Gospel Mystery of Sanctiﬁcation
HOLINESS THROUGH FAITH.
Make diligent use of your most Holy Faith, for the immediate performance of the duties of the Law, by walking no longer according to your old natural State, or any Principles or Means of Practice that belong unto it, but only according to that new State which you receive by Faith, and the Principles and Means of Practice that properly belong thereunto, and strive to continue and increase in such manner of practice. This is the only way to attain to an acceptable performance of these Holy and Righteous Duties, as far as it is possible, in this present life.
HERE I am guiding you to the manner of practice, wherein you are to make use of faith, and of all other effectual means of holiness before treated of, which faith layeth hold on, for the immediate performance of the law; which is the great end aimed at in this whole treatise. And therefore this deserveth to be diligently considered, as the principal direction, to which all the foregoing and following are subservient. As for the meaning of it, I have already showed that our old natural state is that which we derive from the ﬁrst Adam by natural generation, and it is called in the Scripture “the old man;” and while we be in it we are said to be “in the ﬂesh.” And our new state is that which we receive from the second Adam, Jesus Christ, by being new born in union and fellowship with Him through faith, and it is called in Scripture “the new man;” and when we are in it we are said to be “the Spirit.”
The principles and means of practice belonging to a natural state are such as persons do, or may attain and make use of, before they are in Christ by faith. Such as belong properly to the new state, are the manifold holy endowments, privileges, and enjoyments, which we partake of in Christ by faith, such as have already appeared to be the only effectual means of a holy life. We are said to walk according to either of these states, or to the principles or means that belong to either of them, when we are moved and guided by virtue of them to such actings as are agreeable to them. The manner of the practice here directed to consists in moving and guiding ourselves in the performance of the works of the law by gospel principles and means. This is the rare and excellent art of godliness, in which every Christian should strive to be skilful and expert. The reason why many come off with shame and confusion, after they have a long time laboured with much zeal and industry for the attainment of true godliness, is because they were never acquainted with this holy art, and never endeavoured to practice it in a right gospel way.
It is a manner of practice far above the sphere of natural ability, such as would never have entered into the hearts of the wisest in the world, if it had not been revealed to us in the Scriptures. And when it is there most plainly’ revealed, continueth a dark riddle to those that are not inwardly enlightened and taught by the Holy Spirit. Such as many godly persons, guided by the Spirit, do in some measure walk in, yet do but obscurely discern; they can hardly perceive their own knowledge of it, and can hardly give any account to others of the way wherein they walk, as the disciples that walked in Christ the way to the Father, and yet perceived not that knowledge in themselves:” Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?” (John xiv. 5). This is the reason why many poor believers are so weak in Christ, and attain so small a degree of holiness and righteousness. Therefore, that you may the better be acquainted with a mystery of so high concernment, I shall show, in the ﬁrst place, that the Holy Scriptures do direct you to this manner of practice, as only effectual for the performance of holy duties; and then I shall lay before you some necessary instructions, that you may understand how to walk aright in it; and continue and go forward therein till you be made perfect in Christ.
For the FIRST of these the Holy Scriptures are very large and clear in directing us to this manner of practice, and to continuance and growth therein.
I. This is the manner of practice in Scripture, which is expressed by “living by faith “ (Hab. ii. 4; Gal. ii. 20; Heb. x. 38), “walking by faith” (2 Cor. v. 7), “faith working by love” (Gal. v. 6), “overcoming the world by faith” (I John v. 4), “quenching all the ﬁery darts of the wicked by the shield of faith” (Eph. vi. 16). Some make no more of living and walking by faith than merely a stirring-up and encouraging ourselves to our duty by such principles as we believe. But if this was all that was intended by these expressions, then the Jews might account that they lived by faith, because they professed and assented unto the doctrine of Moses and the Prophets, and were moved thereby to a zeal of God; yet we are expressly told of them, that they sought righteousness not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law (Rom. ix. 32). As it is one and the same thing to be justiﬁed by faith, and by Christ believed on (Rom. v. I), so to live, walk, and work by faith is all one with living, walking, working by means of Christ and His saving endowments, which we receive and make use of by faith, to guide and move ourselves to the practice of holiness.
2. The same thing is commended to us by the terms of “walking in Christ,” “rooted and built up in Him” (Col. ii. 6, 7), “living to God and not to ourselves, but to have Christ living in us” (Gal. ii. I9, 20), “good conversation in Christ” (I Pet. iii. I6), “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may walk honestly as in the day” (Rom. xiii. 13, 14), “being strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Eph. vi. 10), “doing all things in the name of Christ” (Col. iii. 17), “walking up and down in the name of the Lord” (Zech. x. 12), “going in the strength of the Lord, making mention of His righteousness, even of His only” (Ps. lxxi I6). These phrases are frequent, and do sufﬁciently explain one another, and do show that we are to practice holiness, not only by virtue of Christ’s authority, but also of His strengthening endowments moving us and encouraging us thereunto.
3. It is also signiﬁed by the phrases of “being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. ii. I), “having our conversation in the world, not with ﬂeshly wisdom, but by the grace of God” (2 Cor. i. 12), “having or holding fast grace, that we may serve God acceptably” (Heb. xii. 28), “labouring abundantly,” in such a manner as that the whole work is not performed by us but “by the grace of God that is with us” (I Cor. xv. 10). By grace, therefore, we may well understand the privileges of our new state given to us in Christ, whereby we ought to be inﬂuenced and guided in the performance of holy duties.
4. It is also signiﬁed, when we are taught “to put off the old and put on the new man;” yea, to continue in so doing, though we have done it in a measure already. (Eph. iv. 21, 22, 24), and to avoid sin, “because we have put off the old and put on the new man” (Col. iii. 9, 10). I have already showed that by this twofold man is not meant merely sin and holiness; but by the former is meant our natural state, with all its endowments, whereby we are furnished only to the practice of sin, and by the latter our new state in Christ, whereby we are furnished with all means necessary for the practice of holiness.
5. We are to understand the same thing when we are taught “not to walk after the ﬂesh, but after the Spirit, that we may be free from the law of sin, and that the righteousness of the law may be fulﬁlled in us” (Rom. viii. 1-4); and “through the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom. viii. 13); and “to be led by the Spirit, because we live by the Spirit, and have cruciﬁed the ﬂesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. v. 24). The apostle doth show by these expressions not only that we are to practice holiness, but also by what means we may do it effectually. By “the ﬂesh” is meant our old nature, derived from the ﬁrst Adam; and by “the Spirit” is meant the Spirit of Christ, and that new nature which we have by Him dwelling in us. We are said to walk after either of these natures, when we make the properties or qualiﬁcations of either of them to be the principles of our practice. So when we are taught “to serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter, that so we may bring forth fruit unto God,” the meaning is, that we must endeavour to bring forth the fruits of holiness, not by virtue of the law, that killing letter to which the ﬂesh is married, and by which the motions of sin are in us, but by virtue of the Spirit and His manifold riches, which we partake of in our new state, by a mystical marriage with Christ (Rom. vii. 4-6), and by virtue of such principles as belong to the new state declared in the gospel, whereby the Holy Spirit is ministered to us.
6. This is the manner of walking which the apostle Paul directeth us unto, when he teacheth us by his own example that the continual work of our lives should be “to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death; if by any means we may attain unto the resurrection of the dead, and to increase and press forward in this kind of knowledge” (Phil. iii. 10-12, 14). Certainly he meaneth such an experimental knowledge of Christ, and of His death and resurrection, as effectually makes us conformable thereunto, in dying unto sin and living unto God. And he would hereby guide us to make use of Christ and His death and resurrection by faith, as the powerful means of all holiness in heart and life; and to increase in this manner of walking, until we attain unto perfection in Christ.
The second thing proposed was to lay before you some necessary instructions, that your steps may be guided aright to continue and go forward in this way of holiness, until you be made perfect in Christ. And we should pray earnestly, that God would give unto us the spirit of wisdom and revelation, that we may discern the way of holiness thereby, and walk aright in it, according to that gracious promise, “The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” (Isa. xxxv. 8).
1. Let us observe and consider diligently in our whole conversation, that though we are partakers of a new holy state by faith in Christ, yet our natural state doth remain in a measure with all its corrupt principles and properties. As long as we live in this present world our apprehension of Christ and His perfection in this life is only by faith; whereas by sense and reason we may apprehend much in ourselves contrary to Christ; and this faith is imperfect, so that true believers have cause to pray to God to help their unbelief (Mark ix. 24). Therefore though we receive a perfect Christ by faith, yet the measure and degree of enjoying Him is imperfect; and we hope still, so long as we are in this world, to enjoy Him in a higher degree of perfection than we have done. We are yet but weak in Christ (2 Cor. xiii. 4), children in comparison to the perfection we expect in another world (I Cor. xiii. 10,11); and we must grow still till we come to the perfect man (Eph. iv. 13); and some are weaker babes than others, and have received Christ in so small a measure that they may be accounted carnal rather than spiritual (1 Cor. iii. 1). And because all the blessings and perfections of our new state-as justiﬁcation, the gift of the Spirit, and of the holy nature, and the adoption of children-are seated and treasured up in Christ, and joined with Him inseparably, we can receive them no further than we receive Christ Himself by faith, which we do in an imperfect measure and degree in this life.
They are said to be not in the ﬂesh but in the Spirit, because their being in the Spirit is their best and lasting state,. as denominations are usually taken from the better part, but yet the ﬂesh is in them, and they ﬁnd work enough to mortify the deeds of it (Rom. viii. 9, 13).
2. Despair of purging the ﬂesh or natural man of its sinful lusts and inclinations, and of practicing holiness by your willing and resolving to do the best that lieth in your own power, and trusting on the grace of God and Christ to help you in such resolutions and endeavours; rather resolve to trust on Christ to work in you to will and to do by His own power according to His own good pleasure. They that are convinced of their own sin and misery do commonly ﬁrst think to tame the ﬂesh, and to subdue and root out its lusts, and to make their corrupt nature to be better natured and inclined to holiness by their struggling and wrestling with it; and if they can but bring their hearts to a full purpose and resolution to do the best that lieth in them, they hope that by such a resolution they shall be able to achieve great enterprises in the conquests of their lusts and performance of the most difﬁcult duties. It is the great work of some zealous divines in their preaching and writings to stir up people to this resolution, wherein they place the chiefest turning point from sin to godliness. And they think that this is not contrary to the life of faith, because they trust on the grace of God through Christ to help them in all such resolutions and endeavours. Thus they endeavour to reform their old state and to-be made perfect in the ﬂesh, instead of putting it off and walking according to the new state in Christ. They trust on low carnal things for holiness, and upon the acts of their own will, their purposes, resolutions, and endeavours, instead of Christ; and they trust to Christ to help them in this carnal way; whereas true faith would teach them that they are nothing, and that they do but labour in vain.
They may as well attempt to wash a Blackamoor white as to purge the ﬂesh or natural man from its evil lusts, and make it pure and holy. It is desperately wicked, past all cure. They that would cure the ﬂesh and make it holy by their own resolutions and endeavours, do act quite contrary to the design of Christ’s death: for He died, not that the ﬂesh or old natural man might be made holy, but that it might be cruciﬁed and destroyed out of us (Rom. vi. 6), and that we might live to God, and not to ourselves, not by any natural power of our own resolutions or endeavours, but by Christ living in us, and by His Spirit bringing forth the fruits of righteousness in us (Gal. ii. 20, and v. 24, 25). Therefore we must be content to leave the natural man vile and wicked as we found it, until it be utterly abolished by death. Our way to mortify sinful affections and lusts must be not by purging them out of the ﬂesh, but by putting off the ﬂesh itself, and getting above into Christ by faith, and walking in that new nature that is by Him. Thus, “the way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath” (Prov. xv. 24). Our willing, resolving, and endeavouring must be to do the best, not that lieth in ourselves, or in our own power, but that Christ and the power of His Spirit shall be pleased to work in us; for in us-i.e., in our ﬂesh-there dwelleth no good thing (Rom. vii. 18.). We have great ground to trust in God and Christ for help in such resolutions and endeavours after holiness, as in things that are agreeable to the design of Christ in our redemption, and to the way of acting and living by faith. It is not enough for us to trust on Christ to help us to act and endeavour so far only as creatures, for so the worst of men are helped; He is the Jehovah in whom they live, move, and have their being (Acts xvii. 28). And it is likely the Pharisee would trust on God to help him in duty, as he would thank God for the performance of duty (Luke xviii. 11). And this is all the faith that many make use of in order to a holy practice. But we must trust on Christ to enable us above the strength of our own natural power by virtue of the new nature which we have in Christ, and by His Spirit dwelling and working in us; or else our best endeavours will be altogether sinful and mere hypocrisy, notwithstanding all the help for which we trust upon Him. We must also take heed of depending for holiness upon any resolution to walk in Christ, or upon any written covenants, or upon any holiness that we have already received; for we must know that the virtue of these things continues no longer than we continue walking in Christ and Christ in us. They must be kept up by the continual presence of Christ in us, as light is maintained by the presence of the sun, and cannot subsist without it.
3. You must not seek to procure forgiveness of sins, the favour of God, a new holy nature, life, and happiness, by any works of the moral law; but rather you must work as those that have all these things already, according to your new state in Christ; as such who are only to receive them more and more by faith, as they are ready prepared and treasured up for you, and freely given to you, in your spiritual Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. If we walk as those that are yet wholly to seek for the procurement of such enjoyments as these, it is a manifest sign that, at present, we judge ourselves to be without them, and without Christ Himself; in whose fullness they are all contained; and therefore we walk according to our old natural state, as those that are yet in the ﬂesh, and that would get salvation in it, and by our carnal works and observances, instead of living altogether on Christ by faith.
This practice is according to the tenor of the covenant of works, as I have before showed. And we have no ground to trust on Christ and His Spirit to work holiness in us this way; for we are dead to the legal covenant by the body of Christ (Rom. vii. 4); and, “if we be led by the Spirit, we are not under the law” (Gal. v. 28). When the Galatians were seduced, by false teachers, to seek the procurement of justiﬁcation and life by circumcision and other works of the Mosaical law, the Apostle Paul rebuketh them for seeking to be made perfect in the ﬂesh, directly contrary to their good beginning in the Spirit, for rendering Christ of none effect to them, and for falling from grace (Gal. iii. 3, and v. 3). And, when some of the Colossians sought perfection in the like manner, by observation of circumcision, holy meats, holy times, and other rudiments of the world, the same apostle blameth them not holding the head Jesus Christ, and as though they were not dead and risen with Christ, but living merely in the world (Col. ii. 19, 20, and iii. 1). He clearly showeth, that those who seek any saving enjoyments in such a way, do walk according to their old natural state; and that the true manner of living by faith in Christ is, to walk as those that have all fullness and perfection of spiritual blessings in Christ by faith, and need not seek for them any other way to procure them for themselves. In this sense it is a true saying, that believers should not act for life, but from life. They must act as those that are not procuring life by their works, but as those who have already received and derived life from Christ, and act from the power and virtue received from Him.
4. Think not that you can effectually incline your heart to the immediate practice of holiness, by any such practical principles as do only serve to bind, press, and urge you to the performance of holy duties, but rather let such principles stir you up to go to Christ ﬁrst by faith, that you may be effectually inclined to the immediate practice of holiness in Him by gospel principles, that strengthen and enable you, as well as oblige you thereunto. There are some practical principles that do only bind, press, and urge us to holy duties, by showing the reasonableness, equity, and necessity of our obedience, without showing at all how we that are by nature dead in sin, under the wrath of God, may have any strength and ability for the performance of those duties; as, for instance, the authority of God the lawgiver; His all-seeing eye; the unspeakable joy of heaven, and terrible damnation of hell;- such principles as these do bind our consciences very strictly, and do work very strongly upon the prevalent affections of hope and fear, to press and urge our hearts to the performance of holy duties, if we believe them assuredly, and work them earnestly upon our hearts, by frequent, serious, lively meditation. And therefore some account them the most forcible and effectual means to form any virtue in the soul, and to bring it to immediate performance of any duty, though never so difﬁcult, and that the life of faith consisteth principally in our living to God in holiness by a constant belief and meditation on them.
But this is not that manner of living to God whereof the apostle speaketh, when he saith, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which live in the ﬂesh, live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. ii. 20). If a man make use of these obliging principles to stir him to go to Christ for strength to act holy, he walketh like one that hath received Christ as his only life by faith, otherwise he walketh like other natural men. For the natural man may be brought to act by these principles, partly by natural light, and more fully by Scripture light, without any true knowledge of the way of salvation by Christ, and as if Christ had never come into the world And he may be strictly bound by them, and vehemently urged and pressed to holy duties, and yet all this while is left to his own natural strength, or rather weakness, being not assured by any of these principles that God will give him strength to help him in the performance of these duties, and can do nothing aright until he get new life and strength in Christ by a more precious saving faith. There would be no need of a new life and strength by Christ, if these principles were sufﬁcient to bring us to a holy conversation. Therefore this manner of practice is no better than walking after the ﬂesh, according to our corrupt state, and a seeking to be made perfect in the ﬂesh.
And yet these obliging principles are very good and excellent in this right gospel use of them; as the apostle saith of the law, that it is good if it be used lawfully ( Tim. i. 8). The humbled sinner knoweth well his obligations, but it is life and strength that he wanteth; and he despaireth of walking according to such obligations until he get this life and strength by faith in Christ. Therefore these obliging principles do move him to go, in the ﬁrst place, to Christ, that so he may be enabled to answer their end, by the strengthening and enlivening principles of God’s grace in Christ.
Some there are that make use of gospel principles only to oblige and urge to duty, without affording any life and strength for the performance, as they that think Christ died and rose again to establish a new covenant of works for our salvation, and to give us a pattern of good works by His own obedience, rather than to purchase life, obedience, and good works for us. Such as these do not understand and receive the principles of the gospel rightly, but they pervert and abuse them, contrary to their true nature and design; and thereby they render them as ineffectual for their sanctiﬁcation as any other natural or legal principles.
5. Stir up and strengthen yourself to perform the duties of holiness, by a ﬁrm persuasion of your enjoyment of Jesus Christ, and all spiritual and everlasting beneﬁts through Him.
Your way to a holy practice is, ﬁrst to conquer and expel all unbelieving thoughts, by trusting conﬁdently on Christ, and persuading yourselves by faith, that His righteousness, Spirit, glory, and all His spiritual beneﬁts are yours; and that He dwelleth in you, and you in Him. In the might of this conﬁdence, you shall go forth to the performance of the law; and you will be strong against sin and Satan, and able to do all things through Christ that strengthens you. This conﬁdent persuasion is of great necessity to the right framing and disposing our hearts to walk according to our new state in Christ. The life of faith principally consisteth in it. And herein it eminently appeareth, that faith is a hand, not only to receive Christ, but also to work by Him; and that it cannot be effectual for our sanctiﬁcation except it contain in it some assurance of our interest in Christ, as hath been showed. Thus we act as those that are above the sphere of nature, advanced to union and fellowship with Christ. The apostle maintained in His heart a persuasion that Christ had loved him, and given Himself for Him; and hereby he was enabled to live to God in holiness, through Christ living in him by faith. He teacheth us also, that we must maintain the like persuasion, if we would walk holy in Christ. We must know that our old man is cruciﬁed with him; and we must reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. vi. 6, 11). This is the means whereby we may be ﬁlled with the Spirit, strong in the Lord and in the power of His might; which God would not require of us, if he had not appointed the means (Eph. vi. I0).
Christ Himself walked in a constant persuasion of His excellent state; He set the Lord always before Him, and was persuaded that, because God was at His right hand, He should not be moved (Ps. xvi. 8). How should it be rationally expected, that a man should act according to this new state, without assurance that he is in it? It is a rule of common prudence in all worldly callings and conditions, that every one must know and well consider his own state, lest he should act proudly above it, or sordidly below it. And it is a hard thing to bring some to a right estimate of their own worldly condition. If the same rule were observed in spiritual things, doubtless the knowledge and persuasion of the glory and excellency of our new state in Christ would more elevate the hearts of believers above all sordid slavery to their lusts, and enlarge them to run cheerfully the ways of God’s commandments. If Christians knew their own strength better, they would enterprise greater things for the glory of God. But this knowledge is difﬁcultly attained; it is only by faith and spiritual illumination. The best know but in part; and hence it is that the conversation of believers falleth so much below their holy and heavenly calling.
6. Consider what endowments, privileges, or properties of your new state are most meet and forcible to incline and strengthen your heart to love God above all, and to renounce all sin, and to give up yourself to universal obedience to His commands ; and strive to walk in the persuasion of them, that you may attain to the practice of these great duties. I may well join these together, because to love the Lord with all our heart, might, and soul, is the ﬁrst and great commandment, which inﬂuenceth us to all obedience, with a hatred and detestation of all sin, as it is contrary and hateful to God. The same effectual means that produceth the one will also produce the other; and holiness chieﬂy consisteth in these.
For the same end, that your hearts may be rightly ﬁtted and framed for the performance of these principal duties, the Holy Scriptures direct you to walk in the persuasion of other principal endowments of your new state, as, that you have fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John i. 3); and that you are the temple of the living God (2 Cor. vi. 16); that you live by the Spirit (Gal. v. 25); that you are called to holiness, and created in Christ Jesus unto good works; that God will sanctify you wholly, and make you perfect in holiness at the last (1 Thess. v. 23; Eph. ii. I0); that your old man is cruciﬁed with Christ; and that through Him “you are dead unto sin, and alive unto God; and being made free from sin, you are become the servants of righteousness, and have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom. vi. 6, 22); “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. iii. 3). Such persuasions as these, when they are deeply rooted and constantly maintained in our hearts, do strongly arm and encourage us to practice universal obedience in opposition to every sinful lust; because we look upon it not only as our duty, but our great privilege, to do all things through Christ strengthening us; and God doth certainly work in us both to will and to do by these principles, because they properly belong to the gospel, or New Testament, which is the ministration of the Spirit, and the power of God unto salvation (2 Cor, iii. 6, 8; Rom. i. r6).
7. For the performance of other duties of the law, you are to consider not only these endowments, privileges, and properties of your new state, which are meet and forcible to enable you to the love of God and universal obedience, but also those that have a peculiar force and aptitude suitable to the special nature of such particular duties; and you must endeavour to assure yourselves of them by faith, that you may be encouraged and strengthened to perform the duties. I shall give you some instances of this manner of practice in several duties, whereby you may the better understand how to guide yourselves in the rest.
And as to the duties of the ﬁrst table, if you would draw near to God in the duty of His worship with a true heart, you must do it in full assurance of faith concerning your enjoyment of Christ and His salvation. And would you perform the great duty of trusting on the Lord with all your heart, casting your care upon Him, and committing the disposal of yourself to Him in all your concerns? Persuade yourself through Christ that God, according to His promise, will never fail you nor forsake you, that He taketh a fatherly care of you, that He will withhold no good thing from you, and will make all things to work for your good. And thus you will be strong and courageous in the practice of this duty.
That you may love your neighbour as yourself, and do to him in all things as you would he should do to you, without partiality and self-seeking; that you may give him his due honour, and abstain from injuring him, you must walk in a persuasion, not only that these things are just and equitable toward your fellow-creatures, and that you are strictly bound to the performance of them, but that they are the will of your heavenly Father, who hath begotten you according to His own image in righteousness and true holiness, and hath given you His Spirit that you may be like-minded to Him in all things ; and that they are the mind of Christ, who dwelleth in you, and you in Him; that God and Christ are kind, tender-hearted, long-suffering, full of goodness to men, whether good or bad, friends or enemies, poor or rich; and that Christ came into the world, not to destroy but to save, and that you are of the same spirit; that the injuries done to you by your neighbours can do you no harm, and you need not seek any good for yourselves by injuring them, because you have all desirable happiness in Christ; and all things, though intended by your enemies for your hurt, certainly work for your good through Christ. Such apprehensions as these, wrought in us by the Spirit of faith, do certainly beget in us a right frame of spirit, thoroughly furnished for every good work towards our neighbour.
Likewise your hearts will be puriﬁed to unfeigned love of the brethren in Christ, and you will walk toward them with all lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, if you maintain a steadfast belief and persuasion of those manifold bonds of love whereby you are inseparably joined with them through Christ; as particularly that there is one body and one Spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Finally, you will be able to abstain from all ﬂeshly and worldly lusts, that war against the soul, and hinder all godliness, by an assured persuasion, not merely that gluttony, drunkenness, are ﬁlthy abominations, and that the pleasures, proﬁts, and honours of the world are vain, empty things; but that you are cruciﬁed to the ﬂesh and the world, and quickened, raised, and sit in heavenly places together with Christ; and that you have pleasures, proﬁts, honours in Christ, to which the best things in the world are not worthy to be compared; and that you are members of Christ, the temple of His Spirit, citizens of heaven, children of the day, not of the night nor of darkness, so that it is below your state and dignity to practice deeds of darkness, and mind ﬂeshly, worldly things.
8. If you endeavour to grow in grace, and in all holiness, trust assuredly that God will enable you, by this manner of walking, to do everything that is necessary for His glory, and your own everlasting salvation; and that He will graciously accept of that obedience through Christ which you are enabled to perform according to the measure of your faith, and pardon your failings, though you offend in many things, and fall short of many others, as to degrees of holiness and high acts of obedience. And therefore attempt not the performance of duty in any other way, though you cannot yet attain to do so much in this way as you would. This is a necessary instruction to establish us in the life of faith, that the sense of our manifold failings and defects may not move us either to despair, or to return to the use of carnal principles and means for help against our corruptions, as accounting this way of living and acting by faith to be insufﬁcient for our sanctiﬁcation and salvation. We are to know, that though the law requireth of us the utmost perfection of holiness, yet the gospel maketh an allowance for our weakness, and Christ is so meek and lowly in heart that He accepteth of that which our weak faith can attain to by His grace, and both not exact or expect any more of us for His glory and our salvation, until we grow stronger in grace. God showed His great indulgence to His people under the Old Testament, that Moses the lawgiver suffered them, because of the hardness of their hearts, to put away their wives, though from the beginning it was not so (Matt. xix. 8); and also in tolerating the customary practice of polygamy. Though Christ will not tolerate the continuance of such practices in His Church, since His Spirit is more plentifully poured forth under the gospel, yet He is as forward as ever to bear with the failings of His weak saints that desire to obey Him sincerely.
We are to beware of being too rigorous in exacting righteousness of ourselves and others, beyond the measure of faith and grace. Overdoing commonly proveth undoing. Children that venture on their feet beyond their strength have many a fall; and so have babes in Christ, when they venture unnecessarily upon such duties as are beyond the strength of their faith. We should be content, at present, to do the best that we can, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, though we know that others are enabled to do much better; and we are not to despise the day of small things, but to praise God, that He worketh in us any thing that is well pleasing in His sight, hoping that He will sanctify us throughout, and bring us at last to perfection of holiness through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Taken from Walter Marshall’s Gospel Mystery of Sanctiﬁcation, An Abridgement, Chapter 12, “Holiness Through Faith.”