William Gadsby Sermons (Complete)

29 On Sanctification

[On page 241 there is the first of a Sermon on the above subject, from 1 Cor. 1:2. Had the following come under my notice at the time, I would have inserted it next the above. I feel, however, I should do wrong if I omitted it. It is in the “Gospel Standard” for 1835-1836.]

“For by One offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”—Hebrews 10:14

The doctrine of Sanctification is clearly revealed in the Word of God; and when the mind of the saint is led into it by the blessed Spirit, the doctrine of a Triune Jehovah shines forth; for we are sanctified by the Three that bear record in heaven,—the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; as will evidently appear if we take into consideration the different acceptations the term bears in the Bible.

1. By the term Sanctification, or sanctify, we are sometimes to understand the setting apart of a thing or person to a certain use or office. As for instance; God sanctified, or set apart, the seventh day as a Sabbath of rest. Before the Lord formed Jeremiah in the womb of his mother, he sanctified, or ordained, him, a prophet unto the nations. (Jer. 1:5.) In this sense, Christ, the Father’s first Elect, was sanctified, or set apart (John 10:36), as the Mediator of the better covenant, before all worlds. In like manner, the election of grace were sanctified, or set apart, by God the Father, as his chosen people, in Christ, from everlasting. Hence Jude, the servant of Christ, dedicates his epistle to them that are “sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Christ Jesus, and called” by God’s grace. And Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, uses a similar mode of expression: “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints;” and in his solemn address to the elders of the church at Ephesus, we have the same principle maintained: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Also in Heb. 10, where he says, that Christ “hath, by one offering, for ever perfected them that are sanctified.”

From the above passages, how evident it is that God’s predestinated people were eternally sanctified by God the Father, in Christ Jesus, and that election and sanctification are of the same eternal date; and, as it is said in the Articles of the Church of England: “The godly consideration of it is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members, and training up their mind to high and heavenly things; as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God.”

2. By Sanctification we are sometimes to understand a cleansing from that which in itself is unclean or impure, as we all are, both by nature and practice. This sanctification, or cleansing, is by the precious blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin. Of this, Paul speaks: “Wherefore, Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:13); “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Again, in Heb. 9:13, 14, Paul, contrasting the blood of the Levitical priesthood with the blood of Christ, says, “If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” And, in 1 Cor. 6:11, having reckoned up the black catalogue of crimes to which the unrighteous are given up, adds: “And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, [by Christ,] who of God is made unto us sanctification and redemption; for (Heb. 2:11), he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one.” This sanctification we greatly need, for we were born in sin and conceived in iniquity; we are men of unclean lips and dwell amongst a people of unclean lips; and if we know the plague of our own hearts, we feel, at times, such swarms of vain and sinful thoughts working within, even when on our knees in our closets, that we have to cry out from our very souls, “O Lord, I am vile!” “Unclean, unclean!” “Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?” And were it not for the fountain of Jesus’ sanctifying blood, which is open for sin and uncleanness, such black, polluted, guilty sinners as we are must sink in despair. But we rejoice to hear our gracious Lord say unto us, “Come now, and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, and though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Such is the power and efficacy of the blood of atonement, that when it is applied to the conscience, by the power of the Spirit, it removes the burden of guilt, softens the hard heart, and brings that joy, peace, and rest that the world can neither give nor take away; for it speaks better things than the blood of Abel.

Abel’s blood called for vengeance to burst on Cain’s guilty head; but the blood of Christ is crying for peace and pardon to rest on all the ransomed of the Lord. The church triumphant in glory, having proved the power and efficacy of the sanctifying, cleansing, purifying blood of the Lamb, make it the glory of their song: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

“Happy songsters,
When shall I your chorus join?”

3. The work of Sanctification is also ascribed to the Holy Ghost: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13); “Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”

In treating upon the sanctification of the Spirit, as it is laid down in the Word of God, it must be observed,

First, As God the Father hath eternally sanctified his people in Christ, so for them Christ hath obtained eternal redemption; yet who these people are is only made known by the sanctification of the Spirit; for before the Holy Ghost takes possession of their hearts in regeneration, they are dead in trespasses and sins and enemies to God by wicked works, both body and soul being given up to work wickedness with greediness. But when he takes them in hand, he sanctifies them, or sets them apart, for the service of God; according to that exhortation: “As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” (Rom. 6:19.) They are a people the Lord hath formed for himself, and, under the sanctifying influence of his Spirit, they shall show forth his praise, making it manifest that they are a peculiar people, zealous of good works, which God hath before ordained that they shall walk in them. Lighted up by the Holy Ghost, they are as a candle put in a proper place to give light to all around; or as a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid. By their fruits, they are known to be the Lord’s sanctified ones: “For this is the will of God, even our sanctification, that we should abstain from fornication, &c.; for God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” “If a man (by the Spirit’s influence) purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:21.) This can only be the case with us as the Lord works in us to will and do of his own good pleasure; for from him is our fruit found. In 1 Thess. 5:23, Paul says, “And the very God of peace sanctity you wholly; and I pray God, your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” Thus the Lord makes it manifest that his people are not of the world, but that he hath chosen them out of the world, as a seed to serve him, and a generation to call him blessed.

Secondly, In considering the sanctification of the Spirit, as an internal work of grace in the heart of the believer, we shall find that it is a growing work: “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18.)

Here a question arises, Does the old man of sin, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts, grow better and better? The answer to this question is, No; for the old man, which is the flesh, is always the same, lusting against the Spirit, which causes the spiritual warfare in the Christian’s breast; for “what shall we see in the Shulamite? As it were, the company of two armies.” This contest between the old man of sin and the new man of grace will never cease while we are in the body. The doctrine of the old man of sin growing better and better, the Christian, by daily experience, proves to be the doctrine of fools, and he will have to say with Paul, even down to the Jordan of death, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not.”

“If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” This new creature, or new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness, grows, or is renewed, in knowledge after him that created it. The outward man, the body, perishes; but the inward man is renewed day by day. Hence we are said to be strengthened with might, by the Spirit, in the inner man.

It is light that discovers darkness; so, as we are sanctified by the Holy Ghost, we have a growing knowledge and feeling sense of the depravity of our nature, and of our lost, helpless state and condition, as guilty sinners. This has a tendency to humble us before God, and to make us say with Job, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Thus we grow out of love with ourselves and our own worth and worthiness, placing no confidence in the flesh, and renouncing every thing but Christ and him crucified. Proud flesh must fall, that Christ may rise. The blessed Spirit, in his work, has two things in view, namely, the laying low of the sinner, and the setting up of Jesus on high; and to this end he leads us out of ourselves into Christ, daily to feel that we are lost in ourselves, to look to Christ, by faith, for complete salvation. By nature we are black and polluted with sin, and the Spirit leads us to the fountain of Christ to be cleansed; naked, and he enables us, by faith, to put on the garment of salvation; guilty and condemned, he makes us sue for pardon at Jesus’ feet, like the poor publican, and seals pardon and peace in the conscience; weak and helpless, he leads us to trust in the Lord Jehovah, in whom there is everlasting strength; foolish, he leads us to Christ, the wonderful Counselor, for wisdom. He creates within us a hungering and thirsting for the bread of heaven and the wine of the kingdom and enables us to feed, by faith, upon Christ, the feast of fat things.

In a word. To be sanctified by the Holy Spirit is to be made to feel that we are nothing in ourselves, and less than nothing, and vanity, that Christ may be our all and in all. The highest height of sanctification that we can attain unto in this life is to have our mind and will resigned unto the mind and will of God,—to say from our very hearts, “Thy will be done.” As we are thus led by the Spirit out of ourselves into Christ, we love him for the great things he has done for us, whereof we are glad. The Holy Ghost sheds abroad a Savior’s love in our hearts, and it constrains us to love Christ, who first loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sweet smelling savour. The love of Christ inclines our hearts after him, and our feet run in the way of his commandments. The precepts and exhortations of the gospel are our delight, and it is as our meat and drink to do the will of God. It is our desire that the mind that was in Christ Jesus may be in us, and that we may live under the influence of the Spirit, making it manifest that we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, taking his yoke upon us, that we may learn of him who is meek and lowly in heart, and find rest unto our souls. Our happiest moments are when we can sit at the feet of Jesus, and hear his precious words, which are sweeter than honey to our taste.

How different this view of the doctrine of sanctification to that of the old man of sin, or the flesh, growing better and better every day of our lives, until sin is completely eradicated out of our nature. If the man gets better and better in himself, he must become more and more independent of Christ, the great Physician; for as a diseased person applies to a doctor, and receives from him medicines, which prove effectual in removing the disease, and then tells him he can do without him, being cured; so in the case before us. If the sinner gets better and better, till the plague of sin is gone, he has no more need of the balm of Gilead, nor of the great Physician. Thus it makes the sinner independent of Christ and his efficacious blood; and, therefore, cannot be of God.

There is one thing connected with this subject, at which I have often wondered. Some of the ministers who vindicate the above doctrine, when asked how much better they are in themselves than at the first, cannot tell us anything about it. But ask others, who are made alive to God and who daily feel the plague of their own hearts, and they speak out freely, and say, that the longer they live, the greater sinners they feel themselves to he; and they experience a growing need of the finished salvation of Christ, his efficacious blood and justifying righteousness, and of the influences of his Holy Spirit upon their hearts, to enable them to use the weapons of warfare, which are not carnal but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4, 5.) It is only as the grace of God reigns in our hearts, through righteousness, that we are enabled to tread upon the necks of our internal enemies, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus; for when the Lord leaves off communing with us by his Spirit and grace, we, like Abraham, return to our own place—hardness of heart, coldness, deadness, barrenness of mind, vain, worldly thoughts, evil murmurings against the Lord and against one another, and, like Paul, we cannot forbear crying out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Some time since I went to see an old Christian woman who was one of the unmarried women that Paul speaks of, who “care for the things of the Lord.” She had been bending her steps Zionward for more than half a century. I found her in great distress of mind. She said she felt she was on the very brink of death and eternity, and that she had sat under a Baptist minister more than thirty years, who had taught her to believe that before she was ready to die she must be fully sanctified; by which she understood she was to be holy in herself, and without sin. She had been expecting to attain to this all the way she had traveled, and especially when she came to be on a deathbed. But instead of this, she said she saw herself to be a greater sinner than ever she was, and that she began with the prayer of the publican, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” And it had been her prayer all the way through; and she never could get above it, for it was her prayer then, on a dying bed. If she looked at her past life, she had to say with Jacob, “Few and evil have been the days of my pilgrimage;” and if she looked into her heart, it was a cage of unclean birds, in which were swarms of evil thoughts; so that there was nothing in her, or done by her, that she could look to, or trust in, for eternity. She was much distressed that she had not experienced progressive sanctification, and that she was not now “fully sanctified;” inasmuch as that she had not attained to it, she feared that, after all her profession, she should be a castaway. After I had heard all her tale of woe, I labored to direct her attention to the glorious Person of Immanuel, his ability to save the very chief of sinners, and to the sanctifying blood of the Lamb, that taketh away all iniquity, and to the robe of righteousness, wrought out by Christ, which is the wedding garment, in which we must appear with acceptance at the marriage supper of the Lamb; and I endeavoured to encourage her, by saying, if she were enabled to put all her trust in the Person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, she would never be lost. As I was speaking of the safety of those who shelter by faith in the wounded side of Christ, she rose up in bed, and said, “O, my dear friend! I like him; he is precious to my soul! I feel a view of him by faith does my soul good. He will never suffer my soul to be lost or put to shame.” In this happy strain she continued speaking for some time; and, after reading to her a portion of God’s Word, and going to prayer with her, I left her; and the next day I heard she was dead.

Paul tells us the just shall live by faith. While this old pilgrim was looking to herself, it brought darkness and death into her soul; but when she was enabled to look by faith to Christ, she experienced life, light, joy, and peace; ‘and I doubt not there are many of the Lord’s people in a state of bondage, who sit under a ministry in which they are directed to look for perfection in themselves, instead of having set before them the glorious finished work of Immanuel.

But I fear I am swelling these remarks to too great a length; and, therefore, must conclude.

The Lord sanctify us to his service, that we may live to the honour and glory of his great name; that if we be buffeted, it may be for the truth’s sake and not for any untoward step; for “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”—November, 1835.