The Life of Holiness

1 Pet. 2:9.---' A holy nation.'

The life of holiness is both an essentially separate and essentially social life. Inwardly it is a life of separateness; outwardly, a life of fellowship. Contradictory as these two qualities, separateness and fellowship, may seem, both are indispensable to holiness. If either be lacking to our holiness, its nature is not complete and full.

The Bible is the greatest of all authorities upon holiness. And when we enquire of the Bible concerning the nature of the holiness, whether of persons or of things, we find that one of its chief characteristics is separateness. To sanctify means to separate. The sanctification of the Tabernacle, of the first-born, of the Sabbath Day, of the priestly garments, signified their separation from common and profane uses, and their dedication to the service of God. Similarly with holy persons. The Bible expects them to be distinct. It describes the children of the Lord as an elect race, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a people marked out for God's own possession. The people for whom our Savior Christ gave Himself are said to be a peculiar people. Sanctified things and sanctified persons are, therefore, in the Scriptural sense of the terms, persons and things set apart. No person and no thing is regarded in the Bible as holy unless fenced off from ordinary persons and ordinary things. Distinctiveness is an indispensable quality of holiness.

But this necessary distinctiveness is of a quite remarkable character. It is a distinctiveness not of form and appearance so much as of purpose and object. The ground about the burning bush, for example, was not externally different from that of the neighboring wilderness. The incense of Moses and Aaron was chemically similar to that of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. The ark of God was made of ordinary shittim wood, and overlaid with ordinary gold. The Sabbath, regarded astronomically, was not unlike any other day of the week. The stones of the temple were cut from the common quarries, and set like the stones of other buildings. In outward appearance hardly any of these things were distinct or peculiar. Yet they were separate, sanctified, holy. God told Moses that the ground about the burning bush was holy ground. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were consumed for burning their incense before the Lord. Uzzah was smitten to death for putting out his hand to steady the Ark. The Sabbath was a kind of sacramental sign between Jehovah and Israel. And our Lord's anger was specially kindled against those who treated the Temple courts as a market place, or, in their irreverence, were forgetful that the Temple was the heavenly Father's house, the house of prayer.

And what is true of holy institutions, and holy places, and holy things, is true also of holy persons. In one signal property, indeed, the holiness of persons is fundamentally different from the holiness of things. Holy things are not conscious of their separation unto holiness. Holy persons, on the contrary, are deeply conscious of it before God. But their consciousness of it is not, of necessity, displayed by any seclusive sign or any professional mark conspicuous to others. Their hallowing is essentially an inward hallowing. It is not separation of dress, or vocation, or traditional rule, but of aim, and character, and life. The inward spirit, and not the outward profession, is one chief test of true holiness.

And if inward separation, inward hallowing, be one test of genuine holiness, another test, equally important, is fellowship. Social commingling is as necessary a part of the nature of true holiness as spiritual separation. This is one of the keynotes of our Lord's great valedictory prayer for His disciples. 'Father, I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.' The social character of our Lord's life is one of its most remarkable features. He came 'eating and drinking.' By far the larger part of His life was spent in His foster-father's trade. The common taunt leveled against Him was that He 'was a carpenter.' His first great manifestation of His Divinity was at a marriage feast. His first miracle was a social miracle. His periods of seclusion were rare and brief. At times, indeed, He went to a desert place to rest a while, or withdrew to a mountain to pray, or was taken by the Spirit into the wilderness or some great wrestling with the Evil One; but He was soon beck again healing the sick, casting out devils, preaching to the poor. He wore no phylacteries or conspicuous clothing. He did not stand apart at the corners of the streets to pray. He kept His fastings secretly. When he did some kindly act, He 'would have no man know it.' It is true that He 'could not be hid.' But whatever notice He attracted was involuntary. He never wrought a single sign to draw attention to Himself. His light shone to His Father's glory. His works testified of Him. The great witness of his holiness was His work for men, and among men. He does not seem to have been distinguished by any mark of outward custom or appearance. He was altogether separate from the world inwardly. But his inward separation was testified principally by the tremendous energy of His social life; His mingling with the people for the people's good.

The Bible nowhere recognizes in asceticism the highest type of holiness. Our Lord Himself was no ascetic; nor were any of His Apostles. St. Peter was a married man; so probably was St. John. The great majority of the apostles were men of a social and domestic type. Even St. Paul's preference for the celibate life was not grounded on any assumption of its spiritual superiority above the married life, but solely upon consideration of utility. he preferred to be free from all household cares that he might devote himself the more fully to the social service of Christianity. Similarly he praised the self-sacrifice of women who abstained from marriage in order that they might give themselves up wholly to work for the Lord. It is in this sense only, the greater freedom for work, that St. Paul affirms the unmarried life, whether of women or of men, to be, preferable to the married life. And even to this restricted sense he is most careful to add, evidently feeling that the matter was non-essential, 'I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.'

How utterly opposed to the thought of Jesus Christ is all asceticism, all religious isolation and retreat from the world. His aim was not to get His followers out of the world. Society, not solitude, is the natural home of Christianity. The Christian is not to flee from the contagion of evil, but to meet it with the contact of health and holiness. The church is not to be built on glass posts for moral insulation, but among the homes of common men for moral transformation. What use is a light under a bushel? It must shine where there is darkness. The place of need is the field of duty, and though we are not to be of the world, we are to be first and last in the world for the world.

Still, while we are bound to remember the social character of true holiness as unfolded throughout the Bible and made especially manifest by the Incarnation, we are bound to remember also the equally important fact that holiness is essentially separate. We cannot be truly holy unless we are separate, any more than we can be completely holy without being social. In the Scriptures oil is a common figure of holiness. But oil will not mix with any matter not akin to itself. Oil poured upon troubled waters will calm but will not mix with them. So with the oil of holiness in the world. Its presence calms, and heals, and beautifies worldly things; but it does not mix with them; it cannot mix with them. The spirit of holiness is contrary to the world-spirit. The world-spirit is a time-spirit. It walks by sight, and lives by sense. It seeks material rewards. But the spirit of holiness is an altogether different spirit. Its vision pierces the walls of sense, and overleaps the limits of time. It is an eternal spirit. It sees Him who is invisible. Its hopes are anchored within the veil. Purity is its great passion. It dwells among things unseen. Its crown is incorruptible and fadeth not away. Between the world-spirit and the spirit of holiness, therefore, there can be no fellowship, no communion, no concord, no agreement. They are antipathetic, antagonistic spirits---spirits in truceless enmity with each other. Peace between them is impossible. All true disciples of the holy Savior are not only separate from sin; they are separate also from worldliness. Inward and absolute separateness from the world is as integral to the nature of holiness as outward social work in the world.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha