Category Archives: Death

“I am swallowed up in God” by Thomas Goodwin

Thomas Goodwin died in London at age eighty. His son wrote this about his father’s final days:

“In February 1679, a fever seized my dear father, which in a few days put an end to his life.

In all the violence of it, he discoursed with that strength of faith and assurance of Christ’s love, with that holy admiration of free grace, with that joy in believing, and such thanksgivings and praises, as he extremely moved and affected all that heard him.

He rejoiced in the thoughts that he was dying, and going to have a full and uninterrupted communion with God.

‘I am going,’ said he, ‘to the three Persons, with whom I have had communion: they have taken me; I did not take them. I shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye; all my lusts and corruptions I shall be rid of, which I could not be here; those croaking toads will fall off in a moment.’

And mentioning those great examples of faith, Heb. 11,

‘All these,’ said he, ‘died in faith. I could not have imagined I should ever have had such a measure of faith in this hour; no, I could never have imagined it. My bow abides in strength.

Is Christ divided? No, I have the whole of His righteousness; I am found in Him, not in my own righteousness, which is of the law, but in the righteousness which is of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.

Christ cannot love me better than He doth; I think I cannot love Christ better than I do; I am swallowed up in God.’

Directing his speech to his two sons, he exhorted them to value the privilege of the covenant. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘I shall be ever with the Lord.’

With this assurance of faith and fulness of joy, his soul left this world, and went to see and enjoy the reality of that blessed state of glory, which in a discourse on that subject he had so well demonstrated.

He died February 1679, and in the eightieth year of his age.”

–Thomas Goodwin, Memoir of Thomas Goodwin, D.D., Composed Out of His Own Papers and Memoirs, By His Son, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1861/2006), 2: lxxiv–lxxv.

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“The best argument to bring sinners to believe in Jesus is Jesus” by Charles Spurgeon

“I am meek and lowly in heart.” —Matthew 11:29

We have preached upon the whole of this passage several times before, therefore we do not intend to speak upon it in its full teaching, or enter upon its general run and connection, but we select for our meditation this one expression, which has greater deeps in it than we shall be able fully to explore;—“I am meek and lowly in heart.”

I have felt very grateful to God for the mercy of the past week, during which the ministers educated in our College have been gathered together as a devout convocation, and have enjoyed a flood-tide of the divine blessing.

Unusually great and special joy has filled my soul; and, therefore, I have asked myself, “What can I do to glorify the Lord my God who has been so gracious to me, and has so prospered the work committed to me and my brethren?”

The answer which my heart gave was this— “Endeavour to bring sinners to Jesus. Nothing is sweeter to Him than that, for He loves the sons of men.”

Then I said to myself, “But how can I bring sinners to Christ? What means will the Holy Spirit be likely to use for that purpose?”

And the answer came, “If you would preach sinners to Christ you must preach Christ to sinners, for nothing so attracts the hearts of men as Jesus himself.”

The best argument to bring sinners to believe in Jesus is Jesus.

Has he not himself said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me?” Then I said, “But what shall I preach concerning Jesus?”

And my soul replied, “Preach the loving heart of Jesus: go to the centre of the subject, and set forth His very soul, His inmost self, and then it may be that the heart of Jesus will draw the hearts of men.”

Now it is very remarkable that the only passage in the whole New Testament in which the heart of Jesus is distinctly mentioned is the one before us.

Of course there are passages in which his heart is intended, as for instance—when the soldier, with a spear, pierced his side; but this passage is unique as to the actual mentioning of the kardia or heart of Jesus by a distinct word.

There are several passages in the Old Testament which refer to our divine Lord, such as—“Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness;” and that notable one, in the twenty-second Psalm, “my heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”

But in the New Testament this is the only passage which speaks of the heart of Jesus Christ, and therefore we will weigh it with all the more care.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Heart of Jesus,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 19 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873), 19: 193–194.

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“The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands” by Matthew Emerson

“The most important practical application of the descent, at least in my opinion, is that it means that Christ experienced death in the same way we do and also defeated it.

His human body went to the grave and His human soul went to the place of the (righteous) dead. This is not a natural state for humanity.

Death is an effect of the fall (Gen 3:17–19; Rom 6:23), and Jesus became fully human to the point that He experienced the fullness of death. He did not die one moment on the cross and rise the next moment but remained dead for three days.

This is a great comfort to those who are facing death or those who have lost loved ones. And those two categories encompass everyone on the planet.

When we, or those we love, face death, we can find assurance in the fact that Christ, too, has experienced death in all its fallen fullness. He really, truly died.

His soul was separated from His body for three days. This is just as we will remain dead and just as our souls will remain separated from our bodies until Christ returns.

Our Savior has gone before us.

Just as the Ark of the Covenant went before the people of Israel through the wilderness for three days to find a place for them to rest (Num 10:33), so Christ has gone before us through the wilderness of Hades to prepare a place for us to rest in Him.

But He has not only experienced the fullness of human death; He has also defeated it. Death does not have the last word.

Those of us who trust Christ do not have hope only because Christ experienced it as we do, but because in it experiencing it as the God-Man He defeated it.

And one day He will expel it fully and finally from His presence and from our experience.

We do not remain dead, just as Christ did not remain dead, because Christ has defeated death in His death, descent, and resurrection.

Because Christ rose, we long for the day when we will rise with Him and dwell, bodily, with Him forever on the new heavens and new earth.

This should also bring believers comfort here on earth as they experience evil, suffering, oppression, and all other effects of sin. Christ’s descent answers the problem of evil because in it (and His death and resurrection) He has defeated the principalities and powers (Col 2:15).

The descent, then, ought to be a great comfort to those facing death, whether their own or a loved one’s. It is part of the reason we grieve, but not as those without hope (1 Thess 4:13).

When we cite Paul’s statement in funeral contexts, it is usually to point to the resurrection. And that is right and good, and the ultimate grounds of such hopeful grieving.

But in the meantime, while we think of our departed dead, while we walk in their graveyards and look at their ashes and remember their lives, while we ponder our own deaths, and while we consider how long it is, O Lord, until the Second Coming, we do so with hope.

We hope because Christ also remained buried in the grave, buried with us and for us. We hope because we have a High Priest who has experienced death as we all will, if the Lord tarries.

We hope because we have an advocate who has experienced the pain of death and yet has done so victoriously, rising from it and drawing us with Him on the last day.

We therefore dig our graves, facing toward the East, knowing that as our bodies decompose, our souls remain with Christ, awaiting the day when He will with loud trumpets return and reunite our bodies and souls so that we can live with Him forever by the power of His Spirit to the glory of the Father.

Charles Hill summarizes this hope well:

Christ descended into Hades so that you and I would not have to. Christ descended to Hades so that we might ascend to heaven. Christ entered the realm of death, the realm of the strong enemy, and came away with his keys.

The keys of Death and Hades are now in our Savior’s hands. And God His Father has exalted Him to His right hand, and given Him another key, the key of David, the key to the heavenly Jerusalem.

He opens and no one will shut, He shuts and no one will open (Rev. 3:7). And praise to Him, as the hymn says, “For He hath op’ed the heavenly door, and man is blessed forever more.”

All praise and honor and glory to the Lamb who has conquered! “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth” (Rev. 14:13).

And blessed are we here and now, who even now have this hope, and a fellowship with our Savior which is stronger than death! Thanks be to God. Amen.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.”

–Matthew Y. Emerson, “He Descended to the Dead”: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2019), 219–221.

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“There was no other way” by Cyril of Alexandria (A.D. 370–444)

“There was no other way to shake off the gloomy dominion of death, only by the incarnation of the Only Begotten.

This was why He appeared as we are.”

–Cyril of Alexandria, On the Unity of Christ, ed. John Behr, trans. John Anthony McGuckin, vol. 13, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 13: 125.

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“The Lord is close to those who have bruised their hearts” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

God is most high, yet near.

I will cry to God Most High. If He is most high, how can He hear your crying?

‘My confidence is born from experience,’ the psalmist replies, ‘because I am praying to God, who has dealt kindly with me. If He dealt kindly with me before I sought Him, will He not hear me now that I am crying out to Him?’

The Lord God dealt kindly with us by sending us our Savior Jesus Christ, to die for our misdeeds and rise for our justification. (Rom. 4:25)

And for what kind of people did God will His Son to die?

For the godless. The godless were not seeking God, but God sought them.

He is “most high” indeed, but in such a way that our wretchedness and our groans are not far from Him, for the Lord is close to those who have bruised their hearts.

I will cry to God Most High, to God who has dealt kindly with me.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Expositions of the Psalms 51–72, trans. Maria Boulding, ed. John E. Rotelle, vol. 17, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001), 17: 108–109. Augustine is commenting on Psalm 57:2.

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“What must it be to lose your soul?” by Charles Spurgeon

“You may tell how serious it is to lose the soul, from its intrinsic value.

The soul is a thing worth ten thousand worlds; in fact, a thing which worlds on worlds heaped together, like sand upon the sea shore, could not buy.

It is more precious than if the ocean had each drop of itself turned into a golden globe, for all that wealth could not buy a soul.

Consider! The soul is made in the image of its Maker; “God made man,” it is said, “in his own image.”

The soul is an everlasting thing like God; God has gifted it with immortality; and hence it is precious. To lose it, then, how fearful!

Consider how precious a soul must be, when both God and the devil are after it.

You never heard that the devil was after a kingdom, did you? No, he is not so foolish; he knows it would not be worth his winning; he is never after that; but he is always after souls.

You never heard that God was seeking after a crown, did you! No, he thinketh little of dominions; but he is after souls every day: his Holy Spirit is seeking his children; and Christ came to save souls.

Do you think that which hell craves for, and that which God seeks for, is not precious?

The soul is precious again, we know, by the price Christ paid for it.

“Not with silver and gold,” but with his own flesh and blood did he redeem it. Ah! it must be precious, if he gave his heart’s core to purchase it.

What must it be to lose your soul?”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Profit and Loss,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 2 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1856), 2: 310–311.

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“Christ is the True Hero and I shall cling to Him” by Martin Luther

“Dear mother,

You know the real basis and foundation of your salvation, on which you must rest your confidence in this and all troubles, namely Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.

He will not waver or fail us, nor allow us to sink and perish, for He is the Saviour and is called the Saviour of all poor sinners, of all who face tribulation and death, of all who rely on Him and call on His name.

He says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

If He has overcome the world, surely He has overcome the prince of this world with all His power. And what is His power but death, with which He has made us subject to Him, captives on account of our sin?

But now that death and sin are overcome, we may joyfully and cheerfully listen to the sweet words, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

And we must not doubt that they are certainly true. More than that, we are commanded to accept their comfort with joy and thanksgiving.

Whoever is unwilling to be comforted by these words does the greatest injustice and dishonor to the Comforter— as if it were not true that He bids us to be of good cheer, or as if it were not true that He has overcome the world.

If we act thus, we only restore within ourselves the tyranny of the vanquished devil, sin, and death, and we oppose the dear Saviour. From this may God preserve us!

Therefore, let us rejoice with all assurance and gladness. Should any thought of sin or death frighten us, let us lift up our hearts and say:

“Behold, dear soul, what are you doing? Dear death, dear sin, how is it that you are alive and terrify me? Do you not know that you have been overcome?

Do you, death, not know that you are quite dead? Do you not know the One who has said of you, I have overcome the world?

It does not behoove me to listen to or heed your terrifying suggestions. I shall pay attention only to the cheering words of my Saviour, ‘Be of good cheer, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’

He is the Conqueror, the true Hero, who in these words, ‘Be of good cheer,’ gives me the benefit of his victory. I shall cling to Him.

To His words and comfort I shall hold fast. Whether I remain here or go yonder, He will not forsake me.

You would like to deceive me with your false terrors, and with your lying thoughts you would like to tear me away from such a Conqueror and Saviour.

But they are lies, as surely as it is true that He has overcome you and commanded us to be comforted.”

This is also the boast of Saint Paul and his defiance of the terrors of death:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:55)

Like a wooden image of death, you can terrify and frighten, but you have no power to destroy. For your victory, sting, and power have been swallowed up in Christ’s victory.

You can show your teeth, but you cannot bite. For God has given us the victory over you through Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be praise and thanks. Amen.’

With such words and thoughts, and with none other, you may set your heart at rest, dear mother.

Be thankful that God has brought you to such knowledge and not allowed you to remain in papal error, by which we were taught to rely on our own works and the holiness of the monks and to consider this only comfort of ours, our Saviour, not as a comforter but as a severe judge and tyrant, so that we could only flee from Him to Mary and the saints and not expect of Him any grace or comfort.

But now we know differently about the unfathomable goodness and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

We now know that Jesus Christ is our mediator, our throne of grace, and our bishop before God in heaven, who daily intercedes for us and reconciles all who call upon and believe in Him.

We now know that He is not a grim judge, except to those who do not believe in Him and who reject His comfort and grace.

We now know that He is not the Man who accuses and threatens us, but rather that He intercedes for and reconciles us by His own death, having shed His blood for us in order that we might not fear Him but approach Him with all assurance and call Him our dear Saviour, our sweet Comforter, the true Bishop of our souls.”

–Martin Luther, “To Mrs. John Luther, (May 20, 1531),” Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 34-35.

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“I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself” by Martin Luther

“To my dear father, John Luther, citizen in the valley of Mansfeld:

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Dear Father:

My brother James has written me that you are seriously ill. As the weather is bad and the season dangerous, I am very anxious about you, for though God has given you a strong, tough body, yet your age and the inclemency of the weather give me disquieting thoughts.

None of us is, or should be, sure of his life at any time. I should have come to you personally with the greatest willingness, but my good friends advised me against it and have persuaded me not to, and I myself thought it better not to tempt God by putting myself in peril, for you know how lords and peasants feel toward me.

It would be the greatest joy to me if it were possible for you and mother to come hither, which my Katie and all of us beg with tears that you will do. I hope we are able to take good care of you.

Therefore I am sending Cyriac to see whether your weakness will allow you to be moved.

However in God’s wisdom your illness turns out, whether you live or die, it would be a heartfelt joy to me to be with you again and with filial piety and service to show my gratitude to God and to you according to the Fourth Commandment.

In the meantime I pray from the bottom of my heart that our Father, who has made you my father, will strengthen you according to His immeasurable kindness and enlighten and protect you with His Spirit, so that you may receive with joy and thanksgiving the blessed teaching of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to which doctrine you have now been called and to which you have come out of the former terrible darkness and error.

And I hope that His grace, which has given you such knowledge, and thereby begun His work in you, will guard and complete it to the end of this life and to the joyous hereafter of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

God has already sealed this teaching and faith in you and has testified to it by such marks as that you have suffered much slander, abuse, obloquy, mockery, scorn, hatred, and odium for His name’s sake, as we all have done. These are the true marks of our likeness to the Lord Christ, as Paul says, that we may be like Him also in future glory.

Let your heart be strong and at ease in your trouble, for we have yonder a true mediator with God, Jesus Christ, who has overcome death and sin for us and now sits in heaven with all His angels, looking down on us and awaiting us so that when we set out we need have no fear or care lest we should sink and fall to the ground.

He has such great power over sin and death that they cannot harm us, and He is so heartily true and kind that He cannot and will not forsake us, at least if we ask His help without doubting.

He has said, promised, and pledged this. He will not and cannot lie; of that we are certain.

“Ask,” says he, “and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7) And elsewhere: “Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

The whole Psalter is full of such comforting promises, especially Ps. 91, which is particularly good to read to the sick.

I wish to write this to you because I am anxious about your illness (for we know not the hour), that I may become a participant of your faith, temptation, consolation, and thanks to God for His holy Word, which He has richly and graciously given us at this time.

If it is His divine will that you should postpone that better life and continue to suffer with us in this troubled and unhappy vale of tears, to see and hear sorrow and help other Christians to suffer and conquer, He will give you the grace to accept all this willingly and obediently.

This life, cursed by sin, is nothing but a vale of tears. The longer a man lives, the more sin and wickedness and plague and sorrow he sees and feels. Nor is there respite or cessation this side of the grave. Beyond is repose, and we can then sleep in the rest Christ gives us until He comes again to wake us with joy. Amen.

I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself.

He has proved His love in taking your sins upon Himself and paying for them with His blood, as He tells you by the gospel.

He has given you grace to believe by His Spirit, and has prepared and accomplished everything most surely, so that you need not care or fear any more, but only keep your heart strong and reliant on His Word and faith.

If you do that, let Him care for the rest. He will see to it that everything turns out well. Indeed, He has already done this better than we can conceive.

May our dear Lord and Saviour be with you so that, God willing, we may see each other, either here or yonder. For our faith is certain, and we doubt not that we shall shortly see each other in the presence of Christ.

Our departure from this life is a smaller thing to God than my journey would be from here to Mansfeld or yours from Mansfeld to Wittenberg. It is only an hour’s sleep, and after that all will be different. This is most certainly true.

I hope that your pastor and preacher will point out such things to you in faithful service, and so you will not need what I say at all. Yet I write to ask forgiveness for my bodily absence, which, God knows, causes me heartfelt sorrow.

My Katie, little Hans, Magdalene, Aunt Lena, and all my household send you greetings and pray for you faithfully. Greet my dear mother and all my friends.

God’s grace and strength be and abide with you forever. Amen.

Your loving son,

Martin Luther
February 15, 1530.”

–Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 30-32.

[John Luther, Martin’s father, died on May 29, 1530, three months after this letter of consolation was written. On June 5, Luther wrote to Melanchthon: “John Reineck wrote me today that my beloved father, the senior Hans Luther, departed this life at one o’clock on Exaudi Sunday. This death has cast me into deep mourning, not only because of the ties of nature but also because it was through his sweet love to me that my Creator endowed me with all that I am and have. Although it is consoling to me that, as he writes, my father fell asleep softly and strong in his faith in Christ, yet his kindness and the memory of his pleasant conversation have caused so deep a wound in my heart that I have scarcely ever held death in such low esteem.” (30)]

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“You have never to drag mercy out of Christ” by Charles Spurgeon

“Jesus deserves to be trusted, and trust Him we will– for He is full of power to save, for He is now upon the throne, and all power is given Him in heaven and in earth.

He is full of power to save we know, because He is saving souls every day.

Some of us are the living witnesses that He can forgive sin, for we are pardoned, accepted, and renewed in heart; and the only way in which we obtained those boons was this—we trusted Him, we did nothing else but trust Him.

If any soul here that believes in Jesus should perish, I must perish with him. I sail in that boat, and if it sinks I have no other to fly to, I avow before you all that I have no other confidence.

I have not so much as the shred of a reliance in any sacrament I have undergone or enjoyed, in any sermon I have ever preached, in any prayer I have ever prayed, in any communion with God I have ever known.

My hope lies in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

And I shake off as though it were a viper, into the fire, as a deadly thing only fit to be burned, all pretense of relying on anything I may be, or can be, or ever shall be, or do.

‘None but Jesus,’—this is the settled pillar upon which we must build. It will bear us up, but nothing else can.

Moreover, remember also that Jesus Christ this morning is by no means unwilling to save sinners, but on the contrary, He delights to do it.

You have never to drag mercy out of Christ, as money from a miser, but it flows freely from him, like the stream from the fountain, or the sunlight from the sun.

If He can be happier, He is made happier by giving of His mercy to the undeserving.

When a poor wretch who only deserves hell, comes to Him, and he says, ‘I have blotted out thy sins,’ it is joy to Christ’s heart to do it.

When a poor blasphemer bows his knee, and says, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,’ it makes Christ’s heart glad to say, ‘Thy blasphemies are forgiven: I suffered for them on the tree.’

When a poor little child, by her bedside, cries, ‘Gentle Jesus, teach a little child to pray, and forgive the sins which I have done;’ the Saviour loves to say, ‘Suffer these little children to come to Me, for this also is a part of My recompense for the wounds I endured in My hands, My feet, and My side.’

When any of you come to Him and confess your transgressions and trust yourselves in His hands, it will be a new heaven to Him.

It will put new stars into His ever bright and lustrous crown.

It will make Him see of the travail of His soul and give Him satisfaction.

Have we not here arguments to prove that Jesus is worthy to be trusted?”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Essence of Simplicity,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 18 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1872), 18: 728–729.

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