1 Thessalonians 5:23
Great Texts of the Bible
A Prayer for Sanctity

And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.—1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Very beautiful is St. Paul’s affection for the Thessalonians. It may have been the more tender because they had treated him with kindness, a kindness the more appreciated as a contrast to his experience at Philippi, whence he had just escaped on the occasion of his visit to their city. Be that as it may, he himself likens the love he felt for them to that of a father towards his children, or of a mother nursing her own little ones. And the purer his love, the higher were the blessings he longed for on their behalf. Hence he prays here not that his friends may escape persecution, or have worldly prosperity, but that in Christian character they may be wholly God’s. To desire such a benediction for others is one of the best signs of newness of life, for this is what Jesus Himself was seeking when He came here to save His people from their sins, and to present them faultless before His Father’s face in glory.

Human love is so mixed with alloy that we are not naturally anxious that our friends should be faultless, but are rather gratified when we see that they are no more perfect than ourselves, and are not always displeased when their failings are pointed out. It seems to raise us higher if they are just a little lowered, for a tree which is by no means tall begins to look tall when all those around it are cut down to a lower level. And in addition to this common yet sinful tendency to disparagement, prejudices and animosities play a very important part in our judgment of others, and in our desires for them. This prevalence of prejudice, and this wish to be thought better than our neighbours, often prevent us from earnestly desiring their true ennoblement, and from praying for their redemption from all evil, that they may be blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. From all this jealousy St. Paul is singularly and nobly free. His prayer for his friends is that they may be found blameless, that they may be sanctified wholly.

Jealousy is a terrible thing. It resembles love, it is precisely love’s contrary. Instead of wishing for the welfare of the object loved, it desires the dependence of that object upon itself, and its own triumph. Love is the forgetfulness of self; jealousy is the most passionate form of egotism, the glorification of a despotic, exacting, and vain ego, which can neither forget nor subordinate itself. The contrast is perfect.1 [Note: Amiel’s Journal (trans. by Mrs. Humphry Ward), 284.]

He rarely spoke contemptuously of any one’s views or methods. When Evan Roberts, the Welsh revivalist, was holding his meetings at Liverpool, a fellow-clergyman spoke disparagingly of his efforts to Watson, who replied: “Well, I don’t know anything about that, but remember we don’t draw these audiences, so let us keep quiet.” He was present himself with Roberts on the platform a few weeks after. When Dr. Torrey and Mr. Alexander were conducting their mission in Liverpool, a wave of criticism swept over them. One afternoon Watson attended a service, and the next day a Liverpool paper had a warm yet discriminating eulogy on the missioners, signed “A City Pastor.” The style proclaimed the author, and later on Watson owned to having written that kind letter of encouragement.2 [Note: W. R. Nicoll, Ian Maclaren: Life of the Rev. J. Watson, 383.]


The Meaning of Sanctification

1. What does the Apostle mean by this prayer for sanctity? Sanctification may be looked at from different standpoints.

(1) There is a true sense in which Christ is made to us, judicially, sanctification. That is to say, Christ’s perfect holiness covers the failures and the defects of believers after their conversion, as well as the sins of the soul when it first draws near to Him. It is not an imputed sanctification that the Apostle is dealing with here. If it were an imputed sanctification, it could not be the subject of prayer; because they would have it already. Nor does he mean by sanctification here—and it is important to see it—glorification, as some would almost seem to think he does. We must not put the standard too high; we must not put it where it is altogether out of reach. He is not praying for the dead. His prayer is for us to-day. “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it,” he says.

(2) Nor is this sanctification sinless perfection. Sinless perfection is the scarecrow that the devil employs to frighten God’s children off the finest of the wheat. The fact is that sanctification is God’s truth, and sinless perfection is the devil’s counterfeit. But wherever there is a counterfeit there is always a truth; and very often the grossness of the counterfeit is the measure of the importance of the truth. Satan is only a copyist. There is no condition here upon earth in which we do not need atoning blood; there is no condition here in which we do not need the forgiveness of our trespasses; there is no condition here in which we do not need the perpetual intercession of our Great High Priest. Within these limits comes the prayer for entire sanctification.

(3) Sanctification is not merely the repression of evil; that is virtue. The pagan, the Roman philosopher, can teach that, more or less. But sanctity, as an old divine once said, is “the life of God in man.” The moralist knows nothing of it; he has neither the thing itself nor the word.

(4) Sanctification is not the same as good works. Sanctification is God’s work in us, whereby He imparts to our members a holy disposition, inwardly filling us with delight in His law and with repugnance to sin. But good works are acts of man which spring from this holy disposition. Hence Sanctification is the source of good works; it is the lamp that shines with their light, the capital of which they are the interest. “Sanctification” imparts something to man; “good works” take something out of him. “Sanctification” forces the root into the ground; to do “good works” forces the fruit out of the fruitful tree.

The Pietist says: “Sanctification is man’s work; it cannot be insisted upon with sufficient emphasis. It is our best effort to be godly.” And the Mystic maintains: “We cannot do good works, and may not insist upon them; for man is unable; God alone works them in him independently of him.” Of course, both are equally wrong and unscriptural. The former, in reducing sanctification to good works takes it out of God’s hand and lays it upon man, who never can perform it; and the latter, in making good works take the place of sanctification, releases man from the task laid on him and claims that God will perform it. Both errors must be opposed.1 [Note: A. Kuyper, in Homiletic Review, lv. 136.]

John Brash was amid the arduous work of his first circuit when, as he says, “I began to seek the blessing of perfect love. One Sunday, having to preach in the country in the afternoon and evening, I spent the forenoon in prayer. While pleading with God for the blessing, my agony became so great that I resolved not to rise from my knees until I had obtained it. It was easy for me to yield up to God everything that I felt He required from me but one—and that was my reputation. In order to live a life of consecration to Him, it would be necessary for me to adopt a simple and unadorned style of preaching, to discard all subjects that would be pleasing and interesting merely, and to aim solely and always at usefulness. The consequence of adopting such a style would be, as it then seemed to me, obscurity and hard work in discouraging spheres, and amongst small congregations. The struggle was severe, but all attempts at compromise, and all sophistical reasoning about seeking popularity as a stepping-stone to usefulness failed to satisfy my conscience, and I at last made a full surrender of all my powers to God, that they might be employed for His glory alone. In the instant that I made the offering I felt that it was accepted, and that God had taken full possession of my heart. The experience was so distinct from anything I had previously felt that it was impossible to doubt the nature of the blessing I had received. Throughout the day there was an abiding consciousness of a presence which I knew to be that of Christ Himself. My feeling was one of reverent, subdued joy, arising from the knowledge that I was united to Him, and filled with His Spirit. Since that memorable Sunday the discussions I have read and heard on the subject of instantaneous and conscious sanctification from sin have had little interest for me. I know that the blessing may be received instantaneously; though in some cases the transition from partial to entire sanctification may be imperceptible to the subject of it.”2 [Note: John Brash: Memorials and Correspondence, 26.]

2. To “sanctify” is to set something apart for a holy purpose, so that it may be regarded as holy, and as being profaned if used for a lower purpose. If we were to distinguish between “sanctification” and “consecration” we should say the latter represents the human and the former the Divine side of the same act or experience. We “consecrate” ourselves when we yield ourselves up to God, for Him to do with us what He wills, laying ourselves as it were upon the altar as a living sacrifice. God “sanctifies” us when He accepts this offering, and conforms us to His Son. Hence we are not told that we must wholly “sanctify” ourselves, but the God of peace is asked to effect this for us. Similarly, Jesus prays in His final intercession on earth for His disciples: “sanctify them through thy truth.” But in the same prayer, alluding to Himself, He says, “for their sakes I sanctify myself,” a solemn declaration in which He claims the Divine as well as the human power. What He meant was that He had set Himself apart for the holy purpose of redeeming man, even by the sacrifice of Himself; and this was a sacrifice not confined to Calvary though it was consummated there.

In the sanctification of Jesus Christ to the Father’s redemptive service of mankind, a process by which He passed from unspotted personal perfection into the new perfection of a vicarious Mediatorship, two methods of operation merge into each other. Our Lord speaks of Himself as “him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world.” The life received from the everlasting springs brought with it inspirations of love which determined His office and moved Him to an act of supreme self-dedication for the race. Side by side with the effusion of sanctifying life from the Father there came the voluntary consecration of the Son to His sacred and benign tasks. “And for their sakes I sanctify myself.” And in the sanctification of the redeemed Church two similar acts must be co-ordinated—sanctification by the act and operation of God Himself, and also a sanctification in the free, practical, self-determined acts of the daily life, responding to the will and work of God.1 [Note: T. G. Selby, The Strenuous Gospel, 481.]

3. Sanctification, then, is the imitation of Christ. It is being in the world as He was in the world. And that man is most holy, or most sanctified, who has least ignorance and error in his mind, least selfishness and earthliness in his heart, least perversity and stubbornness in his will, all of which Christ was without; the opposite and Godlike virtues adorning His character in perfect measure. Hence it is easy to understand how it should be said that men were sanctified by faith, sanctified through the truth.

This cannot be understood so long as we conceive of the human soul as a material substance that becomes brighter, more fruitful, or more fragrant, according to some supposed mysterious action of the Holy Spirit upon it. But if we look at the soul as brought to understand and believe the truth about Christ, His person, His cross, and His work, then we see how it straightway becomes like Christ; for it is only by the truth acting upon it that a rational soul can become enlightened, affectionate, devout, as Christ was. A soul that understands and believes the truth must become like Him, “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” The Spirit does not sanctifiy us by putting some mysterious principle into our hearts called grace. The truth is the grace that He puts into our hearts, and out of this comes every other which deserves the name, even all the features of Christ’s image—“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” We have the whole process described in the words of the Apostle Paul, perhaps the most beautiful description of sanctification in the whole Bible. We are beholding as in a glass, the glass of the Bible, “with open face” (with clear view), the glory of the Lord, i.e. of the Lord Jesus, and are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The whole truth on the subject, then, is this: to be sanctified is to be Christ-like. We are thus sanctified by knowing the truth as it is in Jesus, and feeling its power more and more. And the great force that works out the change is the same Spirit that began it in the day of regeneration, revealing Christ to us in His Word, and forming Him in our hearts, the hope of glory.

Of all the Italian artists the Pre-Raphaelite Fra Angelico, the angelic brother, and saintly painter, is his great favourite. No one is so frequently mentioned, or spoken of in terms of such affectionate admiration. “These are the pictures,” he exclaims enthusiastically regarding the works of the great Dominican, “in which every face has soul within, and every hand a heart; all is life; joy is joy, and grief is grief; and piety through all mellows the whole to charity, as heavenward tread the holy saints of old. Describe each I cannot; only their remembrance is with me, and hooded Fra Angelico, pencil in hand, sketching and limning the faces, embodiment of Christ on earth.” Again: “The Madonna della Stella by Fra Angelico for sweetness and love surpasses all of his age, while the Christ nestles into her neck and loves, and for a while, before the thorny way is opened to Him, tastes all love of earth.” This is the painter of whom it is written that he was wont to say that the practice of art required repose and holy thoughts, and that he who would depict the acts of Christ must learn to live with Christ. This was the man who above all others took captive William Denny’s admiration. It was like drawing like.1 [Note: A. B. Bruce, The Lift of William Denny, 19.]


Entire Sanctification

1. There is a sense in which sanctification is entire in regeneration. To the measure of every man’s light the surrender to God must be without reserve, and the cleansing of the heart from an evil conscience is as entire as justification is complete. “By one offering, he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Though sanctification is in this sense complete in regeneration, in the purpose of God and the experience of the believer, much is left to be accomplished in the nature of the sanctified. The carnalities need to be purged out. Entire sanctification completes the work of regeneration, pervading every part of the renewed nature. The spirit is sanctified wholly; the reason is filled with the all-pervasive presence of God realized in the consciousness. Every faculty of the mind is not only cleansed from defilement, but in every part there is reflected the mind of God. The soul is sanctified wholly; its desires are holy, its passions clean, its thoughts pure, its impulses God-ward, and its delight is in the will of the Lord. The tugging of the old nature with its evil lusts is over. The body is sanctified wholly; its members become instruments of righteousness; it is a temple of God, cleansed, sanctified, and filled with the glory of His presence. The sanctification of the parts is not a separate process. The work is one, and is accomplished in the sanctification of the man. The parts are mentioned to set forth the completeness and entireness of the work of God in redeemed and sanctified man. It is entire, complete, without restriction, and without defect. Every part is cleansed, perfected, and pervaded with the energy of the Divine Presence. The fleshly is eradicated and the spiritual prevails.

What you say about the sin attaching to a reserve in the consecration reminds me of the truth on which Benjamin Hellier used to insist, that in the New Testament the only Christian life allowable is that of entire sanctification. For those who are stopping short of this there are exhortations, warnings, expostulations, invitations, prayers; but the life there presented to every believer is one of a surrendered will, an obedient heart, a victorious Spirit-filled life in union with Christ, bringing salvation from sin, and leading to steady growth, through increasing knowledge and manifold temptations. This is the true answer to those who ask where the New Testament speaks of a second blessing. Salvation is one blessing, which many Christians, through their own fault or that of their teachers, are not receiving in its completeness.1 [Note: John Brash: Memorials and Correspondence, 36.]

2. What the Apostle meant by this threefold division of human nature cannot be determined with absolute confidence. It is possible that he availed himself of a current division of human nature into three parts—spirit, soul, and body; and that, without at all pronouncing on the truth of this view, he made use of it to express emphatically the whole of man’s being; just as we are commanded to love God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind, although it is not laid down as a fixed truth that man’s nature is made up of these four parts.

It is probable, however, that the Apostle meant more than this, and taught us to seek from God not only in general the recovery of our whole being from sin, but also of the particular parts and in the particular order in which they are here mentioned. He does not at all decide whether the spirit, soul, and body are rightly arranged by the philosophers in separate order. But he does teach that there are such parts of human nature, and he gives directions how they should be treated. There is the spirit, by which he means our highest facilities that come nearest to God, the faculties that connect man with the spiritual and the invisible. These might be perverted to pride and unbelief, and lead man into the condemnation of the devil. There is the soul, the seat of the affections and desires that more especially connect man with this lower world. These might be perverted to covetousness, to lust, to sinful anger, and the other soul passions that corrupt and embitter society. And there is the body, the instrument of man’s higher nature, with its own appetites and cravings, which might be perverted to excess and vicious indulgence, and become the tyrant over the highest powers it ought to serve.

From all these evils and dangers, the Apostle fervently prays that the Thessalonians may be preserved; and there is something in the order in which he arranges his petitions which is instructive. For if the spirit, which is placed first, be preserved, it will tend to preserve the soul; if the soul be preserved, it will tend to preserve the body. The favourable influence might begin above with man’s conscience and reason, then descend to his social affections and desires, then govern and regulate his bodily appetites. What the Apostle prays for is, that every man’s spirit should be as much in communion with God as the spirit of Jesus Christ; his soul as full of social affection and unselfish desire; his body as much the pure and willing instrument of his superior nature in God’s service. Then he would be sanctified wholly. All the parts of his being, like the several strings of a harp, would vibrate in perfect unison with each other, and with the master-strain of Christ’s example.

The soul opens upward to the Infinite and Eternal through the Spirit, with its capacity for God, and downward to the Finite and Temporal through the Body, with its capacity for material objects. The spirit stands for our heavenly aptitudes, the body for our earthly ones. By the one we are able to seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God; through the other we are apt to become entangled with the things that pertain to earth (Colossians 3:1-5).1 [Note: F. B. Meyer, The Soul’s Pure Intention, 5.]

(1) The spirit stands first in this enumeration because the work within its unseen recesses determines the surrender of the rest of a man’s powers to God’s uses. This is the point at which we touch the Eternal. Just as fire came first to the altar and from that central point spread in mystic and broadening illumination to the outer courts, with their lamps, vessels, and sacred treasures, so, in the later dispensation, the process by which God claims men for His will and hallows their powers, begins with the spirit. Here is the golden altar, and God descends into soul and body by first stirring into movement those higher affinities which link our natures immediately with His own. The strict and unhalting preparation of the outward life is imperative, but the mystery through which we become God’s dawns at the inmost centre of our being. We can never level ourselves up to this state by bodily acts and exercises, however intense the emotion which pervades them. Here lie the sources of character, and in sweetening these God makes the life a fragrant sacrifice. The spirit was designed for sovereignty over soul and body, and when God’s fiat restores its withered powers and puts within its grasp the sceptre of royalty, all other parts of man’s nature fall into due subordination and attain that faultless co-adaptation of movement in which perfection consists.

(2) The sanctification of the soul, which is the earthen vessel containing the lower passions and appetites, follows that of the spirit. When God possesses us for His own uses all natural instincts fulfil a Divine purpose, and fulfil it in harmony with providential plans. The forces of the nervous life may lend virility to a man’s service.

(3) It is not in its own strength and beauty that the glory of the body consists, but in its connexion with the other parts of man. It is the servant of man’s higher nature. It is the medium of communication between it and the outer world, conveying to the mind, through the senses, impressions of the outer world; and on the other hand, conveying the purpose of the higher powers of man, by means of its activity, into action in the outer world. It is in this service that the glory of the body consists. But the servant may become the master; this lowest part of human nature may become the ruling part. In that case the soul, with its strong and noble powers, becomes a shorn Samson in the lap of Delilah, and the spirit—that pure dove with wings of silver and feathers of yellow gold—has to lie among the pots, and bathe its breast in the mud of sensuality. Even the body itself, deposed from its true position and its true function, becomes degraded, and approaches towards brutality.

How well I remember when I was a young man, before I was ordained, being in a foreign town, just after leaving Oxford, and a boy came to me with a question which tested the truth of my manhood to the bottom. He was, I remember, five years younger than I was; I was twenty-three. He in that town had been spoken to in this manner by other young Englishmen who were spending their winter in that town. They asked him to come with them to the low parts of the town. They said: “All young men of your age always act like this; they are not men if they don’t.” He came to me; he was a very excitable, impulsive, lovable boy; and he said: “I have asked for an hour before I would give them my final answer. If I can find one man of your age who will on his word as a gentleman say he has not done that, I will not go; but, if not, I will go.” So he came to me. I was on my honour to give him a true answer, and, although it is thirty years ago, I thank God to-day that I could look him in the face and say: “I have never gone; I have never sinned in that way. I have many infirmities, many short-comings, but I have never misused my body in that way.” “Then,” he said, “I won’t go with them.”1 [Note: Bishop A. F. W. Ingram, Secrets of Strength, 211.]

If you would see what it is to be “sanctified,” look to Jesus. His body was sanctified; for all its powers were used in absolute accordance with the will of God. His feet, to hasten to the bed of pain, or the haunt of the sin-stricken. His hand, to raise the dead and to save the sinking. His eyes, to look with ineffable pity on the city which spurned Him, or with silent rebuke on the disciple who denied Him. His voice, to teach with such ineffable wisdom and power as to constrain even His enemies to say, “Never man spake like this Man!” Even in what we may call the ordinary scenes of His life there was the same sanctity. He took part in festivities; and though some dared to say, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber,” they knew the charge was false; for by His holy presence He made every meal a sacrament, and every social gathering sacred. To be sanctified is to be like Him; so that on the tables of the home, and on the ledgers in the office, on our warehouses and marts, it shall be as though in letters of light these words were blazoned, “Holiness unto the Lord.”2 [Note: A. Rowland, The Burdens of Life, 147.]

How should I describe the relations to each other of these factors of our human fabric? Should I call the body the sheath of the soul and the soul the sheath of the spirit. So saith the Latin father Tertullian. Or should I say that the body is the organ of the soul and the soul the organ of the spirit? Or the first the utterance of the second and the second the expression of the third? What is the body for? Not for intemperance, not for drunkenness, not for incontinence, not for the greed of avarice: but the body, saith St. Paul, is for the Lord. He is the proprietor of it. He is the builder of the body and redeemer of it; doubly owner of it and twice proprietor, first by creation and then by redemption. His body, pierced on the cross, redeemed ours; and we were then bought with a price. If then we would live to the Lord who died to make us His own again, let us keep our bodies in temperance, soberness, and chastity; if we do not He will cast us into outer darkness. But what did I say? Let us keep the body in order? Why, the body is the organ of the soul; the soul rules it with a will, uses it with a will, bids it walk with feet, touch with hand, taste with tongue, speak with mouth, see with eyes. The soul stares and peers through the eyes of a bad man with looks of lust, of pride, of hate: for the eyes of the body are the windows of the soul surveying through them this material world of sun and moon, of mountains and cities: while the hands and feet are the willing servants of the soul, executing its will, doing its bidding and going on its errands. Eyes, hands, feet, tongue, all instruments of unrighteousness to the soul of a bad man, of righteousness to the soul of the good. So then if the soul rules the body, let us keep the body in order. How? Clearly by keeping the soul in order, filling it with good desires, with pure motives, with wise counsels, with noble aims and aspirations: but what was I saying? Let us keep the soul in order, that through it we may keep the body in order? Yes, but quis custodiet ipsam custodem? What is to keep the soul in order? Why the soul itself is controlled by that of which it is the organ and the expression, even by the spirit. So then let each of us fill our highest nature, even the spirit, with good desires, with pure motives, with noble aspirations, with lofty thoughts of God’s Paradise and the glories of the coming Kingdom. What is this? That the body may be kept in order by its superior the soul, and the soul kept in order by its superior the spirit, let us each fill his own spirit with good desires? Let us? Can we? Is a man’s ego or self outside a man that he should pour into his own spirit good desires, as he would pour water into a cistern? A man’s ego is inside the man, whether it be seated in the soul or in the spirit or in both. For behind the body is its ruler and director the soul, behind the soul is its ruler the spirit: but behind the spirit of man is what? Is there no superior? No controller behind that? Why, yes, some unseen power there is that plays the part of King David to the harp and makes the music of the instrument; that suggests, that inspires, that persuades, drawing to virtue or tempting to vice. An evil power drawing to evil, a good power to good. Certainly behind the human spirit of a good man is that which is akin to it, even the Divine Spirit of the unseen Christ breathing into it good desires, pure motives, lofty inspirations, instilling a steady belief in a better world and a quiet assurance of a blessed immortality hereafter; shedding meekness, gentleness, purity, charity, a high nature filling with joy and peace a lower kindred nature, like sunshine filling daylight.1 [Note: T. S. Evans, Body, Soul, and Spirit, 4.]


The Means and the Motive

1. Though, as we have seen, our own will must co-operate with God’s will in our sanctification, yet sanctification is not the result of our own effort. Our text, especially in the original, where emphasis is strong on “God himself,” suggests that it is in Him, not in ourselves, that we have hope. This is clearer in the Revised Version. In the verses immediately preceding the text St. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians as to what they were to do. Then suddenly he turns from the work of the human will to the work of the Divine Spirit, and says, “The God of peace himself sanctify you wholly.” And in the next verse he encourages them to believe that this will be so by the declaration, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.”

2. But not only does St. Paul say it is God that sanctifies us, he says also that it is “the God of peace.” The use of this epithet is perhaps intended to teach us two truths.

(1) It teaches us this great lesson, that sanctification, like every other blessing of redemption, comes to us from God through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Previously to the atonement God could neither pardon nor sanctify. God is light as well as love. He would, to speak with reverence, have become unholy Himself had He consented to make the sinner holy before atonement was made. Now the great work is finished. God, as the God of peace, has “brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” and is ready to make us perfect in every good work to do His will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight.

Suppose a rich and fertile country from which alone we derived the supply of our tables, the clothing of our persons, the ornaments of our houses, were alienated from us by war, and by war of our own provoking. It would need some atonement, some reconciliation, to reopen our lost sources of improvement or even of subsistence. And suppose another powerful nation were to mediate on our behalf and restore pacific relations; then it would be possible for the old supplies to flow in, not because there was any pleasure in withholding them, but because, till then, the honour of the nation we had provoked was not satisfied. Such is a faint image of the change which has come over our relations to God by the interposition of Jesus Christ. Now, as the very God of peace, He can bestow what before His heart yearned to confer, but for which an honourable way was not found. Now the richest treasures of heaven may be brought down to us by the Holy Spirit. Heaven and earth are leagued in friendship, and there is no Christian who desires these ornaments of the soul, better far than the choicest productions found beneath the skies, that will not find the God of peace prepared to impart them, and to do unto him exceeding abundantly above all that he can ask or think.1 [Note: Principal Cairns, Sanctification, 20.]

(2) But, again, the calmness He gives when we cease our own efforts, and trust Him, is our truest might to maintain this complete consecration. While the calm and holy light of that peace shines in the soul, the storm may roar without and be unheeded; and the phantoms of temptation beckon and allure us in vain. It was the power of that peace that gave St. Paul strength to control the temptations which assailed his vehement, sarcastic, fiery soul, and to bear the burdens of the weak, and submit silently to the slanders and scorns of the Church and the world.

Power that is not of God, however great,

Is but the downward rushing and the glare

Of a swift meteor that hath lost its share

In the one impulse which doth animate

The parent mass: emblem to me of fate!

Which through vast nightly wastes doth onward fare,

Wild-eyed and headlong, rent away from prayer—

A moment brilliant, then most desolate!

And, O my brothers, shall we ever learn

From all the things we see continually

That pride is but the empty mockery

Of what is strong in man! Not so the stern

And sweet repose of soul which we can earn

Only through reverence and humility!1 [Note: George MacDonald, Poetical Works, 2:322.]

3. The words of the Apostle are chosen with the utmost care. He prays that they may be kept, not without fault, but without blame. Many blameless things are faulty, and many faulty things are blameless. A work done from purest love and to the utmost capacity may be full of faults but entirely free from blame. A picture is often hung in the home that has a value apart altogether from the judgment of the Academy. Faultless? Not by a long way. But a pure soul put its best into it, and soul is more than precision. Faultless? Nay, for though the sanctification be entire, it is not final. The glorification is not yet. Until it comes the spirit will be beset with limitations and infirmities, the soul will be hampered in its aspirations, and the body will continue to be an imperfect instrument preventing with its weakness the will of the spirit. Not faultless but blameless. Without reproach, without condemnation, and in all things acceptable before God!

To a person who was troubled at her imperfections, St. Francis de Sales wrote thus: “We should, indeed, like to be without imperfections, but, my dearest daughter, we must submit patiently to the trial of having a human, rather than an angelic, nature. Our imperfections ought not, indeed, to please us; on the contrary, we should say with the holy Apostle: Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death! But, at the same time, they ought not to astonish us, nor to discourage us: we should draw from them submission, humility, and mistrust of ourselves; never discouragement and loss of heart, far less distrust of God’s love for us; for though He loves not our imperfections and venial sins, He loves us, in spite of them. The weakness and backwardness of a child displeases its mother, but she does not for that reason love it less. On the contrary, she loves it more fondly, because she compassionates it. So, too, is it with God, who cannot, as I have said, love our imperfections and venial sins, but never ceases to love us, so that David with reason cries out to Him: ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord; for I am weak.’ ”1 [Note: J. P. Camus, The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, 372.]

4. And what is the motive that ever urges us to this sanctification? To St. Paul it is “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That great event is the most powerful of all motives to cultivate Christian holiness. For to what end does Christ come? He comes to see in what degree His image has been perfected in His professing people. He comes to see who have called Him Lord, Lord, but have not done the things that He commanded them, and to expose them to shame and everlasting contempt. He comes also to display the graces and holy beauties of His genuine followers, and to be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe.

The labours of those that have struggled to be like Him, who have watched and prayed that they might not walk unworthy of His Kingdom and glory, who have wept and made supplication, when no eye saw them, over their remaining spots and blemishes—their labours will not be in vain in the Lord. Every prayer for themselves, and every prayer for others that they too may be prepared and complete in all the will of God, shall find its reward openly; and the sighs that have gone up to heaven for entire sanctification will then receive a glorious answer, when they shall be fully conformed to the image of Him who is the firstborn among many brethren and presented holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His Father’s sight! “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”

The great thing, I suspect, is to assure ourselves, not that these things may be, but that they shall be: that Christ’s appearing is as certain as the sun’s rising, or as our deaths; that we do not make it certain by our faith, but that its certainty is the warrant of our faith, and that which is to cure us of its sluggishness. And if this is so, we may encourage all persons always to expect Christ’s manifestation; the more they do expect it, the better they will be, the more they will rise out of their sloth, their scorn, their confusions, their selfishness; the more they will work on manfully in their own appointed tasks, whatever they be, the more they will work with each other; the more they will fight against the temptations which will recur in a thousand different shapes, and will come again and again, as angels of light, to separate themselves from others under any pretence whatever, in faith, in hope, in worship; the more they will prize common thanksgivings, common prayers, and will rejoice to meet in using them, that they may pray against the devil, who is leading them, and all the people about them, to set up themselves, that they may not trust Christ, and glorify God.1 [Note: Life of Frederick Denison Maurice, ii. 245.]

The Porter watches at the gate,

The servants watch within;

The watch is long betimes and late,

The prize is slow to win.

“Watchman, what of the night?”

But still

His answer sounds the same:

“No daybreak tops the utmost hill,

Nor pale our lamps of flame.”

One to another hear them speak

The patient virgins wise:

“Surely He is not far to seek”—

“All night we watch and rise.”

“The days are evil looking back,

The coming days are dim;

Yet count we not His promise slack,

But watch and wait for Him.”

One with another, soul with soul,

They kindle fire from fire:

“Friends watch us who have touched the goal”

“They urge us, come up higher.”

“With them shall rest our waysore feet,

With them is built our home,

With Christ.”—“They sweet, but He most sweet,

Sweeter than honeycomb.”2 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti, Poems, 202.]

A Prayer for Sanctity


Abbott (L.), Signs of Promise, 274.

Cairns (J.), Sanctification, 1.

Chadwick (S.), Humanity and God, 57.

Evans (T. S.), Body, Soul, and Spirit, 1.

Fairbairn (R. B.), College Sermons, 282.

Farrar (F. W.), The Witness of History to Christ, 129.

Farrar (F. W.), Words of Truth and Wisdom, 54.

Farrar (F. W.), In the Days of Thy Youth, 349.

Goodwin (H. M.), Christ and Humanity, 125.

Harris (H.), The Two Blasphemies, 74.

Hopkins (E. H.), The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life, 201.

Hull (E. L.), Sermons, i. 225.

Ingram (A. F. W.), Secrets of Strength, 207.

Leifchild (J.), in Pulpit Memorials, 105.

Meyer (F. B.), The Soul’s Pure Intention, 1.

Pulsford (J.), Our Deathless Hope, 41.

Robertson (F. W.), Sermons, iii. 43.

Rowland (A.), The Burdens of Life, 139.

Selby (T. G.), The Strenuous Gospel, 400.

Trumbull (H. C.), Our Misunderstood Bible, 108.

Welldon (J. E. C.), The School of Faith, 121.

Wood (W. S.), Problems in the New Testament, 113.

Cambridge Review, iii. Supplement No. 66 (T. G. Bonney).

Christian World Pulpit, xx. 8 (A. Barry); xlviii. 292 (J. Stalker).

Churchman’s Pulpit: Whitsunday, ix. 231 (A. P. Forbes), 237 (T Arnold).

Homiletic Review, lv. 136 (A. Kuyper).

Keswick Week, 1901, p. 190 (E. W. Moore).

Penuel, iii. 64 (G. Warner).

The Great Texts of the Bible - James Hastings

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

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