Holiness, and the Character of God

Taken from, “The Essence of God”
by Wilhelmus à Brakel


Holiness is the pure essence of the character of God.

Consequently, it relates to the brightness of all His perfections, for which reason He is called a “light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The Lord continually reveals Himself as holy, in order that the heart of man may continually be filled with deep awe and reverence. “Who is like unto Thee, O Lord … glorious in holiness, fearful in praises?” (Exod 15:11). “Let them praise Thy great and terrible Name; for it is holy. Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool; for He is holy. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy” (Ps 99:3,5,9); “Holy is His Name” (Luke 1:49).

The Lord is not merely called holy but is holiness itself. “Give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness” (Ps 97:12); “Once have I sworn by my holiness” (Ps 89:35); “Glory ye in His holy Name” (Ps 105:3).

From the holy character of God proceeds the holiness of all His deeds. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” (Deut 32:4).
From His holy character proceeds His hatred and contempt for sin. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Hab 1:13); “For Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: Thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Ps 5:4-5).
From His holy character proceeds His delight in holiness. “For in these things I delight, saith the Lord” (Jer 9:24); “But such as are upright in their way are His delight” (Prov 11:20).


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Wilhelmus à Brakel (2 January 1635, Leeuwarden – 30 October 1711, Rotterdam), a contemporary of Voetius and Witsius, was a major representative of the Dutch Further Reformation (known in Dutch as De Nadere Reformatie). This movement was contemporaneous with and greatly influenced by English Puritanism. Scholars in the Netherlands have defined this movement as follows:“The Dutch Second Reformation is that movement within the Dutch Reformed Church during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which, as a reaction to the declension or absence of a living faith, made both the personal experience of faith and godliness matters of central importance. From that perspective the movement formulated substantial and procedural reformation initiatives, submitting them to the proper ecclesiastical, political, and social agencies, and/or in conformity therewith pursued in both word and deed a further reformation of the church, society, and state.”à Brakel and his ministry functioned at the approximate center of this Pietistic movement, both historically and theologically. On a time line, beginning in 1606 with the ministry of the father of the Nadere Reformatie, Willem Teellinck, and terminating in 1784 with the death of Theodorus Vander Groe, à Brakel’s ministry (particularly his most important pastorate in Rotterdam from 1683–1711) marks the center of this time line. However, more significantly, his ministry represents a remarkable balance of the Nadere Reformatie relative to both its early and concluding stages.His prominence as a major representative of this movement is largely due to his magnum opus The Christian’s Reasonable Service. After its initial publication in 1700, this four volume work was quickly recognized as a monumental contribution to the literature of the Nadere Reformatie. It has been argued by scholars that this work is a synthesis of the best Puritan literature published in England and the Netherlands. Nadere Reformatie scholar, F. Earnest Stoeffler puts it this way, “He supplied Reformed Pietism with a theological textbook which…came out of a tradition wholly native to the Netherlands. In it he…preserved the balance between the mystical and ethical elements in Christianity which is so characteristic of the great Pietists in the Reformed communion.”As a result of this work, à Brakel has permanently endeared himself to hearts of Reformed believers in the Netherlands. Already during his lifetime, the affection for him was such that he was fondly referred to as “Father Brakel”—a title by which he is known in the Netherlands until this day. For more than three centuries the influence of The Christian’s Reasonable Service has been such that “Father Brakel” continues to be the most influential of all the representatives of the Nadere Reformatie (frequently referred to today as Dutch Puritanism). Since the publication of The Christian’s Reasonable Service in English, his influence is growing steadily among both scholars and lovers of Puritan literature as well.The uniqueness of à Brakel’s work lies in the fact that it is more than a systematic theology. His selection of the title is already an indication that it was not merely his intention to present a systematic explanation of Christian dogma to the public. 

A Little Sin: The object of a Christian’s hatred

Excerpts taken and adapted from, The Crown and Glory of Christianity, or,
HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness  
Written by Thomas Brooks


It is between a holy and an unholy soul, as it is between two children…

…one will not touch the coal because it will smut him, and the other will not touch it because it will burn him. A holy heart rises against sin because of its defiling nature; but an unholy heart rises against sin because of its burning and damning nature. A holy man is most affected and afflicted with the evil that is in sin; but an unholy heart is most affected and afflicted with the punishment that is due to sin. A holy person hates sin because it pollutes his soul; but an unholy person hates it because it destroys his soul. A holy person loathes sin because it makes against God’s holiness; but an unholy person loathes it because it provokes God’s justice. A holy person detests sin because of the hell which is in sin; but an unholy person detests sin because of the hell which follows sin. A holy heart abhors all sin; but an unholy heart is still in league with some sin, Romans 12:9, and 7:15, 19; Isaiah 28:15, 18. Now because this is a point of great concernment, I shall a little more open and evidence the truth of it, in these three particulars:

The heart of a holy man rises against SECRET sins, against such as lie furthest off from the eye of man: Psalm 119:113, “I hate vain thoughts—but your law do I love.” What more secret than vain thoughts? and yet against these the heart of a holy man rises. When Joseph was tempted to be secretly wicked with his mistress, his heart rises against it: Gen. 39:9, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against the Lord?” Hezekiah humbled himself for “the pride of his heart,” 2 Chron. 32:24-26. Heart-sins lie most hidden and secret; and yet for these, a holy man humbles himself. Job would not allow his heart, in an idolatrous way, secretly to kiss his hand, Job 31:26-27.

The heart of a holy man rises against wickedness in the dark, against folly in a corner, against sin in a closet. Just so, Paul was much affected and afflicted with the operations of sin within him, “with the law in his members rebelling against the law of his mind,” Romans 7:23-24. Paul, after his conversion, never fell into any scandalous sin. Those sins that did most trouble him and distress him were of his own house—yes, were in his own heart.

A holy man knows that secret sins are sins, as well as those which are open, Psalm 19:12. He knows that secret sins must be repented of as well as others; he knows that God takes notice of secret sins as well as of open sins: 2 Sam. 12:12, “You did it secretly.” He knows that secret sins do often interpose between God and his soul: “You have set our iniquities before you: our secret sins in the light of your countenance,” Psalm 90:8. He knows that secret sins will quickly become public, except they are presently loathed and speedily mortified, Gen. 38:24-27. He knows that secret sins, like secret diseases and secret wounds, do oftentimes prove most dangerous and pernicious; he knows that secret sins are the price of blood, as well as open sinnings. He knows that secret sins are a grief to the Spirit, as well as those which are manifest. He knows that sometimes God punishes secret sins with manifest judgments, as you may see in that great instance of David, 2 Sam. 12:10, 18. Upon all which accounts, a holy heart rises in a detestation of secret sins. But,

The heart of a holy man rises against the LEAST sins, as well as against secret sins, in a strict sense. I know there is no little sin, because there is no little hell, no little damnation, no little law, nor no little God to sin against; but yet some sins may comparatively be said to be little, if you compare them with those which are more great and gross, which are more heinous and odious, Mat. 23:24. Now the hatred of a holy man rises against the least: Psalm 119:163, “I hate and abhor lying: but your law do I love.” I hate, I abhor with horror, I loathe, I detest, I abominate lying as I do hell itself—so much the original word imports. David’s heart smote him for the cutting off the lap of Saul’s garment; and his heart smote him again for numbering of the people; and yet neither of these sins were heinous or scandalous, 1 Sam. 24:5, and 2 Sam. 24:10.

Some write, that there is such a native dread and terror of the hawk implanted in the dove, that it detests and abhors the very sight of the least feather that has grown upon the hawk. Certainly, there is such a holy dread of sin implanted in the heart of a saint, that he cannot but detest and abhor the least sin—yes, the very appearance of sin: his soul rises against the least motions or inclinations to evil, though they are silvered over with the most sophisticated shows, and most glorious pretenses: for he knows that the least sins are contrary to a righteous law, a holy God, and to his blessed Savior, and the Spirit—his only Comforter. [1 Cor. 8:13; Gal. 2:3-4; Jude 23.]

[1.] First, A holy man knows that little sins, if not prevented, will bring on greater sins. David gives way to his wandering eye, and that led him to those scandalous sins for which God broke his bones, hid his face, and withdrew his Spirit, 2 Sam. 12:26, seq.

Just so, Peter first denies his Master, and then denies him, and then falls a-cursing and damning of himself, Mat. 26:70-75; as the Greek word imports, he imprecated the wrath of God to fall upon him, and that he might be separated from the presence and glory of God, if he knew the man; and then concludes with a most incredible lie, “I don’t know the man!”—though there was hardly a person who did not know Christ by sight—he being very famous for the many miracles that he daily wrought before their eyes. Ah! to what a height will sin suddenly rise!

Just so, Jacob, first he tells three lies in a breath, Gen. 27:19, 20: 1. I am Esau; 2. Your firstborn; 3. I have done according as you bade me. And then he takes the name of God in vain, by authoring God to that which he did: “The Lord your God brought it to me.” Ah, of what an encroaching nature is sin! how insensibly and suddenly does it infiltrate into the soul! [Just so, Austin confesses that his mother Monica, by sipping and supping when she filled the cup to others, came at last to take a cup of wine excessively sometimes.]

Lesser sins usually are inlets to greater sins—as the little thief let in at the window opens the door, and makes way for the greater; and the little wedge makes way for the greater. When Pompey could not take a city by force, he pretended that he would withdraw his army: only he desired that they would entertain a few of his weak and wounded soldiers, which accordingly they did. These soldiers soon recovered their strength, and opened the gates of the city, by which means Pompey’s army entered and subdued the citizens. Just so, little sins yielded to soon gather strength, and open the door to greater sins; and so a conquest is made upon the soul. This a holy heart well understands, and therefore it hates and abhors the least sin. But,

[2.] Secondly, A holy heart knows that little sins have exposed both sinners and saints to very great punishments. A gracious soul remembers the man who was stoned to death—for gathering of sticks on the Sabbath-day. He remembers how Saul lost two kingdoms at once, his own kingdom and the kingdom of heaven—for sparing of Agag and the fat of the cattle. He remembers how the unprofitable servant, for the non-improvement of his talent, was cast into outer darkness. He remembers how Ananias and Sapphira were suddenly stricken dead for telling a lie. He remembers how Lot’s wife, for a look of curiosity, was turned into a pillar of salt. He remembers how Adam was cast out of paradise for eating an apple; and the angels cast out of heaven for not keeping their standings. He remembers that Jacob smarted for his lying to his dying day. He remembers how God followed him with sorrow upon sorrow, and breach upon breach, filling up his days with grief and trouble. He remembers how Moses was shut out of the Holy Land, because he spoke unadvisedly with his lips. [Num. 15:30, 37-38; 1 Sam. 15:23; Mat. 25:25, 31; Acts 5:3- 4; Gen. 19:26 and 3 and 27.]

He remembers the young prophet who was slain by a lion for eating a little bread and drinking a little water, contrary to the command of God, though he was drawn thereunto by an old prophet, under a pretense of a revelation from heaven, 1 Kings 13. He remembers how Zacharias was stricken both dumb and deaf, because he believed not the report of the angel Gabriel, Luke 1:19-62. He remembers how Uzzah was stricken dead for holding up the ark when it was in danger to have fallen. Yes, he can never forget the fifty thousand men of Beth-shemesh who were slain for looking into the ark, 2 Sam. 6:7-8; 1 Sam. 6:19-21. Now, ah, how does the remembrance of these things stir up the hatred and indignation of a gracious soul against the least sins!

A grain of poison diffuses itself to all parts, until it strangles the vital spirits, and separates the soul from the body. A little coal of fire has turned many a stately building into ashes. A little prick with a thorn can as well kill a man, as a cut with a drawn sword. A little fly may spoil all the alabaster box of ointment. General Norris having received a slight wound in his arm in the wars of Ireland, made light of it—but his arm gangrened, and so he lost both arm and life together. Fabius, a senator of Rome, and chief-justice besides, was strangled by swallowing a small hair in a draught of milk. A fit of an fever carried away Tamerlane, who was the terror of his time. Anacreon, the poet, was choked to death, with the skin of a grape. An emperor died by the scratch of a comb. One of the kings of France died miserably by choking on a bite of pork; and his brother, being hit with a tennis ball, was struck into his grave! And thus you see little things have brought upon many great miseries.

And so little sins may expose and make people very liable to great punishments: and therefore no wonder if the heart of a holy man rises against them. Those sins which are seemingly but small, are very provoking to the great God, and very hurtful to the immortal soul—and therefore they cannot but be the object of a Christian’s hatred.

What Holiness Is This?

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.”
–Hebrews 12:14

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.

Unraveling our Experiences, Resistances, and Anxieties in the Sanctified Life

Taken and adapted from “A Body of Divinity: Wherein the Doctrines of the Christian Religion are Explained and Defended, being the Substance of Several Lectures on the Assembly’s Larger Catechism.” Written by Thomas Ridgley. Edited for thought and sense.

_h353_w628_m6_ofalse_lfalse“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;…” 

–1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (ESV)

Let us inquire, whether the life we live in the flesh…

…be by the faith of the Son of God, be under the influence of his Spirit, with great diffidence of our own righteousness and strength, and firm dependence upon Christ… 

If we have ground to hope that the work of sanctification is begun, let us inquire, whether it be advancing or declining. Whether we go from strength to strength, or make improvements in proportion to the privileges we enjoy.  Many have reason to complain that it is not with them as in months past; that grace is languishing, the frame of their spirits in holy duties stupid, and they be destitute of that communion with God,” which they have once enjoyed.  Such ought to remember from whence they are fallen, and repent, and do their first works; and beg of God, from whom alone our fruit is derived, that he would revive the work, and cause their souls to flourish in the courts of his house, and to bring forth much fruit unto holiness, to the glory of his own name, and their spiritual peace and comfort.

As for those who are frequently complaining of, and be-wailing their declensions in grace, who seem, to others, to be making a very considerable progress therein; let them not give way to unbelief so far as to deny or set aside the experiences which they have had of God’s presence with them; for sometimes grace grows, though without our own observation. If they are destitute of the comforts thereof, or the fruits of righteousness, which are peace, assurance and joy in the Holy Ghost, let them consider, that the work of sanctification, in this present state, is, at best, but growing up towards that perfection which is not yet arrived to. 

If it does not spring up and flourish, as to those fruits and effects thereof, which they are pressing after, but have not attained; let them bless God, if grace is taking root downward, and is attended with an humble sense of their own weakness and imperfection, and an earnest desire of those spiritual blessings which they are laboring after.  This ought to afford a matter of thankfulness, rather than to have a tendency to weaken their hands, or induce them to conclude that they are in an unsanctified state because of the many hindrances and discouragements which attend their progress in holiness.

Our Frame of Mind in the Pursuit of Holiness

Written by John Owen. 1616 -1683. A pre-eminent English Puritan theologian, pastor, and independent.
Edited for thought and sense.

admin-ajaxLet us consider what should be the frame of mind in the pursuit of holiness…

…namely, what regard we ought to have unto the command on the one hand, and to the promise on the other,—to our own duty, and to the grace of God. Some would separate these things, as inconsistent.

They argue that a command, as they suppose, leaves no room for a promise, at least not such a promise as wherein God should take on himself to work in us what the command requires of us; and, they think, that a promise takes off all the influencing authority of the command. “If holiness be our duty, there is no room for grace in this matter; and if it be an effect of grace, there is no place for duty.” But all these arguings are a fruit of the wisdom of the flesh before mentioned, and we have before disproved them.

The “wisdom that is from above” teacheth us other things.

1.  With Regard to the Command

It is true, our works and grace are opposed in the matter of justification; if it be of works it is not of grace, and if it be of grace it is not of works, as our apostle argues, Rom. 11:6. But our duty and God’s grace are nowhere opposed in the matter of sanctification, yea, the one doth absolutely suppose the other. Neither can we perform our duty herein without the grace of God; nor doth God give us this grace unto any other end but that we may rightly perform our duty. He that shall deny either that God commands us to be holy in a way of duty, or promises to work holiness in us in a way of grace, may with as much modesty reject the whole Bible. In both of these, therefore, we are to have a due regard if we intend to be holy.

Our regard unto the command consists in three things:

  1.  That we get our consciences always affected with the authority of it, as it is the command of God. This must afterward be enlarged on. Where this is not, there is no holiness. Our holiness is our obedience; and the formal nature of obedience arises from its respect unto the authority of the command.
  2. That we see and understand the reasonableness, the equity, the advantage of the command. Our service is a reasonable service; the ways of God are equal, and in the keeping of his commands there is great reward. If we judge not thus, if we rest not herein, and are thence filled with indignation against every thing within us or without us that opposes it or rises up against it, whatever we do in compliance with it in a way of duty, we are not holy.
  3. That hereon we love and delight in it, because it is holy, just, and good; because the things it requires are upright, equal, easy, and pleasant to the new nature, without any regard to the false ends before discovered.

2.  With Regard to the Promise

We have regard unto the promise to the same end:

  1. When we walk in a constant sense of our own inability to comply with the command in any one instance from any power in ourselves; for we have no sufficiency of ourselves, our sufficiency is of God. As for him who is otherwise minded, his heart is lifted up.
  2. When we adore that grace which hath provided help and relief for us. Seeing without the grace promised we could never have attained unto the least part or degree of holiness, and seeing we could never deserve the least dram of that grace, how ought we to adore and continually praise that infinite bounty which hath freely provided us of this supply!
  3. When we act faith in prayer and expectation on the promise for supplies of grace enabling us unto holy obedience.
  4. When we have special regard with respect unto especial temptations and particular duties. When on all such occasions we satisfy not ourselves with a respect unto the promise in general, but exercise faith in particular on it for aid and assistance, then do we regard it in a due manner.


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Owen (1616 – 24 August 1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.  He was briefly a member of parliament for the University, sitting in the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 to 1655.

During his eight years of official Oxford life Owen showed himself a firm disciplinarian, thorough in his methods, though, as John Locke testifies, the Aristotelian traditions in education underwent no change. With Philip Nye he unmasked the popular astrologer, William Lilly, and in spite of his share in condemning two Quakeresses to be whipped for disturbing the peace, his rule was not intolerant. Anglican services were conducted here and there, and at Christ Church itself the Anglican chaplain remained in the college. While little encouragement was given to a spirit of free inquiry, Puritanism at Oxford was not simply an attempt to force education and culture into “the leaden moulds of Calvinistic theology.” Owen, unlike many of his contemporaries, was more interested in the New Testament than in the Old. During his Oxford years he wrote Justitia Divina (1653), an exposition of the dogma that God cannot forgive sin without an atonement; Communion with God (1657), Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance (1654), his final attack on Arminianism; Vindiciae Evangelicae, a treatise written by order of the Council of State against Socinianism as expounded by John Biddle; On the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656), an introspective and analytic work; Schism (1657), one of the most readable of all his writings; Of Temptation (1658), an attempt to recall Puritanism to its cardinal spiritual attitude from the jarring anarchy of sectarianism and the pharisaism which had followed on popularity and threatened to destroy the early simplicity.

In October 1653 he was one of several ministers whom Cromwell summoned to a consultation as to church union. In December, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Oxford University. In the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 he sat, for a short time, as the sole member of parliament for Oxford University, and, with Baxter, was placed on the committee for settling the “fundamentals” necessary for the toleration promised in the Instrument of Government. In the same year he was chairman of a committee on Scottish Church affairs. He was, too, one of the Triers, and appears to have behaved with kindness and moderation in that capacity. As vice-chancellor he acted with readiness and spirit when a Royalist rising in Wiltshire broke out in 1655; his adherence to Cromwell, however, was by no means slavish, for he drew up, at the request of Desborough and Pride, a petition against his receiving the kingship. Thus, when Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as chancellor, Owen lost his vice-chancellorship. In 1658 he took a leading part in the conference of Independents which drew up the Savoy Declaration (the doctrinal standard of Congregationalism which was based upon the Westminster Confession of Faith).


Are YOU Holy?

Written by J. C. Ryle
Edited for thought and sense.

9B5A3D28-BA8F-4FC8-8EEA2E8D9ABB57A8_articleChristian, We must he holy on earth before we die, if we desire to go to heaven after death. 

If we hope to dwell with God for ever in the life to come, we must endeavour to be like Him in the life that now is.  We must not only admire holiness, and wish for holiness: we must be holy.

Holiness cannot justify and save us: holiness cannot cover our iniquities, make satisfaction for transgressions, pay our debts to God.  Our best works are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God’s law.  The righteousness which Jesus Christ brought in must be our only confidence,—the blood of atonement our only hope.  All this is perfectly true, and yet we must be holy.

We must be holy,

because God in the Bible plainly commands it. “As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15, 16).

We must be holy,

because this is one great end for which Christ came into the world.  “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

We must be holy,

because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in Christ.  “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”  “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:17, 26).

We must be holy,

because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.  What can be more plain than our Lord’s own words?  “If ye love Me, keep my commandments.”  “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.” (John 14: 15, 21).

We must be holy,

because this is the only sound evidence that we are God’s children.  “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  “Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God” (Rom. 8:14; I John 3:10).

Lastly, We must be holy,

because without holiness on earth we should never be prepared and meet for heaven. It is written of the heavenly glory, “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie” (Rev. 21:27).  St. Paul says expressly, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Ah, Christian, the last text I have just quoted is very solemn.  It ought to make you think. 

It was written by the hand of inspired man: it is not my private fancy.  Its words are the words of the Bible: not of my own invention.  God has said it, and God will stand to it: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

What tremendous words these are! What thoughts come across my mind as I write them down!  I look at the world, and see the greater part of it lying in wickedness; I look at professing Christians, and see the vast majority having nothing of Christianity but the name; I turn to the Bible, and I hear the Spirit saying, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

Surely it is a text that ought to make you consider your ways, and search your hearts.  Surely it should raise within you solemn thoughts, and send you to prayer.

You may try to put me off by saying,

–you feel much, and think much about these things,—far more than many suppose.  I answer, This is not the point.  The poor lost souls in hell do as much as this.  The great question is, not what you think and what you feel, but what you DO. Are you holy?

You may say,

–It was never meant that all Christians should be holy, and that holiness such as I have described is only for great saints, and people of uncommon gifts.  I answer, I cannot see this in Scripture.  I read that “every man who hath hope in Christ purifieth himself” (1 John 3:3).  “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”

You may say,

–It is impossible to be so holy and to do our duty in this life at the same time: the thing cannot be done.  I answer, You are mistaken: it can be done.  With God on your side, nothing is impossible.  It has been done by many: Moses, and Obadiah, and Daniel, and the servants of Nero’s household, are all examples that go to prove it.

You may say,

–If you were so holy, you would be unlike other people.  I answer, I know it well: it is just what I want you to be. 

Christ’s true servants always were unlike the world around them,—a separate nation, a peculiar people; and you must be so too, if you would be saved.

You may say,

–At this rate very few will be saved.  I answer, I know it: Jesus said so eighteen hundred years ago.  Few will be saved, because few will take the trouble to seek salvation.  Men will not deny themselves the pleasures of sin and their own way for a season; for this they turn their backs on an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.  “Ye will not come to Me,” says Jesus, “that ye might have life” (John 5: 40).

You may say,

–These are hard sayings: the way is very narrow.  I answer, I know it: Jesus said so eighteen hundred years ago.  He always said that men must take up the cross daily, that they must be ready to cut off hand or foot, if they would be His disciples.  It is in religion as it is in other things, “There are no gains without pains.” That which costs nothing is worth nothing.

Christian, whatever you may think fit to say, you must be holy if you would see the Lord. 

Where is your Christianity if you are not?  Show it to me without holiness, if you can.  You must not merely have a Christian name and Christian knowledge, you must have a Christian character also: you must be a saint on earth, if ever you mean to be a saint in heaven.  God has said it, and He will not go back,—”Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”  “The Pope’s calendar,” says Jenken, “only makes saints of the dead, but Scripture requires sanctity in the living.”  “Let not men deceive themselves,” says Owen, “sanctification is a qualification indispensably necessary—unto those who will be under the conduct of the Lord Jesus unto salvation: He leads none to heaven but whom He sanctifies on the earth.  This living Head will not admit of dead members.”

Surely you will not wonder that Scripture says, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). 

Surely it is clear as noon-day that many of you need a complete change, —new hearts, new natures,—if ever you are to be saved. Old things must pass away, you must become new creatures.  Without holiness, no man, be he who he may,—no man shall see the Lord.

Christian, consider well what I have said.  Do you feel any desire to be holy?  Does your conscience whisper, “I am not holy yet, but I should like to become so”?  Listen to the advice I am going to give you.  The Lord grant you may take it and act upon it!

Would you be holy?  Would you become a new creature?  Then begin with Christ. 

You will do just nothing till you feel your sin and weakness, and flee to Him: He is the beginning of all holiness.  He is not wisdom and righteousness only to His people, but sanctification also.  Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all, and sad work they make of it: they toil, and labour, and turn over many new leaves, and make many changes, and yet, like the woman with the issue of blood before she came to Christ, they feel nothing bettered, but rather worse.  They run in vain, and labour in vain: and little wonder, for they are beginning at the wrong end.  They are building up a wall of sand: their work runs down as fast as they throw it up.  They are baling water out of a leaky vessel; the leak gains on them; not they on the leak.  Other foundation of holiness can no man lay than that which Paul laid, even Christ Jesus.  Without Christ we can do nothing.  It is a strong but true saying of Traill’s, “Wisdom out of Christ is damning folly; righteousness out of Christ is guilt and condemnation; sanctification out of Christ is filth and sin; redemption out of Christ is bondage and slavery.”

Would you be holy: Would you be partakers of the Divine nature?  Then go to Christ.  Wait for nothing: wait for nobody: linger not.  Think not to make you yourself ready: go, and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn,—

“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, flee to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace.”

There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification till we go to Christ.  Holiness is His special gift to His believing people; holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts, by the Spirit whom He puts within them.  He is appointed a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance as well as remission of sins: to as many as receive Him He gives power to become sons of God.  Holiness comes not of blood,—parents cannot give it to their children; nor yet of the will of the flesh,—man cannot produce it in himself; nor yet of the will of man, —ministers cannot give it you by baptism.  Holiness comes from Christ.  It is the result of vital union with Him: it is the fruit of being a living branch of the true vine.  Go then to Christ, and say, “Lord, not only save me from the guilt of sin, but send the Spirit, whom Thou didst promise, and save me from its power.  Make me holy.  Teach me to do Thy will.”

Would you continue holy, when you have once been made so?  Then abide in Christ.  He says Himself, “Abide in Me, and I in you.  He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (John 15: 4, 5).

He is the Physician to whom You must daily go, if you would keep well; He is the Manna which you must daily eat, and the Rock of which you must daily drink.  His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world.  You must not only be rooted, you must also be built up in Him.

Dear Christian, may you and I know these things by experience, and not by hearsay only!  May we all feel the importance of holiness, far more than we have ever done yet!  May our years he holy years with our souls, and then I know they will be happy ones!  But this I say once more, “We must be holy.”


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 – 10 June 1900) was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool. Ryle was born at Macclesfield, and was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was Craven Scholar in 1836.  The son of a wealthy banker, he was destined for a career in politics before choosing a path of ordained ministry. While hearing Ephesians 2 read in church in 1838, he felt a spiritual awakening and was ordained by Bishop Sumner at Winchester in 1842. For 38 years he was a parish priest, first at Helmingham and later at Stradbrooke, in Suffolk. He became a leader of the evangelical party in the Church of England and was noted for his doctrinal essays and polemical writings.

Ryle was a strong supporter of the evangelical school and a critic of Ritualism. He was a writer, pastor and an evangelical preacher. Among his longer works are Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1869), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 vols, 1856–69), Principles for Churchmen (1884). Ryle was described as having a commanding presence and vigorous in advocating his principles albeit with a warm disposition. He was also credited with having success in evangelizing the blue collar community. His second son, Herbert Edward Ryle also a clergyman, became Dean of Westminster.

The Wooing and the Calling …The Gospel of Reigning Grace, Part 15.

Written by Abraham Booth (1734–1806).
Edited for thought and sense by Michael Pursley.

When the Christian, ponders…

dd16c805795a6a7c8b994ad27a90e489 when he reflects, that the end intended by this purchase is that he should serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of his life, and that he should serve to Him who died for him, and rose again; beholding such a deliverance, by such stupendous means, and for such a glorious end, he will exclaim with Ezra, on an infinitely less important occasion, “Seeing that thou, our God, hast given us such deliverance as this, should we again break thy commandments?”


The heart that is not moved by such considerations as these, to love the Redeemer, and to glorify his name, is harder than stone, and bolder than ice, and is entirely destitute of every grateful feeling.


Were believers more fully acquainted with the love of a dying Savior and the infinite efficacy of his atoning blood, their dependence on him would be more steady, and their love to him would be more fervent and were this the case, how patient would they be under all their affliction! How thankful in all their enjoyments! How ardent in all their devotions! How holy in all their conversation! How useful in all their behavior! Yea, how peaceful, how joyful, in the prospect of death, and a future world! Then would their lives be happy indeed. The purchase made by the Holy One of God is, therefore, a noble, a constraining motive to holiness of life,

Their calling is another consideration used to the same purpose.

As he who hath called you is holy so be ye holy in all manner of conversation. The Christian, should often meditate on the nature and excellence of his high, holy, heavenly calling. Being called by grace, he is translated out of darkness into marvelous light; and from under the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Out of a state of wrath and of alienation, from God, he is brought into a state of peace, and of communion with him. Now, the very end of his calling is, that he might be holy; that he might show forth the praise of his infinite Benefactor here below, and finally attain his glory in the upper world.—How great the blessing itself! How gracious, how glorious the design of God in bestowing it!

The remembrance of this must necessarily have a tendency to holiness, in every heart that is in the least acquainted with it.


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Abraham Booth (1734–1806) was an English dissenting minister and author, known as a Baptist apologetical writer. Booth was baptized in 1755 by immersion, and began to preach in the Midland counties. In 1760, when the Baptists first gathered into churches, Booth became superintendent of the Kirkby Woodhouse congregation, but not their pastor. He changed views, from General Baptist to Particular Baptist, and seceded. Soon after, he began to preach on Sundays at Sutton-in-Ashfield, Chesterfield, and elsewhere in the Midland towns and villages, still keeping his school.

The Particular Baptist church of Little Prescot Street, Goodman’s Fields, in east London, invited Booth to be their pastor. He accepted the call, and was ordained on 16 February 1769. He entered a controversy with Andrew Fuller, over the 1785 book The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. In the 1790s Booth preached in the abolitionist cause, and joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. The Baptist Education Society was founded around 1804 by Booth and others. It led, in 1810 after his death, to the setting up of Stepney Academy in East London.

Booth died on 27 January 1806, aged 71, having been a minister 50 years. A marble tablet was erected to his memory in the Prescot Street chapel, where he had been pastor 35 years. William Jones‘s Essay on Abraham Booth was published at Liverpool, 1808.