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By Rev. DANIEL A. CLARK.
THE MEANS OF SANCTIFICATION.
John xvii. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.
The grand purpose for which God gave to men a revelation of his will, was, that the truth thus revealed might be the medium of their sanctification. It is hence spoken of as the sword of the Spirit, the Sanctifier. If it be asked, Why God does not make men holy, without the use of truth, we answer, that he would not thus treat them as moral agents. There must be in that case a mere act of his sovereignty, and man become virtuous without design. Indeed, it seems to me to be keeping within the record to say, that men cannot be saved without a knowledge of divine truth, in consistency with the nature God has given them, and the heaven he has provided for holy beings. The very nature of holiness implies that men have felt the force of truth, and yielded voluntarily to its influence. To repent implies, that we see the truths, that the law is good, and that we have broken it, while we were under the most sacred obligations to obey it. And faith implies, that we feel distinctly the truths, that we are lost, that Christ is able and willing to save, and has warranted us to make application to him. Hence men cannot be forcibly made to repent and believe, not acting themselves, voluntarily, in view of truth, without an infringement of their agency. Or, rather, such faith and repentance, if we could suppose its existence, would not be their own act, and could not, on the Gospel plan, avail them to salvation. Let us then inquire, how and why divine truth is used in rendering men holy.
1. It presents to view the objects of holy affection. To love God is a holy affection. But God cannot be loved, till men are acquainted with his character. In his word, his character is all presented. Had we no Bible, we might see his mighty power and Godhead in the works of creation ; but only in the oracles of God do we see his whole character. There every attribute is written, and the full Deity made known. Now, if we have that temper to which goodness is lovely, we shall not fail to love him.
The complete character of the Lord Jesus Christ is, in the same book of God, revealed for our faith. We can see for ourselves, whether he has those attributes that we can love, and is such a Savior as we can trust in. There could be no faith in him, without this delineation of his character.
The Christian character, also, is presented in the Bible, as the object of our affectionate regard. We there learn the divine law, and have opportunity to approve: and the same may be said in reference to every holy object on which God requires us to place our esteem.
And we learn, too, in the same book, the objects we are required to hate ; for holiness consists in feeling disgust toward the objects of unrighteousness, as well as complacency in righteousness. There we learn the temper of our hearts, and all the moral wrong in ourselves that we are to lothe and repent of. Thus a primary use of truth in our sanctification is to present us with the character of the objects toward which we are to exercise holy affections, the objects we are required to love, and the objects we are required to hate.
2. Another use of truth is to present motives to the exercise of the right affections. The Bible amply assures us, that holiness is a lovely attribute of character. It is what renders God lovely, and angels, and the whole family of the redeemed. Hence holiness is indispensable to good character; and here is a motive to aim at a high standard of holiness.
The Bible assures us, that only where there is holiness there is happiness. This begets the peace and joy that reign in heaven ; while its opposite has occasioned the ruin of this world, and the miseries of hell. These facts are so amply illustrated in the word of God, as to show the loveliness of virtue, and the hatefulness of vice, thus presenting us new motives to become holy. The Bible presents motives to holiness, by drawing out holiness and depravity to their final result in heaven and in hell. In the one world, holiness has produced its full effect in the everlasting peace and blessedness of its population; in the other, too, its full effect in the unspeakable misery of its hopeless inmates. Thus Bible truth presents men with motives to become holy, and being urged home by the Spirit of God upon the understanding and conscience, is the medium of sanctification.
3. As holiness must beget the love of holiness, it must also produce love to that truth which is the medium of its own production. The Christian, then, wishing to progress in that holiness which is begun in him, will be the friend of Bible truth, will aim to grow in the knowledge of it. As this is seen to be the medium of his cleansing, and as he now aspires to be clean, he must desire to know more of truth. All Bible truth will please him, for it all has one and the same effect, his cleansing. He will thus be a diligent student of the Bible, and will never feel that he knows enough of it while there remains in his heart or life one moral pollution to be cleansed away.
4. It will follow then, of course, that the Christian who is a child in Bible knowledge, will be a child in holiness. To the same extent that he remains ignorant of divine truth, he will remain unsanctified; and men will learn, without inquiring of him, how much attention he gives the sacred volume. Apparent exceptions to this position are easily explained. We have seen men of small intellectand small acquisitions in science, generally, who yet appeared to be rapidly growing in holiness. In such cases it will always be found, on a close acquaintance, that, though the man may have no general knowledge, he is daily conversant with the testimonies of the Lord. If one will learn sanctifying truth, he may become sanctified, though he may remain ignorant of other truth. We frequently meet with the contrast of this case; men possessing a large amount of general knowledge, but knowing little about their Bible: in which case there will not be seen much advancement in the stature of piety. If we are acquainted merely with men and money, though we may be acute worldlings, this knowledge will not tend to purify the heart. The knowledge that will render us holy is to be gathered from the word of the Lord. "Sanctify them through thy truth.”
5. It would seem to be a truth unquestionable that the man who is under the process of sanctification, will have an increasing thirst for a knowledge of divine truth, till he dies. As the heart becomes purified, the love of truth, the means of its purifying, must increase. And let the thirst for truth increase, and it needs no argument to prove that men will grow in the knowledge of it. We shall find, then, no believer who thinks he knows enough of the Bible, no man, however old, or infirm, or poor, or occupied, or neglected, if he has begun to be sanesified who will not wish, by learning more truth, to nourish the spi. ritual life that is begun. More and more, as the cleansing operation goes on, and he feels the pleasure of being holy, will his mind be open to conviction,
and the truth become adapted to his taste as the honey and the honeycomb. The love of truth, in the aged believer, becomes his strongest appetite. Old inen are not accustomed, you know, to abandon, in their latter years, the objects of their appetite. How often do they rather become the slaves of some strong governing principle, which is seen at last to be mightier in death than ever ! And in the man of God, who is struggling with his corruptions, and desperately bent on the mastery, the appetite for truth must be the ruling passion while his eye can see, or his ear hear, or his mind perceive, or his heart and conscience be impressed. He will carry his Bible with him to his death-bed, and put it by his pillow, and glance his dying eye upon its pages, and ask the by-standers to teach him, and will be digesting some heavenly truth when life goes out; and the nourishment afforded his soul, by that last reflection, will add the finishing stroke to his sanctification. How can it be otherwise? Whomsoever it may condemn, though it tear from myself the last hope I have, still it must be true, that as grace advances in the heart, the love of truth will be enkindled. As there can be no natural health, and the body cannot be strong and vigorous, after the the appetite is gone; so is there no spiritual health, and the inner man is sickly and nerveless, where there is no relish for truth. The case cannot be, where there is growth in grace accompanied with a disrelish for the study of divine truth.
6. It would seem, then, that it cannot be a light thing to reject, or disrelish any doctrine of the Bible. Every doctrine must have its use in rendering men holy, else it had not been taught in that Bible sent to sanctify the world. God knew exactly what the case required, what system of truth the Spirit could use to the best advantage, in rendering the world holy, and this he has pub. lished. Hence, no part of it may be rejected as unwholesome, or innutritious. Suppose a table spread, day by day, by one who perfectly knew our constitutions, knew any disease that might be lurking about the body, or any danger of the season or the climate that needed to be guarded against, and we should presume to say, that one article upon the table was injurious to health, and never taste it; how exactly would the case resemble that of the man who imagines he has found, in the book of sanctifying truth, one doctrine of pernicious tendency. How arrogant, in the preacher of the Gospel, to lay his hand on any doctrine which he may not preach, or any duty he may not enforce, or promise or threatening which he may not deal out to the friends or the foes of God! And how mistaken his people, who would have him suppress any paragraph, or hold back any doctrine or maxim of the word of the Lord ! Who can judge as well as he who gave the word ? Who, among the army that publish it, or the multitude who hear it, can tell better than he, what kind of truth is suited to the exigency of a betrayed and ruined world ?
7. It would seem, then, a matter of course, that sanctification will be going on among the various classes of Christians, more or less prosperously, in proportion to the amount of truth embraced in their system. We may even determine, by this criterion, what denomination is built the most substantially on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being their chief corner-stone. There may be in a human mind some truth, but not the whole truth. There may be so much error as shall greatly counteract the effect of truth. The system thus made out may be somewhat calculated to sanctify; aud yet not the best calculated. It may nourish a sickly and palsied religion, while it can
never produce the strong, and vigorous, and useful man of God. It may contain truth enough to bring men to heaven, and yet never produce, to shine in the fir. manent of God, many stars of the first magnitude. In choosing our religion this one question should be kept prominent in view : which is that that makes the most enlightened, the most benevolent, the most holy and heavenly temper? for there we shall assuredly find the most truth and the least error.
8. Might not believers be sooner ripe for heaven ! or, rather, might they not all be qualified in the time that God allows them, after their second birth, for a higher seat in heaven than they do ordinarily reach? Yes. They could learn more truth, could learn it faster, and digest it better, and grow more vigorously, and pass earlier the boundaries of Christian childhood, and thus arrive earlier at the fulness of the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus.
REMARKS. 1. May not that truth which is learned before regeneration, operate afterward to the forwarding of the believer in holiness? Yes. It matters not how early truth is known. Give it then a free entrance at the first opening of mind, and pray that it may please the Spirit of God to use it for sanctification. The smallest lad in the school may be learning now what will be useful and precious truth to him, when he shall be shining a mighty.orb in his profession, or afterwards in heaven.
2. Is there not more hope, then, that the children in our Sabbath schools will be converted, than those who are to-day lining the fields, and fishing along the banks of the brook? No doubt. They will have treasured up truth to exert a sanctifying and elevating influence when the times of re. freshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
3. Will not revivals prevail in the next generation, among a younger class of sinners than in times past ? Doubtless. As we approach the mil. lennium, and the Sabbath schools shall have matured minds earlier for read. ing and reflecting, a younger and still younger generation will be sanctified, till our revivals will all be in the sabbath schools; and God will at length ordain praise, according to his promise, from the mouth of babes and sucklings.
4. And shall we not have then in our churches more active young men, and a race of fathers and mothers that shall shine brighter in the church of God ? Yes, young men will be indeed“ 'strong, and the patriarchal age will return, and every gray head will indicate the presence of wisdom and holiness ; thus, there will be far more select and pure assemblages for the supper of the Lamb.
5. And will not this be then a holier and happier world! So the prophet sung : “ The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”
6. And will there not then ascend to God nobler recruits of the family of believers than in any of the ages that have gone by? Yes ; new constellations will appear in heaven. And the various successions of the sanctified that shall then, at different times, come home to glory, will forever shine more, brilliantly in the kingdom of their Father.
7. And can we do nothing to hasten on that day, and swell the halleluiahs of heaven? Yes ; let us seize the dear youth or child, who a year or two hence will feel himself too old to be a scholar, and press him into the Sabbath school and Bible class, and have his mind imbued with holy truth, bebefore he gets that palsying maxim,“ too old.” Let us all gird ourselves anew; let us cheerfully discharge every obligation ; and let it be our holy ambition to share largely in the coming glory. They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.
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