Leviticus Chapter Twenty
Law against sacrificing children to Moloch, Of children that curse their parents. (1-9) Laws repeated, Holiness enjoined. (10-27)
Commentary on Leviticus 20:1-9
Are we shocked at the unnatural cruelty of the ancient idolaters in sacrificing their children? We may justly be so. But are there not very many parents, who, by bad teaching and wicked examples, and by the mysteries of iniquity which they show their children, devote them to the service of Satan, and forward their everlasting ruin, in a manner even more to be lamented? What an account must such parents render to God, and what a meeting will they have with their children at the day of judgment! On the other hand, let children remember that he who cursed father or mother was surely put to death. This law Christ confirmed. Laws which were made before are repeated, and penalties annexed to them. If men will not avoid evil practices, because the law has made these practices sin, and it is right that we go on that principle, surely they should avoid them when the law has made them death, from a principle of self-preservation. In the midst of these laws comes in a general charge, Sanctify yourselves, and be ye holy. It is the Lord that sanctifies, and his work will be done, though it be difficult. Yet his grace is so far from doing away our endeavours, that it strongly encourages them. Work out your salvation, for it is God that worketh in you.
Commentary on Leviticus 20:10-27
These verses repeat what had been said before, but it was needful there should be line upon line. What praises we owe to God that he has taught the evil of sin, and the sure way of deliverance from it! May we have grace to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; may we have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness, but reprove them.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Leviticus》
 Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
The people — Here follow the punishments of the crimes forbidden in the former chapters.
 And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.
I will set my face against that man — Deal with him as an enemy, and make him a monument of my justice.
To defile my sanctuary — Because the sanctuary was defiled by gross abominations committed in that city or land where God's sanctuary was: or because by these actions they declared to all men that they esteemed the sanctuary and service of God abominable and vile, by preferring such odious idolatry before it.
And to profane my name — Partly by despising it themselves, partly by disgracing it to others, and giving them occasion to blaspheme it, and to abhor the true religion.
 And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not:
Hide their eyes — Wink at his fault, and forbear to accuse and punish him.
 And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.
To go a whoring — To seek counsel or help from them.
 And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.
Who sanctify you — Who separate you from all nations, and from their impurities and idolatries, to be a peculiar people to myself; and who give you my grace to keep my statutes.
 For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.
Curseth — This is not here meant of every perverse expression, but of bitter reproaches or imprecations.
His blood shall be upon him — He is guilty of his own death: he deserves to die for so unnatural a crime.
 And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.
Confusion — By perverting the order which God hath appointed, and making the same off-spring both his own child and his grandchild.
 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Put to death — Except the one party was forced by the other. See Deuteronomy 22:25.
 And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.
They — All who consented to it.
 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
Slay the beast — Partly for the prevention of monstrous births, partly to blot out the memory of so loathsome a crime.
 And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister's nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.
See her nakedness|-In this and several of the following verses, uncovering nakedness plainly appears to mean not marriage, but fornication or adultery.
 And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife, he hath uncovered his uncle's nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless.
They shall die childless — Either shall be speedily cut off ere they can have a child by that incestuous conjunction; if this seem a less crime than most of the former incestuous mixtures, and therefore the magistrate forbear to punish it with death; yet they shall either have no children from such an unlawful bed, or their children shall die before them.
 And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless.
His brother's wife — Except in the case allowed by God, Deuteronomy 25:5.
 A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.
A man or a woman that hath a familiar spirit, shall surely be put to death — They that are in league with the devil, have in effect made a covenant with death: and so shall their doom be.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Leviticus》
20 Chapter 20
He shall surely be put to death.
This chapter, directly or indirectly, casts no little light on some most fundamental and practical questions regarding the administration of justice in dealing with criminals. We may learn here what, in the mind of the King of kings, is the primary object of the punishment of criminals against society. First and foremost is the satisfaction of outraged justice, and of the regal majesty of the supreme and holy God; the vindication of the holiness of the Most High against that wickedness of men which would set at nought the Holy One and overturn that moral order which He has established. Again and again the crime itself is given as the reason for the penalty, inasmuch as by such iniquity in the midst of Israel the holy sanctuary of God among them was profaned. But if this is set forth as the fundamental reason for the infliction of the punishment, it is not represented as the only object. If, as regards the criminal himself, the punishment is a satisfaction and expiation to justice for his crime, on the other hand, as regards the people, the punishment is intended for their moral good and purification (see Leviticus 20:14). Both of these principles are of such a nature that they must be of perpetual validity. The government or legislative power that loses sight of either of them is certain to go wrong, and the people will be sure, sooner or later, to suffer in morals by the error. In the light we have now, it is easy to see what are the principles according to which, in various cases, the punishments were measured out. Evidently, in the first place, the penalty was determined, even as equity demands, by the intrinsic heinousness of the crime. A second consideration, which evidently had place, was the danger involved in each crime to the moral and spiritual well-being of the community; and, we may add, in the third place, the degree to which the people were likely to be exposed to the contagion of certain crimes prevalent in the nations immediately about them. As regards the crimes specified, the criminal law of modern Christendom does not inflict the penalty of death in a single possible case here mentioned; and, to the mind of many, the contrasted severity of the Mosaic code presents a grave difficulty. And yet, if one believes, on the authority of the teaching of Christ, that the theocratic government of Israel is not a fable, but a historic fact, although he may still have much difficulty in recognising the righteousness of this code, he will be slow on this account either to renounce his faith in the Divine authority of this chapter or to impugn the justice of the holy King of Israel in charging Him with undue severity, and will rather patiently await some other solution of the problem than the denial of the essential equity of these laws. But there are several considerations which, for many, will greatly lessen, if they do not wholly remove, the difficulty which the case presents. In the first place, as regards the punishment of idolatry with death, we have to remember that, from a theocratic point of view, idolatry was essentially high treason, the most formal repudiation possible of the supreme authority of Israel’s King. If, even in our modern states, the gravity of the issues involved in high treason has led men to believe that death is not too severe a penalty for an offence aimed directly at the subversion of governmental order, how much more must this be admitted when the government is not of fallible man, but of the most holy and infallible God? And when, besides this, we recall the atrocious cruelties and revolting impurities which were inseparably associated with that idolatry, we shall have still less difficulty in seeing that it was just that the worshipper of Molech should die. And as decreeing the penalty of death for sorcery and similar practices, it is probable that the reason for this is to be found in the close connection of these with the prevailing idolatry. But it is in regard to crimes against the integrity and purity of the family that we find the most impressive contrast between this penal code and those of modern times. Although, unhappily, adultery and, less commonly, incest, and even, rarely, the unnatural crimes mentioned in this chapter, are not unknown in modern Christendom, yet, while the law of Moses punished all these with death, modern law treats them with comparative leniency, or even refuses to regard some forms of these offences as crimes. What then? Shall we hasten to the conclusion that we have advanced on Moses? that this law was certainly unjust in its severity? or is it possible that modern law is at fault in that it has fallen below those standards of righteousness which rule in the kingdom of God? One would think that by any man who believes in the Divine origin of the theocracy only one answer could be given. Assuredly, one cannot suppose that God judged of a crime with undue severity; and if not, is not then Christendom, as it were, summoned by this penal code of the theocracy--after making all due allowance for different conditions of society into revise its estimate of the moral gravity of these and other offences? We do well to heed this fact, that not merely unnatural crimes, such as sodomy, bestiality, and the grosser forms of incest, but adultery, is by God ranked in the same category as murder. Is it strange? For what are crimes of this kind but assaults on the very being of the family? Where there is incest or adultery we may truly say the family is murdered; what murder is to the individual, that, precisely, are crimes of this class to the family. In the theocratic code these were, therefore, made punishable with death; and, we venture to believe, with abundant reason. Is it likely that God was too severe? or must we not rather fear that man, ever lenient to prevailing sins, in our day has become falsely and unmercifully merciful, kind with a most perilous and unholy kindness? Still harder will it be for most of us to understand why the death-penalty should have been also affixed to cursing or smiting a father or a mother, an extreme form of rebellion against parental authority. We must, no doubt, bear in mind, as in all these cases, that a rough people, like those just emancipated slaves, required a severity of dealing which with finer natures would not be needed; and also, that the fact of Israel’s call to be a priestly nation bearing salvation to mankind, made every disobedience among them the graver crime, as tending to so disastrous issues, not for Israel alone, but for the whole race of man which Israel was appointed to bless. On an analogous principle we justify military authority in shooting the sentry found asleep at his post. Still, while allowing for all this, one can hardly escape the inference that in the sight of God rebellion against parents must be a more serious offence than many in our time have been wont to imagine. And the more that we consider how truly basal to the order of government and of society is both sexual purity and the maintenance of a spirit of reverence and subordination to parents, the easier we shall find it to recognise the fact that if in this penal code there is doubtless great severity, it is yet the severity of governmental wisdom and true paternal kindness on the part of the high King of Israel, who governed that nation with intent, above all, that they might become, in the highest sense, “a holy nation” in the midst of an ungodly world, and so become the vehicle of blessing to others. And God thus judged that it was better that sinning individuals should die without mercy than that family government and family purity should perish, and Israel, instead of being a blessing to the nations, should sink with them into the mire of universal moral corruption. And it is well to observe that this law, if severe, was most equitable and impartial in its application. We have here, in no instance, torture; the scourging which in one case is enjoined is limited elsewhere to the forty stripes save one. Neither have we discrimination against any class or either sex; nothing like that detestable injustice of modern society which turns the fallen woman into the street with pious scorn, while it often receives the betrayer and even the adulterer--in most cases the more guilty of the two--into “the best society.” Nothing have we here, again, which could justify by example the insistence of many, through a perverted humanity, when a murderess is sentenced for her crime to the scaffold, her sex should purchase a partial immunity from the penalty of crime. The Levitical law is as impartial as its Author; even if death be the penalty the guilty one must die, whether man or woman. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Stone him with stones.
Lapidation, as is well known, was frequently resorted to by excited mobs for the exercise of summary justice or revenge. But as a legal punishment it was not usual in the ancient world; it is only mentioned as a Macedonian and a Spanish custom, and as having been occasionally employed by the Romans. Among the Hebrews, however, it was very common; it was counted as the first and severest of the four modes of inflicting capital punishment--the three others being burning, beheading, and strangling--and it was in the Pentateuch ordained for a variety of offences, especially those associated with idolatry and incest; in certain cases it was even inflicted upon animals; and its application was by the Rabbins considerably extended. As regards the proceedings observed, the Bible contains no hints except the statements that it took place without the precincts of the town, and that the men by whose testimony the criminal had been convicted were obliged to throw the first stones. But the Mishnah gives the following account, some features of which are possibly of remoter antiquity: When the offender is being led away to the place of execution, an official remains at the door of the law-court, while a man on horseback is stationed at some distance, but so that the former can see him wave a handkerchief, which he does when any one comes declaring that he has something to say in favour of the condemned; in this case the horseman at once hastens to stop the procession; if the convicted himself maintains that he can offer proofs of his innocence or extenuating circumstances, he is taken back before the tribunals; and this may be repeated four or five times, if there appears to be the least foundation for his assertions. A herald precedes him all the while, exclaiming, “So-and-so is being led out to be stoned to death for this and this offence, and so-and-so are the witnesses; whosoever has to say anything that might save him let him come forward and say it.” Having arrived about ten yards from the appointed spot, he is publicly called upon to confess his sins; for “whosoever confesses his sins has a share in the future life”; if he is too illiterate to confess, he is ordered to say, “Let my death be the expiation for all my sins.” At four yards from the place he is partially stripped of his garments. When the procession has at last reached its destination, he is conducted upon a scaffolding, the height of which is that of two men, and after drinking “wine mingled with myrrh,” to render him less sensible to pain, he is by one of the witnesses pushed down, so that he falls upon his back; if he is not killed by the fall the other witness throws a stone upon his breast; and if he is still alive all the people present cover him with stones. When the corpse, which is usually nailed to the cross, is in a state of decomposition, the bones are collected and burnt in a separate place; then his relatives pay visits to the judges and the witnesses, in order to prove that they bear them no hatred, and that they acknowledge the justice of the sentence; and they must show their grief by no external mark of mourning. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
Ye shall be holy unto Me: for I the Lord am holy.
I. Let us endeavour to explain the meaning, and the force of that reason for which holiness is so universally enjoined. “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” And so God’s holiness is made the motive for ours. And why? The Lord our God is holy; therefore should we labour to become so likewise, in order that we may become like Him in the most lovely and glorious of His attributes. We should labour to become like Him in the most lovely and glorious of His attributes in order that by so doing we may become well-pleasing in His sight; and, by becoming well-pleasing in His sight, to attain to that eternal happiness which God hath prepared for all those who, because they are like Him, He will condescend to love.
II. Having seen why the holiness of God is proposed to us as the motive to become holy, let us proceed to examine into the nature of that holiness which we are commanded to imitate, that we may have a model of that which we are to pursue.
1. First of all, then, we are taught that God is a Spirit. As the heavens, therefore, are higher than the earth, so also must we place our conceptions of what constitutes the essential holiness of the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, above the pollution of every earthly passion. Therefore in knowing, in the first place, what is the model of that holiness of God which you are to pursue, you must first of all remember that no earthly pleasure, no carnal imagination must have a place within the sanctuary of the heart. The utter banishment of all these lusts, then, both from our minds (lest they be defiled), and from our actions (lest they become unholy), must be the first of our labours, must be our perpetual care.
2. But God is not holy in Himself alone, He is holy also in His acts towards every creature in His power. And herein we have another point on which we are to labour after the similitude to God’s holiness; we must throw aside every regard towards the persons of men, which courts the lofty, which rejects and despises the lowly man; we must account the welfare of all an object of our care; we must consider none too mean to be helped by our hand--none too high to mete out to them things which are expedient and their due. We must think of all, we must feel for all, we must be just to all; and so to show forth the similitude of God’s holiness to all.
3. Thus holy in Himself, and holy in His acts, God is holy, in the third place, in the manner in which He regards both sin and the sinner. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil; and the wicked, though he be exalted, shall not stand in His sight, for He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. To turn, then, away our eyes, lest we look upon vanity, and to separate ourselves from all commerce with ungodly men--to give no encouragement to transgression, nor to the transgressor--to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to reprove them, both in word and deed--these are the duties to which in imitation of God’s holiness this third particular would more particularly direct us.
III. But who is sufficient for these things? Imperfectly as we have delineated the holiness of the Lord, few as are the features which we have had time to detail, yet who can consider his own failings in life without confessing how feebly he has attained to the conformity of the Almighty’s holiness? When the text is taken in itself, as the measure of the duty required of all, and when we compare it with our weak and wavering performances, there is nothing left for man but destruction and despair. But the same God, who hates every unholy person and thing, has made a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it. Christ has fulfilled the law of holiness for man; and He who knew no sin, has been made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. This is at once the apparently great mystery, and this the consolation of our religion. (C. Benson.)
Ye shall be holy
There are three ways in which we may take these words. First, as simply the statement of a fact; the Lord, speaking in prophecy, says you shall be holy; you cannot help being holy, for you belong to God. He has chosen you. Thus every saved one becomes dedicated; and whatever is dedicated is “holy”; and, therefore, you being dedicated, you must be “holy.” Another interpretation might be (still prophetically), “You shall be holy.” The Lord God Omnipotent shall see to that. But then the promise bears upon that word “your.” “Your God.” If He is really your God, the God you have chosen, the God you have loved, the God you have served, the Cod really in your heart, your God, then He will take care and make you holy. But though both these interpretations of the verse are admissible, and true, and comforting, I think it is evident that they are not the meaning which is chiefly intended. “Shall” is not meant to be a future tense, but the imperative mood, It is very frequent in the Bible; a strong imperative, a positive law to be holy. “Ye shall be holy,” and for this reason above all others, “because the Lord your God is holy.” The creature must be like his Creator; the child must be like his Father; the scholar must be like his Master; the sinner must be like his Saviour. “Ye shall be holy.” It is your first duty to be “holy.” The reasons why we should be “holy” are very many. We are made capable of holiness. That is a great fact. Our former convictions and feelings point us to holiness. We have to do with “holy” things. Everything that we see, and everything we touch is “holy.” God has provided a way by which we may be “holy.” Holiness, even in this world, is the highest happiness, and we are made fit for and trained for a holy world beyond--a holy eternity. But besides and above all this our best and highest reason for anything is always what we find in God Himself. “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” It was God’s primary principle at man’s creation. “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” Therefore God made man “holy.” And when man lost his holiness, God, being very jealous about it, immediately proceeded to provide a way by which we could recover it. But what is holiness? The Greek word for “holiness” is compounded of two words which mean “without earth,” free from earthliness. Or we may take holiness to be that which has God for its Author, and God for its end; or that which matches with God, and is fitted for His service and His glory. Or sanctified purity. Or, as we have seen, that which resembles God, and is dedicated to His service and His glory. A reflection of Himself, or one or other of His attributes. A reflection of His holiness. Now the great and all-important question is, How is “holiness” to be attained? How do we, who are so very far off from holiness, become holy? In its great outline, I should say the answer is this: First, you must be, and realise that you are, a member of Christ; a Christian. Made so by your baptism, and your membership ratified and confirmed by the solemn words and vows which you yourself have made, and the many inward feelings in your own heart, and the many communications which you have had with God from time to time. Being, then, a member of Christ, and Christ your Head, the Holy Spirit, which was poured upon you at baptism, must hold His true place in your heart. The great work lies all within the Trinity. The Father gives you to the Son, the Son gives you to the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost gives you back to the Son changed and sanctified. Sanctified, but still a poor sinner. And the Son cleanses you with His blood, and clothes you with His own righteousness, and gives you back to the Father, through Him and in Him holy, holy enough for heaven, holy enough to stand in God’s holy presence. (Jas. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. The holiness of saints depends upon no outward condition, requires no special gift of nature or of providence, of understanding or wisdom, nay, i may say, of grace. It need not be shown in any one form; it does not require the largeness of any one grace; still less does it consist in austere sadness, or stern constraint, or rigid severity as to ourselves or others, except as to our sins. The blessed company of the redeemed saints have and have not found one road to heaven. One road they found, in that they were saved through one Redeemer, looking on to Him and believing in Him before He came or looking to Him when He had come. But all else in their outward lot was different. They were “redeemed to God out of every kindred, and tongue, and people and nation.”
II. Holiness was made for all. It is the end for which we were made, for which we were redeemed, for which God the Holy Ghost is sent down and shed abroad in the hearts that will receive Him. God did not will to create us as perfect. He willed that we, through His grace, should become perfect. But what He willed that we Should be, that, if our will fail not, we must become. His almighty will vouchsafes to depend on ours. What God commands; what God wills; what God so willed that He made us for this alone, that we should be holy, and being holy, should share His holiness and bliss--that must be within our reach if we will.
III. The mistake of mistakes is to think that holiness consists in great or extraordinary things, beyond the reach of ordinary men. It has been well said, “Holiness does not consist in doing uncommon things, but in doing common things uncommonly well.” Few can ever do great things, and the few who can do them can each do but few. But every one can study the will of God, and can give great diligence to know it and to do what he knows. Your daily round of duty is your daily path to come nearer unto God. (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
I. A unique code of moral and sacred laws. “Ye shall keep all My statutes and all My judgments, and do them” (Leviticus 20:22). No other people had a standard of morals, or a directory of religious regulations comparable to these.
II. A studious avoidance of the customs of ungodliness. “Ye shall not walk in the manners of the nations,” &c. (Leviticus 20:23). Conformity to the world was prohibited. However sanctioned, or desirable, or seemingly harmless, the customs of the ungodly were to be shunned.
III. A cautious selection of social enjoyments and indulgences. “Ye shall put difference between clean and unclean,” &c. (Leviticus 20:25). Palate not to be gratified, tables not to be spread with promiscuous viands. God’s wish and word were to rule them in every enjoyment, and self-restraint was to mark them in every gratification.
IV. A heritage of special privileges as God’s people. “Ye shall inherit their land, a land that floweth with milk and honey,” &c. (Leviticus 20:24). Sinners lose earthly felicities, as the penalty of their impiety: “therefore I abhorred them” (Leviticus 20:23). The godly possess rich heritage of good as the mark of God’s favour: “I will give it unto you to possess” (Leviticus 20:24).
V. A seal of divine sanctity resting upon them: They show themselves to be--
1. Divinely “separated” (Leviticus 20:24), from other people. Their history and career attest God’s dealing with them as with no other people.
2. Divinely sanctified. “Ye shall be holy unto Me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people” (Leviticus 20:26). For the very “beauty of the Lord” rests upon the character and conduct of those He redeems. Note:
A holy God requires a holy people
The various laws which the Jews received from God through the medium of Moses were all meant to promote social, personal, political, national morality; to keep the people distinct from infecting elements around them, separated and hedged off from the possibility of contagion; so that whatever defiled them might be seen not to come from others, but to rise from the depths of their own fallen and depraved hearts. “Therefore I have separated you from all people, that ye might be unto Me,” He says, “a peculiar people”; and the great end that He contemplated constantly was their holiness--that they might be a holy people. The word “holy,” in fact, means properly, separated--set apart to some purpose or object or end. But in order to make their holiness still more likely He presented ever before them a grand model. “Be ye holy,” is His constant phrase, “for I the Lord am holy.” “Ye shall be holy unto Me: for I the Lord am holy.” It is well known that a people become, to a great extent, what their god or their gods are. The gods of the heathen were most of them monsters of lust. Jupiter was depraved; Mercury was a thief; others of their gods were infected with the greatest crimes; as if their villainy upon earth gave them a title to a niche in the Pantheon of heathenism. You must expect, from such gods in the theology of a people, bad lives in the history of that people. If the model be so bad, how low must the imitator and the worshipper be! But before the Jews there was placed the magnificent ideal of all that was holy, pure, just, perfect. The nearer they approached God, the nobler they became; the farther they receded from Him, the more degenerate they became. They had the standard infinitely remote, but infinitely perfect, ceaseless approximation to which was their nation’s strength, its glory, and its happiness. Thus the Jews were selected that they might be holy. They had a model constantly before them they were to imitate, that they might be holy. And they were chosen for this grand destiny not because of their own virtues--for, strange enough, their very mercies the corruption of their hearts turned into their own merits, and the more God favoured them, with a perverse ingenuity the most remarkable, when we know it was so often rebuked, the more credit they took to themselves; and He tells them that He chose them, not because they were greater or more excellent than any other nation, but because, in His own sovereignty, He set His love upon them. Thus they were hedged round with ceremonial laws; they had presented before them a perfect, infinitely perfect, Model; they were selected by distinguishing grace in order to reach and strive after this great destiny; they had ringing in their ears every day the law, “Thou shalt love,” which is translated into practical language, “Thou shalt be holy,” in order that they might obtain the end for which they were chosen and blessed and favoured--to be a separated people and a holy people to the Lord. Now, what the Jews were meant to be nationally we Christians are meant to be personally. We, too, are selected and favoured for this purpose; and we shall find all the economy of the New Testament constantly contemplates the holiness of God’s people as the great end and object and aim of our Christian privileges and blessings and mercies upon earth.
I. But, first of all, let us define what holiness is. The word means simply separation. So the Latin word sacer, from which comes our word “sacred,” is employed to denote profane as well as sacred--means wicked as well as holy. Hence the expression “Auri sacra fames,” literally translated, “The sacred thirst of gold,” but strictly and properly, “The accursed thirst of gold.” The meaning, therefore, of a holy person is one severed or separated to something; and when applied to that which is pure and just and true it means separated to God. And we can only form an idea of what holiness is by seeing it defined by God, as embodied in His character and explained at length in His Word. Holiness in a Christian is just separation, sanctification, severance from the excessive love of things lawful, from the forbidden love of things sinful, to the growing love of what God has commanded in His holy Word, and of the grand image that God has depicted in every page of His revelation.
II. Now having seen what this holiness is, let me state, in the next place, how Christians in the new testament are constantly associated with it.
1. They are elected to it. He has chosen us in Christ from the foundation of the world, that we should be holy.
2. Now, this holiness, in the next place, is true and lasting beauty; it is real and original beauty. The King’s daughter has all her beauty within, that needs a spiritual eye to discriminate and discern. The mass of mankind can only see glare, pretension, gaudiness, but the true Christian sees a city where the world sees none, for Christ, when He came to His own, His own recieved Him not; there was no beauty in Him that the world should desire Him.
3. And this holiness, too, of character is the highest possible honour. It is the livery of Heaven; it is the very robes of the King of glory; it is the dress which He prepares for His own; it is the Apocalyptic garments “white and clean, which are the righteousness of saints”; it is the raiment white and clean which no moth can gnaw, which no rust can decay, which no thief can break through and steal.
4. Arid, in the next place, this holiness is fitness for heaven. A man without an ear cannot enjoy music. In the same manner, a person without a sanctified heart, without holiness, is not fit for heaven.
5. In the next place, it is the distinguishing mark of the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this that makes a Christian; and without this he cannot see God or put forth any valid claim to be a Christian at all.
6. In the next place, the Holy Spirit is the Author of this holiness.
III. Thus we have seen what this holiness is and who is the Author of it; let me notice now that all the institutions of the gospel are meant to promote it. Preaching is meant to promote it; sacraments are meant to promote it; the reading of the Bible is meant to promote it; the teaching of teachers is meant to promote it; all our schools and institutions, our preaching and hearing, our praying and communicating, are all helps that, by the blessing of the Spirit of God, bring us nearer to Him who is the Fountain of all holiness, of all light, and of all life.
IV. And in the next place, all the chastisements of God’s providence are meant to promote this. (J. Gumming, D. D.)
Holiness! There is sweet music in the very name. It tells of sin subdued, of boisterous passions lulled, of fiery lusts becalmed, of miry paths made clean. It sets before us a pure walk, where peace and joy go hand in hand, and scatter heaven-born fragrance round. Holiness! To cause this lovely plant to thrive, its roots to deepen, and its branches to bear fruit, is one grand purport of the scheme of grace. The Lord’s own voice proclaims, “Ye shall be holy: for I am holy.” Holiness falls short when it falls short of God. But perhaps you say such glorious lustre is too bright for sight. The heavenly sunshine dims the dazzled eye. But still draw near. God’s Holiness, in human form, has visited and trod our earth. Jesus takes flesh and tabernacles here. His walk in our soiled paths is clean as on celestial pavement. Mark every act. Hear every word. They have one feature, holiness. Mark next the soil in which this flower has roots, the seed from which it springs. Man’s pride must here lie low. It never thrives in Nature’s field. Neither can hand of Nature plant it. When sin came in each gracious fibre died. The curse fell blightingly on earth, bat most so on the human heart. The thorns and briars of the outward world are dismal emblems of the wilderness within. God’s likeness was effaced at once, and hideous enmity established its one rule. How, then, can holiness revive? Until the waste becomes a garden the plant cannot be set; until Heaven gives the seed it can nowhere be found. God must prepare the soil. God must infuse the seed. The work is wholly God’s. Next mark the renovating means. The wondrous engine is the gospel truth. The Spirit wins by charming notes. He opens ears to hear new melody. He gives the eye to see new scenes. He reveals Christ, the beauty of all beauty. He shows the cleansing blood, the sympathising heart, the perfect refuge, the all-sufficient aid. These sights wave a transforming wand. A new affection subjugates the man. Jesus and purer hopes now occupy the mind. Darkness is passed. The true light shines. The grace of faith springs up. This is the chain which binds the soul to Christ and makes the Saviour and the sinner one. A channel is now formed by which Christ’s fulness plenteously flows down. The barren branch becomes a portion of the fruitful stem. Christ’s vital juices permeate the whole. The limbs receive close union with the head, and one life reigns throughout the total frame. (Dean Law.)
Example of holiness
Christ is the Pattern, the Sample, the exemplary Cause of our sanctification. Holiness in us is the copy or transcript of the holiness that is in the Lord Jesus. As the wax hath line for line from the seal, the child limb for limb, feature for feature, from the father, so is holiness in us from Christ. (M. Henry.)
Influence of holiness
There is an energy of moral suasion in a good man’s life passing the highest efforts of the orator’s genius. The seen but silent beauty of holiness speaks more eloquently of God and duty than the tongues of men and angels. Let parents remember this. The best inheritance a parent can bequeath to a child is a virtuous example, a legacy of hallowed remembrances and associations. The beauty of holiness beaming through the life of a loved relative or friend is more effectual to strengthen such as do stand in Virtue’s ways and raise up those who are bowed down than precept, command, entreaty, or warning. Christianity itself, I believe, owes by far the greater part of its moral power, not to the precepts or parables of Christ, but to His own character. The beauty of that holiness which is enshrined in the four brief biographies of the Man of Nazareth has done more, and will do more, to regenerate the world and bring on everlasting righteousness than all the other agencies put together. It has done more to spread His religion in the world than all that has ever been preached or written on the evidences of Christianity. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
Sanctification, what it is
The saintly and learned Archbishop Ussher was frequently urged by a friend to write his thoughts on sanctification, which at length he engaged to do; but a considerable time elapsing, the performance of his promise was importunately claimed. The Archbishop replied, “I have not written, and yet I cannot charge myself with a breach of promise, for I began to write; but when I came to treat of the new creature which God formeth by His own Spirit in every regenerate soul I found so little of it wrought in myself that I could speak of it only as parrots, or by rote, but without the knowledge of what I might have expressed, and therefore I durst not presume to proceed any further upon it.” Upon this his friend stood amazed to hear such a confession from so grave, holy, and eminent a person. The Archbishop then added: “I must tell you we do not well understand what sanctification and the new creature are. It is no less than for a man to be brought to an entire resignation of his own will to the will of God, and to live in the offering up of his soul continually in the flames of love, as a whole burnt-offering to Christ; and oh l how many who profess Christianity are unacquainted experimentally with this work upon their souls!”
At one of the ragged schools in Ireland a clergyman asked the question, “What is holiness?” A poor Irish convert in tattered rags jumped up and said, “Please, your Reverence, it’s being clean inside.”
True holiness is a plain and an even thing, without falsehood, guile, perverseness of spirit, deceitfulness of heart, or starting aside. It hath one end, one rule, one way, one heart; whereas hypocrites are, in the Scripture, called “double-minded men,” because they pretend to God and follow the world; and “crooked men,” like the swelling of a wall whose parts are not perpendicular nor level to their foundation. Now rectitude, sincerity, and singleness of heart are ever, both in the eyes of God and man, beautiful things. (H. G. Salter.)
The ideal Holy One
And have you never cried in your hearts with longing, almost with impatience, “Surely, surely there is an ideal Holy One somewhere, or else how could have arisen in my mind the conception, however faint, of an ideal holiness? But where? oh, where? Not in the world around, strewn with unholiness. Not in myself, unholy, too, without and within, and calling myself sometimes the very worst of all the bad company I meet, because that company is the only company from which I cannot escape. Oh! is there a Holy One whom I may contemplate with utter delight? and if so, where is He? Oh I that I might behold, if but for a moment, His perfect beauty, even though, as in the fable of Semele of old, the lightning of his glances were death.” (Charles Kingsley.)
The Mount of Holiness
In elocution there is what rhetoricians term a “second voice.” It comes after an orator has been speaking sufficiently long for his lungs to become thoroughly warmed. The diversified ligaments and muscles and membranes which compose or influence his vocal organs then take on a more perfectly adjusted action, and the voice grows flexible and full and rich, able to express “thoughts that breathe and words that burn.” There is a vision known to opticians as “second sight.” In their later years many people come into possession of this. They can lay aside their spectacles, worn perhaps for a quarter of a century, and with the naked eye read the finest print. I have seen octogenarians whose eyesight was apparently as good as in the palmiest days of their youth. There is a mental perception enjoyed by multitudes of thinkers which seems to them like a “second intellectuality.” It is broader, clearer, and more satisfying than was the first. It is reached after a night-time of doubt and darkness, during which one’s theories seem like chaos and one’s beliefs like desperate guesses. It comes after a transition period, when, like Noah’s ark, the mind can find no Ararat on which to anchor. Then breaks in a new light; the shadows flee, the heterogeneous mass of speculations begin to crystallise; a form appears, and he who had well-nigh become Diogenes the Cynic begins to develop into Socrates the Philosopher. So there is a “second religious experience,” deeper than the first. It lies beyond the surf of unbelief and partial consecration, and is reached by launching out into the deep of an unreserved dedication to God. Many have attained unto it and enjoy “the rest of faith.” Others are hungering after this more perfect righteousness, and will not hunger long in vain. Multitudes more are wishing for but making no determined efforts to secure it. They are like travellers ascending the valley of Chamounix, who catch glimpses of Mont Blanc, and though longing to stand on its glittering summit, have no expectation of ever doing so. I recall a memorable Sunday afternoon when, from an hotel window in Geneva, seventy miles distant, I caught my first view of that celebrated landmark. The setting sun was transmuting, as no other alchemist ever could, its whole immense top into one gorgeous mass of burnished gold, and the desire to visit it came upon me like a spell. But the city of Geneva, with its bright stores and historic church and marvellous watch factories, its bridges across the crystal river, and its romantic lake, lay at my feet, and I fingered; and when at last I sought the shining mount, like most tourists I was satisfied to reach its base and gaze upon it from below. So it is with thousands of Christians. Before their raptured vision rises, in their best moments, the Mount of Holiness. They sigh for its lofty experiences, but still view it from afar, or journey no farther than its foot-hills. Would they but climb its rising footways and scale its magnificent peaks, a second and deeper experience would be theirs. (Sunday School Record.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》