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NATURE OF HOLINESS
God is a Being of infinite power. He is dependent upon none. All power is derived from Him.
He is also a Being of infinite holiness. This includes all moral perfections. Says Tillotson, “In him there can be no malice, or envy, or hatred, or revenge, or pride, or cruelty, or tyranny, or injustice, or falsehood, or unfaithfulness; and if there be any thing besides which implies sin, and vice, and moral imperfection, holiness signifies that the divine nature is at an infinite distance from it.”
“The holiness of God,” says Edwards, “is the same with the moral excellence of the divine nature, or his purity and beauty as a moral agent, comprehending all his moral perfections, his righteousness, faithfulness, and goodness.” His superiority to all false gods, or imaginary deities is found in His moral perfections.
“Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”—Ex. 15:11. “There is none Holy as the Lord.”—I Sam. 2:2. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.”—Ps. 145:17. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”—Isa. 6:3.
This is the nature of the God we worship.
Holiness in man is derived. It is not original, nor innate. It is the image of God’s holiness. It resembles His holiness, though it falls infinitely short of it. A tumbler of water taken from the ocean, possesses the same chemical properties as that which remains, though it has not the sublimity, or grandeur, or power of the ocean; so a holy man possesses in a limited degree, the hatred of sin, the sincerity, the veracity, the justice, the love, the goodness, and all the other virtues which constitute in all their fullness the holiness of God.
“Put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”—Eph. 4:24.
“What then,” says John Wesley, “is that holiness, which is the only qualification for glory? In Christ Jesus;” (that is according to the Christian Institution, whatever be the case of the heathen world,) “neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision.” It first, through the energy of God, worketh love to God and all mankind; and by this love, every holy and heavenly temper—in particular lowliness, meekness, gentleness, temperance, and long-suffering. It is neither circumcision—the attending on all the Christian ordinances, nor uncircumcision—the fulfilling of all heathen morality,—but the keeping the commandments of God; particularly this: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself;” in a word, holiness is having the mind that was in Christ, and walking as Christ walked.”
No matter how much refinement or self-government a man may acquire by discipline, self-control is not true holiness. Some of the old heathen philosophers lived according to the most rigid rules of morality.
Here is found one fault of much that is taught for holiness in these days. It strives to make men do better, without telling them how to be better. It lays great stress upon their doing holy things, without insisting upon their being holy. The practical part of Christianity is required of men, without their being taught that they must have its inward experience. The order that Christ established is reversed. The effort is perseveringly put forth to make an evil tree bring forth good fruit. The person whom Wesley describes as an “almost Christian” would, according to the modern theology, be readily accepted as in the enjoyment of holiness. Wesley himself, before he was, according to his own statement, converted to God, might sit as the model for the modern saint. He gave largely; he was strict in his devotional exercises, and denied himself very rigidly, that he might have to give to the poor. Said a popular Methodist preacher from the pulpit in our hearing: “I thank God the time has come when men’s piety is estimated, not by what they profess, but by what they give.” In the middle ages warriors, whose hands were red with blood, who had plundered cities by the score, and laid whole countries waste, endeavored to atone for their crimes, by building magnificent cathedrals; and these were accepted by the priesthood as acts and evidences of piety. We are going back to the theology of the tenth century. In the largest denomination of the land, their chief Theological Seminary for the instruction of the future preachers of the church, was built and endowed by one who is notorious as a stock gambler, and whose business transactions are condemned by even the lax, Wall Street morality. In the next largest denomination, the most popular female college was, in like manner, built and endowed by one of the heaviest brewers of the country. The influence of these illustrious examples, is felt in almost every country church. Property controls the pew, and property controls the pulpit. Mammon is the chief minister in Christ’s kingdom. The affairs of the church are conducted upon the same business principles as those which control other successful corporations. Experimental piety is branded as fanaticism, which in the poor is not to be endured, and in the rich is only tolerated as a necessary evil.
All this comes from the efforts to build a Christian character with self as the foundation. The seeming success is but a splendid failure. The glittering structure will not stand the first flash of the fires of eternity.
A holy nature comes from God.—Wesley expresses the true sentiment when he sings:
“I want thy life, thy purity, Thy righteousness brought in.”
It must be “brought in” to the heart by power divine; it is not there by nature. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven hid in the meal.”
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