Sanctification is a Christian duty, even an holy obligation (see WCF, Chapter 13). But is there more to it than simply a desire or pursuit of what is right? And since our corruption still clings to us this would appear to be more of a discouragement than an encouragement. How is it that those who are just but not perfect (Hebrews 12:23) expected to walk in holiness?
In Chapter 5 of “Christ: The Way, The Truth and the Life” John Brown of Wamphray presents 20 encouragements from scripture towards the sanctification of believers in Christ. Though there is much in this chapter and book about the necessity of a strict and holy walk with the Lord, the author also makes it plain that sanctification is a gift of God to poor sinners. I share these reflections of Mr. Brown here as an excellent summary of how God aids us to live as He would have us live.
we are said to be sanctified in Christ, 1 Cor. i.2; and “he is made of God to us sanctification,” 1 Cor. i.30. Let us then see in what sense this may be true. And,
1. He hath by his death and blood procured that this work of sanctification shall be wrought and carried on. For “he suffered without the gate, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood,” Heb. xiii.12. “We are saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour,” Titus iii.5, 6. “He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” Tit. ii.14. Thus our sanctification is the fruit of his death, and purchased by his blood. “He gave himself for his church, that he might sanctify it,” Eph. v.25, 26.
2. He dying as a cautioner and public person, believers are accounted in law to be dead to sin in him. Hence the apostle tells us, Rom. vi.3-6, that as many of us as are baptised into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death; and that therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; and are planted together in the likeness of his death; yea, and that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Whence believers are warranted and commanded, verse 11, to reckon themselves “to be dead indeed unto sin;” and therefore sin should “not reign in their mortal bodies to fulfil the lusts thereof,” verse 12. This is a sure ground of hope and comfort for believers, that Christ died thus as a public person; and that by virtue thereof, being now united to Christ by faith, they are dead to sin by law; and sin cannot challenge a dominion over them, as before their conversion it might have done, and did; for the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth, but no longer. Wherefore believing brethren “becoming dead to the law by the body of Christ, are married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that they should bring forth fruit unto God,” Rom. vii.1-4.
3. Hence it followeth, that our “old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed,” Rom. vi.6. So that this old tyrant that oppresseth the people of God, hath got his death wounds, in the crucifixion of Christ, and shall never recover his former vigour and activity, to oppress and bear down the people of God, as he did. He is now virtually, through the death of Jesus, killed and crucified, being in Christ nailed to the cross.
4. His resurrection is a pawn and pledge of this sanctification. For as he died as a public person, so he rose again as a public person. “We are buried with him by baptism, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life,” Rom. vi.4; and believers are said to be “planted together with him, in the likeness of his resurrection,” verse 5; “and they shall live with him,” verse 8; “and therefore they are to reckon themselves alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” verse 11. “We are raised up together,” Eph. ii.6.
5. This sanctification is an article of the covenant of redemption betwixt the Father and the Son, Isa. lii.15, “So shall he sprinkle many nations.” Chap. liii.10, “He shall see his seed, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Christ, then, having this promised to him, must see to the accomplishment thereof, and will have it granted to him; seeing he hath fulfilled all that was engaged to by him — having made his soul an offering for sin.
6. This sanctification is promised in the covenant of grace, Jer. xxxiii.8. “And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity.” Ezek. xxxvii.23, “And I will cleanse them.” So chap. xxxvi.25, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you.” Now all the promises of the covenant of grace are confirmed to us in the Mediator. For, “in him all the promises of the covenant are yea and amen,” 2 Cor. i.20.
7. He hath purchased and made sure to his own, the new nature, and the heart of flesh, which is also promised, Ezek. xxxvi.26, and xi.19. Jer. xxxii.39. This is the new and lively principle of grace, the spring of sanctification, which cannot be idle in the soul; but must be emitting vital acts natively.
Yea, through him, are believers made partakers of the divine nature, which is a growing thing, — young glory in the soul, 2 Pet. i.3,4, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue, whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might be made partakers of the divine nature,” &c.
8. The Spirit is promised, to cause us walk in his statutes, Ezek. xlvi.27. Now all these promises are made good to us in Christ, who is the cautioner of the covenant; yea, he hath gotten now the dispensing and giving out of the rich promises of the covenant, committed unto him; so as he is the great and glorious custodier of all purchased blessings.
9. There are new waterings, breathings, and gales of the Spirit, given in Christ, Isa. xxvii.3. He must water his garden or vineyard every moment. This is the north wind and the south wind that bloweth upon the garden, Cant. iv.16. He must be as the dew unto Israel, Hos. xiv.5.
10. Through Christ is the believer brought into such a covenant state, as giveth great ground of hope of certain victory. He is not now under the law, but under grace; and hence inferreth the apostle, Rom. vi.14, “That sin shall not have dominion over them.” Being now under that dispensation of grace, whereby all their stock is in the Mediator’s hand, and at his disposal; and not in their own hand and power, as under the covenant of works, there is a sure ground laid down for constant supply and furniture in all necessities.
11. Christ hath prayed for this, John xvii.17, “Sanctify them through thy truth;” where the Lord is praying, that his disciples might be more and more sanctified, and so fitted and qualified for the work of the ministry they were to be employed in. And what he prayed for them, was not for them alone, but also for the elect, proportionably, who are opposed to the world, for which he did not pray, verse 9.
12. He standeth to believers in relation of a vine, or a root, in which they grow as branches, so that by abiding in him, living by faith in him, and drawing sap from him, they bring forth fruit in him, John xv.1, 2, 4, 5. Their stock of grace is in him, the root; and he communicateth sap and life unto his branches, whereby they grow, flourish, and bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
13. Christ hath taken on him the office of a prophet and teacher, to instruct us in the way wherein we ought to go; for he is that great prophet whom the Lord promised to raise up, and who was to be heard and obeyed in all things, Deut. xviii.15. Acts iii.22, and vii.37. “He is given for a witness, and a leader,” Isa. lv.4; and we are commanded to hear him, Matt, xvii.5. Mark x.7.
14. He hath also taken on him the office of a king, Psal. ii.6. Matt, xxviii.5. Isa. ix.7. Phil. ii.8-11. and thereby standeth engaged to subdue all their spiritual enemies, Satan and corruption, Psal. cx. He is given for a leader and commander, Isa. lv.5, and so can cause his people walk in his ways.
15. When we defile ourselves with new transgressions and failings, he hath provided a fountain for us to wash in; “a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness,” Zech. xiii.1; and this fountain is his blood, which cleanseth from all sin, Heb. ix.14.1 John i.7. Rev. i.5.
16. He is set before us as a copy and pattern, that we “should walk even as he walked,” 1 John ii.6. “He left us an example that we should follow his steps,” 1 Pet. ii.21. But we should beware to separate this consideration from the preceding, as antichristian Socinians do, who will have Christ only to be a copy.
17. He hath overcome Satan, our arch enemy, and hath destroyed his works, 1 John iii.8. He came to destroy the works of the devil; and in particular, his works of wickedness in the soul. Thus he is a conqueror and the captain of our salvation.
18. As he hath purchased, so hath he appointed ordinances, for the laying of the foundation, and carrying on this work of sanctification; both word and sacraments are appointed for that; the word to convert and to confirm, John xvii.17. “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth,” said Christ. The word is given as the rule; and also through the means thereof is life and strength conveyed to the soul, “to perfect holiness in the fear of God,” 1 Pet. ii.2. And the sacraments are given to strengthen and confirm the soul in the ways of God.
19. As he hath laid down strong encouragements to his followers, to hold on in the way of holiness, many great and precious promises, by which they may be made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Pet. i.4; and by which they are encouraged to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, 2 Cor. vii.1; and many motives to hold on and continue; so hath he rolled difficulties out of the way, whether they be within us, or without us, and thereby made the way easy and pleasant to such as walk in it; so as they may now run the way of his commandments, and walk and not weary, and run and not be faint.
Nay, 20. We would remember for our encouragement and confidence, that in carrying on of this work lieth the satisfaction of the soul, and the pleasure of the Lord that must prosper in his hand, and thus he seeth his seed, and hath of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied.