Arthur W. Pink
Chapter 7 - It's Perversion
Nowhere is the depravity of man and the enmity of their minds against God more terribly displayed than in the treatment which His Holy Word receives at their hands. By many it is criminally neglected, by others it is wickedly wrested and made to teach the most horrible heresies. To slight such a revelation, to despise such an inestimable treasure, is an insult which the Most High will certainly avenge. To corrupt the sacred Scriptures, to force from them a meaning the opposite of what they bear, to handle them deceitfully by picking and choosing from their contents, is a crime of fearful magnitude. Yet this, in varying measure, is what all the false cults of Christendom are guilty of. Unitarians, Universalists, those who teach the unconsciousness of the soul between death and resurrection and the annihilation of the wicked, single out certain snippets of Scripture but ignore or explain away anything which makes against them. A very high percentage of the errors propagated by the pulpit are nothing more or less than Truth itself, but the Truth distorted and perverted.
Broadly speaking the doctrine which we have been expounding in this series has been perverted by two main classes. First, by open Arminians, who expressly repudiate most of what has been advanced in the preceding sections. With them we are not here directly concerned. Second, by what we can only designate "mongrel Calvinists." This class deny the sovereign and unconditional election of God and also the limited or particular redemption of Christ. They are one with Arminians in believing that election is based on Godís foreknowledge of those who would believe the Gospel, and they affirm Christ atoned for the sins of all of Adamís race, and yet they term themselves "Calvinists" because they hold the eternal security of the saints, or "once in grace, always in grace." In their crude and ill-balanced presentation of this doctrine they woefully pervert the Truth and do incalculable damage unto those who give ear to them. As they do not all proceed along exactly the same line or distort the Truth at the same particular point we will divide this branch of our subject so as to cover as many errors as possible.
1. It is perverted by those who predicate of mere professors what pertains only to the regenerate. Here is a young man who attends a service at a church where a "special evangelistic campaign" is being held. He is not seriously inclined, in fact rarely enters a place of worship, but is visiting one now to please a friend. The evangelist makes a fervent emotional appeal and many are induced to "go forward" and be prayed for, our young man among themóagain to please his friend. He is persuaded to "become a Christian" by signing a "decision card" and then he is congratulated on the "manly step" he has taken. He is duly "received into the church" and at once given a class of boys in the "Sunday School." He is conscious there has been no change within and though somewhat puzzled supposes the preacher and church-members know more about the matter than he does. They regard him as a Christian and assure him he is now safe for eternity. Here is another young man who is passing a "Gospel Hall" on a Lordís day evening; attracted by the hearty singing, he enters. The speaker expatiates at length on John 3:16 and similar passages. He declares with such vigor that God loves everybody and points out in proof thereof that He gave His Son to die for the sins of all mankind. The unsaved are urged to believe this and are told that the only thing which can now send them to Hell is their unbelief. As soon as the service is over the speaker makes for our young man and asks him if he is saved. Upon receiving a negative reply, he says, "Would you not like to be, here and now?" Acts 16:3 1 is read to him and he is asked "Will you believe?" If he says yes, John 5:24 is quoted to him and he is told that he is now eternally secure. He is welcomed into the homes of these new friends, frequents their meetings and is addressed as "Brother."
The above are far more than imaginary cases: we have come into personal contact with many from both classes. And what was the sequel? In the great majority of instances the tide of emotion and enthusiasm soon subsided, the novelty quickly wore off, attending "Bible readings" soon palled, and the dog returned to its vomit and the sow to her wallowing in the mire. They were then regarded as "backsliders" and perhaps told "The Lord will bring you back again into the fold," and some of these man-made converts are foolish enough to believe their deceivers and assured that "once saved, saved forever" they go on their worldly way with no trepidation as to the ultimate outcome. They have been fatally deceived. And what of their deceivers? They are guilty of perverting the Truth, they have cast pearls before swine, they have taken the childrenís bread and thrown it to the dogs; they gave to empty professors what pertained only to the regenerate.
2. It is perverted by those who fail to insist upon credible evidences of regeneration, as is the case with the above examples. The burden of proof always rests upon the one who affirms. When a person avers that he is a Christian that averment does not make him one, and if he be mistaken it certainly is not kindness on my part to confirm him in a delusion. A church is weakened spiritually in proportion to the number of its unregenerate members. Regeneration is a supernatural work of grace and therefore it is a great insult to the Holy Spirit to imagine that there is not a radical difference between one who has been miraculously quickened by Him and one who is dead in trespasses and sins, between one who is indwelt by Him and one in whom Satan is working (Eph. 2:2). Not until we see clear evidence that a supernatural work of grace has been wrought in a soul are we justified in regarding him as a brother in Christ. The tree is known by the fruits it bears: good fruit must be manifested on its branches ere we can identify it as a good tree.
We will not enter into a laboured attempt to describe at length the principal birth-marks of a Christian; instead we will mention some things which if they be absent indicate that "the root of the matter" (Job 19:28) is not in the person. One who regards sin lightly, who thinks nothing of breaking a promise, who is careless in the performance of temporal duties, who gives no sign of a tender conscience which is exercised over what are commonly called "trifles," lacks the one thing needful. A person who is vain and self-important, who pushes to the fore seeking the notice of others, who parades his fancied knowledge and attainments, has not learned of Him who is "meek and lowly in heart." One who is hyper-sensitive, who is deeply hurt if some one slights her, who resents a word of reproof no matter how kindly spoken, betrays the lack of a humble and teachable spirit. One who frets over disappointments, murmurs each time his will is crossed and rebels against the dispensations of Providence, exhibits a will which has not been Divinely subdued.
That a person belongs to some "evangelical church" or "assembly" and is regular in his attendance there, is no proof that he is a member of the Church which is Christís (mystical) body. That a person goes about with a Bible in his hand is no guaranty that the Divine Law is within his heart. Though he may talk freely and fluently about spiritual things, of what worth is it if they do not regulate his daily walk? One who is dishonest in business, undutiful in the home, thoughtless of others, censorious and unmerciful, has no title to be regarded as a new creature in Christ Jesus, no matter how saintly his pose be on the Sabbath Day. When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to Christís forerunner to be baptized of him, he said, "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matt. 3:8): I must first see some signs of godly sorrow for sin, some manifestations of a change of heart, some tokens of a transformed life. So we must demand the evidences of regeneration before we are justified in crediting a Christian profession, otherwise we endorse what is false and bolster up one in his self-deceit.
3. It is perverted by those who sever the cause from its necessary effect. The cause of the believerís perseverance is one and indivisible, for it is Divine and nothing whatever of the creature is mingled with it; yet to our apprehension at least it appears as a compound one and we may view its component parts separately. The unchanging love, the immutable purpose, the everlasting covenant and the invincible power of God are conjoint elements in making the saint infallibly secure. But each of those elements is active and brings forth fruit after its own kind. Godís love is not confined to the Divine bosom but is "shed abroad" in the hearts of His people by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5), from whence it flows forth again unto its Giver: "we love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Our love is indeed feeble and fluctuating, yet it exists, and cannot be quenched, so that we can say with Peter "Thou knowest that I love Thee." "I know My sheep and (though imperfectly) am known of Mine." (John 10:14) shows the response made.
The preacher who has much to say upon the love of God and little or nothing about the believerís love to Him is partial and fails in his duty. How can I ascertain that I am an object of Godís love but by discovering the manifest effects of His love being shed abroad in my heart? "If any man love God, the same in known of God" (1 Cor. 8:3). "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). It is by their love for Him they give proof they are the subjects of His effectual call. And how is genuine love for God to be identified? First, by its eminency: God is loved above all others so as He has no rival in the soul: "whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there in none upon earth that I desire beside Thee" (Ps. 73:25). All things give way to His love; "Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee" (Ps. 63:3). The real Christian is content to do and suffer anything rather than lose Godís favor, for that is his all. Second, true love for God may be recognized by its component parts. Repentance is a mourning love, because of the wrongs done its Beloved and the loss accruing to ourselves. Faith is a receptive love, thankfully accepting Christ and all His benefits. Obedience is a pleasing love, seeking to honor and glorify the One who has set His heart upon me. Filial fear is a restraining love which prevents me offending Him whom I esteem above all others. Hope is love expecting, anticipating the time when there shall be. nothing to come between my soul and Him. Communion is love finding satisfaction in its Object. All true piety is the expression and outflow of love to God and those who bear His image. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness is love desiring more of God and His holiness. Joy is the exuberance of love, delighting itself in its all-sufficient portion. Patience is love waiting for God to make good His promise, moving us to endure the trials of the way until He comes to our relief. Love "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Cor. 13:7).
Third, real love for God expresses itself in obedience. Where there is genuine love for God it will be our chief concern to please Him and fulfill His will. "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me" (John 14:21). "This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (1 John 5:3). Inasmuch as it is the love of an inferior to a superior it must show itself in a respectful subjection, in the performance of duty. God returneth love with love: "I love them that love Me" (Prov. 8:17 and cf. John 14:21). "A Christian is rewarded as a lover rather than as a servant: not as doing work, but as doing work out of love" (Manton). If we love God we shall do his bidding, promote His interests, seek His glory. And this not sporadically but uniformly and constantly; not in being devout at certain set times and the observance of the Lordís supper, but respecting His authority in all the details of our daily lives. Only thus does love perform its function and fulfill its design: "whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected (attains its proper goal): hereby know we that we are in Him"(1 John 2:5).
From what has been pointed out in the last three paragraphs it is clear that those who dwell upon the love of God for His people to the virtual exclusion of their love for Him do pervert the truth of the security of the saints, as the individual who persuades himself that he is the object of Godís love without producing the fruit of his love for Him is treading on very dangerous ground. This divorcing of the necessary effect from its cause might be demonstrated just as conclusively of the other elements or parts, but because we entered into so much detail with the first we will barely state the other three. The immutability of Godís purpose to conduct His elect to Heaven must not be considered as a thing apart; the means have been predestinated as much as the end, and they who despise the means perish. The very term "covenant" signifies a compact entered into by two or more persons, wherein terms are prescribed and rewards promised: nowhere has God promised covenant blessings to those who comply not with covenant stipulations. Nor have I any warrant to believe the saving power of God is working in me unless I am expressly proving the sufficiency of His grace.
4. It is perverted by those who lose the balance of Truth between Divine preservation and Christian perseverance. We may think it vastly more honoring unto God to write or say ten times as much about His sovereignty as we do upon manís responsibility, but that is only a vain attempt to be wise above what is written, and therefore is to display our own presumption and folly. We may attempt to excuse our failure by declaring it is a difficult matter to present the Divine supremacy and human accountability in their due proportions, but with the Word of God in our hands it will avail us nothing. The business of Godís servant is not only to contend earnestly for the Faith but to set forth the Truth in its Scriptural proportions. Far more error consists in misrepresenting and distorting the Truth than in expressly repudiating it. Professing Christians are not deceived by an avowed infidel or atheist, but are taken in by men who quote and re-quote certain portions of Holy Writ, but are silent upon all the passages which clash with their lop-sided views.
Just as we may dwell so much upon the Deity of Christ as to lose sight of the reality of His humanity so we may become so occupied with Godís keeping of His people as to overlook those verses where the Christian is bidden to keep himself. The incarnation in nowise changed or modified the fact that Christ was none other than Immanuel tabernacling among men, that "God was manifest in flesh," nevertheless we read "Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren" (Heb. 2:17), and again "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:51). The theanthropic person or the Mediator is grossly caricatured if either His Godhead or manhood be omitted from consideration. Whatever difficulty it may involve to our finite minds, whatever mystery which transcends our grasp, yet we must hold fast to the fact that the Child born, the Son given, was "the mighty God" (Isa. 9:6); nor must we suffer the truth of Godís garrisoning of His people to crowd out the necessity of their discharging their responsibility.
It is perfectly true there is a danger in the other side and that we need to be on our guard against erring in the opposite direction. Some have done so. There are those who consider the humanity of Christ could not be true humanity in the real sense of that word unless it were peccable, arguing that His temptation was nothing more than a meaningless show unless He was capable of yielding to Satanís attacks. One error leads to another. If the last Adam met the Devil on the same plane as did the first Adam, simply as a sinless man, and if His victory (as well as all His wondrous works) is to be attributed solely to the power of the Holy Spirit, then it follows that the exercise of His divine prerogatives and attributes were entirely suspended during the years of His humiliation. Hence we find that those who hold this fantastic view endorse the "kenosis" theory, interpreting the "made Himself of no reputation" or "who emptied Himself" of Phil. 2:7 as the temporary setting aside of His omniscience and omnipotence.
Contending for Christian perseverance no more warrants the repudiation of Divine preservation than insisting on the true manhood of Christ justifies the impugning of His Godhood. Both must be held fast: on the one hand reasoning must be bridled by refusing to go one step further than Scripture goes; on the other hand faith must be freely exercised, receiving all that God has revealed thereon. That which is central in Philippians 2:5-7 is the position Christ entered and the character in which He appeared. He who was "in the form of God" and deemed it not robbery "to be equal with God" took upon Him "the form of a servant" and was "made in the likeness of men." He laid aside the robes of His incomprehensible glory, divested Himself of His incommunicable honors, and assumed the mediatorial office instead of continuing to act as the universal Sovereign. He descended into the sphere of servitude, yet without the slightest injury to His Godhead. There was a voluntary abnegation of the exercise of full dominion and sovereignty, though He still remained "The Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:8). He "became obedient unto death" but He did not become either feeble or fallible. He was and is both perfect and "the mighty God."
As the person of the God-man Mediator is falsified if either His Godhead or manhood be denied, or perverted if either be practically ignored, so it is with the security of the saints when either their Divine preservation or their own perseverance is repudiated, or perverted if either be emphasized to the virtual exclusion of the other. Both must be maintained in their due proportions. Scripture designates our Savior "the true God" (1 John 5:20), yet it also speaks of Him as "the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5); again and again He is denominated "the Son of man," yet Thomas owned Him as "my Lord and my God." So too the Psalmist affirmed "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: He that keepeth thee, will not slumber. . . The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth and for evermore" (121:3, 7, 8); nevertheless, He also declared "By the Word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer" (17:4), and again "I have kept the ways of the Lord. . .1 have kept myself from mine iniquity" (18:21, 23).Jude exhorts believers "keep yourselves in the love of God" and then speaks of Him "that is able to keep you from falling" (21:24). The one complements, and not contradicts, the other.
5. It is perverted by those who divorce the purpose of God from the means through which it is accomplished. God has purposed the eternal felicity of His people and that purpose is certain of full fruition, nevertheless it is not effected without the use of means on their part, any more than a harvest is obtained and secured apart from human industry and persevering diligence. God has made promise to His saints that "bread shall be given" them and their "water shall be sure" (Isa. 33:16), but that does not exempt them from the discharge of their duty or provide them with an indulgence to take their ease. The Lord gave a plentiful supply of manna from heaven, but the Israelites had to get up early and gather it each morning, for it melted when the sun shone on it. So His people are now required to "labour for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life "(John 6:2 7). Promises of Divine preservation are not made to sluggards and idlers but those called unto the use of means for the establishing of their souls in the practice of obedience; those promises are not given to promote idleness but are so many encouragements to the diligent, assurances that sincere endeavors shall have a successful issue.
God has purposed to preserve believers in holiness and not in wickedness. His promises are made to those who strive against sin and mourn over it, not to those who take their full thereof and delight therein. If I presume upon Godís goodness and count upon His shielding me when I deliberately run into the place of temptation, then I shall be justly left to reap as I have sown. It is Satan who tempts souls to recklessness and to the perverting of the Divine promises. This is clear from the attack which he made upon the Saviour. When he bade Him cast Himself from the pinnacle of the temple and to rely upon the angels to preserve Him from harm, it was an urging Him to presume upon the end by disdaining the means; Our Lord stopped his mouth by pointing out that, notwithstanding His assurance from God and of His faithfulness concerning the end, yet Scripture requires that the means tending to that end be employed, the neglect of which is a sinful tempting of God. If I deliberately drink deadly poison I have no ground for concluding that prayer will deliver me from its fatal effects.
The Divine preservation of the saints no more renders their own activities, constant care and exertions superfluous, than does Godís gift of breath make it unnecessary for us to breathe. It is their own preservation in faith and holiness which is the very thing made certain: they themselves, therefore, must live by faith and in the practice of holiness, for they cannot persevere in any other way than by watching and praying, carefully avoiding the snares of Satan and the seductions of the world, resisting and mortifying the lusts of the flesh, working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. To neglect those duties, to follow a contrary course, is to "draw back unto perdition" and not to "believe to the saving of the soul" (Heb. 10:39). He who argues that since his perseverance in faith and holiness is assured he needs exercise no concern about it or trouble to do anything toward it, is not only guilty of a palpable contradiction but gives proof that he is a stranger to regeneration and has neither part nor lot in the matter. "Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments, for therein do I delight" (Ps. 119:35) is the cry of the renewed.
6. It is perverted by those who deny the truth of Christian responsibility. In this section we shall turn away from the "mongrel Calvinists" to consider a serious defect on the part of "hyper-Calvinists," or as some prefer to call them, "fatalists." These people not only repudiate the general offer of the Gospel, arguing that it is a virtual denial of manís spiritual impotency to call upon the unregenerate to savingly repent and believe, but they are also woefully remiss in exhorting believers unto the performance of Christian duties. Their favorite text is "without Me ye can do nothing. "but they are silent upon "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). They delight to quote the promises wherein God declares "I will" and "I shall" but they ignore those verses which contain the qualifying "if ye" (John 8:31) and "if we" (Heb. 3:6).
They are sound and strong in the truth of Godís preservation of His people, but they are weak and unsound on the correlative truth of the saintsí perseverance. They say much about the power and operations of the Holy Spirit, but very little on the method He employs or the means and motives He makes use of.
"As many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). He does not compel but inclines: it is not by the use of physical power but by the employment of moral suasion and sweet inducements that He leads for He deals with the saints not as stocks and stones but as rational entities. "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye" (Ps. 32:8), The meaning of that is more apparent from the contrast presented in the next verse: "Be ye not as the horse (rushing where it should not) or as the mule (stubbornly refusing to go where it should) which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. " God does not drive His children like unintelligent animals, but guides by enlightening their minds, directing their inclinations, moving their wills. God led Israel across the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night: but they had to respond thereto, to follow it. So the good Shepherd goes before His sheep, and they follow Him.
It is true, blessedly true, that God "draws," yet that drawing is not a mechanical one as though we were machines, but a moral one in keeping with our nature and constitution. Beautifully is this expressed in Hosea 11:4, "1 drew them with cords as a man, with bands of love." Every moral virtue, every spiritual grace, is appealed to and called into action. There is perfect love and gracious care on Godís part toward us; there is the intelligence of faith and response of love on our part toward Him; and thereby He keeps us in the way. Blessed and wondrous indeed is the inter-working of Divine grace and the believerís responsibility. All the affections of the new creature are wrought upon by the Holy Spirit. He draws out our love by setting before us Godís love: "we love Him, because He first loved us," but we do love Him, we are not passive, nor is love inactive. He quickens our desires and revives our assurance, and we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." He brings into view "the prize of the high calling" and we "press toward the mark, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before" (Phil. 3:13, 14). It is very much like a skilled musician and a harp: as his fingers touch its strings they produce melodious sounds. God works in us and produces the beauty of Holiness. But how? By setting before our minds weighty considerations and powerful motives, and causing us to respond thereto. By giving us a tender conscience which is sensitive to His still small voice. By appealing to every motive-power in us: fear, desire, love, hatred, hope, ambition. God preserves His saints not as He does the mountain pine which is enabled to withstand the storm without its own concurrence, but by calling into exercise and act the principle that was imparted to them at the new birth. There is the working of Divine grace first, and then the outflow of Christian energy. God works in His people both to will and to do of His good pleasure, and they work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12,13). And it is the office of Godís servants to be used as instruments in the hands of the Spirit. It is their task to enforce the responsibility of the saints, to admonish slothfulness, to warn against apostasy, to call unto the use of means and the performance of duty.
If the hyper-Calvinist preacher compares the method he follows with the policy pursued by the apostles, he should quickly perceive the vast difference there is between them. True, the apostles gave attention to doctrinal instruction, but they also devoted themselves to exhortation and expostulation. True, they magnified the free and sovereign grace of God and were careful to set the crown of glory upon the One to whom alone it belonged, yet they were far from addressing their hearers as so many paralytics or creatures who must lie impotent till the waters be moved. "No," they said, "Let us not sleep, as do others" (1 Thess. 5:6), but "awake to righteousness and sin not" (1 Cor. 15:34). They bade them "run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:2) and not sit down and mope and hug their miseries. They called upon them to "resist the Devil" (James 4:7), not take the attitude they were helpless in the matter. They gave direction "keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21) and did not at once negative it by adding, "but you are unable to do so." When the apostle said "I think it meet, as long as lam in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance" (2 Pet. 1:13), he was not usurping the prerogative of the Spirit but was enforcing the responsibility of the saints.
7. It is perverted by those who use the doctrine of justification to crowd out the companion doctrine of sanctification. Though they are inseparably connected yet they may be and should be considered singly and distinctly. Under the Law the ablutions and oblations, the washings and sacrifices went together, and justification and sanctification are blessings which must not be disjointed. God never bestows the one without the other, yet we have no means of knowing we have received the former apart from the evidences of the latter. Justification refers to the relative or legal change which takes place in the status of Godís people. Sanctification to the real and experimental change which takes place in their state, a change which is begun at the new birth, developed during the course of their earthly pilgrimage and is made perfect in Heaven. The one gives the believer a title to Heaven, the other a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light; the former clears him from the guilt of sin, the latter cleanses from sinís defilement. In sanctification something is actually imparted to the believer, whereas in justification it is only imputed. Justification is based entirely on the work which Christ wrought for His people, but sanctification is principally a work wrought in them.
By our fall in Adam we not only lost the favor of God but also the purity of our nature, and therefore we need to be both reconciled to God and renewed in our inner man, for without personal holiness "no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). "As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (behavior); because it is written, Be ye holy for lam holy" (1 Pet. 1:15, 16). Godís nature is such that unless we be sanctified there can be no intercourse between Him and us. But can persons be sinful and holy at one and the same time? Genuine Christians discover so much carnality, filth and vileness in themselves that they find it almost impossible to be assured they are holy. Nor is this difficulty solved, as in justification, by recognizing that though completely unholy in ourselves we are holy in Christ, for Scripture teaches that those who are sanctified by God are holy in themselves, though the evil nature has not been removed from them.
None but "the pure in heart" will ever "see God" (Matt. 5:8). There must be that renovation of soul whereby our minds, affections and wills are brought into harmony with God. There must be that impartial compliance with the revealed will of God and abstinence from evil which issues from faith and love. There must be that directing of all our actions to the glory of God, by Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel. There must be a spirit of holiness working within the believerís heart so as to sanctify his outward actions if they are to be acceptable unto Him in whom "there is no darkness." True, there is perfect holiness in Christ for the believer, but there must also be a holy nature received from Him. There are some who appear to delight in the imputed obedience of Christ who make little or no concern about personal holiness. They have much to say about being arrayed in "the garments of salvation and covered with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10), who give no evidence that they "are clothed with humility" (1 Pet. 5:4) or that they have "put on. . .bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one another" (Col. 3:12).
How many there are today who suppose that if they have trusted in Christ all is sure to be well with them at the last, even though they are not personally holy. Under the pretence of honoring faith, Satan, as an angel of light, has deceived and is now deceiving multitudes of souls. When their "faith" is examined and tested, what is it worth? Nothing at all so far as insuring an entrance into Heaven is concerned: it is a powerless, lifeless, fruitless thing. The faith of Godís elect is unto "the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness" (Titus 1:1). It is a faith which purifieth the heart (Acts 15:9), and it grieves over all impurity. It is a faith which produces an unquestioning obedience (Heb. 11:8). They therefore do but delude themselves who suppose they are daily drawing nearer to Heaven while they are following those courses which lead only to Hell. He who thinks to come to the enjoyment of God without being personally holy, makes Him Out to be an unholy God, and puts the highest indignity upon Him. The genuineness of saving faith is only proved as it bears the blossoms of experimental godliness and the fruits of true piety.
Sanctification consists of receiving a holy nature from Christ and being indwelt by the Spirit so that the body becomes His temple, set apart unto God. By the Spiritís giving me vital union with "the Holy One" I am "sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 1:2). Where there is life there is growth, and even when growth ceases there is a development and maturing of what has grown. There is a living principle, a moral quality communicated at the new birth, and under sanctification it is drawn out into action and exercised in living unto God. In regeneration the Spirit imparts saving grace, in sanctification He strengthens and develops it: the one is a birth, the other a growth.. Therein it differs from justification: justification is a single act of grace, sanctification is a continued work of grace; the one is complete the other progressive. Some do not like the term "progressive sanctification" hut the thing itself is clearly taught in Scripture. "Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2). "I pray that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment" (Phil. 1:9). That you "may grow up in Him in all things" (Eph. 4:15) is an exhortation thereto.
8. It is perverted by those who fail to accord the example of Christ its proper place. Few indeed have maintained an even keel on this important matter. If the Socinians have made the exemplary life of Christ to be the whole end of the incarnation, others have so stressed His atoning death as to reduce His model walk to comparative insignificance. While the pulpit must make it clear that the main and chief reason why the Son of God became flesh, was in order that He might honor God in rendering to the Law a perfect satisfaction on behalf of His people, yet it should also make equally plain that a prominent design and important end of Christís incarnation was to set before His people a pattern of holiness for their emulation. Thus declares The Scriptures: "He hath left us an example that we should follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21) and that example imperatively obligates believers unto its imitation. If some have unduly pressed the example of Christ upon unbelievers, others have woefully failed to press it on believers. Because it has no place in the justification of a sinner, it is a serious mistake to suppose it exerts no influence upon the sanctification of a saint.
The very name "Christian" intimates that there is an intimate relation between Christ and the believer. It signifies "an anointed one," that he has been endued with a measure of that Divine unction which his Master received "without measure" (John 3:34). And as Flavel, the Puritan, pointed out "Believers are called Ďfellowsí or co-partners (Ps. 45:7) of Christ from their participation with Him of the same Spirit. God giveth the same spirit unto us which He most plentifully poured out upon Christ. Now where the same spirit and principle is, there the same fruits and operations must he produced, according to the proportions and measures of the Spirit of grace communicated. Its nature also is assimilating, and changeth those in whom it is into the same image with Christ, their heavenly Head (2 Cor. 3:18)." Again; believers are denominated "Christians" because they are disciples of Christ (Matt. 28:19 margin, Acts 11:26), that is, learners and followers of His, and therefore it is a misuse of terms to designate a man a "Christian" who is not sincerely endeavoring to mortify and forsake whatever is contrary to His character: to justify his name he must be Christlike.
Though the perfect life of Christ must not be exalted to the exclusion of His atoning death, neither must it be omitted as the believerís model. If it be true that no attempt to imitate Christ can obtain a sinnerís acceptance with God, it is equally true that the emulating of Him is imperatively necessary and absolutely essential in order to the saintsí preservation and final salvation. "Every man is bound to the imitation of Christ under penalty of forfeiting his claim to Christ. The necessity of this imitation convincingly appears from the established order of salvation, which is fixed and unalterable. Now conformity to Christ is the established method in which God will bring many souls to glory. ĎFor whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethrení (Rom. 8:29). The same God who hath predestinated men to salvation, hath in order thereto, predestinated them unto conformity to Christ, and this order of heaven is never to be reversed. We may as well think to be saved without Christ, as to be saved without conformity to Christ" (John Flavel).
In Christ God has set before His people that standard of moral excellence which He requires them to aim and strive after. In His life we behold a glorious representation in our own nature of the walk of obedience which He demands of us. Christ conformed Himself to us by His abasing incarnation, how reasonable therefore is it that we should conform ourselves to Him in the way of obedience and sanctification. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). He came as near to us as was possible for Him to do, how reasonable then is it that we should endeavor to come as near as it is possible for us to do. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me." If "even Christ pleased not Himself" (Rom. 15:3), how reasonable is it that we should be required to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24), for without so doing we cannot be His disciples (Luke 15:27). If we are to he conformed to Christ in glory how necessary that we first be conformed to Him in holiness: "he that saith he abideth in Him ought himself so to walk even as He walked" (1 John 2:6). "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. 2:19): let him either put on the life of Christ or drop the name of Christ.