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What Holiness is.

Holiness (as I have shewn in a former Treatise) is a Word of various significations in Scripture.

When it is attributed to God, it signifies (as Dr. Owtram well11   Lib. 1. de Sacrific. Cap. 1. observes) either, 1. His transcendent Purity, or constant and immutable volition of that which is right and good, which the Apostle Peter proposes to our imitation, 1 Pet. 1. 14. As he that 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 John 3. 3. And every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, as he is pure. Psal. 145. 17. The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. Or,

2. His glorious Majesty, which manifests it self in all Excellencies and Perfections, infinite Wisdom, infinite Power and Might, sovereign Dominion over all things; in respect whereof he is worthy of all Praise 4and Worship. So that Holy is often equivalent to great, and greatly to be feared, and had in reverence of all that draw nigh to him. In this sense God is often in Scripture called the Holy one of Israel; that is, that venerable Deity who is to be worshipped by a transcendent and incommunicable Worship, and his Name to be invoked with the most profound reverence and devotion.

When Holiness is attributed to other things besides God, it signifies either, 1. A relative or outward Holiness, which results from a Separation from common and profane use, and application to a religious. God being the Sovereign Lord of all things, and himself holy, whatever is in a peculiar manner related to him, and appertains to his Worship and Service, whether Person or thing, hath a kind of relative Holiness, and upon account thereof an esteem and respect is due to it. Or, 2. An inherent or inward Holiness, or perfect conformity of heart and life to the Law and Will of God: Which kind of Holiness is proper only to rational Beings.

You will say, If Holiness be such a perfect conformity, &c. then no Man ever was, is, or shall be holy in this Mortal Life. 5Doth not the Scripture tell us, 1 Kings 8. 46. There is no man that sinneth not? And Eccles. 7. 10. For there is not a just man upon earth that doth good, and sinneth not. Prov. 20. 9. Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? James 3. 2. In many things we offend all. 1 John 1. 8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive our selves, and the truth is not in us. And an Heathen Man could say, Nemo invenitur qui se possit absolvere; & innocentem quisque se dicit, respiciens testem, non conscientiam: There is no Man to be found that can absolve himself; and he that saith he is innocent, must respect a Witness, not his own Conscience.

I answer, It is true, that perfect and sinless Holiness is not attainable by mortal Men in this present Life, and therefore God is pleased to accept of sincerity of Obedience instead of Perfection; and so we may define Holiness, so far as it is attainable in this imperfect state, to be a sincere and constant desire and endeavour to obey God in all his Commands. More than this, we cannot perform, and less than this God will not accept.


1. This Obedience must be universal, without reserve or exception of any Command. Whatsoever we shall be convinced to be God’s Will, and our Duty, we must set about it, and do it, be it never so uneasy to Flesh and Blood: Whatsoever we shall be convinced to be contrary thereto, though never so pleasing, never so customary to us, we must resolutely shun and avoid it. God must have the whole Heart; he admits no rival; Zeal for one Commandment will not compensate for the breach of another. We must with the Psalmist, Psal. 119. 128. Esteem all his precepts concerning all things to be right, and hate every false way.

2. This desire and endeavour must be sincere and hearty; we must not harbour or entertain any secret inclination to any evil way. We must withdraw all degrees of Affection from whatever is sinful, or unlawful, or prohibited by God. The love or liking of any sin, or even wishing it were lawful, cannot consist with the love of God, which is the spring and source of sincere Obedience. Quis coram Deo innocens invenitur, qui vellet fieri quod vetatur, si subtrahas quod timetur. Ac per hoc 7in ipsa voluntate reus est, qui vult facere quod non licet fieri. Augustin. Epist. 121. Who can be found innocent before God, who wishes that might be done. which is forbidden; and would do it were it not for fear of Punishment, &c.

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