“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” shall see the face of God in glory. Nothing under heaven can be more sure than this; “for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
No, it cannot be; none that shall live with God, but he that now lives to God; none shall enjoy the glory of God in heaven, but he that bears the image of God on earth; none that is not saved from sin here can be saved from hell hereafter; none can see the kingdom of God above, unless the kingdom of God be in him below.
Whoever will reign with Christ in heaven, must have Christ reigning in him on earth. He must have “that mind in him which was in Christ,” enabling him “to walk as Christ also walked.”
And yet as sure as this is, and as clearly as it is taught in every part of the Holy Scripture, there is scarce one among all the truths of God, which is less received by men.
What way could Satan take to make all this light of none effect? What could be done when that grand truth, “By grace ye are saved through faith,” was more and more generally received? What, indeed, but to persuade the very men who had received it, to “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness?
To this end Simon Magus appeared again, and taught that Christ had done, as well as suffered all; that his righteousness being imputed to us, we need none of our own; that seeing there was so much righteousness and holiness in Him, there needs none in us; that to think we have any, or to desire or seek any, is to renounce Christ; that from the beginning to the end of salvation, all is in Christ, nothing in man; and that those who teach otherwise are ‘legal’ preachers, and know nothing of the gospel.
This is indeed a blow at the root, the root of all holiness, all true religion. Hereby Christ is stabbed in the house of his friends, of those who make the largest professions of loving and honoring him; the whole design of his death, namely, “to destroy the works of the devil,” being overthrown at a stroke.
For wherever this doctrine is cordially received, it leaves no place for holiness. It demolishes it from top to bottom; it destroys both root and branch. It effectually tears up all desire of it, all endeavors after it. It forbids all such exhortations as might excite those desires, or awaken those endeavors.
Nay, it makes men afraid of personal holiness, afraid of cherishing any thought of it, or motion toward it, lest they should deny the faith, and reject Christ and his righteousness; So that, instead of being “zealous of good works,” they are a stink in their nostrils. And they are infinitely more afraid of “the works of God,” than of “the works of the devil.”
Here is wisdom! though not the wisdom of the saints, but wisdom from beneath. Here is the masterpiece of Satan: Farther than this he cannot go. Men are holy, without a grain of holiness in them! holy in Christ, however unholy in themselves; they are in Christ, without one jot of the mind that was in Christ; in Christ, though their [own] nature is whole in them.
They are “complete in him,” though they are, in themselves, as proud, as vain, as covetous, as passionate as ever. It is enough: They may be unrighteous still, seeing Christ has “fulfilled all righteousness.”
“O ye simple ones, how long will ye love simplicity?” How long will be “seek death in the error of your life?” “Know ye not,” whoever teacheth you otherwise, “that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” “Be not deceived;” although there are many who lie in wait to deceive, and that under the fair pretense of exalting Christ; — a pretense which the more easily steals upon you, because “to you he is precious.”
But as the Lord liveth, “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” “Such” indeed “were some of you. But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified,” as well as “justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
–John Wesley, Excerpts from A Blow at the Root