, do begin to disregard all obedience to the law, as not at all necessary to salvation, and account themselves obliged to it only in point of gratitude; if it be wholly neglected, they do not doubt but free grace will save them harmless. Yea, some are given up to strong Antinomian delusions, that they account it a part of the liberty from the bondage of the law, purchased by the blood of Christ, to make no conscience of breaking the law in their conversation.

One cause of these errors, that are so contrary one to the other, is that many are prone to imagine nothing else to be meant by salvation, but to be delivered from hell, and to enjoy heavenly happiness and glory; thus they conclude that, if good works are a means of glorification, and precedent to it, they must also be a precedent means of our whole salvation; and that, if they be not a necessary means of our whole salvation, they are not at all necessary to glorification. But, though salvation is often taken in Scripture, by way of eminency, for its perfection in the state of heavenly glory, yet, according to its full and proper signification, we are to understand by it all that freedom from the evil of our natural corrupt state, and all those holy and happy enjoyments that we receive from Christ our Saviour, either in this world by faith, or in the world to come by glorification. Thus justification, the gift of the Spirit to dwell in us, the privileges of adoption, are parts of our salvation which we partake of in this life. Thus also, the conformity of our hearts to the law of God, and the fruits of righteousness with which we are filled by Jesus Christ in this life, are a necessary part of our salvation.

God saves us from our sinful uncleanness here by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, as well as from hell hereafter (Ezek. 36:29; Titus 3:5).

Christ was called JESUS, that is, a Saviour, because He saved His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). Therefore it is a part of our salvation to deliver us from our sins, which is begun in this life by justification and sanctification, and perfected by glorification in the life to come. Can we rationally doubt whether it be any proper part of our salvation by Christ to be quickened, to live to God, when we were by nature dead in trespasses and sins, and to have the image of God in holiness and righteousness restored to us, which we lost by the Fall; and to be freed from a vile dishonourable slavery to Satan and our own lusts, and made the servants of God, and to be honoured so highly as to walk by the Spirit, and bring forth the fruits of the Spirit? And what is all this but holiness in heart and life?

We then conclude that holiness in this life is absolutely necessary to salvation, not only as a means to the end, but by a nobler kind of necessity, as part of the end itself. Though we are not saved by good works, as procuring causes, yet we are saved to good works, as fruits and effects of saving grace, which God has prepared that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). It is, indeed, one part of our salvation to be delivered from the bondage of the covenant of works; but the end of this is, not that we may have liberty to sin (which is the worst of slavery) but that we may fulfil the royal law of liberty, and that we may serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Gal. 5:13; Rom. 7: 6). Yea, holiness in this life is such a part of our salvation as is a necessary means to make us suitable to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in heavenly light and glory; without holiness we can never see God (Heb. 12:14), and are as unfit for the glorious presence as swine for the presence chamber of an earthly prince. I confess, some may be converted when they are so near the point of death that they may have little time to practice holiness in this world, but the grace of the Spirit is active like fire (Matt. 3:11), and, as soon as it is given, it will immediately produce good inward working of love to God and Christ and His people. This will be sufficient to manifest the righteous judgement of God in saving them at the great day, when He shall judge every man according to His work; though some possibly may not have so much time to discover their inward grace in any outward works, as the thief upon the cross (Luke 23: 40,43).

The third and last thing to be noted in this direction is that holiness of heart and life is to be sought for earnestly by faith, as a very necessary part of our salvation. Great multitudes of ignorant people that live under the gospel harden their hearts in sin, and ruin their souls for ever, by trusting on Christ for such an imaginary salvation as does not consist at all in holiness, but only in forgiveness of sin and deliverance from everlasting torments. They would be free from the punishment due to sin, but they love their lusts so well that they hate holiness, and would not be saved from the service of sin. The way to oppose this pernicious delusion is not to deny, as some do, that trusting on Christ for salvation is a saving act of faith, but rather to show that none do or can trust on Christ for true salvation, except they trust on Him for holiness; neither do they heartily desire true salvation, if they do not desire to be made holy and righteous in their hearts and lives. If ever God and Christ give you salvation, holiness will be one part of it; if Christ does not wash you from the filth of your sins, you have no part with Him (John 13:8).

What a strange kind of salvation do they desire, that do not care for holiness? They would be saved, and yet be altogether dead in sin, aliens from the life of God, bereft of the image of God, deformed by the image of Satan, his slaves and vassals to their own filthy lusts, utterly unsuitable for the enjoyment of God in glory. Such a salvation as that was never purchased by the blood of Christ, and those that seek it abuse the grace of God in Christ and turn it into lasciviousness. They would be saved by Christ, and yet out of Christ, in a fleshly state; whereas God frees none from condemnation, but those that are in Christ, that walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; or else they would divide Christ, and take a part of His salvation, and leave out the rest, but Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13). They would have their sins forgiven, not that they may walk with God in love in time to come, but that they may practice their enmity against Him without any fear of punishment.

But, let them not be deceived, God is not mocked. They do not understand what true salvation is, neither were they ever yet thoroughly sensible of their lost estate, and of the great evil of sin; and that which the trust on Christ for is but an imagination of their own rains, and therefore their trusting is gross presumption. True gospel faith makes us come to Christ with a thirsty appetite, that we may drink of living water, even of His sanctifying Spirit (John 7: 37, 38), and cry out earnestly to save us, not only from hell, but from sin, saying, 'Teach me to do Your will; Your Spirit is good' (Ps. 143:10), 'Turn me, and I shall be turned' (Jer. 31:18); 'Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right Spirit within me' (Ps. 51:10). This is the way by which the doctrine of salvation by grace necessitates us to holiness of life, by constraining us to seek for it by faith in Christ as a substantial part of that salvation which is freely given us through Christ.

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