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On the distinction between Justification and Sanctification.

THE life of faith and love, when introduced into the heart, is not inoperative. Its introduction there is the signal for an inward war, because it meets with an antagonistical life, the corrupt life of nature. The two have nothing in common; and, therefore, they cannot be in each other's presence without a conflict. But before entering into the particulars of this inward struggle, which, if the soul becomes truly sanctified, must necessarily result in the death of nature, we propose to delay a few moments for the purpose of considering the relation between Sanctification and Justification.

Justification and sanctification, it is generally conceded, are different from each other; and yet it is well known that they have sometimes been confounded by writers who have bestowed some examination upon them, as if they were one and the same thing. Nor is it altogether surprising that this should be the case, when we consider that there is one leading idea which is common to both; we mean the idea or principle of entire submission. In both cases, impressed with a sense of our own unworthiness and nothingness, we must be sincerely willing, in the spirit of entire submissiveness, to receive all from God; and must receive it also instrumentally in the same way, viz., by faith. Nevertheless, there are some important points of distinction in the two things, which are inconsistent with their being regarded as truly identical. And we may add, it is very important, for various reasons, both theological and practical, that the distinction should be generally understood and maintained. If the idea should become prevalent that justification and sanctification are the same thing, it would involve the subject of sanctification and perhaps that of justification in much confusion. It would be necessary that new ideas should be established, and that new forms of speech should be introduced; and one unhappy consequence, among others, would be, that some, who are seeking the blessing of holiness, would become perplexed and discouraged.

(1.) — Among other grounds of distinction between the two, it may be remarked that justification, while it does not exclude the present, has special reference to the
past, and does not appear to have that prospective bearing which sanctification has. Sanctification, on the contrary, starting on the basis of justification, and regarding the past as cancelled and settled in the justificatory application of the Atonement, has practically an exclusive reference to the present and future. Justification inquires, How shall the sin which is past be forgiven? Sanctification inquires, How shall we be kept from sin in time to come? Considered, therefore, in their relation to time, there is good reason for saying that they ought not to be confounded together.

(2.) — Another mark of difference is this. Justification, in its result upon individuals, removes the condemnatory power or guilt of sin; while sanctification removes the power of sin itself. He, who is justified, no longer stands in a state of condemnation, in relation to all those past sins, from which he is justified; but he that is sanctified, just in proportion that he is so, is freed from the influence of that which brings condemnation, viz. sin itself. Or the distinction may be concisely expressed in other terms, amounting essentially to the same thing, as follows. The object of justification, considered in reference to the, law, is to free us from condemnation. The object of sanctification, considered in reference to the law, is to secure conformity to it.

(3.) — Justification and sanctification are distinct, also, when considered in the order in which they present themselves, as subjects of thought and interest, to the human mind. It is very obvious that, in the first instance, they present themselves consecutively and separately, and not simultaneously and identically. It is not the first cry of the sinner, that he may be sanctified, but that he may be forgiven. It is his past sins which stare him in the face. It is his past sins which must be washed away. And until this is done, and at the feet of Jesus he has received the remission of his transgressions, he has no other desire, no other thought. But when he has experienced a release from the bitter memory of the past, and has felt the rising hope of forgiveness, and not till then, is his mind occupied with the distinct subject of the reality, the obligation, and the blessedness of a holy heart, in all time to come.

(4.) — There is also a distinction when the matter is considered in reference to Christ. Christ is our justification, considered as hanging upon the cross, and enduring the penalty of the law for us. In other words, Christ is our justification by standing in our stead, and by receiving in his own person the stripes and chastisement, by which those who have sinned are healed. Christ is our sanctification, (that is, the cause or ground of our sanctification,) considered as operating and living in us by the present and efficacious influences of the Holy Spirit, which he has purchased by his blood. In both cases, Christ is the ground or efficacious cause of the result; and in both cases, also, there is something done inwardly as well as outwardly. But it is nevertheless true, that in justification the work, which is done. is done in a peculiar sense exteriorly, or FOR men; while the work of sanctification is done, in an equally peculiar and emphatic sense, interiorly, or WITHIN them.

(5.) — Another mark of distinction is, that sanctification is regarded, and very properly regarded, as an evidence of justification. They have not only the relation of antecedence and sequence in the order of time, but the additional and incidental relation of fact and evidence. In other words, the sanctification of a person holds the relation of evidence or proof to the alleged fact of his being justified. That there is good foundation for this view, additional to its innate reasonableness, seems to be evident from the repeated instructions of the Savior, that men are known by their fruits. And certainly, we may most reasonably expect, that he, who has been justified, will aim to bear the fruits of a holy life. Having been instructed by the Holy Spirit in the nature and tendencies of sin, and having found in the Gospel that redemption which he could find no where else, how is it possible that he should again sin against God? Hence it is that he seeks for sanctifying grace, and endeavors to purify himself from every form of iniquity. And it is a matter of common and agreed opinion, that he, who is careless in respect to sanctification, has no satisfactory evidence that he is truly justified.

(6.) — In the sixth place, justification, when it has taken effect, is a thing which is done or completed; at least in such a sense as to exclude the idea of its being a progressive work. As we have already stated, it looks only to the past; but in its relation to the past it is complete. The result of its application, in any given case, is, that the multiplied sins, which have been committed in former times, are blotted out. If we sin at the present moment, and justification is immediately applied, it is still true, that the sin, in the order of nature and in reference to the time of justification, however closely the justification may follow the sinful act, is a
past sin. Justification must necessarily be subsequent, and consequently the sin, relatively to the time of justification, must necessarily be past, even in those cases in which, in common parlance, we speak of the sin as a present sin. The work of justification, therefore, when it has once taken place, is a thing complete in itself, and is not in its own nature susceptible of progress, although it may be necessary to have it repeated in every succeeding moment.

Sanctification, on the other hand, is a thing which is indwelling, permanent, and always progressive. It is not only progressive, until all the evils of the heart are subdued, but even when it is in some degree complete, so much so as to occupy the whole extent of our being, and to substitute in the heart everywhere good for evil, it is still progressive in DEGREE. So that in those cases where we speak of sanctification as entire, it is still true that its entireness is not such as to exclude progress. There will never be a period, either in time or eternity, when there may not be an increase of holy love.

(7.) — The distinction is evidently made in the Scriptures. The passages of Scripture where it is clearly recognized are so numerous, and so familiar to attentive readers of the Bible, that it seems to be hardly necessary to quote them at any great length. — "And the very God of peace," says the apostle, I Thess. v. 23, "sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." And again, 8 Cor. vii. 1, "Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." It is very evident from the general tenor of the apostle's communications to them, that these exhortations were addressed to those whom he regarded, and had reason to regard, as justified persons. He felt, nevertheless, although they were justified, although their past sins were blotted out, that there was much remaining to be done in the matter of their present and prospective sanctification. Hence his exhortations to preserve their bodies blameless, to cleanse themselves, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God; which would have been unnecessary, if he had considered the work of sanctification as absolutely and necessarily involved in that of justification. There are, also, a number of passages, different in their import from those which have been particularly referred to, which seem to involve the distinction in question. Those, in which persons are spoken of as disciples or believers, but without having received the gift of the Holy Ghost, such as John 7. 39, Acts, 8. 15 — 17 Acts 19. 1, 2.

The distinction, which is made in the Scriptures between the two, is regarded so obvious and incontrovertible by most writers, that it has naturally passed, as an established truth, into treatises on theology. It is also recognized almost constantly in sermons, and in religious exhortations and conversation. There is, perhaps, as much unanimity among religious men on this subject as on almost any subject of theological inquiry. And the attempt to confound justification and sanctification together, which has been made from time to time, would necessarily tend, if it were successful, to perplex and confuse the established forms of speech among men, as well as the authorized and scriptural modes of religious thought.

We remark in conclusion, that although these two states of religious experience are distinct from each other, they nevertheless may be regarded as having something in common, which establishes an intimate relationship between them. This fact has already been alluded to. In both cases, in sanctification as well as in justification, we ultimately receive every thing from Christ. And we are obliged, also, in both cases, to receive it in that meek and submissive spirit which recognizes our own unworthiness and nothingness. Every thing is received, also, through the same channel, viz., by faith. We may say, further, that there can be no such thing as sanctification without antecedent justification. The latter may be considered as the commencement or first coming of that hidden life in the soul, which is completed in the former. We are not to suppose, however, because there are some things common to justification and sanctification, and because they are in some respects closely related, that they are, therefore, the same thing. This would be a very unsafe mode of argument. There are some things common to memory and reasoning, and yet memory and reasoning are distinct. There are some things common to reasoning and imagination, and yet there can be no doubt that they are very distinct departments of the mind. There is a close connection between liberty and power; for instance, where there is no power there can be no liberty; yet they ought not to be confounded together. There are some things common to faith and love, or which connect them together in some way, (such as that they are both the gift of God, and that faith acts by love,) and yet all agree that they cannot be considered as identical; and thus justification and sanctification, although they are closely connected, are nevertheless two things, and the distinction between them is a very important one.

Let us, therefore, who humbly hope that we are justified by the blood of Christ, seek also to be sanctified. Let it not be sufficient for us that our sins have been forgiven; but let us strive to gain the victory over sin, and to exclude it from the heart in all future time. Well may we exclaim, in the gratitude of our hearts, praise be for that grace which sanctifies, as well as for that which justifies; for that which keeps the heart clean in time to come, as well as for that which washes away the stains of the past. It is holiness which adds its highest value and its transcendent beauty to forgiveness.

“O for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free!
A heart that alway feels thy blood,
So freely spilt for me.
A heart in every thought renewed,
And full of love divine;
Perfect and right, and pure and good
A copy, Lord, of thine."