Conforming to Christ: The Great Work of Sanctification

Taken and adapted from, “Looking Unto Jesus, A View of the Everlasting Gospel, or, the Soul’s Eying of Jesus as Carrying on the Great Work of Mans salvation from First to Last”
Written by, Issac Ambrose.

Edited for thought and sense.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,
in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  

–Romans 8:29 (ESV)

Let us quicken our sluggish souls to conform to Christ.

If this was one of the ends of Christ’s coming, to destroy the works of the devil, to deface all Satan’s works, especially his work in me, and to set his own stamp on my soul; how then should I but endeavor to conform! I read but of two ends of Christ’s coming into the world in relation to us; whereof the first was to redeem his people, and the other was to purify his people: “He gave himself for us, that he might redeem its from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” The one is the work of his merit, which goeth upwards to the sanctification of his Father; the other is the work of his grace, which goeth downwards to the sanctification of his church: in the one he bestoweth his righteousness on us by imputation, in the other he fashioneth his image in us by renovation; and what, O my soul, wouldst thou destroy the end of Christ’s coming in the flesh?

Thus let us provoke our souls to this conformity…

…let us excite our faint, drooping, languishing affections, desires, endeavors. Let us with enlarged industry engage and encourage our backward spirits to fall upon this duty; let us come up higher towards it, or if possibly we may, completely to it; that the same mind, and mouth, and life, may be in us that was in Jesus Christ, that we may be found to walk after Christ, that we may tread in the very prints of the feet of Christ, that we may climb up after him into the same heavenly kingdom; that we may aspire continually towards him, and grow up to him, even to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Let us regulate ourselves by the life of Christ…

whatsoever action we go about, let us do it by this rule, — would Christ have done this? It is true, some things are expedient and lawful with us, which are not suitable to the person of Christ: “Marriage is honorable with all men, and the bed undefiled,” but it did not benefit his person. Writing of books is commendable with men, because, like Abel, being dead, they may still speak; but it would have been derogatory to the person and office of Christ: for it is his prerogative to be in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, to be present to all his members; to teach by power, and not by ministry; to write his law in the hearts of his people, and to make them his epistle. 

In sinful acts eschewed by Christ…

…as when I am tempted to sin, then am I to reason thus with myself: would my blessed Savior, if he were upon earth, do thus and thus? If he were to live again, would he live after this manner? Would this be his language? would such speech as this drop from his lips?


Eternal Purpose

by Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664)

Of the purpose of God concerning man’s salvation before the world began…

images (4)….we read in Scripture, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,”(Romans 8:28). And it is said of Jacob and Esau that being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand,” (Romans 9:11). And, in Christ we are said to obtain an inheritance, “being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” (Ephesians 1:11). Elsewhere the apostle speaks of “the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Ephesians 3:10-11). Again, “He hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” (2 Tim. 1:9).

acceptance-image-2All these hold forth this truth: God purposed in Himself from all eternity to bring them, whom He foreknew, to life and to salvation…This purpose of God speaks of our stability and certainty of salvation in Christ. When God once purposeth, it is past altering: “Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed,” saith God, “so shall it stand,” (Isaiah 14:24). Methinks this word speaks to me, as if I heard God say from all eternity, “It is My purpose to save a remnant of mankind. Though all are lost by sin, yet My wisdom hath found out a way to choose out some; and though…those few that I have purposed to save stand in very slippery places, yet I will be ‘the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). I purpose to bring this little flock to heaven! “My purpose is in and from Myself, and I am God, and not man; therefore, I cannot repent nor call in the purpose that now I have. Have I said, and shall not I do it? Have I spoken, and shall I not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) Yes, yes, My purposes must stand! And for this purpose, I will set My Son between My people and Myself, so that if they sin, I will look on Him…” Thus may I imagine the Lord from all eternity to say, speak, and purpose with Himself. Surely, His purposes must stand upon this account: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” (Romans 11:29).


The decree of God concerning man’s salvation before the foundation of the world appears in these texts, “I will declare the decree,” saith God (Psalm 2:7). What was that? Why, concerning Christ and concerning the Church: “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2:7-8). It was God’s decree to give out of Jews and Gentiles a Church to Christ…This decree in Scripture hath several titles:

1. It is the same with that which we usually term predestination.

images (6)For what is predestination but a decree of God concerning the different preparation of grace, whereby some are guided infallibly unto salvation? Predestination is a decree of both the means and end, a decree of grace given, effectual unto some persons here and of bringing the same persons unto glory hereafter. This decree, this predestination, this golden chain of the means and end, is set down by the apostle: “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified,” (Romans 8:30). As God hath predestined some to life and glory, so He hath predestined them to be called and justified before they be glorified. Whomsoever the Lord hath decreed to save, them hath He also decreed to sanctify before they come to enjoy that salvation. God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be first holy and then happy (Ephesians 1:4). See how these are twisted together by the apostle once and again, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” (2 Thes. 2: 13)…

2. This decree is the same with that book of life wherein are written the names of the elect.

judgement_1844Paul tells us of some women with Clement and other fellow-laborers, “whose names are in the book of life,” (Phil. 4:3). And Christ bids His disciples, “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven,” (Luke 10:20). And John saw in his vision “the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life,” (Rev. 20:12)

3. This decree is the very same also as God’s seal.

“The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his,” (2 Tim. 2:19).

A seal is used in three cases:

(1) to keep things distinct,

(2) to keep things secret, and

(3) to keep things safe.

Rev Book of Life50In every one of these respects, God’s decrees are seals, but especially in the last. Those souls that are sealed by God are safe in the love and favor of God…God seals up His saints, i.e., He secures them of the eternal love of God, so that they shall never drop out of His heart. All these titles speak of the immutability of God’s eternal immanent acts, q.d., “I decree, I predestinate, I book it, seal it, that such and such persons shall be eternally saved…Is there any power, or shall there ever be, to take them out of My hands? Or is it possible that ever I should have a relenting thought at the saving of these souls?…No, no, ‘I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed’ (Mal 3:6).”


The covenant concerning man’s salvation is the last and main particular I give in proof: I dare not be too curious to insist on the order of nature and the rather: because I believe the covenant between God and Christ from everlasting is interwoven with the decree, foreknowledge, and election above. So the apostle tells us, “He hath chosen us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world,” (Ephesians 1:4). Mark that—in Christ. There was an eternal plan between the Father and the Son; there was a bargain made (I speak it with reverence) between God and Christ; there was a covenant between the Lord and His Son Jesus Christ for the salvation of the elect. And, of this, we observe especially these following texts: In Isaiah 49:1-4, the prophet seems to set it dialogue-wise: one expresses it thus:

First, Christ begins and shows His commission, telling God how He the Father had called Him and fitted Him (Christ) for the work of redemption. He would know what reward He should have of Him the Father for so great an undertaking. “The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me,” (Isaiah 49:1-2). Upon this, God answers Christ and tells Him what reward He should have for so great an undertaking…Methinks I imagine as if I heard God speak unto Christ from eternity, “See, here I have loved a remnant of mankind both of Jews and Gentiles with an everlasting love. I know they will sin, corrupt themselves, and become enemies to Me, liable unto eternal death. Now Thou art a mighty person, able to do what I require of Thee for them. If Thou wilt take upon Thee their nature and sins, undertake to satisfy My justice and law, take away that hatred that is in them towards My law and Me, and make them a believing holy people, then I will pardon them. I will adopt them in Thee for My sons and daughters and make them co-heirs with Thee of an incorruptible crown of life.” Then said Christ, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” (Hebrews 10:7-9). Christ as it were, struck hands with God, to take upon Himself the nature and sin of man, and to do and suffer for him whatsoever God required of Him…Thus was the whole business of our salvation first transacted between God the Father and Christ, before it HEAVENLYTHRONEwas revealed to us. Hence, we are said to be given unto Christ. “I have manifested thy name,” saith Christ, “unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me,” (John 17:6). This very giving implies, that the Father in His eternity must have said to the Son, “These I take to be vessels of mercy, and these Thou shalt bring unto Me; for they will destroy themselves, unless Thou shalt save them out of their lost estate.” Then the Son takes them at His Father’s hand, looking at His Father’s will: “This is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing,” (John 6:39). He thereupon takes care of each: He would not for a world let any of them be lost, which His Father hath given Him. They are more dear than to let it be so. In Isaiah 53:10-11 and in Psalm 40:6, Christ is brought in as a surety, offering Himself for us and readily accepting of God’s will in this very matter. Hence it is that He is called God’s servant, and His ears are said to be opened. In Isaiah 42:1-6, this very covenant is expressly mentioned. Thus, God speaks of Christ: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth…I will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.” Yea, this covenant and agreement seems to be confirmed with an oath in Hebrews 7:28. And for this service, Christ is required to ask of God, Who will give Him the heathen for His inheritance (Psalm 2:8). Observe how the Church of God is given to Christ as a reward of that obedience that He showed in accepting the office of a surety for us. Some make this stipulation to be that counsel of peace spoken of by the prophet: “And the counsel of peace shall be between them both,” (Zech. 6:13), i.e., between the Lord and “the man whose name is The BRANCH,” (6:12). images0For this agreement, Christ is called the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, 47; Rom. 5:12-19). For as with the first Adam, God solemnly promised a covenant concerning him and his posterity, so also He did covenant with Christ and His seed concerning eternal life to be obtained by Him. I deny not but that some promises were made only to Christ in His own person and not to descend to His children, as, “Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” (Hebrews 1:13). “He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand,” (Isaiah 53:10). “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession,” (Psalm 2:8). But there are other promises made to Him and His, such as that grand promise, “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son,” (Hebrews 1:5; Jer. 32:38)…and that special promise of spiritual grace (John 1:16), of justification (Isaiah 50:8), of victory and dominion (Psalm 110:2), of the kingdom of glory (Luke 24:26). They are every one first made to Him, and then to us. The business from eternity lay thus: “Here is man lost,” said God to His Son, “but Thou shalt in the fullness of time go and be born of flesh and blood, die for them, and satisfy My justice. They shall be Thine for a portion, and they shall be called, ‘The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD’ (Isaiah 62:12). This shalt Thou do,” said the Father, “and upon these terms they that believe shall live.” This was God’s covenant with the Son of His love for us, to Whom the Son answered (as it were) again, “Content, Father, I will go and fulfill Thy pleasure, and they shall be Mine forever. I will in the fullness of time die for them, and they shall live in Me. Burnt offerings and sin-offerings, Thou hast not required (no, it was self-offering), ‘then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God’,” (Psalm 40: 7-8). In what book was it written that Christ should come to do the will of God? Not only in the book of the Law and the Prophets, but also in the book of God’s decrees. In this sense, He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” (Rev. 13:8). His Father from before all time appointed Him to be our High Priest, and He from all eternity subscribed to His Father’s pleasure in it.

From, “Looking unto Jesus.”

Meet the author and part of your Christian Heritage:  Isaac Ambrose (1604 – January 20, 1663/1664) was an English Puritan divine. He associated himself with Presbyterianism, and was on the celebrated committee for the ejection of “scandalous and ignorant ministers and schoolmasters” during the Commonwealth.

So long as Ambrose continued at Preston he was favoured with the warm friendship of the Hoghton family, their ancestral woods and the tower near Blackburn affording him sequestered places for those devout meditations and “experiences” that give such a charm to his diary.  As a religious writer Ambrose has a vividness and freshness of imagination possessed by scarcely any of the Puritan Nonconformists. Many who have no love for Puritan doctrine, nor sympathy with Puritan experience, have appreciated the pathos and beauty of his writings, and his Looking to Jesus long held its own in popular appreciation with the writings of John Bunyan.

Dr Edmund Calamy (1600-1666) wrote about him, ”He lived & died a Nonconformist and was a man of that substantial worth, that eminent piety, and that exemplary life, both as a minister and a Christian, that it is to be lamented the world should not have the benefit of particular memoirs concerning him from some able hand”. He lived in the latter part of his life at Preston and when his end drew near was very sensible of it. Having taken leave of his friends abroad with unusual solemnity, as if he foresaw that he should see them no more, he came home to Preston from Bolton, and set all things on order. In a little time some of his hearers from Garstang came to visit him. He discoursed freely with them, gave them good counsel, told them he was now ready whenever his Lord should call, and that he had finished all he designed to write; having the night before sent away his discourse concerning angels to the press. He accompanied his friends to their horses, and when he came back shut himself in his parlour, the place of his soliloquy, meditation, and prayer; they thought he stayed long, and so opened the door, and found him just expiring. This was in the year 1663-4,cetat. 72. He was holy in his life, happy in his death, and honoured by GOD,and all good men” (This quote by Dr Calamy is quoted in the opening pages of the Isaac Ambrose book “Prima, Media Et Ultima”) 

Character excerpts from Wikipedia