The Visible Evidences of Santification

by J. C. Ryle

The Doctrine of Sanctification-Part 2 of 4

The Doctrine of Sanctification-Part 2 of 4

What Are the Visible Marks of a Sanctified Man?

1. True sanctification does not consist in talk about religion. People have heard so much of gospel truth that they contract an unholy familiarity with its words and phrases and sometimes talk so fluently about its doctrines that you might think them true Christians.

In fact, it is sickening and disgusting to hear the cool and flippant language which many pour out about "conversion," "the Savior," "the gospel," "free grace" and the like, while they are notoriously serving sin or living for the world. Can we doubt that such talk is abominable in God's sight?

2. True sanctification does not consist in temporary religious feelings. Wherever wheat is sown, the devil is sure to sow tares. Many appear moved and touched and roused under the preaching of the gospel, while in reality their hearts are not changed at all. Their wounds are only skin deep, and the peace they profess to feel is skin deep also. Like the stony-ground hearers, they receive the Word with joy (Matt. 13:20), but after a little they fall away, go back to the world, and are harder and worse than before.

Let us beware of healing wounds slightly, and crying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. Let us urge on everyone who exhibits new interest in religion to be content with nothing short of the deep, solid, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

3. True sanctification does not consist in outward formalism and external devoutness. This is an enormous delusion, but unhappily a very common one. Thousands appear to imagine that true holiness is to be seen in constant attendance on church services, reception of the Lord's Supper, etc. I am afraid that in many cases this external religiousness is made a substitute for inward holiness.

4. Sanctification does not consist in retirement from our place in life and the renunciation of our social duties. In every age it has been a snare with many to take up this line in the pursuit of holiness. Hundreds of hermits have buried themselves in some wilderness, and thousands of men and women have shut themselves up within the walls of monasteries and convents, under the vain idea that by so doing they would escape sin and become eminently holy. They have forgotten that no bolts and bars can keep out the devil and that, wherever we go, we carry that root of great evil, our own hearts. True holiness does not make a Christian evade difficulties, but face and overcome them.

5. Sanctification does not consist in the occasional performance of right actions. It is the habitual working of a new heavenly principle within, which runs through all a man's daily conduct, both in great things and in small. Its seat is in the heart and, like the heart in the body, it has a regular influence on every part of the character. It is like a perpetual fountain, from which a stream is ever flowing spontaneously and naturally. (Even Herod, when he heard John the Baptist, "did many things," while his heart was utterly wrong in the sight of God (Mark 6:20). A true saint, like Hezekiah, will be whole-hearted. He will count God's commandments concerning all things to be right, and "hate every false way" (2 Chron. 31:21; Ps. 119:104).

6. Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual respect to God's law, and habitual effort to live in obedience to it as the rule of life. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that a Christian has nothing to do with the law and the Ten Commandments, because he cannot be justified by keeping them. The same Holy Spirit who convinces the believer of sin by the law, and leads him to Christ for justification, will always lead him to a spiritual use of the law, as a friendly guide, in the pursuit of sanctification. As Paul said in Romans 7:22: "I delight in the law of God after the inward man."

7. Genuine sanctification will show itself in a habitual endeavor to do Christ's will, and to live by His practical precepts. These precepts are to be found scattered everywhere throughout the four Gospels, and especially in the Sermon on the Mount. He that supposes they were spoken without the intention of promoting holiness, and that a Christian need not attend to them in daily life, is really little better than a lunatic. To hear some men talk, and read some men's writings, one might imagine that our blessed Lord, when He was on earth, never taught anything but doctrine, and left practical duties to be taught by others! This is a complete mistake.

8. Genuine sanctification will show itself in a habitual desire to live up to the standard which St. Paul sets before the churches in his writings. That standard is to be found in the closing chapters of nearly all his epistles. These directions were written down by inspiration of God for the perpetual guidance of professing Christians. He who does not attend to them may possibly pass muster as a member of a church, but he certainly is not what the Bible calls a "sanctified man."

9. Genuine sanctification will show itself in habitual attention to the active graces which our Lord so beautifully exemplified, and especially to the grace of charity (John 13:34,35). A sanctified man will try to do good in the world and to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of all around him. He will aim to be like his Master. Saving faith and real converting grace will always produce some conformity to the image of Jesus (Col. 3:10).

10. Genuine sanctification, finally, will show itself in habitual attention to the passive graces-those graces which are especially shown in submission to the will of God, and in bearing and forbearing one another. Few people, perhaps, unless they have examined the point, have an idea how much is said about these graces in the New Testament. For example, this is the special point Peter dwells upon in commending our Lord Jesus Christ's example: "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps…who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not…." (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Such are the visible marks of a sanctified man. I will never shrink from saying that genuine sanctification is a thing that can be seen, and that the marks I have endeavored to sketch out are more or less the marks of a sanctified man.

to be continued