The Doctrine of Sanctification (eBook)

by Charles Hodge

in ePub, mobi & .pdf formats

§ 1. Its Nature.

    SANCTIFICATION in the Westminster Catechism is said to be "the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness."

    Agreeably to this definition, justification differs from sanctification, (1.) In that the former is a transient act, the latter a progressive work. (2.) Justification is a forensic act, God acting as judge, declaring justice satisfied so far as the believing sinner is concerned, whereas sanctification is an effect due to the divine efficiency. (3.) Justification changes, or declares to be changed, the relation of the sinner to the justice of God; sanctification involves a change of character. (4.) The former, therefore, is objective, the latter subjective. (5.) The former is founded on what Christ has done for us; the latter is the effect of what He does in us. (6.) Justification is complete and the same in all, while sanctification is progressive, and is more complete in some than in others.

    Sanctification is declared to be a work of God's free grace. Two things are included in this. First, that the power or influence by which it is carried on is supernatural. Secondly, that granting this influence to any sinner, to one sinner rather than another, and to one more than to another, is a matter of favour. No one has personally, or in himself, on the ground of anything he has done, the right to claim this divine influence as a just recompense, or as a matter of justice.

It is a Supernatural Work.

    In representing, in accordance with Scripture, sanctification as a supernatural work, or as a work of grace, the Church intends to deny the Pelagian or Rationalistic doctrine which confounds it with mere moral reformation. It not unfrequently happens that men whc have been immoral in their lives, change their whole course of living. They become outwardly correct in their deportment, temperate, pure, honest, and benevolent. This is a great and praiseworthy change. It is in a high degree beneficial to the subject of it, and to all with whom he is connected. It may be produced by different causes, by the force of conscience and by a regard for the authority of God and a dread of his disapprobation, or by a regard to the good opinion of men, or by the mere force of an enlightened regard to one's own interest. But whatever may be the proximate cause of such reformation, it falls very far short of sanctification. The two things differ in nature as much as a clean heart from clean clothes. Such external reformation may leave a man's inward character in the sight of God unchanged. He may remain destitute of love to God, of faith in Christ, and of all holy exercises or affections.

    Nor is sanctification to be confounded with the effects of moral culture or discipline. It is very possible, as experience proves, by careful moral training, by keeping the young from all contaminating influences, and by bringing them under the forming influences of right principles and good associates, to preserve them from much of the evil of the world, and to render them like the young man in the Gospel whom Jesus loved. Such training is not to be undervalued. It is enjoined in the Word of God. It cannot, however, change the nature. It cannot impart life. A faultless statue fashioned out of pure marble in all its beauty, is far below a living man.

    The word supernatural, as before said, is used in two senses. First, for that which is above nature, and by nature is meant everything out of God. An effect, therefore, is said to be supernatural, in the production of which nature exercises no efficiency. But secondly, the word is often used to mark the distinction between the providential efficiency of God operating according to fixed laws, and the voluntary agency of the Holy Spirit. The Bible makes a wide distinction between the providence of God and the operations of his grace. The difference between the two is, in some repects, analogous to that between the efficiency of a law, or of a uniformly acting force, and the agency of a person. The one is ordered, the other is exercised from time to time, the Spirit distributing his gifts to every one severally as He wills. In the providential agency of God, the effects produced never transcend the power of second causes as upheld and guided by Him; whereas the effects produced by the Spirit do transcend the power of second causes. The effect is due neither to the power of the truth, nor to that of the rational subject in whom the effect is produced. It is due to the power of God over and above the power of the second causes concerned. The effects of grace, or fruits of the Spirit, are above the sphere of the natural they belong to the supernatural. The mere power of truth, argument, motive, persuasion, or eloquence cannot produce repentance, faith, or holiness of heart and life. Nor can these effects be produced by the power of the will, or by all the resources of man, however protracted or skilful in their application. They are the gifts of God, the fruits of the Spirit. Paul may plant and Apollos water, but it is God who gives the increase.

    In this latter sense of the word supernatural, the cooperation of second causes is not excluded. When Christ opened the eyes of the blind no second cause interposed between his volition and the effect. But men work out their own salvation, while it is God who worketh in them to will and to do, according to his own good pleasure. In the work of regeneration, the soul is passive. It cannot cooperate in the communication of spiritual life. But in conversion, repentance, faith, and growth in grace, all its powers are called into exercise. As, however, the effects produced transcend the efficiency of our fallen nature, and are due to the agency of the Spirit, sanctification does not cease to be supernatural, or a work of grace, because the soul is active and cooperating in the process.

Proof of its Supernatural Character.

    That sanctification is a supernatural work in the sense above stated is proved, --

    1. From the fact that it is constantly referred to God as its author. It is referred to God absolutely, or to the Father, as in I Thessalonians v. 23, "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." Hebrews xiii. 20, 21, "The God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus . . . . make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight." It is also referred to the Son, as in Titus ii. 14, He "gave himself for us, that he might . . . . purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." Ephesians v. 25, He "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." Predominantly sanctification is referred to the Holy Spirit, as his peculiar work in the economy of redemption. Hence He is called the Spirit of all grace; the Spirit of joy, of peace, of love, of faith, and of adoption. All Christian graces are set forth as fruits of the Spirit. We are said to be born of the Spirit, and by Him to he enlightened, taught, led, and cleansed. We are said to be in the Spirit, to live, to walk, and to rejoice in the Spirit. The Spirit dwells in the people of God, and is the abiding source of all the actings of that spiritual life which He implants in the soul. The Bible teaches that the Son and Spirit are in the Holy Trinity subcrdinate to the Father, as to their mode of subsistence and operation, although the same in substance, and equal in power and glory. Hence it is that the same work is often attributed to the Father, to the Son, and to the Spirit; and as the Father and Son operate through the Spirit, the effects due to the agency of God are referred specially to the Holy Ghost.

    This reference of sanctification to God proves it to be a supernatural work, because the insufficiency of second causes to produce the effect is declared to be the ground of this reference. It is because men cannot cleanse or heal themselves, that they are declared to be cleansed and healed by God. It is because rites, ceremonies, sacraments, truth, and moral suasion, cannot bring the soul back to God, that it is said to be transformed, by the renewing of the mind, through the power of the Spirit, into the image of God. We are, therefore, declared to be God's work. manship, created unto good works. And it is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us.

All Holy Exercises referred to the Spirit as their Author.

    2. This reference of sanctification to God as its author, the more decisively proves the supernatural character of the work, because the reference is not merely general, as when the wind and rain, and the production of vegetable and animal life, are referred to his universal providential agency. The reference is special. The effect is one which the Scriptures recognize as not within the sphere of second causes, and therefore ascribe to God. They recognize the free agency of man; they acknowledge and treat him as a moral and rational being; they admit the adaptation of of truth to convince the understanding, and of the motives presented to determine the will and to control the affections, and nevertheless they teach that these secondary causes and influences be utterly ineffectual to the conversion and sanctification of the soul, without the demonstration of the Spirit. The sacred writers, therefore, constantly pray for this divine influence, "extrinsecus accidens," to attend the means of grace and to render them effectual, as well for sanctification as for regeneration and conversion. Every such prayer, every thanksgiving for grace imparted, every recognition of the Christian virtues as fruits of the Spirit, and gifts of God, are so many recognitions of the great truth that the restoration of man to the image of God is not a work of nature, either originated or carried on by the efficiency of second causes, but is truly and properly supernatural, as due to the immediate power of the Spirit producing effects for which second causes are inadequate.

We are taught to pray for Repentance, Faith, and other Graces.

    3. We accordingly find the Apostle and the sacred writers generally, referring not only regeneration, the communication of spiritual life to those spiritually dead, but the continuance of that life in its activity and growth, not merely to the power of God, but to his almighty power. Paul prays in Ephesians i. 19, that his readers might know "what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead." The same almighty power which was exhibited in the resurrection of Christ, is exercised in the spiritual resurrection of the believer. And as the power which raised Christ from the dead was exercised in his ascension and glorification; so also the same power, according to the Apostle, which is exerted in the spiritual resurrection of the believer, is exercised in carrying on his sanctification, which is inward and real glorification. Accordingly, in the same Epistle (iii. 7), he ascribes all the grace whereby he was fitted for the apostleship, "to the effectual working of his power." And further on (ver. 20), to encourage the people of God to pray for spiritual blessings, he reminds them of his omnipotence whereby He was "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." It is almighty power, therefore, and not the impotence of secondary influences, which works in the believer and carries on the work of his salvation.

    They who are in Christ, therefore, are new creatures. They are created anew in Christ Jesus. This does not refer exclusively to their regeneration, but to the process by which the sinner is transformed into the image of Christ.

Argument from the Believer's Union with Christ.

    4. All that the Scriptures teach concerning the union between the believer and Christ, and of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, proves the supernatural character of our sanctification. Men do not make themselves holy; their holiness, and their growth in grace, are not due to their own fidelity, or firmness of purpose, or watchfulness and diligence, although all these are required, but to the divine influence by which they are rendered thus faithful, watchful, and diligent, and which produces in them the fruits of righteousness. Without me, saith our Lord, ye can do nothing. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. The hand is not more dependent on the head for the continuance of its vitality, than is the believer on Christ for the continuance of spiritual life in the soul.


Table of Contents

Its Nature

-- Is is a Supernatural Work 

-- Proof of its Supernatural Character

-- All Holy Exercises referred to the Spirit as their Author

-- We are taught to pray for Repentance, Faith, and other Graces

-- Argument from the Believer's Union with Christ

-- Argument from related Doctrines

Wherein it consists

-- Putting off the Old, and putting on the New Man

-- Paul details his own Experience in Roman. vii. 7-25

-- What Romans vii. 7-25 teaches

-- Galatians v. 16-26

-- Ephesians iv. 22-24

The Method of Sanctification

-- The Soul is led to exercise Faith

-- The Effect of Union with Christ

-- The Inward Work of the Spirit

-- God calls the Graces of his People into Exercise

-- The Church and Sacraments as means of Grace

-- The Kingly Office of Christ

The Fruits of Sanctification, or Good Works

-- Romish Doctrine on Good Works

-- Works of Supererogation

-- Precepts and Counsels

-- The Sense in which the Fruits of the Spirit in Believers are called Good

Necessity of Good Works

-- Antinomianism

-- Relation of Good Works to Reward

-- Romish Doctrine

-- Refutation of this Romish Doctrine

-- Doctrine of the older Protestant Divines


-- Protestant Doctrine

-- Argument from the General Representations of Scripture

-- Passages which describe the Conflict between the Flesh and the Spirit

-- Argument from the Lord's Prayer

-- Argument from the Experience of Christians

Theories of Perfectionism Pelagian Theory

-- Pelagian Theory

-- The Romish Theory

-- The Arminian Theory

-- Oberlin Theory

-- The Relation between these Theories of Perfection


From Systematic Theololgy by Charles Hodge

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