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THE NECESSITY OF HOLINESS.
The Necessity of Holiness argued from the Nature of God.
SHALL close this discourse with the consideration of the necessity of holiness, the reasons of that necessity, and the principal motives to it;-and for our encouragement herein, this necessity is such as all sorts of Christians allow, plead for, and pretend to., For, as the gospel is eminently the truth, or doctrine which is according to godliness,' or that which is suited to the attainment and practice of it, none can with modesty refuse the trial of their doctrines by their tendency thereto. But what is of that nature, or what is an hindrance to it, many are not yet agreed about. The Socinians contend, That the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ overthrows the necessity of a holy life. The Papists say the same concerning the imputation of Christ's righteousness. The same charge is laid by others against the doctrine of election, the efficacy of divine grace in the conversion of sinners, and the faithfulness of God in the preservation of believers in their state of grace to the end. On the other hand, the Scripture places the foundation of all true holiness in these things; so that without the faith and influence of them, it will not allow any thing to be so called.
First then, The nature of God as revealed to us, with our dependence on him, the obligation that is upon us to live to him, with the nature of our blessedness in the enjoyment of him, indispensably require that we should be holy. The holiness of God's nature is every where in Scripture made the fundamental reason of the necessity of holiness in us. Be ye holy, for I am holy:'-and to
shew the everlasting equity and force of this reason, it is transferred to the gospel; as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.' Levit. xi. 44. and Peter i. 15, 16. God lets them know that his nature is such, that unless they are holy, there can be no such intercourse between him and them: I brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.' Lev. xi. 45. Without this, the relation designed cannot be maintained. To this purpose is that description given us of his nature: For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight; thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak lying; the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.' Psal. v. 4-6. Answerable to that of the prophet, Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.' He is such a God, so pure, so holy, that he can take no pleasure in fools, liars, or workers of iniquity. And our apostle argues in the same manner: 'Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear for our God is a consuming fire.' He lays his argument for the necessity of holiness in the worship of God, in the consideration of the holiness of his nature, which, as a consuming fire, will devour what is inconsistent with it. Hence God strictly required that nothing unclean or unholy should be in the camp of his people, because of his presence among them, who is himself holy; and without an exact observance hereof, he declares that he will depart and leave them. He who resolves not to be holy, had best seek another God to worship; with our God he will never find acceptance; and therefore the Heathen, who gave themselves up to all filthiness, fancied such gods as were wicked and unclean, that they might freely conform to them, and serve them with satisfaction. And God himself declares, that men of wicked and flagitious lives, have secret thoughts that he is not holy, but like themselves; for if they had not, they must think either of leaving him or their sins. Ps. 1. 21.
But we must carefully observe, that the holiness of God as absolutely considered, merely as an eternal property of the divine nature, is not the immediate ground of and mo
tive to holiness, but it is the holiness of God as manifested to us in Christ Jesus. Under the first consideration, we who are sinners, can make no conclusion from it but that of Joshua: He is an holy God, a jealous God; he will not forgive your iniquities.' No argument can be rationally pleaded for the necessity of holiness, unless it contain in itself an encouraging motive to it. To declare it necessary, and at the same time impossible, is not to promote its interest. No creature is capable of such a perfection in holiness, as absolutely to answer the infinite purity of the divine nature, without a covenant condescension. But it is the holiness of God, as he is in Christ, and as in Christ represented to us, that gives us both the necessity and motive to holiness. In him the glorious perfections of God appear more resplendent and attractive than as absolutely considered. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God' is given to us, in the face of Jesus Christ; that is, clear manifestations of his glorious excellencies, which are not only directive to holiness, but also effective of it. Particularly, the fiery holiness of God is so represented to us in Christ, that, though it lose nothing of declaring the indispensable necessity of holiness in all that draws nigh to him, yet it is so tempered with grace and condescension, as may encourage us to endeavour after a conformity to it.
Together with a representation of the holiness of God in Christ, there is a revelation made of what holiness in us he requires and will accept. Absolutely considered, he neither requires nor admits of any but what is absolutely perfect; and where there is any failing, the whole is condemned. James ii. 11. This, therefore, can only perplex the soul of a sinner;-but now, as God is in Christ, through his mediation, he accepts of such an holiness as we are capable of, and which no man is discouraged from endeavouring to attain.
There is also, in and by Christ, a spiritual power of grace administered, which shall work this holiness in us. From this fountain, therefore, we draw not only the reasons of the necessity of holiness, but also prevalent motives to it.
We may consider in what particular instances the force of this argument is conveyed to us, or what are the special
reasons why we ought to be holy because God is so: and they are three.
1. Because herein consists all that conformity to God which is our privilege and honour. We were originally created in the image of God: herein consisted the blessedness of our first state. This we lost by the entrance of sin; and if there be not a way for us to acquire it again, we shall always come short of the glory of God, and the end of our creation. Now this is done in and by holiness alone. It is therefore to no purpose for any man to ex pect an interest in God, or any thing that will prove eternally to his advantage, who does endeavour after conformity to him for such a man despises all the glory that God designed to himself in our creation.
2. The force of the agument arises from the respect it bears to our actual intercourse with God. This we are called to, and must aim at in all our duties. If there be not in them a real intercourse with God, they are but 'uncertain beatings of the air.' Now, as God is holy, if we are not in our measure holy too, this cannot be. For God neither accepts of any duties from unholy persons, nor is he glorified by them; and, therefore, as to these ends, he expressly rejects them. It is a good duty to 'preach the word;' but, to the wicked, God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, seeing thou hatest instruction, and casteth my words behind thee,'-seeing thou art unholy? To pray is a good duty; but to them that are unclean, God saith, When ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you; and when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. And the like may be said of all other duties; if we are not holy, they are everlastingly lost, as to their proper ends; for there is no communion between light and darkness. 'God is light, and in him is
no darkness at all: and if we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness,' as all unholy persons do, we lie, and do not the truth :—but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. Now, who that considers this, unless he be infatuated, would, for the love of any one sin, or out of conformity to the world, utterly forfeit the benefit of all those duties in which, perhaps, he has abundantly la
3. It arises from a respect to our future enjoyment of God. This is our utmost end, which, if we come short of, better ten thousand times we had never been; for, without it, everlasting misery is unavoidable. Now, without holiness no man shall see the Lord:' only the pure in heart shall see God:' hereby alone are we made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.' There is no imagination wherewith mankind is besotted more foolish; none so pernicious as this, that persons not sanctified. not made holy in this life, should afterwards be taken into that state of blessedness which consists in the enjoyment of God. No thought can be more reproachful to his glory, nor more inconsistent with the nature of things:-for neither can such persons enjoy him, nor would God himself be a reward to them. They can have nothing whereby they should adhere to him as their chief good; nor can they see any thing in him that should give them rest and satisfaction. All unholy persons, therefore, who feed themselves with hopes of Heaven, do it merely on false notions of God and happiness, whereby they deceive themselves. Heaven is a place where, as they would not be, so they cannot be; it is neither desired by them, nor fit for them. There is, therefore, a manifold necessity of holiness, from the consideration of the holy nature of that God whom we hope to enjoy.
Hence we may learn what an effectual means for the prejudice of true holiness they have invented, who build it on no other bottom, nor press it on any other motive, but that it is meritorious in the sight of God:-for whether this be believed and complied with or not, true holiness is ruined, if no better reason be substituted in its room. Reject this motive, and there is no need of it; which, I am persuaded, is the case with many, who, being taught that good works are not meritorious, have concluded that they. are useless. Comply with this motive, and you destroy the very nature of true holiness, and turn all the pretended duties of it into fruits of spiritual pride and blind superstition. But we see that the necessity of it has other foundations, consistent with the grace of the Gospel. There is no motive to it of any real efficacy, but perfectly agrees with the whole doctrine of the free grace of God by Jesus Christ; nor is there any that gives the least countenance to merit in ourselves, or that takes us off from an