Category Archives: Sanctification

“This happy victory” – The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

“O Almighty God,

The sovereign commander of all the world, in whose hand is power and might which none is able to withstand:

We bless and magnify Thy great and glorious name for this happy victory, the whole glory whereof we do ascribe to Thee, who art the only giver of victory.

And, we beseech Thee, give us grace to improve this great mercy to Thy glory, the advancement of Thy gospel, the honour of our nation, and, as much as in us lieth, to the good of all mankind.

And, we beseech Thee, give us such a sense of this great mercy, as may engage us to a true thankfulness, such as may appear in our lives by a humble, holy, and obedient walking before Thee all our days, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with Thee and the Holy Spirit, as for all Thy mercies, so in particular for this victory and deliverance, be all glory and honour, world without end.

Amen.”

–Samuel L. Bray and Drew Nathaniel Keane, eds., The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, International Edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2021), 576.

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“There is unspeakably more in the promises of God than we are able to understand” by Charles Hodge

“‘I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

This is the great promise of the covenant with Abraham and with all the true Israel. It is one of the most comprehensive and frequently repeated promises of the Scriptures. (Gen. 17:8; Deut. 29:13; Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10)

There is unspeakably more in the promises of God than we are able to understand.

The promise that the nations should be blessed in the seed of Abraham, as unfolded in the New Testament, is found to comprehend all the blessings of redemption.

So the promise, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people,’ contains more than it has ever entered into the heart of man to conceive.

How low are our conceptions of God! Of necessity our conceptions of what it is to have a God, and that God, Jehovah, must be entirely inadequate.

It is not only to have an infinite protector and benefactor, but an infinite portion; an infinite object of love and confidence; an infinite source of knowledge and holiness.

It is for God to be to us what He designed to be when He created us after His image, and filled us with His fulness.

His people, are those whom hHe recognizes as His peculiar property, the objects of His love, and the recipients of His favours.”

–Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1891), 170–171. Hodge is commenting on 2 Corinthians 6:16.

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“You see the ‘therefore'” by Charles Spurgeon

“‘Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’ (2 Cor. 7:1)

The drift of the argument is this,– if God dwells in us, let us make the house clean for so pure a God.

What! Indwelling Deity and unclean lusts? Indwelling Godhead, and yet a spirit defiled with evil thoughts? God forbid!

Let us cry aloud unto the Most High, that in this thing we may be cleansed, that the temple may be fit for the habitation of the Master.

What! Does God walk in us, and hold communion with us, and shall we let Belial come in? What concord can we have with Christ?

Shall we give ourselves up to be the servants of Mammon, when God has become our Friend, our Companion? It must not be!

Divine indwelling and divine communion both require from us personal holiness. Has the Lord entered into a covenant with us that we shall be His people?

Then does not this involve a call upon us to live like His people, as becometh godliness?

Favoured and privileged above other men to be a peculiar people, separated unto God’s own self, shall there be nothing peculiar about our lives?

Shall we not be zealous for good works?

Divinely adopted into the family of the Most High, and made heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, what need is there of further argument to constrain us to holiness?

You see the ‘therefore.’

It is just this, because we have attained to such choice and special privileges, ‘therefore’—for this reason, ‘let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.’

I remember hearing a man say that he had lived for six years without having sinned in either thought, or word, or deed.

I apprehend that he committed a sin then, if he never had done so before, in uttering such a proud, boastful speech.

No, no; I cannot believe that the flesh can be perfect, nor, consequently, that a man can be perfect in this flesh.

I cannot believe that we shall ever live to see people walking up and down in this world without sin.

But I can believe that it is our duty to be perfect, that the law of God means perfection, and that the law as it is in Christ—for there it is, you know,—is binding on the Christian.

It is not, as in the hands of Moses, armed with power to justify or to condemn him, for he is not under the law, but under grace; but it is binding upon him as it is in the hands of Christ.

The law, as it is in the hands of Christ, is just as glorious, just as perfect, just as complete, as when it was in the hands of Moses; Christ did not come to destroy the law, or to cast it down, but to establish it.

And therefore, notwithstanding every point where I fall short of perfection as a creature, I am complete in Christ Jesus. That which God requires of me is, that I should be perfect.

That I can understand; and the next thing I should know is, that for such perfection I ought to pray.

I should not like to pray for anything short of that. I should not like, at the prayer-meeting, to hear any of you say, “Lord, bring us half-way toward perfection.”

No, no, no; our prayer must be, “Lord, put away all sin; deliver me from it altogether.” And God would not teach you to pray for what He did not mean to give.

Your perfection is God’s design, for He has chosen you to be conformed to the image of His Son; and what is that? Surely the image of His Son is perfection.

There were no faults in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are to be made like Him; and as this is the work and design of grace, then perfection is the centre of the target at which God’s grace is always aiming.

All that He works in us is with this great ultimate end and aim, that He may sanctify us wholly,—spirit, soul, and body; and that He may release us from sin, and make us perfect even as our Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Oh, when will it be? When will it be? Why, the very thought of it makes me feel as if I could sing, “Oh! happy hour, oh! blest abode, I shall be near and like my God.”

What a joy it will be to be just like Him, to have no more corruption of the flesh, and no more incitements to sin to destroy the soul’s delight and pleasure in her God!

May the Lord hasten on the day! ‘Perfecting holiness.'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Our Position and Our Purpose,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 57 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1911), 57: 175–177.

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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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“Regeneration enables the act of reading as covenant friendship” by Scott Swain

“Just as the Spirit laid the foundation for the church in the writings of prophets and apostles, so He builds upon that foundation through, among other things, the reading of the saints.

The same Spirit who publishes God’s Word through inspiration and writing creates an understanding of God’s Word through illumination and interpretation (1 Cor. 2:14–16). The reading of Holy Scripture is a creaturely activity that corresponds to, and is also sustained and governed by, the Spirit’s work of regeneration and renewal.

The Christian life begins with regeneration (John 3:3, 5; Eph. 2:5; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23–25). When the Spirit brings the gospel effectually to bear upon the sinner’s heart, He breaks our relation to the Old Man and creates a relation to the New Man (Rom. 6:1–7; Gal. 5:24).

In so doing, He also implants a new principle of life (1 John 3:9). This new principle of life enables a new vision. Apart from this new vision, the gospel of Jesus Christ—and therefore the ultimate meaning of Scripture—remains hidden from us (2 Cor. 3:14–18).

However, being born again, we are enabled to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This new principle of life not only enables new vision, it also issues forth in new desires, new thirsts, and new hungers.

Chief among these is a longing for the word of truth (see 1 Pet. 1:22–2:3). God’s word is “sweeter than honey” to the regenerate taste (Ps. 19:10; 119:103).

The awakening of spiritual organs of perception and taste is essential to a profitable reading of Scripture.

“He who is deaf must first be healed from his deafness in order to be placed in true touch with the world of sounds. When this contact has been restored, the study of music can again be begun by him.” (Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 580).

This goes for biblical interpretation as well. The point is not that the “natural man” is unable to understand anything that Scripture says.

The point instead is that a profitable reading of Holy Scripture, one that receives Scripture’s words as the words of God, that ponders Scripture’s words as a way of pondering God, and that reveres Scripture’s words as a way of revering God, this sort of reading is only possible where the Spirit has caused the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened (Eph. 1:18; 1 Cor. 2:14).

Regeneration enables the act of reading as covenant friendship.

The Christian life begins with regeneration and continues along the path of renewal (Rom. 12:1–2; Eph. 4:21–24; Col. 3:10; 2 Pet. 3:18).

Because the regenerate life begins as the Spirit breaks our natural bond to the Old Man and forms a spiritual bond to the New Man, the growth and renewal of this life unfolds as a battle between the remaining impulses of our fallen human nature and the new reign of Christ through the Spirit.

“The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). In this battle, we are summoned to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit’s power and to put on the New Man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:13; Eph. 4:22–24).

In this battle, we are commanded not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but to be transformed, and this by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).

God renews and restores the whole man in sanctification, including the mind (cf. Rom. 12:2). The mind darkened by sin (Eph. 4:17–18) is made alive with Christ (Eph. 4:20–24).

The Spirit who searches the depths of God, and who sheds abroad the knowledge of God, gives us “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

By the “unified saving action and presence of Word and Spirit, reason’s vocation is retrieved from the ruins: its sterile attempt at self-destruction is set aside; its dynamism is annexed to God’s self-manifesting presence; it regains its function in the ordered friendship between God and human creatures.” (Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 742–43)

Within the context of this “ordered friendship between God and human creatures,” reason plays what is first and foremost a receptive role. Reason is not the fountain of saving wisdom.

As Benedict Pictet states: “reason cannot and ought not to bring forth any mysteries, as it were, out of its own storehouse; for this is the prerogative of scripture only.” Instead, reason is an organ for receiving saving wisdom.

Reason, regenerated and renewed, understands “the things freely given us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12). However, in this receptive activity, reason is not wholly passive.

God’s word “evokes the works of reason”: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Tim. 2:7). God’s living Word animates and answers the humble, suppliant work of reason.

Because God’s word unfolds itself in writing, one of the principal ways in which renewed reason fulfills its calling is through reading.”

–Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and Its Interpretation (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 96–98.

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“I am a silly sheep, but I have a gracious, watchful Shepherd” by John Newton

“Many splendid houses are dungeons with respect to spiritual light.

A believer could not bear the thoughts of living in any situation, unless he enjoyed the light of the Sun of Righteousness; and with this any situation is tolerable.

You know the value of this light; and you are favoured with it. Therefore I doubt not your house is a good one.

May you enjoy it more and more, and now you are withdrawn from the noise of the town, and (as I suppose) in some measure from the hurry of business, may your leisure be sanctified, and a sense of the Lord’s presence brighten every hour of your future life.

And may you dwell, as Jacob lodged for one night, at the gate of heaven, till the appointed moment when the gate shall open and let you in, to be forever with the Lord.

In the mean time, you are happy that the Lord has favoured you with many opportunities and advantages of promoting His glory, and the good of His people, and given you a heart to improve them.

I would tell you how it is with me if I could; at the best, it would be an inconsistent account.

I am what I would not, and would what I cannot.

I rejoice and mourn; I stand fast, and am thrown down in the same moment.

I am both rich and poor; I can do nothing, yet I can do all things. I live by miracle.

I am opposed beyond my strength, yet I am not overpowered. I gain when I lose, and I often am a loser by my gains.

In a word, I am a sinner, a vile one; but a sinner believing in the name of Jesus.

I am a silly sheep, but I have a gracious, watchful Shepherd.

I am a dull scholar, but I have a Master who can make the dullest learn.

He still bears with me, He still employs me, He still enables me, He still owns me.

Oh, for a coal of heavenly fire to warm my heart, that I might praise Him as I ought!

As a people, we have much cause of complaint in ourselves, and much cause of thankfulness to Him.

In the main, I hope we are alive, though not as we could wish; our numbers rather increase from year to year, and some flourish. In the ordinances, we are favoured in a measure with his presence.

But, oh, for a day of His power; that His work may run broader and deeper, and the fire of grace spread from heart to heart, till the whole town be in a flame!

To this I hope you will give a hearty Amen, and often remember us in your prayers.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 104-105.

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“A sight of the glory, beauty, and love of King Jesus” by John Newton

“I hope your souls prosper, and that the Lord hears from you and you from Him often.

And I hope that you both live a life of faith in the Son of God, are strong in His might, and comforted by refreshing views of His glory.

The great secret of our profession, (oh, that I could learn it better!) is to be looking at Jesus.

I am a stranger to the court; but I am told that those who wait there form themselves into little parties, have their own conversation, or make their remarks upon what passes, till the king appears; then every thing is hushed and dropped, and their attention is fixed upon him alone.

Oh, that thus by the eye of faith we might obtain such a sight of the glory, beauty, and love of King Jesus, as might unite our scattered thoughts, and attract all our powers and affections to Himself.

But, alas! we are prone (at least I may speak for myself) to forsake the fountain of living waters, and to hew out broken cisterns.

Instead of receiving Him, I am often looking in myself for something to enable me to do without Him, or at least for something to strengthen the warrant He has given me in His word to come to Him.

The Lord be merciful to my unbelief and slowness of heart; though taught and warned again and again, I am frequently repeating the old mistake, and seeking the living among the dead.

I have some faint idea of the life of faith, and can talk a little about it; but to experience myself the power of what I preach to others, this is too often what I find not.

Yet I must praise Him. If I did not, might not the very stones cry out and shame me?

For surely He hath dealt marvelously with me.

He found me in a waste howling wilderness, in more than the prodigal’s distress, with my heart full of madness and rebellion, and beset with horror on every side.

In this state I was when He first passed by me, and bid me live.

He sent from on high, and delivered me out of deep waters. And, oh, what has He not done for me since!

Given me to know, yea, to preach, His Gospel, cast my lot in a pleasant place, filled and surrounded me with mercies on every side.

And He has spoken good concerning me for a great while to come, even forever and ever. Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Come, my dear friends, and magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”

–John Newton, The Works of John NewtonVolume 6 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 6: 74-75.

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“Our performance instead of His grace” by Jerry Bridges

“The grace of God is one of the most important subjects in all of Scripture. At the same time it is probably one of the least understood.

All Christians by definition believe in grace. Many of us frequently quote Paul’s well-known words in Ephesians 2:8–9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

And John Newton’s beloved hymn “Amazing Grace” is said to be the all-time favorite hymn in the United States.

Why then do I say the grace of God is one of the least understood subjects in the Bible?

When we think of grace, we almost always think of being saved by grace. That is why Ephesians 2:8–9 is so familiar to us. Even Christian literature available on the subject of grace seems to deal almost exclusively with salvation.

But the Bible teaches we are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day of our lives. It is this important aspect of grace that seems to be so little understood or practiced by Christians.

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us.

If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.

Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to “try harder.” We seem to believe success in the Christian life (however we define success) is basically up to us: our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way.

We give lip service to the attitude of the apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10), but our unspoken motto is, “God helps those who help themselves.”

The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience.

But it is not meant to be a one-time experience; the truth needs to be reaffirmed daily.”

–Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 9–10.

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“The infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners” by J.C. Ryle

We see, fifthly, in this parable, the penitent man received readily, pardoned freely, and completely accepted with God.

Our Lord shows us this, in this part of the younger son’s history, in the most touching manner. We read:

“When he was yet a long way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.”

More deeply affecting words than these, perhaps, were never written. To comment on them seems almost needless.

It is like gilding refined gold, and painting the lily. They show us in great broad letters the infinite love of the Lord Jesus Christ towards sinners.

They teach how infinitely willing He is to receive all who come to Him, and how complete, and full, and immediate is the pardon which He is ready to bestow.

“By Him all that believe are justified from all things.”—“He is plenteous in mercy.” (Acts 13:39; Psalm 86:5)

Let this boundless mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be graven deeply in our memories, and sink into our minds. Let us never forget that He is One “that receiveth sinners.”

With Him and His mercy sinners ought to begin, when they first begin to desire salvation. On Him and His mercy saints must live, when they have been taught to repent and believe.

‘The life which I live in the flesh,’ says St. Paul, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Gal. 2:20)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1879/2012), 2: 138. Ryle is commenting on Luke 15:11-24.

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“A pastor’s life should be vocal” by John Owen

“A pastor’s life should be vocal; sermons must be practised as well as preached.

Though Noah’s workmen built the ark, yet themselves were drowned. God will not accept of the tongue where the devil hath the soul.

Jesus did “do and teach,” (Acts 1:1). If a man teach uprightly and walk crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.

Now, as to the completing of the exemplary life of a minister, it is required that the principle of it be that of the life of Christ in him, (Gal. 2:20), that when he hath taught others he be not himself “a cast-away,” (1 Cor. 9:27); with which he hath a spiritual understanding, and light given him into the counsel of God, which he is to communicate, (1 John 5:20; 1 Cor. 2:12, 16; 2 Cor. 4:6, 7);—and that the course of it be singular, (Matt. 5:46, Luke 6:32); where unto so many eminent qualifications of the person and duties of conversation are required, (1 Tim. 2:2–7, Titus 1:6–9);—and his aim to be exemplar to the glory of God, (1 Tim. 4:12).

So is their general course and the end of their faith to be eyed, (Heb. 13:7).

And their infirmities, whilst really such, and appearing through the manifold temptations whereunto they are in these days exposed, or imposed on them through the zeal of their adversaries that contend against them, [are] to be covered with love, (Gal. 4:13, 14).

And this men will do when they conscientiously consider that even the lives of their teachers are an ordinance of God, for their relief under temptations, and provocation unto holiness, zeal, meekness, and self-denial.”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 13: Ministry in Fellowship (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 13: 57-58.

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