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§ 1. Its Nature.
Sanctification in the Westminster Catechism is said to be “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.”
Agreeably to this definition, justification differs from sanctification, (1.) In that the former is a transient act, the latter a progressive work. (2.) Justification is a forensic act, God acting as judge, declaring justice satisfied so far as the believing sinner is concerned, whereas sanctification is an effect due to the divine efficiency. (3.) Justification changes, or declares to be changed, the relation of the sinner to the justice of God; sanctification involves a change of character. (4.) The former, therefore, is objective, the latter subjective. (5.) The former is founded on what Christ has done for us; the latter is the effect of what He does in us. (6.) Justification is complete and the same in all, while sanctification is progressive, and is more complete in some than in others.
Sanctification is declared to be a work of God’s free grace. Two things are included in this. First, that the power or influence by which it is carried on is supernatural. Secondly, that granting this influence to any sinner, to one sinner rather than another, and to one more than to another, is a matter of favour. No one has personally, or in himself, on the ground of anything he has done, the right to claim this divine influence as a just recompense, or as a matter of justice.
It is a Supernatural Work.
In representing, in accordance with Scripture, sanctification as a supernatural work, or as a work of grace, the Church intends to deny the Pelagian or Rationalistic doctrine which confounds it with mere moral reformation. It not unfrequently happens that men who have been immoral in their lives, change their whole 214course of living. They become outwardly correct in their deportment, temperate, pure, honest, and benevolent. This is a great and praiseworthy change. It is in a high degree beneficial to the subject of it, and to all with whom he is connected. It may be produced by different causes, by the force of conscience and by a regard for the authority of God and a dread of his disapprobation, or by a regard to the good opinion of men, or by the mere force of an enlightened regard to one’s own interest. But whatever may be the proximate cause of such reformation, it falls very far short of sanctification. The two things differ in nature as much as a clean heart from clean clothes. Such external reformation may leave a man’s inward character in the sight of God unchanged. He may remain destitute of love to God, of faith in Christ, and of all holy exercises or affections.
Nor is sanctification to be confounded with the effects of moral culture or discipline. It is very possible, as experience proves, by careful moral training, by keeping the young from all contaminating influences, and by bringing them under the forming influences of right principles and good associates, to preserve them from much of the evil of the world, and to render them like the young man in the Gospel whom Jesus loved. Such training is not to be undervalued. It is enjoined in the Word of God. It cannot, however, change the nature. It cannot impart life. A faultless statue fashioned out of pure marble in all its beauty, is far below a living man.
The word supernatural, as before said, is used in two senses. First, for that which is above nature, and by nature is meant everything out of God. An effect, therefore, is said to be supernatural, in the production of which nature exercises no efficiency. But secondly, the word is often used to mark the distinction between the providential efficiency of God operating according to fixed laws, and the voluntary agency of the Holy Spirit. The Bible makes a wide distinction between the providence of God and the operations of his grace. The difference between the two is, in some respects, analogous to that between the efficiency of a law, or of a uniformly acting force, and the agency of a person. The one is ordered, the other is exercised from time to time, the Spirit distributing his gifts to every one severally as He wills. In the providential agency of God, the effects produced never transcend the power of second causes as upheld and guided by Him; whereas the effects produced by the Spirit do transcend the power of second causes. The effect is due neither to the 215power of the truth, nor to that of the rational subject in whom the effect is produced. It is due to the power of God over and above the power of the second causes concerned. The effects of grace, or fruits of the Spirit, are above the sphere of the natural they belong to the supernatural. The mere power of truth, argument, motive, persuasion, or eloquence cannot produce repentance, faith, or holiness of heart and life. Nor can these effects be produced by the power of the will, or by all the resources of man, however protracted or skilful in their application. They are the gifts of God, the fruits of the Spirit. Paul may plant and Apollos water, but it is God who gives the increase.
In this latter sense of the word supernatural, the cooperation of second causes is not excluded. When Christ opened the eyes of the blind no second cause interposed between his volition and the effect. But men work out their own salvation, while it is God who worketh in them to will and to do, according to his own good pleasure. In the work of regeneration, the soul is passive. It cannot cooperate in the communication of spiritual life. But in conversion, repentance, faith, and growth in grace, all its powers are called into exercise. As, however, the effects produced transcend the efficiency of our fallen nature, and are due to the agency of the Spirit, sanctification does not cease to be supernatural, or a work of grace, because the soul is active and cooperating in the process.
Proof of its Supernatural Character.
That sanctification is a supernatural work in the sense above stated is proved, —
1. From the fact that it is constantly referred to God as its author. It is referred to God absolutely, or to the Father, as in 1 Thessalonians v. 23, “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” Hebrews xiii. 20, 21, “The God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus . . . . make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight.” It is also referred to the Son, as in Titus ii. 14, He “gave himself for us, that he might . . . . purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” Ephesians v. 25, He “loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Predominantly sanctification 216is referred to the Holy Spirit, as his peculiar work in the economy of redemption. Hence He is called the Spirit of all grace; the Spirit of joy, of peace, of love, of faith, and of adoption. All Christian graces are set forth as fruits of the Spirit. We are said to be born of the Spirit, and by Him to he enlightened, taught, led, and cleansed. We are said to be in the Spirit, to live, to walk, and to rejoice in the Spirit. The Spirit dwells in the people of God, and is the abiding source of all the actings of that spiritual life which He implants in the soul. The Bible teaches that the Son and Spirit are in the Holy Trinity subordinate to the Father, as to their mode of subsistence and operation, although the same in substance, and equal in power and glory. Hence it is that the same work is often attributed to the Father, to the Son, and to the Spirit; and as the Father and Son operate through the Spirit, the effects due to the agency of God are referred specially to the Holy Ghost.
This reference of sanctification to God proves it to be a supernatural work, because the insufficiency of second causes to produce the effect is declared to be the ground of this reference. It is because men cannot cleanse or heal themselves, that they are declared to be cleansed and healed by God. It is because rites, ceremonies, sacraments, truth, and moral suasion, cannot bring the soul back to God, that it is said to be transformed, by the renewing of the mind, through the power of the Spirit, into the image of God. We are, therefore, declared to be God’s workmanship, created unto good works. And it is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us.
All Holy Exercises referred to the Spirit as their Author.
2. This reference of sanctification to God as its author, the more decisively proves the supernatural character of the work, because the reference is not merely general, as when the wind and rain, and the production of vegetable and animal life, are referred to his universal providential agency. The reference is special. The effect is one which the Scriptures recognize as not within the sphere of second causes, and therefore ascribe to God. They recognize the free agency of man; they acknowledge and treat him as a moral and rational being; they admit the adaptation of of truth to convince the understanding, and of the motives presented to determine the will and to control the affections, and nevertheless they teach that these secondary causes and influences be utterly ineffectual to the conversion and sanctification of the 217soul, without the demonstration of the Spirit. The sacred writers, therefore, constantly pray for this divine influence, “extrinsecus accidens,” to attend the means of grace and to render them effectual, as well for sanctification as for regeneration and conversion. Every such prayer, every thanksgiving for grace imparted, every recognition of the Christian virtues as fruits of the Spirit, and gifts of God, are so many recognitions of the great truth that the restoration of man to the image of God is not a work of nature, either originated or carried on by the efficiency of second causes, but is truly and properly supernatural, as due to the immediate power of the Spirit producing effects for which second causes are inadequate.
We are taught to pray for Repentance, Faith, and other Graces.
3. We accordingly find the Apostle and the sacred writers generally, referring not only regeneration, the communication of spiritual life to those spiritually dead, but the continuance of that life in its activity and growth, not merely to the power of God, but to his almighty power. Paul prays in Ephesians i. 19, that his readers might know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” The same almighty power which was exhibited in the resurrection of Christ, is exercised in the spiritual resurrection of the believer. And as the power which raised Christ from the dead was exercised in his ascension and glorification; so also the same power, according to the Apostle, which is exerted in the spiritual resurrection of the believer, is exercised in carrying on his sanctification, which is inward and real glorification. Accordingly, in the same Epistle (iii. 7), he ascribes all the grace whereby he was fitted for the apostleship, “to the effectual working of his power.” And further on (ver. 20), to encourage the people of God to pray for spiritual blessings, he reminds them of his omnipotence whereby He was “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” It is almighty power, therefore, and not the impotence of secondary influences, which works in the believer and carries on the work of his salvation.
They who are in Christ, therefore, are new creatures. They are created anew in Christ Jesus. This does not refer exclusively to their regeneration, but to the process by which the sinner is transformed into the image of Christ.218
Argument from the Believer’s Union with Christ.
4. All that the Scriptures teach concerning the union between the believer and Christ, and of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, proves the supernatural character of our sanctification. Men do not make themselves holy; their holiness, and their growth in grace, are not due to their own fidelity, or firmness of purpose, or watchfulness and diligence, although all these are required, but to the divine influence by which they are rendered thus faithful, watchful, and diligent, and which produces in them the fruits of righteousness. Without me, saith our Lord, ye can do nothing. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. The hand is not more dependent on the head for the continuance of its vitality, than is the believer on Christ for the continuance of spiritual life in the soul.
Argument from related Doctrines.
5. This, however, is one of those doctrines which pervade the whole Scriptures. It follows of necessity from what the Bible teaches of the natural state of man since the fall; it is assumed, asserted, and implied in all that is revealed of the plan of salvation. By their apostasy, men lost the image of God; they are born in a state of alienation and condemnation. They are by nature destitute of spiritual life. From this state it is as impossible that they should deliver themselves, as that those in the grave should restore life to their wasted bodies, and when restored, continue and invigorate it by their own power. Our whole salvation is of Christ. Those who are in the grave hear his voice. They are raised by his power. And when they live it is He who lives in them. This is the doctrine which our Lord Himself so clearly and so frequently teaches, and upon which his Apostles so strenuously insist. St. Paul in the sixth and seventh chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, where he treats of this subject “in extenso,” has for his main object to prove that as we are not justified or our own righteousness, so we are not sanctified by our own power, or by the mere objective power of the truth. The law, the revelation of the will of God, including everything which He has made known to man either as a rule of obedience or as exhibiting his own attributes and purposes, was equally inadequate to secure justification and sanctification. As it demanded perfect obedience and pronounced accursed those who continue not in all things 219written in the book of the law to do them, it can only condemn. It can never pronounce the sinner just. And as it was a mere outward presentation of the truth, it could no more change the heart than light could give sight to the blind. He winds up his discussions of the subject with the exclamation, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” His deliverance was to be effected by God through Jesus Christ. We learn from the eighth chapter that he was fully confident of this deliverance, and we learn also the ground on which that confidence rested. It was not that he had in regeneration received strength to sanctify himself, or that by the force of his own will, or by the diligent use of natural or appointed means, the end was to be accomplished without further aid from God. On the contrary, his confidence was founded, (1.) On the fact that he had been delivered from the law, from its curse, and from its inexorable demand of perfect obedience. (2.) On the fact that he had received the Spirit as the source of a new, divine, and imperishable life. (3.) This life was not a mere state of mind, but the life of God, or the Spirit of God dwelling in the heart; which indwelling secured not only the continuance of “spiritual mindedness,” but even the resurrection from the dead. “For if,” says he, “the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken (ζωοποιήσει make alive with the life of Christ) your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (4.) Being led by the Spirit of God as the controlling principle of their inward and outward life, believers are the sons of God. The Spirit of God which is in them being the Spirit of the Son, is in them the Spirit of sonship, i.e., it produces in them the feelings of sons toward God, and assures them of their title to all the privileges of his children. (5.) The sanctification and ultimate salvation of believers are secured by the immutable decree of God. For those “whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; . . . . moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” This last includes sanctification; the inward glory of the soul; the divine image as retraced by the Spirit of God, which to and in the believer is the Spirit of glory. (1 Pet. iv. 14.) The indwelling of the Spirit renders the believer glorious. (6.) The infinite and immutable love which induced God to give his own Son for our salvation, renders it certain that 220all other things shall be given necessary to keep them in the love and fellowship of God. Salvation, therefore, from beginning to end is of grace; not only as being gratuitous to the exclusion of all merit on the part of the saved, but also as being carried on by the continued operation of grace, or the supernatural power of the Spirit. Christ is our all. He is of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification and redemption.
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