The Way To Be Holy
By Horatius Bonar (1808 - 1889)
“But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy...” (1 Pet. 1:15).
Likeness to Christ is holiness – He is the Representation, the Illustration, the Model. He that is holy is conformed to His image.
He, then, that would be holy must be like Christ; and he that would be like Christ must be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). He that would have in him the mind of Christ must have the same “anointing” as He had – the same indwelling and inworking Spirit, the Spirit of “adoption,” of life, faith, truth, liberty, strength, and holy joy. It is through this mighty Quickener that we are quickened. It is through “sanctification of the Spirit” that we are sanctified (2 Thes. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2). It is as our Guest that He does His work: not working without dwelling nor dwelling without working (2 Tim. 1:14), not exerting a mere influence, like that of music on the ruffled soul, but coming into us and abiding with us; so that being “filled with His company,” as well as pervaded by His power, we are thoroughly “transformed;” not merely plying us with arguments, nor affecting us with “moral suasion,” but impressing us with the irresistible touch of His divine hand, and penetrating us with His own vital energy; nay, filling us with His own purity and life, in spite of desperate resistance, unteachableness, and unbelief on our part.
He that would be like Christ, moreover, must study Him. We cannot make ourselves holy by merely trying to be so, any more than we can make ourselves believe and love by simple energy of endeavor. No force can effect this. Men try to be holy, and they fail. They cannot work themselves into holiness by direct effort. They must gaze upon the glory of the Lord and be changed into His likeness “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). They must have a holy Being for their bosom friend. Companionship with Jesus can alone make us resemble Him.
He that would be holy must steep himself in the Word, must bask in the sunshine that radiates from each page of revelation. It is through the Truth that we are sanctified (John 17:17). Exposing our souls constantly to this light, we become more thoroughly “children of the light.” For, against evil, divine Truth is quick and powerful. It is “the sword of the Spirit,” with whose keen edge we cut our way through hostile thousands. It is the rod of Moses, by which we divide the Red Sea, defeat Amalek, and bring water from the desert rock. What evil, what enemy within or without is there that can withstand this unconquered and unconquerable Word? That rod in the hand of Moses, what was it? A piece of common wood. Yet it cut the Red Sea in twain. That serpent on the pole, what was it? A bit of brass. Yet it healed thousands. Why all this? Because that wood and that brass were connected with omnipotence, conductors of the heavenly electricity. So let the Bible be to us the Book of all books, for healing, quickening, strengthening, comforting, and purifying.
He that would be holy must fight. He must war a good warfare; fight the good fight of faith, though not with carnal weapons (1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2 Cor. 10:4). He must fight upon his knees, being sober, and watching unto prayer (1 Pet. 4:7). He must wrestle with principalities and powers, being strong in the Lord and the power of His might, having put on the whole armor of God: girdle, breastplate, shield, helmet, and sword (Eph. 6:13-17). This battle is not to the strong (Eccl. 9:11), but to the weak: it is fought in weakness, and the victory is to them that have no might. For in this conflict, time and chance do not happen to all; but we count upon victory from the first onset, being made more than conquerors through Him that loved us and are cheered with the anticipation of the sevenfold reward “to him that overcometh” (Rev. 2:7). Though we have the hostility of devils in this our earthly course and combat, we have the ministry of angels in aid (Heb. 1:14), as well as the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13).
He that would be holy must watch. “Watch thou in all things” (2 Tim. 4:5). “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). Let the sons of night sleep or stumble in the darkness; but let us, who are of the day, be sober, lest temptation overtake us, and we be ensnared in the wiles of the devil or the seductions of this wanton world. “Blessed is he that watcheth” (Rev. 16:15). In watching, let us “witness a good confession” (1 Tim. 6:13), not ashamed of Him whose badge we bear. Let us run a swift and patient race. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:1) and “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Tim. 6:11), having our eye upon the coming and the kingdom of our Lord Jesus (Titus 2:13).
He that would be holy must understand his responsibility for being so, both as a member of Christ’s body and a partaker of the Holy Spirit. The thought that perfection is not to be reached here ought not to weaken that sense of responsibility nor lead us to give way to aught that would grieve “the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Nay, for the personal possession of that fullness, as far as vessels such as ours can contain it, each saint is responsible. We are sanctified by the blood (Heb. 13:12) that we may be sanctified by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11), be led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18), be temples of the Holy Spirit, even in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19), walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), speaking by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3), living in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), and having the communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14).
The Christian man must not trifle with sin under any pretense. As possessors of the Spirit of love, we must be loving, laying aside all malice, guile, hypocrisies, and evil-speaking, discharging daily the one debt that is never to be paid (Rom. 13:8). For the indwelling Spirit is not idle nor barren, but produces fruit, divine fruit in human hearts, heavenly fruit on earthly soil, fruit that indicates its inner source and tells of the glorious Guest within: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).
As those who have been delivered from “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4), let us like the saints of old be separate from it, standing aloof from its gaieties, as men who have no time for such things, even were they harmless, keeping our raiment undefiled. Let us maintain unblunted the edge of our relish for prayer and fellowship with God as the great preservative against the seductions of the age: for only intimacy with God can keep us from intimacy with the world. Let us not try to combine the novel and the Bible, the closet and the ballroom – nor attempt to serve two masters, to drink two cups (1 Cor. 10:21), to worship two gods, to enjoy two religions, to kneel at two altars.
Let us be on our guard against old self in every form, whether it be indolence, or temper, or coldness, or rudeness, or covetousness, or flippancy, or self-conceit, or pride, or cunning, or obstinacy, or sourness, or levity, or foolishness, or love of preeminence. Let us cultivate a tender conscience, avoiding old notions and conceits, yet watching against the commission of little sins and the omission of little duties; redeeming the time, yet never in a hurry; calm, cheerful, frank, happy, genial, generous, thoughtful of others. Seeing we must protest against the world on so many important points, let us try to differ from it as little as possible on things indifferent, always showing love to those we meet with, however irreligious and unlovable, especially avoiding a contemptuous spirit or an air of superiority.
True Men and Women of God
As disciples of Christ, let our discipleship be complete and consistent, our connection with Him exhibiting itself in conformity to His likeness. Let our life be a comprehensive creed, our walk the embodiment of all that is honest, lovely, and of good report. Christ’s truth sanctifies as well as liberates; His wisdom purifies as well as quickens. Let us beware of accepting the liberty without the holiness, the wisdom without the purity, the peace without the zeal and love.
Let us be true men, in the best sense of the word: true to ourselves, true to our new birth and our new name, true to the church of God, true to the indwelling Spirit, true to Christ and to the doctrine concerning Him, true to that Book of which He is the sum and the burden. Let us be true to truth, loving it, not because it is pleasant, picturesque, or ancient, but because it is true and divine. On it let us feed, with appetite new-whetted every day; so shall we add, not one, but many cubits to our stature, growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our spiritual constitution must be braced, not only that we may be strong for work or fight, but that we may be proof against the infection of the times, against the poison with which the god of this world, “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) has permeated our atmosphere. For this we need not only the “strong meat” recommended by the apostle (Heb. 5:12-14), but the keen, fresh mountain air of trial, vicissitude, and hardship. Let us place ourselves simply in the hands of the quickening Spirit. He will pour into us the fullness of a diversified, fruitful, healthful life. The evil in us is too strong for any power save omnipotence. The resistance of a human will is too powerful for philosophy, logic, poetry, or eloquence. The Holy One alone can make us holy!
Shine as Lights in the World!
As the strongest yet calmest thing in the world is light, so should a Christian life be the strongest and greatest, as well as the calmest and brightest. As the only perfectly straight line is a ray of light, and as the only pure substance is sunshine, so ought our course to be, and so should we seek to shine as lights in the world – reflections of Him who is its light.
Let us then shine! Stars indeed, not suns; but still stars, not tapers nor meteors. Let us shine! Giving perhaps slender light, but that light certain and pure – enough to say to men, “It is night,” lest they mistake, but not enough to bring day; enough to guide the seeking or the erring in the true direction, but not enough to illuminate the world. The sun alone can do that. The sun shows us the landscape; stars show but themselves. Let us then show ourselves beyond mistake. The day when all things shall be seen in full, warm light is the day of the great Sun rising.
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Rom. 13:12). We shall not set nor be clouded: we shall simply lose ourselves in light. And we need not grudge thus losing ourselves, when we call to mind that the splendor in which our light is to be absorbed is that of the everlasting Sun. It is His increasing that is to be our decreasing, and shall we not say, “This my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29)?