Would you be holy? Would you become a new creature? Then you must begin with Christ. You will do just nothing at all, and make no progress till you feel your sin and weakness, and flee to Him. He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him. Christ is not wisdom and righteousness only to His people, but sanctification also. Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all, and sad work they make of it. They toil and labour, and turn over new leaves, and make many changes; and yet, like the woman with the issue of blood, before she came to Christ, they feel “nothing bettered, but rather worse.” (Mark v. 26.) They run in vain, and labour in vain; and little wonder, for they are beginning at the wrong end. They are building up a wall of sand; their work runs down as fast as they throw it up. They are baling water out of a leaky vessel: the leak gains on them, not they on the leak. Other foundation of “holiness” can no man lay than that which Paul laid, even Christ Jesus. “Without Christ we can do nothing.” (John xv. 5.) It is a strong but true saying of Traill’s, “Wisdom out of Christ is damning folly–righteousness out of Christ is guilt and condemnation–sanctification out of Christ is filth and sin–redemption out of Christ is bondage and slavery.”
Do you want to attain holiness? Do you feel this day a real hearty desire to be holy? Would you be a partaker of the Divine nature? Then go to Christ. Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Linger not. Think not to make yourself ready. Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn- “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, flee to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace.”
There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification till we go to Christ. Holiness is His special gift to His believing people. Holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts, by the Spirit whom He puts within them. He is appointed a “Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance” as well as remission of sins.–“To as many as receive Him, He gives power to become sons of God.” (Acts v. 31; John i. 12, 13.) Holiness comes not of blood–parents cannot give it to their children: nor yet of the will of the flesh–man cannot produce it in himself: nor yet of the will of man–ministers cannot give it you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him, It is the fruit of being a living branch of the True Vine. Go then to Christ and say, “Lord, not only save me from the guilt of sin, but send the Spirit, whom Thou didst promise, and save me from its power. Make me holy. Teach me to do Thy will.”
Would you continue holy? Then abide in Christ. He says Himself, “Abide in Me and I in you,–he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit. (John xv. 4, 5.) It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell–a full supply for all a believer’s wants. He is the Physician to whom you must daily go, if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must daily eat, and the Rock of which you must daily drink. His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world. You must not only be rooted, you must also be built up in Him. Paul was a man of God indeed–a holy man–a growing, thriving Christian–and what was the secret of it all? He was one to whom Christ was “all in all.” He was ever “looking unto Jesus.” “I can do all things,” he says, “through Christ which strengthened me.” “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. The life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Let us go and do likewise. (Heb. xii. 2; Phil. iv. 13; Gal. ii. 20.) May all who read these pages know these things by experience, and not by hearsay only. May we all feel the importance of holiness, far more than we have ever done yet! May our years be holy years with our souls, and then they will be happy ones! Whether we live, may we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, may we die unto the Lord; of if He comes for us, may we be found in peace, without spot, and blameless!
J. C. Ryle (1816-1900), Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, 57-58.