The Mystery of Sanctification
by William S. Plumer
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
There is a great mystery in sanctification. It is a mystery for the love it displays, for the power it manifests, for the method it employs, and for the work it accomplishes. When Moses looked upon that bright effulgence in the mount, he gradually caught some of the same glory, so that his face shone. When we behold the image of the invisible God, as it is presented in the person and character of Christ, we too are made like it, not indeed by a mere natural effect, but "by the Spirit of the Lord." Likeness to God alone is holiness. Growth in this likeness is growth in grace. It is all by Jesus Christ.
It is true that "the best of men are men at the best," and so are far from being as perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect. There is no man that sins not. "Yes, there is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not." But the godly man is not a willing captive of sin, whereas the unrenewed man rejoices in iniquity. The child of God is becoming more and more like God. The wicked wax worse and worse. The saint longs for God's salvation. The sinner cannot sleep--unless he has done some mischief.
The heart of a believer is the best part about him. If he could have things as he would, he never would sin any more. The life of an unconverted man is commonly not nearly so bad as his heart. He is restrained in many ways from acting out the worst that is in him. The holy man blushes at a sinful thought. The wicked man loves to have vain thoughts lodge within him. It is the business of a godly man's life to please God and perfect holiness. It is the business of a sinner's life to please himself and commit sin. The work of purifying the heart shall be finished in due time, and all the godly shall be satisfied, when they awake, with the likeness of God, fully drawn upon their souls.
If we are called to be saints, we are not called to serve any but the Lord Christ. Holiness may be out of fashion here on earth, but not in heaven. It is infinitely better to be "a peculiar people, zealous of good works," than "a people, laden with iniquity." When a prince was about to travel, he asked his tutor for some maxims, by which to govern his behavior, and received this: "Remember that you are the son of a king." Let all Christians remember that they are the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty," and "if sons, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ." With what force and point the exhortation comes to such gospel. Truth never generates licentiousness. Actual participation in Christ's righteousness is always manifested by the possession of his image and temper.
It is sad proof of a wicked heart when a professor of Christ's gospel attempts to live as near as possible to the line separating sin from holiness. Let him eschew and abhor evil. Excess in many things is easy, but no man fears or hates sin too much. So far as we know, sin is the only thing which God hates. There are many filthy reptiles, unclean beasts and venomous serpents from which we instinctively turn away; yet God's tender mercies are over all of these. He opens his hand and supplies the needs of every living thing. To the end which he proposed in their creation, they are well adapted. But sin is in its own nature and tendency, only evil. God abhors it. It dishonors him, it grieves him, it vexes him. It is the only thing which dishonors or offends him. He is angry with the wicked every day. When one of Christ's people sins, it is wounding our Savior "in the house of his friends."
An alleged work of grace on the heart, which gives no outward signs and leaves the life wicked, is good for nothing. True holiness is not dormant but active, not merely a negation of evil, but the positiveness of good. For a while, Joseph and Nicodemus may be timid, but when the great question is raised by the crucifixion, we find them open and bold disciples. The fruit of a holy nature--is a holy life.