Justification and Holiness
A Letter by Thomas Chalmers
Written in 1818 when Chalmers was 38. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Thomas Chalmers, William Henna (1850), vol.2, pp.183-185.
"I feel, my dear Miss Collier, that the righteousness of Christ unmixed with baser materials, untempered with strange mortar, unvitiated by human pretensions of any sort, is the solid resting—place on which a man is to lay his acceptance before God, and that there is no other; that to attempt a composition between grace and works is to spoil both, and is to deal a blow both to the character of God and to the cause of practical holiness.
This is my firm conviction; but I trust you understand that it may be a firm conviction without being a bright and rapture-giving perception. I know that it should enrapture me—that it should throw me into the transports of gratitude—that it should make me feel as a man in all the triumphs of confident anticipation, but I have occasional visitations of darkness and dulness and spiritual lethargy, and then, like Rutherford, I Would like to believe in the dark—to keep my hold in the midst of all my darkness and all my misgivings—to humble myself because of my cold insensibility, but still to trust determinedly, to trust in the name and righteousness of my Lord.
I think that holiness is looked upon by some evangelical writers in rather a lame and inadequate point of view. They value it chiefly as an evidence of justifying faith. They are right in saying that it gives no title to God's favour, but they are wrong in saying that its chief use is to ascertain that title, or to make that title clear to him who possesses it.
"It is, in fact, chiefly valuable on its own account It forms part, and an effective part, of salvation. It may be considered as an entrance upon heaven. Christ came to give us a justifying righteousness, and He also came to make us holy—not chiefly for the purpose of evidencing here our possession of a justifying righteousness—not for so temporary an object as this, but for the purpose of forming and fitting us for a blessed eternity.
"If the only inducement to a new acquirement of holiness was that it made our title clearer and multiplied our evidences, this does not appear so direct or powerful an inducement as when we are told that holiness is, in fact, the happiness of heaven, and then do we understand how every new accession of it adds to our treasure in heaven, and how, by approximating us to the lost image of God, it, in fact, is helping onwards the great and ultimate object to which our justification may be considered only as a means and a preliminary. Was holiness prosecuted for no other object than to clear up our title to the happiness of heaven, then the whole of the prosecution is animated by a selfish principle. Let holiness be prosecuted as that which constitutes the very element of heaven, and without which we could not breathe in it, then we have the most powerful, direct, and intelligible argument that can be conceived for the acquirement of a character not to work out a meritorious cause of salvation, but to work out an indispensable requisite for heaven—not to found a title, for that through the great Head by whom we hold has been already done, but to complete a preparation without which I do not say a man has no right to see God, but without which there is no possibility that a man can see God. I trust that I am the better of Hervey. I like to see a clear and vigorous line of demarcation drawn around the ground of our acceptance with God. I like to see it cleared from all the rubbish of human knowledge and human pollution. I like to see the firm and unmixed plea of the Lord my righteousness held out to sinners in all its power to encourage them to come to the Lawgiver; and not till a man submits to Christ as his alone righteousness will he repair to Him as his only strength; not till he make himself wholly over to the Redeemer for acceptance will he make himself wholly over to Him for sanctification; not till he put away all confidence from himself, and put all his joy in the Lord Jesus, will he serve God in the spirit; for whether do we receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?
"Do pray for me, that I may have more light, more comfort, more steadfastness in my Christian walk. Oh that we had more of the power of it in our hearts, and that God would vouchsafe a measure of light and of strength from His sanctuary! How humbling it is to all learning when a man is made to know that his doctrine has outrun his experience!"