He that wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness, must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. …
The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are “words and names” which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes any one a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart, and show him that he is a guilty sinner. The material creation in Genesis began with “light,” and so also does the spiritual creation. God “shines into our hearts” by the work of the Holy Ghost, and then spiritual life begins (2 Cor 4:6). Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies, and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief wants of the Church in the nineteenth century has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.
—J. C. Ryle
Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 1–2.
Today, vast stress is laid on the thought that God is personal, but this truth is so stated as to leave the impression that God is a person of same sort as we are—weak, inadequate, ineffective, a little pathetic. But this is not the God of the Bible! Our personal life is a finite thing: it is limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not so limited. He is eternal, infinite and almighty. He has us in his hands; we never have him in ours. Like us, he is personal; but unlike us, he is great. In all its constant stress on the reality of God’s personal concern for his people, and on the gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience and yearning compassion that he shows toward them, the Bible never lets us lose sight of his majesty and his unlimited dominion over all his creatures.
—J. I. Packer
Knowing God, 83.
We mortify sin by cherishing the principle of holiness and sanctification in our souls, labouring to increase and strengthen it by growing in grace, and by a constancy and frequency in acting of it in all duties, on all occasions, abounding in the fruits of it. Growing, thriving, and improving in universal holiness, is the great way of the mortification of sin. The more vigorous the principle of holiness is in us, the more weak, infirm, and dying will be that of sin. The more frequent and lively are the actings of grace, the feebler and seldomer will be the actings of sin. The more we abound in the ‘fruits of the Spirit,’ the less shall we be concerned in the ‘works of the flesh.’ And we do but deceive ourselves if we think sin will be mortified on any other terms.
Works of John Owen, 3:552.
The cessation of sinful inclination must be caused by the origination of holy inclination. Sin does not first stop, and then holiness come into the place of sin; but holiness positively expels sin. Darkness does not first cease, and then light enter; but light drives out darkness. Sin goes out, as Chalmers phrases it, by “the expulsion power of a new affection.”
—William G. T. Shedd
Dogmatic Theology, 769.
If ever you would attain to higher degrees of holiness than any yet you have attained to, then labour to be more and more sensible of your spiritual wants and deficiencies of grace and holiness.
O Christians! you must look as well to your spiritual wants as to your spiritual enjoyments; you must look as well to your layings out as to your layings up; you must look as well forward to what you should be as backward to what you are.
Certainly that Christian will never be eminent in holiness that hath many eyes to behold a little holiness, and never an eye to see his further want of holiness. He that is more affected with that holiness he hath than he is afflicted about those great measures of holiness that he needs, will never be but a puny, a dwarf in holiness. The more sensible we are of our own weakness and emptiness, the more pleasure God will take to fill us with his own fulness, and to perfect in us the work of holiness.
Adapted from The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, 4:384–385.