Taken from, “The Crown and Glory of Christianity, or
HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness.”
Written by Thomas Brooks
Edited for thought and sense.
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
I remember a saying of golden-mouthed Chrysostom…
“If I were,” said he, “the fittest man in the world to preach a sermon to the whole world, gathered together in one congregation, and had some high mountain for my pulpit, from whence I might have a prospect of all the world in my view, and were furnished with a voice of brass, a voice as loud as the trumpet of the archangel, that all the world might hear me; I would choose to preach on no other text than that in Psalm 4:2, O mortal men, how long will you love vanity, and pursue a lie?” So I say, had I Chrysostom’s tongue, head, and heart, and were I every way advantaged to preach a sermon to the whole world, I would choose to preach on this text before any other in the Bible, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
Beloved! the salvation of souls is that which should be first and most in a minister’s eye, and that which should always lie closest and warmest upon a minister’s heart. O sirs! our dear Lord Jesus was infinitely tender of the souls of men. He left his Father’s bosom for souls; he trod the wine-press of his Father’s wrath for souls; he prayed for souls; he paid for souls; he sweat for souls; he bled out his heart’s blood for souls; and he made himself an offering for souls! [Isaiah 63:3; John 17:22; Luke 4:24; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-20; Heb. 9:12-15.] Oh, what an encouragement should this be to all his faithful messengers to woo for souls, to mourn for souls, to pray for souls, to study for souls, and in preaching to spend and to be spent for the salvation of souls! Ah, friends, there is no work nor wisdom on earth compared to that of winning souls, “he who wins souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30. There is no art, no industry to that of winning souls, of “taking” souls, as fowlers take birds, as the Hebrew word imports. Now, though there is a great deal of art required to take birds—yet there is ten thousand times more are required to take souls. In a word, to convert a soul is a greater work than to sway a scepter, or than it is to pour out millions into the baskets of the poor.
My design in choosing this text is the winning of souls, it is the salvation of souls, it is the bringing in and building up of souls. I have read of Louis the Ninth, king of France, that he was found instructing his poor kitchen-boy in the way to heaven; and being asked the reason of it, he answered, “The poorest has a soul as precious as my own, and bought by the same blood of Christ.” He who paid the price of souls, has long since told us that a soul is more worth than a world, Mat. 16:26. That I may catch some poor soul or other by a holy craft, 2 Cor. 12:16, and establish and strengthen others in the love and liking of holiness, and in the power and practice of holiness, I have cast my thoughts upon this scripture.
But to draw nearer to my text.
As no means has more populated hell than beautiful faces, so no means has more enriched heaven than the beauty of holiness. Now that I may discover the necessity, beauty, rarity, and excellency of holiness, I have chosen this text, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” I shall give a little light into the words, and then come to that main point I intend to engage in.
“Follow peace with all men.” The Greek word translated follow, signifies to pursue and press after peace, as the persecutor pursues and presses after him he persecutes. It notes an earnest, an eager, an affectionate, and an incessant pressing and following after peace with all men: Psalm 34:14, “Seek peace, and pursue it.” [The very name of peace is sweet.] Here the Hebrew word translated seek, signifies to “seek earnestly,” vehemently, studiously, industriously. Thus peace with God, and peace with conscience, and peace with men must be sought. “Seek peace and pursue it.” The word translated pursue, signifies an “earnest pursuit.” It is a metaphor taken from the earnestness of wild beasts, or ravenous fowl, which will run or fly fast and far, eagerly and unweariedly, rather than be disappointed of their prey.
Though Christians meet with many encumbrances and hindrances—yet peace must be resolutely pursued. The Spirit of God is a Spirit of peace, and God delights to be styled the God of peace, and Christ chooses to be the Prince of peace, and King of Salem, that is, King of peace. [Gal. 5:22; 2 Cor. 13:11; Isaiah 9:6, 7; Heb. 1:2.] Where peace is, there is Christ, because Christ is peace. Therefore let all who are interested in Christ pursue after peace. But this is not the point that I have in my eye at this time. I shall hasten to it. “With all men;” that is, with all orders, ranks, and sorts of men.
“And holiness,” etc. [A man may be miserable under peace—but never under holiness.] We must so pursue after peace in such a way—as that we do not neglect holiness for peace sake. Better is holiness without peace, than peace without holiness. Holiness differs nothing from happiness but in name. Holiness is happiness in the bud, and happiness is holiness at the full. Happiness is nothing but the quintessence of holiness. A man were better be holy in hell, than unholy in heaven. Holiness would make hell to be no hell, as the fire was no fire to those holy worthies, Dan. 27. Look! as unholiness would make heaven to be no heaven, yes, turn a heaven into a very hell, so holiness would turn a hell into a very heaven. What holiness this is in the text, I shall discover to you in the opening of that point I intend to engage in.
“Without which no man.” This expression is exclusive, “no man,” be he rich or poor, high or low, honorable or base, young or old, Jew or Gentile, bond or free, under one form or another, etc.
“Shall see the Lord.” To “see,” in the Hebrew phrase, is ordinarily used to “enjoy:” Psalm 4:6, “Who will show us any good?” The word in the Hebrew is from to “see,” “Who will make us to see any good?” that is, to enjoy any good. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” that is, without holiness no man shall ever come to a blessed, to a glorious fruition and enjoyment of the Lord. There was once a holy man [Chrysostom] who professed that the lack of the enjoyment of God would be a far greater hell to him than the feeling of any punishment; and yet this great hell, everyone shall be sure to feel—who lives and dies without holiness. The Jews say of holy Moses, that he died at the kisses of God’s mouth, and in divine embraces, Psalm 37:37. When a man of holiness dies, he shall be sure to die in divine embraces, and live forever in divine embraces.
When Socrates was to die, he comforted himself with this—that he would go to a place where he would enjoy Homer and Musaeus, and other worthies who lived before him. But ah, what an unspeakable comfort is this to a holy man when he comes to die—to consider that he is going to a place where he shall see the Lord, not as now, through a glass darkly—but in all his heavenly resplendency, and in all his divine embroidery and bespangled glory! 1 Cor. 13:12. And let this suffice for the opening of the words.
What is this holiness “without which no man shall see the Lord”?
First, There is a LEGAL holiness. Now a legal holiness consists in an exact, perfect, and complete conformity in heart and life to the whole revealed will of God—and this was the holiness that Adam had in his innocency; and this holiness was immediately derived from God, and was perfect. Adam knew the will of God perfectly, so far as it was revealed to him, and had a divine principle in him of perfect conformity to that blessed will. Adam’s holiness was as natural to him, as unholiness is now to us; and had he stood fast in that glorious condition, we would have all been as naturally holy from the womb, as now we are sinful. Adam’s holiness was as natural, and as pleasing, and as delightful to him, as any way of unholiness can be natural, pleasing, and delightful unto us. But this holiness, which was Adam’s choicest sparkling gem of beauty, and his weightiest crown of glory, is by Satan’s policy long since fallen off from Adam’s head, Psalm 51:5.
Now if this legal holiness were the holiness meant in the text, then woe to every man who ever was born; for then no man would ever see the Lord, Romans 3:10. For by Adam’s fall all men are gone out of the way, and there is none legally righteous, no not one. Now if we look upon man as fallen from that holiness which was his greatest honor, dignity, and excellency—he has become a pile of dust, a puff of wind; a dream; a shadow; a puff of smoke; a poor silly flea, a worm, a debased soul, a curious nothing. Yes, man having fallen from his primitive glory, has become altogether vanity, says the prophet: Psalm 39:5, “Truly, every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” “Truly;” this asseveration is only used in matters of greatest weight and importance, and notes the reality and certainty of the things delivered. Every man, [“all Adam”] or every son of Adam; not some man—but every man at his best state, that is, in his most settled and composed condition, when he is best constituted and underlaid, when he stands a-tiptoe, and is in the height and perfection of all creature comforts and contentments, is altogether, not in some measure—but altogether, vanity—all vanity. Since the fall of Adam every natural man in his best estate is vanity; nay, every man is every vanity. Imagine whatever vanity you will, fallen man is that. He is a comprehensive vanity—he is an epitome of all vanity.
Man in honor, before his fall, was the best of creatures; but since his fall, he has become the worst of creatures. By his fall he is fallen below the very beasts which perish, Isaiah 1:3-4; Proverbs 6:6; Jer. 8:7; Mat. 6:26. He who was once the image of God, the glory of paradise, the world’s ruler, and the Lord’s darling—has now become a burden to heaven, a burden to himself, and a slave to others, etc., which made one cry out— “Oh, what is man?
By all which you may easily perceive how far we are off from that legal holiness that Adam had in innocency. Rabbi Solomon makes Adam so high, that he touched heaven with his head. I shall not dispute the certainty of that; but certainly the higher he was in holiness, the greater was his fall, and ours in him. This legal holiness was so lost in Adam, that no son of Adam could ever find it since Adam fell; and if this were the holiness without which no man should ever see the Lord, then farewell forever to all the sons of Adam. But this legal holiness is not the holiness in the text.
Secondly, There is an IMAGINARY holiness, a conceited holiness, an opinionative holiness. Proverbs 30:12, “There is a generation which is pure in their own eyes—and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” They were very bad—and yet they had a great opinion of their own goodness. They were very filthy—and yet they stood very much upon their own purity. Their hands were black, their hearts were black, their works were black, and their ways were as black as hell—and yet they were pure in their own eye. They were filthy within, and filthy without; filthy in body, and filthy in soul, and filthy in spirit. Filthiness had quite overspread them—and yet they thought to cover their filthiness with a mask of holiness. The worst men are commonly best conceited of themselves.
Ah, friends, there has been never been a generation wherein there has not been such a generation of men who have wallowed in sin like swine in the mire—and yet have kept up in themselves a strong opinion of their own goodness and holiness. This generation had neither their souls nor consciences washed in the blood of Christ, nor sanctified by the Spirit of Christ—and yet they gloried in their conceited purity and holiness, as if they had been purified by Christ. There are many who are shining Christians, who are pure golden Christians in their own eyes, who are viler than dross, yes, than smoke in God’s eyes: Isaiah 65:5, “Stand by yourself, come not near to me; for I am holier than you: these are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burns all the day.” They were very licentious, very ungracious, very rebellious, very superstitious, very idolatrous, (ver. 2-4,) and yet counted themselves very pious. They were worse than others—and yet thought themselves better than others; they were very bad—and yet judged themselves very good. They were more impure, more profane, and more polluted than others—and yet they reckon themselves more pure and holier than others; they stand upon their comparative goodnesses—and yet at the same time are charged by God of the greatest wickedness.
And thus their kinsmen the Pharisees stand upon their images, fraudulent appearances and outward dresses of holiness, when at the same time they practiced the worst of wickedness, Mat. 23:5; Luke 18:11-12; so those in Hosea 12:8, “They will not find in me any iniquity or sin.” Ephraim’s iniquities were grown over his head, as may be seen throughout this whole prophecy—and yet Ephraim cannot bear the being charged with iniquity. Though he was notoriously guilty of the highest crimes—yet he would have you to know that he was free of sin, and clear of sin. Ephraim could give good words, when his works were abominable; he could pretend much to innocency, when he was guilty of the greatest impiety. But though Ephraim had his cloak at hand—yet it was too short to cover his sin; for God saw it, and condemned him for it.
Chrysostom does elegantly set forth the blindness and brutishness of such people. “When they lie in the mire,” says he, they think they are besmeared with some sweet ointments; when they are full of vermin, they vaunt themselves, as if they were adorned with precious stones.” And so the Laodiceans were of the same temper of spirit: Rev. 3:17, “Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” They had a great opinion of their own goodness, worth, and excellent state, having need of nothing, when they had nothing of a Christian in them.
You say you are “rich;” ay—but you do but say so. You boast and brag of your riches, as many proud beggars do of that wealth they have not. For all you deem yourself rich—you are but poor and beggarly. It is man’s sin and judgment, that ever since he ceased to be what he should be, he strives to seem to be what he is not. You say you are “increased with goods, and need nothing;” ay—but you do but say so, you do but dream it is so: for you are ignorant of your own wretched and lamentable estate. You say you are rich—but I know you are poor and beggarly. If a grain of grace would save your life, your soul, your family, nay, the whole world—you have it not.
“You say you see”; but you are blind, you are destitute of spiritual eyesight; you see not your own wants, nor Christ’s worth; your own emptiness, nor Christ’s fullness; your own sinfulness, nor Christ’s holiness; your own poverty, nor Christ’s riches and plenty; your own misery, nor Christ’s mercy; your own insufficiency, nor Christ’s all-sufficiency; your own vanity, nor Christ’s glory, etc. Many know much—but few know themselves, or their own danger, infelicity, or misery; and indeed no misery can be compared to this.
The Chinese used to say of themselves, that all other nations of the world did see but with one eye, they only with two; and of this spirit and temper were those blind Laodiceans. They thought they knew all things, when they knew nothing that they should, nor as they should.
By all which you may see that there is an imaginary holiness, a conceited holiness, where there is no real holiness; but an imaginary holiness will bring a man but to an imaginary blessedness; a conceited holiness will bring a man but to a conceited happiness; he who does but dream that he is holy, he does but dream that he shall be happy.
Bastards of old were not to inherit…
…but to be thrust out from among the true heirs: Gen. 21:10; Judges 11:1-2, “Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. “You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, “for you are the son of a prostitute.” Ah, sirs, you who are but bastard Christians, bastard professors, bastard believers, bastard saints, you shall never inherit among the heirs of glory—but shall be thrust out forever from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power, and thrust into utter darkness, because you have pleased yourselves, and satisfied your spirits, and blessed your souls in a bastard holiness, in a conceited holiness, 2 Thes. 1:8-9; Mat. 8:12, and 22:13; Deut. 23:2, “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” He shall have no fellowship nor communion with the people of God; the door of admission shall be shut upon him. The foolish virgins had but a bastard holiness, a conceited holiness, an outward dress of holiness; and therefore the door of life, the door of hope, the door of help, the door of grace, the door of mercy, the door of glory was shut upon them, Mat. 25:10-12, 7:21-23. William the Conqueror was much slighted and scorned because he was a bastard. God and his people will slight such, and scorn such, and turn their backs at last upon such, who have no more than a bastardly holiness; and therefore this cannot be the holiness here meant.
Thirdly, There is an outward, EXTERNAL, visible holiness, which includes men’s freedom from scandalous vices, and their ordinary performance of religious duties. Now, in this sense, Zacharias and Elizabeth were both holy people: for they “walked in all the commandments and ordinances of God blameless.” [Luke 1:5, 6. Their life was such as none could justly complain of it. It was irreprehensible; it could not be reprehended.] And so the apostles, 1 Thes. 2:10, “For you are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you who believe.” Answerable to this, is that of the apostle in 2 Cor. 1:12, “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.” These precious souls behaved themselves holily towards God, justly towards the world, and unblamably towards believers. They were holy in religious work, they were just in their civil affairs and commerce, and unblamably in their private behavior among their familiar and most bosom friends.
And this is that holiness which the apostle presses upon Christians in Phil. 2:15, “That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke,” (or unblemished,) “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Christians must be the spotless sons of God: they must have no spots upon them, which are inconsistent with sonship or saintship, Deut. 32:5. Now it is certain, without this outward visible holiness there is no happiness, there is no fruition of God in everlasting blessedness. Those who pretend their hearts are as good as the best, when their lives are as bad as the worst, shall experience this truth at last to their shame and cost, that without visible holiness here, there can be no fruition of God hereafter.
Yet this must be granted—that a man may be visibly holy—who is not inwardly holy, 2 Tim. 2:5. A man may be outwardly holy—who is not throughout holy. A man may have an outward dress of holiness upon him—who has not the spirit and vitals of holiness in him. [They say of Halifax nuts, that they are all shells—no kernels. There are many who make a glorious show before men—who are abominable in the sight of God, Luke 16:15, who are gold in man’s eyes, dirt in God’s sight.] As Judas had, and Simon Magus had, and Demas had, and the Scribes and Pharisees had: Mat. 23:25, 27, 28, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter—but within they are full of extortion and excess. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward—but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous unto men—but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” They were outwardly religious—but inwardly wicked; they had the semblance of sanctity—but inwardly very full of impurity; they were fair professors—but foul sinners; they were gracious without—but impious within. Look! as those are the worst of vices which are covered over with the show of virtue; so they are the worst of sinners, who cover over their inward filthiness with the disguises of outward holiness.
The Egyptian temples were fair without—but foul and filthy within. Such were the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ’s days, and such are many professors in our days. It is said of Dionysius the tyrant, that though he loved not the philosophers—yet he would wrap himself up in their cloaks, that men might have the better opinion of him. Just so, there are many who put on an outward dress of holiness, who wrap themselves up in the cloak of holiness—so that others may take them for holy people—and yet they love not holiness, they have nothing of real holiness in them. “As he is not a Jew which is one outwardly,” but not inwardly, Romans 2:28, 29, and 4:12; so he is not a holy person who is only so outwardly—but not inwardly; who has the name of holiness upon him—but has no principles of holiness in him. Though without outward visible holiness no man shall see the Lord; yet a man may have an outward visible holiness—who shall never see the Lord in happiness.
“I hate him even to hell,” says the heathen in Homer, “who says one thing with his mouth, and thinks another thing in his heart.” So God will at last hate that man to hell, yes, cast him into the hottest place in hell—who has a form of godliness upon him—but nothing of the reality and power of holiness in him. Outward holiness is good—but it must be throughout holiness which will do a man good to all eternity. [Mat. 23:14; 2 Tim. 3:5; 1 Cor. 7:18; Phil. 3:3; Gal. 5:6, and 6:15.] It is not the show of holiness, but the substance of holiness which will bring a man to everlasting happiness. Mere outward holiness will certainly leave a man short of heaven and happiness; but throughout holiness will certainly lodge the soul in the bosom of God forever.
It is true, all men reach not to an outward holiness, which made Athanasius wish, “Would to God that all were hypocrites!” Without all question, it is a very desirable thing that all were outwardly holy; yet all who reach to this, must go farther, or else they will sit down on this side happiness: Mat. 5:20, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall never enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Now they were much in works of piety, in works of charity, in works of equity, and in works of courtesy, by which means they gained so much admiration from the people, that it was commonly thought among them, that if there were but two of all the world who should go to heaven—the one should be a Scribe, and the other a Pharisee. Yet your righteousness must exceed theirs, or the gates of glory will be shut upon you! Their righteousness and holiness was only external, not internal; it was partial, not universal; it was rather circumstantial than substantial—and therefore heaven’s doors were double-bolted against them. Heaven is for that man, and that man is for heaven, that is not only outwardly holy—but throughout holy.
4. Fourthly, There is a RELATIVE holiness. Now relative holiness is a special relation which people or things have unto God. Relative holiness includes two things—
First, A SEPARATION of people or things from common use. And thus, in the law those things were called holy which were separated from common use and set apart for the worship and service of God—such as the holy oil, show-bread, first-fruits, incense, altars, vestments; and in this sense the priests and Levites were called holy, because they were separated from others to serve in the tabernacle; [Deut. 19:2; 1 Kings 8:35; Ezra 8:28, and 10:11; Isaiah 63:18.] and in this sense the people of Israel are frequently called a sanctified people, a holy people, etc. The Greek word corresponds to the Hebrew word, which commonly signifies that which is appropriated to a holy use; and this is the proper notion of holiness in the Old and New Testament, as I might show you out of some hundred places of scripture.
Now certainly, without this holiness of special separation from the common sinful lifestyles of the world, there is no seeing of God, nor any fruition of God hereafter: 2 Cor. 6:17-18, “Therefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” God will have no communion with any in this world who are not separated from the sinful practices of the world. God will look upon none, he will own none, he will delight in none, he will acknowledge none, he will receive none for his sons and daughters—but such as are separated from all evil vices and unholy lifestyles. Suitable to this is Isaiah 52:11, “Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.” Estrange yourselves from those who are estranged from God; have nothing to do with those who have nothing to do with God; separate yourselves from those who have separated themselves from God; have no delightful converse with those who have no delightful converse with God; have no bosom communion with those who have no bosom communion with God. [Cicero, though heathen, had rather have no companion than a bad one.]
O sirs, you are to keep yourselves as pure and clean from others’ defilements—as you would keep yourselves free from others’ punishments. He who will imitate others in their sins—shall certainly participate with others in their sorrows. It is true we may live with wicked men in their cities—but it is as true, that we must not lie with wicked men in their enormities. There are many professors who are, like the planet Mercury, good in conjunction with those who are good, and bad with those who are bad; but these wound many at once—God, Christ, the gospel, and their own credits and consciences. These put virtue to an open shame; and these are deservedly to be shamed by your separating from them, and by your renouncing all intimate communion or fellowship with them. But,
Secondly, As relative holiness takes in a separation of people or things from common use—so it also takes in a DEDICATION and devoting of them to a holy use. And thus the Nazarites, Temple, Mount Zion, the Sabbath-day, and other festival days are said to be holy under the law. [So Christ is said to sanctify himself, when he dedicated himself to be a sacrifice for the sins of his people, etc.] In short, the whole Jewish religion did lie in holy times, holy places, holy people, and holy things. And certainly without this holiness, without this dedicating of ourselves to God—we shall never come to a glorious fruition of God. He who does not dedicate himself really to God, wholly to God, only to God, and always to God on earth—shall never come to a sight and vision of God in heaven. If we do not give up ourselves to God, God will never give up himself to us: Hosea 3:3, “You must live with me many days. Don’t be promiscuous or belong to any man, and I will act the same way toward you.” God will be only theirs who are really his—but he will be altogether theirs who are wholly his; he will only be a husband to those who dedicate themselves to him, as a wife does to her husband. He will devote himself to those—who devote themselves him. He will avouch himself to be theirs—who avouch themselves to be his: Deut. 26:17-19, “You have declared today that the Lord is your God. You have promised to obey his laws, commands, and regulations by walking in his ways and doing everything he tells you. The Lord has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised, and that you must obey all his commands. And if you do, he will make you greater than any other nation. Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown. You will be a nation that is holy to the Lord your God, just as he promised.”
God will resign himself up to those who resign themselves up to him; he will give up himself to those who have given up their names and their hearts to him; he will bestow himself as the pearl of greatest price, upon those who shall make a surrender of themselves to him. [That is an apt saying of Tertullian, That is a good trade, when something is parted with to gain more.] There is no way to be higher than others, happier than others, more noble and honorable than others, than by making a dedication-gift of ourselves to God. He who dedicates himself to God, dedicates all; he who does not dedicate himself, dedicates nothing at all. What Aeschines once said to Socrates, “Others, said he, give you gold, silver, jewels—but I give you myself,” that must a Christian say to his God, “Ah, Lord! there are some who give you their lips—but I give you my heart; others give you good words, good expressions—but I give you the best of my affections; others give you a few cold prayers—but I give you my whole soul; and had I as many hearts in my body as I have hairs on my head, I would give them all to you—for you are worthy, you alone are worthy!”
What the king of Israel once said to the king of Syria, “I am yours—and all that I have,” 1 Kings 20:4; that must a Christian say to his Christ, “I am yours, O Lord—and all that I have.” A Christian must cry out with Bernard who cried, “Lord, I have two mites—a soul and a body—and I give them both to you.” And this was the honor and commendations of the Macedonians, that they gave up themselves to the Lord, 2 Cor. 8:5. Having no better present at hand, they present themselves to God. Certainly there is no present more honorable, delectable, and acceptable to God—than this of giving up ourselves to God, Romans 12:1. Well, remember this: that man was never really holy that is not relatively holy; nor that man will never be really happy—who is not relatively holy. Without relative holiness there will be no vision of God in everlasting happiness. We must be separated from the corruptions and pollutions of the world, and we must dedicate ourselves to God—or we shall never come to a future fruition of God. But,
5. Fifthly, There is an IMPUTED holiness—and that is the holiness of Christ imputed to us. [Consult these scriptures, Luke 1:35; Mark 1:24; Heb. 7:26; Romans 5:19; Col. 1:22; Romans 2:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:21-22; Gal. 3:13; Jer. 23:6.] To prevent mistakes, please to take notice that there is a twofold holiness in Christ: first, there is his essential and personal holiness—as he is God. Now this essential holiness of Christ cannot be imparted nor imputed to any mortal man; it is essential to him. Secondly, there is his mediatorial holiness, or that holiness which he wrought for us as Mediator. Now the holiness of Christ as Mediator consist both in the habitual holiness of his person, in the absence of all sin, and in the rich and plentiful presence of all holy and supernatural qualities, as also in the actual holiness of his life and death. By his active obedience—that is, by his subjecting of his heart and life to divine precepts—he perfectly fulfilled the commands of the law. And by his passive obedience—that is, his voluntary sufferings—he fully satisfied the penalties and curses of the law. Now this mediatorial holiness of Christ’s is ours by imputation, and by virtue of which we stand justified in the sight of God: 1 Cor. 1:30, “But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” This mediatorial holiness of Christ, reckoned unto a believing sinner, is that whereby he is constituted holy; and upon this account they are said to be “all fair,” Cant. 4:7; to be “without spot or wrinkle,” Eph. 5:25-27; to be “complete in him,” Col. 2:10; and to be “without fault before the throne of God,” Rev. 14:4-5. And certainly, without this mediatorial holiness of Christ—there is no appearing before God, there is no glorious vision nor fruition of God. God is a God of such infinite purity and holiness, that no holiness below the imputed holiness of Christ can make a man stand before him, or bring a man to the fruition of him, Hab. 1:13.
It was a very sweet and excellent saying of Bernard, when in his own opinion he was at the point of death: “I confess, said he, I am not worthy, I have no merits of my own to obtain heaven by: but my Lord had a double right thereunto; a hereditary right as a Son, and a meritorious right as a sacrifice. He was contented with the one right himself; the other right he has given unto me, by the virtue of which gift I do rightly lay claim unto it, and am not confounded.’
Though we cannot lay claim to heaven, nor to a blessed fruition of God by any inherent holiness in us—it being weak and imperfect—yet we may lay claim to both—by the mediatorial holiness of Christ imputed to us. As Christ’s essential holiness gives him a hereditary right to everlasting happiness; so his mediatorial holiness gives us a right to everlasting blessedness. The costly cloak of Alcisthenes, which Dionysius sold to the Carthaginians for a great price, was but a poor and beggarly rag, compared to that embroidered royal robe of Christ’s mediatorial holiness, which is imputed or reckoned to us. And therefore, as ever you would come to a vision of God in happiness, you must labor to be interested by faith in Christ’s mediatorial holiness. But,
6. Sixthly and lastly, There is an inherent, INTERNAL, qualitative holiness. [ Holiness is not any single grace alone—but a conjunction, a constellation of all graces together.] Now this inherent holiness lies in two things.
(1.) First, In the infusing of holy principles, divine qualities, or supernatural graces into the soul, such as the apostle mentions in Gal. 5:22-23, ” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These habits of grace, are nothing else but the new nature, or “new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” Eph. 4:24. These seeds of holiness, these habits of grace, are those sweet ointments with which all must be anointed, who shall ever come to a blessed sight or vision of God, 1 John 3:9; 2 Cor. 1:21; 1 John 27. You may know much of God, you may hear much of God, you may talk much of God, and you may boast much of your hopes and saving interest in God—and yet without these habits of holiness you shall never come to a blessed fruition of God in happiness; without these seeds of holiness you shall never reap a crop of blessedness. But,
(2.) Secondly, This inherent, this qualitative holiness, lies in a holy use and exercise of those supernatural graces in a way of holy walking. [Acts 10:35; 1 John 1:3, 7; Titus 2:12; Luke 1:73; 2 Pet. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; Isaiah 35:8] All holy habits must be brought forth into holy acts. All gracious habits must be attended with gracious motions, gracious operations, and a gracious life. Outward works must be suitable to inward habits. It is with spiritual habits as it is with natural habits—the more they are acted and exercised, the more they are increased and strengthened. Holy habits are golden talents that must be employed and improved. Gracious habits are the candles of the Lord set up in us; and God has set up those candles of heaven not to idle by, not to sleep by—but to work by, and to walk by. Where there is holiness of disposition, there must be, nay there will be—holiness of conversation. A holy heart is always attended with a holy life.
You may separate a man from his friend—but you can never separate, though you may distinguish, acts of holiness from the habits of holiness. Now it is certain, without this holiness, you shall never come to a sight or fruition of God in happiness. [Where there are the seeds of holiness, there will be the flowers of holiness.] And thus I have showed you what that holiness is, without which there is no hope, no possibility of ever seeing the Lord.