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To establish this view of their proper character, and fix it in their minds how thoroughly detached from the earth they ought to be, our Lord repeats the words, “ They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” There is no kind of selfdenial and retirement from the spirit of the world, which Jesus hath not exercised before us. For our greater edification, he practised his way of “ holy living," not in the solitude of a desert, or among a few quiet persons only; not only on sabbath-days or in the temple: but in all companies, and at all times. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking:” yet with all this free intercourse, he was not of the world.” He shows us hereby, that we are not called necessarily to “go out of the world.” Our obligation is far higher ; namely, to remain among men, and yet abstain from what is sinful in the world: to resist evil in others; and, in our own conduct, to maintain a holy and visible consistency, on the side of Christian principles. The rule is indeed high-Not to abuse our liberty in the world; but to use it circumspectly: so to use it, as to improve the world by every thing we say and do: so that society may be benefitted by our living example and conversation, whilst we give all diligence to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
SANCTIFICATION THROUGH THE TRUTH.
John xvii. 17.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. What is Holiness ?—The inquiry is suggested by our Lord's petition, “ Sanctify them.”
It consists in the conformity of our dispositions and conduct to the will of God. The seed of it must be planted first in the heart: thenceforward, grows,
it will bear fruit in the life and conversation. That the disciples might be endowed with this character, our Saviour prayed the Father“ Sanctify them.” They were already sincerely converted to God: for Jesus says of them, “ They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;" and therefore sanctification had commenced in them. But wherever this good work is begun, we must pray for its progress and completion; that sin may be utterly abolished, and the man of God sanctified wholly: that he may be preserved, in his spirit, soul, and body, blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a great work; and yet nothing less suffices, in the sight of God. It is moreover necessary for all men; not for the disciples only; but for us likewise; for “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” We are taught therefore to pray daily, “ Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven:" that is, that it may be done heartily, unreservedly, and constantlv.
Jesus in praying for his disciples, that they might be perfected in holiness, added a sentence, pointing out what is the principal instrument of our sanctification : “ Sanctify them through thy truth : thy word is truth.” We may observe, in several particulars, how the word of God tends to promote holiness in the heart and life of all who receive it faithfully; whether they be persons ministering in sacred things, or servants of Christ in general.
1. First, the word of God is a means of our sanctification, because it explains to us the holy nature of God, and of his law: that is to say, the Scriptures supply us with Knowledge on this subject. Other books may contain some scattered hints, partly true, partly erroneous, concerning what is called Morality or Virtue. But the Bible is the only book, which gives us clear, determinate and authorative information, as to what true holiness is. The Ten Commandments, in this respect, have no equal in all the writings of human philosophy. The Lord's Prayer is similarly unrivalled. The spiritual lessons of the fifth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel are likewise without a parallel. The history of God's providential government, given us in the Bible, is a perpetual proof of his holy and righteous character. The holy Commandments, the holy form of Prayer, the holy Gospel with its spiritual interpretations of the law, and the history of God's righteous government—all teach us what holiness is. In this way may we attain all necessary knowledge as to what God requires of us, in order to our sanctification.
2. But the word of God supplies us also with Motives to holiness; exciting us to make Efforts to resemble the holy Lord God Almighty. Considerations are placed before us in the Gospel, which constrain a believer in Christ to aim at becoming holy, as God is holy.-Observe the different steps by which a believer is led on, by the Spirit, to holiness. First, the Scriptures show him his real state: they reveal to him his guilt, corruption and misery; the evils of his heart, and the temptations that are in the world. Then they show him his remedy in Christ: how he may find pardon, and how he may be justified through faith in Jesus. The Scriptures lead him on next, to this important truth, that the Holy Spirit is given to all who ask it of God; whereby the fountain, namely, his heart, may be cleansed, and turned into a source of holy thoughts and dispositions. All these considerations furnish powerful motives to pursue holiness. The threatenings of God's word are designed to make sin appear terrible: but it is chiefly his promises, his exceeding great and precious promises, which encourage us to hope that we may, through grace, become partakers of the divine nature. “ The love of Christ constraineth us.”
3. The word of God is an instrument of sanctification, yet further, by giving us explicit Rules on this important subject. Here we find precepts clear and decisive, on every duty which we owe to
God, our neighbour, and ourselves. — And not precepts only; but likewise Examples, of the most persuasive kind, to show us what pleases God, and what displeases him. So that a temper and conduct formed according to this word, must necessarily be full of mercy and good fruits; abhorrent of evil; honourable to God, useful to men, and a suitable preparation of our souls for the perfect purity and bliss of heaven.
Such being the value of God's word, in the work of our sanctification, it is clearly our duty to read the Scriptures diligently; using at the same time self-application, and earnest prayer to God for his blessing upon our sacred studies. To know God's will, it is not requisite to have much learning; but it is indispensable to cultivate humility, teachableness, and a spirit of ready obedience. If a man be willing to do the will of God, he shall know it, as he goes on prayerfully searching the Scriptures. Here, the little child and the grey-headed old man, the barbarian and the wise, the newly-converted heathen, and the most experienced minister of Christ, may all learn in the same school, read in the same book, look up to the same Master, and be guided by one and the same Holy Spirit. If, on Gospel-principles, they know, love, and follow after holiness, then are they answering the great end for which God gave us the Bible, and for which Christ even now continually offers up this petition, 6 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”