William Gadsby

SERMON VI.

Sanctification in Christ.

Preached in Gower Street Chapel, London, on Lord’s Day Morning, May 9th, 1841.

“Sanctified in Christ Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 1:2

(NOTE TO READER: The word “manifestive”{archaic} has been changed to “manifested”).

I have no doubt that in this assembly, in some corner or other, there are some poor, hobbling souls who are terrified almost to death about the doctrine of sanctification. They read, in the book of God’s Word, of the Spirit as a Sanctifier; but they are necessarily obliged to exclaim, “Lord, I am vile!” Sometimes we say respecting people’s credit, “Why, it is wrought quite threadbare.” Bless you, in some poor souls there is not a thread left to be made bare. If God the Spirit has brought you there, you will have indeed to exclaim, “Lord, I am vile!” But when God opens to them the mystery of divine sanctification, he will make them know that they are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Who? The poor, the vile, the loathsome, and the base.

Perhaps there may be in this assembly a poor, helpless soul, who has come mourning, sighing, groaning, and has not power to trust in the Lord, has not power to believe. “O!” say some; “the Word says, ‘All things are possible to him that believeth.’ It is only the simple act of belief; and if a man has power to believe, ‘All things are possible to him that believeth.’” But man has no power to believe. God has brought me to feel so much as this,— that if my salvation depended upon my doing this, that, or the other, I should be damned as sure as the devil is; and I have been brought to feel that if faith believes, it must be God’s work, for he must act it and he must do it.

In my late affliction there is one portion in God’s Word which struck me. Afflictions always yield the “peaceable fruits of righteousness to those that are exercised thereby;” and I believe the Lord opened the marrow of it to my soul in these words: “To those that are exercised thereby.” Some have affliction, and they are not exercised in it. They are like a man who puts on a soldier’s dress, and just merely swings his sword a little, and marches but a few steps, and then lays it aside; but this will not make him a soldier, for a man before he is a soldier needs to be exercised again and again, and again. So it is with those who are in affliction and are not exercised. Does the affliction exercise? No; nor does the putting on of the dress make the man a soldier, but the exercising of him. And so it is with the soul in the affliction. As the Lord exercises them in the affliction, so will it yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. If the Lord the Spirit does not exercise them at all, all they know is a little prating religion; but when the Lord the Spirit brings the word of truth home to the conscience, they will then know a little of being sanctified in Christ Jesus.

There are a few branches here which we will look into, as the Lord shall enable us; and if Christ is not the whole and sole of your religion, you know not much of sanctification. All the movements flow from Christ: “For it is the Spirit that worketh in us both to will and to do;” we have not so much as a will. Hence it is said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” All real sanctification comes from Christ. He is the Spring-Head; he is the Treasury. “Of his fulness all we receive.” And when the Lord the Spirit leads a man to receive out of Christ, he will have something worth having; but if it be of self, it will work confusion. What a matchless purity there is in Christ!

In my late affliction a person said to me, “Why do you not pray to the Lord?” And the Lord was pleased to open this text to my mind: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”

When God is about to sanctify a poor sinner, he unbinds everything of man’s goodness; he breaks down every prop. Sometimes he will let them build up again; but he will unbind it again and again. I compare him to a man who is living in a poor tumble-down building, whose foundation has long been tottering, and which is ready to fall about his ears; and yet the poor man clings to it, till at length it gets so bad that he is compelled to leave it; and, as Berridge says,

“Out I ran naked,

And crept to the Rock.”

Then God appears for us, and brings us to know something of being saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation. We will notice three things:

  1. We are sanctified by God the Father, in perfect council, from before the foundation of the world.

  2. Sanctified by the blood-shedding of the Redeemer. I know not what term to give it, but I will call it meritorious sanctification, by the blood of Christ.

  3. Manifested sanctification, by the communication and operation of God the Holy Ghost.

I. We are sanctified in perfect council, by God the Father, before the foundation of the world. Hence Jude says, “Sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ Jesus, and called.” And upon this ground the Holy Ghost says, “Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling.” How? “Not according to our works.” How then? “But according to his own purpose and grace, given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”

Perhaps I shall differ from some of you when I say innocent Adam had not the new covenant blessings, [As the new covenant blessings were for sinners, Adam could not experience them while he was innocent]. In his primeval state he was created in the pure image of God. But he had nothing to do with the new covenant blessings; for the new covenant blessings were wrapped up and locked up in the heart of Christ Jesus. Hence, says the apostle, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” So these new covenant blessings were wrapped up in the heart of Christ Jesus. And as the Immortal Treasury, they were locked up in him before the foundation of the world.

I know one thing which I have proved, that God builds up his church with some of the worst of materials, some of the vilest of the vile. No man can manage them, for they are fit for nothing but rubbish. And yet they are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” And I will tell you another thing. In Peter’s vision, he saw a great sheet, “knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth, wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air; and there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill and eat! But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time. What God hath cleansed that call not thou common.” This was done thrice; and the vessel was received up again into heaven. There was no manifested cleansing at that time, or else Peter would have seen it. What Peter was led to see in that vision was—in that vessel were wrapped up Jew and Gentile; for this vessel was a type of Christ Jesus. The blessed Redeemer came to finish the work of redemption; as it is said, “He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one;” one in family, having one Father; and, blessed be God, they can never be made two; for “what God hath joined together let no man put asunder.” “He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one.” Hence, says the Redeemer, “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they may be sanctified through the truth. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy Word is truth.” He sanctified them through suffering.

I. He sanctified them meritoriously. He magnified the law and made it honorable. Some talk about a chance of being saved. In this day there is a great deal of talk about Jesus Christ, and giving all a chance. But our blessed Lord Christ, in his finished work, only bore the church’s sins in his own body on the tree. He was made sin for them, not practically, but by solemn transfer. When he stood as our Surety at the bar of Pilate, and when upon the cross, all the sins of the church were laid upon him. All the sins of all whom God would save were transferred to Christ. They were brought before him as a debt, and he has discharged that debt, and has a receipt in full, that justice is satisfied, the law magnified and made honorable, God well pleased, and the whole elect saved in himself with an everlasting salvation. I tell you what; a conditional salvation will not do for me. That Christ has done his part and I must do mine will not do; for in everything I do I find sin working in some corner or other. Suppose you have the most solemn breathings with God in prayer, and you feel it blessed, you will not be above a minute or two before something of this arises in the mind: “This is something like religion—this will do;” and you are filled with pride; but, mark! Nothing can satisfy God but the pure work of Christ. That they might be sanctified, he suffered without the gate. “Sanctified in Christ Jesus.”

III. They are manifestly well sanctified by the communication and operations of God the Holy Ghost. Hence, our Lord says, “He shall take of mine and show them unto you. When he is come he shall reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not in me.” Now it appears to me that this will never be discharged till the people of God are taken home. Suppose we look at one thing: “My God shall supply all my need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Do you believe this? Do you believe Christ here, that he will supply all your needs? If you believe, why all this murmuring that you have at times? You murmur at the Lord, and say, “O that he would supply my needs! O that he would let me know that I was a child of God!” And all the time God is working in his way, and fitting in one thing after another.

Now the Lord says, “All things shall work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose;” and yet we are such unbelieving creatures that we cannot believe that all things shall work together for our good. There is one, perhaps, here this morning who with all his toiling, seems as if he is going to ruin. He has some “ifs,” and “buts,” and “hows,” disputing the promise that “all things shall work together for good.” “O,” say some; “why don’t you see? Why don’t you believe?” But it is difficult to see through a dark cloud; and we never shall believe all the time there is so much murmuring. But when the Lord the Spirit enables us, then we shall believe that “all things shall work together for good,” and all the way through the wilderness. He convinces us of sin, because we believe not in Christ. Before I met with my “accident,” I got into what some people call a melancholy fit; I got into such a state of wretchedness. I was thinking that I was getting old, that I should be a burden to my children who were about me, that my children would forsake me, and the church stand aloof from me. While I was filling my mind with this lumber, it pleased the Lord that my leg should be broken, and he laid me on a sick bed; but all my foes were put to the flight; for all my children came around me, and my friends came to sympathize with me so often that I was obliged to tell them I could not see them so often. The best of all was, the Lord appeared to me in this text: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee;” and, as we say in Lancashire sometimes, I was struck all of a heap, and was filled as full of mercy as I was of lumber before.

God says he will put us in the furnace; and when the Lord the Spirit begins to burn up the hay and stubble, we think we are going to ruin. But, while it will burn the rubbish, it will leave Christ and the conscience; and then we shall know something of manifested sanctification, —manifestedly united to Christ, our living Head.

When the Lord gives life, we begin to feel; when he gives light, we begin to see; and as soon as we feel and see we feel our pollution, our wretchedness, our misery; and we conclude, instead of being a sanctified vessel, we feel we are truly wretched. But I tell you that you are a child of God. I know you won’t believe me, nor do I wish you to do without better evidence than mine; but God will make you by and by, and you will bless him for having been made so wretched.

Some of God’s children have starved their body almost to death to cure the corruption of the heart; but the devil will never be starved to death. I remember reading of one,—I think it was good John Berridge, who stripped himself naked and flogged himself; but it was to no purpose. So,

“Out he ran naked and fled to a Rock.”

And I tell you what, there never will be, there never can be, a, particle of creature work or merit in sanctification. Nothing will do but the finished work of Christ. The hope must go of any betterness in self before we have any manifested hope in Christ. When the Lord is pleased to bring manifested sanctification into your conscience, you will know something of being drawn by the cords of a man, and with the bands of love. When your vows fail, when your promises fail, and all seems to fail, then you will know something of being sanctified in Christ Jesus and that there is no holiness but in and from him.

“Well,” says some poor soul, “I can go with you as far as you have gone.” Well; by and by God will appear and give you divine faith, to realize this; for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” You may look at the command and you may look at sin externally, but you will not be enabled to look at the core till faith is given; and by and by the blessed Spirit will give you a faith’s view of the atonement of Christ, a hope in God. “Ah,” says some poor soul. “I should like a hope in God; for I can, find nothing in man worth hoping for.” Here is the blessing of communicative sanctification; till by and by, it may be a long time, the Lord, in the riches of his grace, will communicate more of manifested sanctification, perhaps from such a text as this: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Paul says, “He loved me and gave himself for me.” Faith believes it; for every particle of spiritual life, every particle of spiritual feeling, every particle of spiritual love, every particle of spiritual faith, which purifies the heart, every particle of intercourse we have with the Three-[In]-One Jehovah; every lifting up that we have by the way, all comes from Christ, and endears us to him. “Sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Here is a cup of blessedness for all who are brought to feel that their sanctification is in Christ Jesus.

May the Lord guide us, preserve us, direct us, and bless us. Amen

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