Exhortations to Holiness

It is a very significant circumstance, and no less sad than significant, that the very words “holy” and “holiness” seem almost lost out of the churches of truth.

If the correctness of this assertion be doubted, let us appeal to our readers’ own experience, and ask them how often in the course of a year do they hear the words in the mouth of the ministers of truth under whom they usually sit.

Or if such a word as “holiness” is ever sounded in their ears, is it not more as a term of reproach, and an arrow aimed against what is termed “progressive sanctification,” than brought before them and insisted on as a part of the gospel of the grace of God, and in harmony with the Scriptures of truth and the work of grace upon the heart?

The cause, however, of this omission is not far to seek. One extreme often leads to another; and thus, as in other cases, because ignorant men have erred in one direction, the advocates of truth have been tempted to err in another, and to overlook or ignore the express language of Scripture, lest it should seem to countenance views to which they are opposed.

And what has been the necessary consequence?

That it has come to pass, lest they should be thought to favour a fleshly holiness, men of truth have almost dropped the word altogether.

But because men ignorant of the depths of the Fall, and of the distinction of the two natures in those born of God, advocate what every child of God knows from his own experience to be false as to the gradual sanctification of what in itself is and ever will be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, is it right, is it consistent with faithful stewardship of the mysteries of God, and the solemn trusteeship of the gospel, that not only the Scriptural language “holy” and “holiness” should be tacitly dropped, but what is worse, the thing itself should be neglected and passed by?

We need not be surprised that, as the neglect of any important part of God’s truth must always bear evil fruit, such has been the actual consequence of this omission.

Thus as regards hearers as well as preachers, it has come to pass that all such exhortations to holiness in heart, lip and life, as we meet with in the Scriptures, were they found in the mouth of ministers, would be viewed by many of their people as legal and bondaging, and inconsistent with the purity of gospel truth in its doctrine, if they dare not altogether say with its experience and power.

But if we are brought to this pass, that plain and positive Scripture precepts and exhortations are to be set aside, or thrust out of pulpit and pew, because they do not suit our views and feelings, may we not justly suspect that there is
something wrong somewhere?

And should we not search and examine to see whether such an omission may not be founded on some misconception of the truth, even in those cases where there would not be a willing or wilful neglect of the revealed will and Word of God?

According to our view, the exhortations in the Scriptures to holiness are in perfect harmony with the doctrines of grace and the teaching of the blessed Spirit in the soul; indeed so much so that they grow upon the gospel tree as necessarily as good grapes upon the vine of the Lord’s right-hand planting.

In these exhortations, rightly understood, spiritually received and interpreted, there is nothing legal, nothing that genders to bondage, nothing inconsistent with the liberty of the gospel, the freedom of truth, and the blessedness of the love which casteth out fear which hath torment: for they are all fully impregnated with the dew, the unction, and the power of the Spirit of Life, and are full of sweetness and blessedness to those who can receive them in the power of that grace out of which they spring, and of which they form the crowning fruits.

By J.C. Philpot

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