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CONCERNING HOLINESS.

Whether those of our brethren, who in supporting their different systems, speak so much of the holiness of heaven, as though it afforded an unanswerable argument against the possibility of angels having sinned, do actually believe that there is a certain region, a mere locality, within the bounds of God’s Creation, which is so essentially holy that sin cannot enter its bounds; or whether they only use it as a subterfuge, by which to confound their opponents, I cannot say. But certain I am, that the scriptural representation of Holiness affords no ground for any such argument, and that the idea is equally absurd with the notion, that there is a certain space, a bottomless pit, somewhere of course beyond God’s existence, which is essentially a fountain of evil and spontaneously producing evil spirits! Such ideas of sin and holiness, arising from mere localities, set aside everything like a moral distinction between them, and make them mere qualities affixed by fate. This doctrine transfers the fountain of holiness from God to the mere locality, called heaven; and carried out it would lead to the conclusion, that God is holy because he inhabits heaven, and that Satan is sinful because he came from the bottomless pit, or hell. Of course there would be no virtue in the one, nor crime in the other.

In seeking after the Scriptural representation of holiness, we must bear in mind, that in our translation of the Bible, different words are used in relation to this subject. Thus, to convey the idea of making or becoming holy, as there is no English verb, to holify, the translators had to use the verb to sanctify; as in the text, “Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one,” &c. The idea is, both he that maketh holy and they who are holy, &c. “Holy brethren” is the same as sanctified brethren, and saints are holy or sanctified persons &c. So in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word KADESH in its various formations is translated holy, holiness, to sanctify, sanctuary, saints &c.

In the use of these terms in the Scriptures we find them applied to God, the Father, the Son and the Spirit, to angels, to believers, to national Israel, to the priests as such and to their garments, to the tabernacle and temple, and to the vessels and apartments thereof &c. From this diversified use of these terms, we must discover, that they are used in relation to an external and an internal holiness, a ceremonial or typical and a spiritual holiness. Now if any external holiness, which can be attached to places, persons or things, could effectually bar sin, {and it is absurd to speak of internal or spiritual holiness as if belonging to heaven itself, as a locality;} then surely Nadab and Abihu could not have sinned as they did in offering strange fire before the Lord. Lev.10:1. They had just been consecrated to the holy priesthood, as Moses had been commanded to sanctify them as priests to the Lord, and as God had said he would sanctify them, or make them holy, to the priest’s office {Ex.28:41 & 29:44;} they were clothed with the holy garments and had the holy anointing oil upon them; {see Ex.30:25, Lev.8:30 & 10:7;} and they were in the holy place before the ark of the Testimony; yet they there conceived of offering strange fire before the Lord, and there went out fire from the Lord and devoured them! What greater holiness could belong to any mere locality, than was concentrated here? The Lord had manifested his presence in it by his glory filling it, when the tabernacle was reared, and again by consuming the sacrifice of Aaron and his sons; Ex.40:34,35 & Lev.9:24. It may be said, that SIN was then already in the world, and not so when the angels are supposed to have sinned. But it has been showed, that wherever created, living intelligences are, if left of God to themselves, they will think and act for themselves with a special reference to their own individualities. Even believers are not always restrained from the acting out their old nature and wounding their own consciences; though called to be saints and have formed in them a new man, created in righteousness and true holiness.

The primary idea of the Hebrew word, rendered holy, holiness, &c., is to set apart, to separate &c.; not that to be holy we must live as isolated beings, only to and for ourselves, but on the contrary, because that, to be holy, since sin has entered into the world, we must be separated from the world and from its spirit and principles. So in things and persons being sanctified, that is externally, they were set apart to be employed only in the service of God, according to his appointments; and thus ceremonially were taught the doctrine, that to be spiritually holy we must be entirely subject to God’s will as the alone standard of true holiness.

Persons sanctify the Lord, not in communicating any holiness to him, as He does to us; but in setting him apart in our hearts and by our acts, as the supreme source of all authority; the one object of our love, trust and reverence, as the fountain of all good &c. Thus Nadab and Abihu did not sanctify the Lord, when they offered strange fire, nor Saul when he reserved of the cattle, because they set up their wills, instead of implicitly being subject to God’s declared will. Thus Moses and Aaron did not sanctify the Lord in saying, “Must we draw water out of this rock,” instead of ascribing to God’s goodness and power the flowing of the water. So missionists do not sanctify the Lord, in resorting to their own plans, instead of trusting in the Lord to accomplish his own purpose of grace by his own appointments; and so of Arminians in depending on their own exertions, instead of coming empty to the Lord to receive out of that fulness that is in Him. And men generally do not sanctify Him, in “loving the creature more than the Creator.”

As God’s will is the standard of our holiness, so he is the pattern of it. Hence the exhortation, “but as he who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.” I Pet.1:15,16. In all the manifestation which God has made of himself in the works of creation, providence and redemption, there is nothing of selfishness in it, nothing which He needed for himself, to increase his glory or happiness; but everything is for the sake of communicating happiness or good to others. Hence the holiness of the Law in requiring, that “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy mind,” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” God being the supreme good and the source of all good, to love the greatest good, the good of the whole, we must love God; and to be like God we must love our neighbor as ourselves and be as desirous of doing him good and only good, as of doing good to ourselves. Thus the law, if man could of himself have obeyed it, though it would have produced perfect harmony and peace in the world, would have been a constant restraint upon man’s selfishness and individuality, and of course kept him in bondage. But as already remarked, I cannot think, that anything short of the communication of a distinct principle of holiness from God to angels and to men, could have enabled them so to overcome their individuality of will and desire, as to lose that individuality of feeling in a desire to live to the good of the whole. But in the glorious purpose of salvation it is provided for, that saints should be holy in heart by their deriving a new life from Christ in the heavenly birth. This life as flowing from Christ as its Head, and not being an individual creation, but being Christ formed in them, and being ONE SPIRIT in all the saints as they are ONE BODY, is essentially holy, or is the love of God instead of individual love. And so far as this love is brought into exercise in us by the indwelling Spirit of truth, we feel our self-love lost in love to God, and our self-gratification lost in the desire to glorify and obey God, and our individuality lost in feeling that WE ARE NOT OUR OWN and in a desire to feel and act as members of one body with our brethren; to live for the cause of Christ and for the good of others, and to esteem others better than ourselves. And were it not for the new creature’s being “made subject to vanity,” in having still to carry about our old man and its corruptions, we should reflect fully the image of Christ. Thus also the angels are holy, as I understand it, not only from their being “set apart” in election; but also from the love of God or a principle of holiness being communicated to them, by which their standing is confirmed in Christ, as the Head of all principality and power and HEAD OVER ALL THINGS TO THE CHURCH.

This view of holiness is very different from the Hopkinsian doctrine of “disinterested benevolence;” for that by being placed upon law grounds and being made a condition of salvation is absolute selfishness. But this is the Salvation for which the saints pant; and the standing in which the angels delight.

One point more; ceremonial uncleannesses are often referred to in the Scriptures, and to cleanse from them was to sanctify. This may be thought not to correspond with the view I have taken of holiness. But I think it does; those uncleannesses being naturally loathsome, were well calculated to show how odious self-indulgences in all their various shapes are to God and to the new man of the believer; and as nothing but cleansing could remove the one, so nothing but an application of the blood of Jesus, can give peace to the believer. As frequent as were the occasions for ceremonial ablution or cleansing, more abundant are the occasions the believer has for applying to the blood of Christ. What a blessed privilege, that we have such an efficacious pool ready troubled, whenever faith is at hand to put us in; and such an Advocate we have with the Father in all our straits, whose intercession is all-prevalent, however impotent we may feel ourselves to be.

May the Lord “sanctify us wholly,” that both our lives and our consciences may be freed from the pollution of sin.

The other subjects mentioned, are left for a future time.

Yours, &c., S. TROTT.
Dec. 21st, 1843.