The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification – Direction 1: Learning About Powerful and Effectual Means

Out of all the Puritan works I have read thus far, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (GMS hereafter) by Walter Marshall  is one of my favorites (easily within the top 5).  I gauge my affinity for a particular work by the number of times I find myself referring back to it and by the insights gained therein.

I read GMS back in 2013, and recently completed outlining it.  I am forever indebted to Marshall for a greater appreciation of the mystery of the believer’s union with Christ.  And since that spiritual reality is unfathomable, the truths contained in the book deserve perpetual study.

In his endeavor to unfold the mystery of sanctification Marshall presented his reader with fourteen directions.  I’m only going to touch on the first one in this post, leaving room for future installments as time allows.

“Direction 1: That we may acceptably perform the duties of holiness and righteousness required in the Law, our first work is, to learn the powerful and effectual means whereby we may attain to so great and end.”

Marshall made two main points when unpacking this direction, the first being clarification of the objective in view.  Sanctification aims for a spiritual objective, which can only be obtained by spiritual (i.e., supernatural) means.

Secondly, in order to be sanctified, a person must be well acquainted with the means required thereunto.  Marshall then presented his reader with eight considerations in regard to these means (summarizing here):

  1. We are all by nature incapable of performing that holiness and righteousness which God’s law requires.
  2. Those who doubt or deny the doctrine of original sin must realize that the exact justice of God is against them (in other words, they are in deep trouble!).
  3. General revelation is insufficient to save or sanctify.  Special revelation is indispensable in this regard.
  4. Sanctification is a grace of God communicated to us as well as is justification.
  5. Since God has taken the trouble to give us plentiful instruction in righteousness in the holy scriptures, it is incumbent on us to sit down at his feet and learn it.
  6. The way to attaining godliness is not a mere matter of education, but rather a supernatural work whereby the dead are raised to life, and therefore far above all the thoughts and conjectures of men.
  7. The knowledge of the means of sanctification is of utmost importance for the establishment of true faith, because we cannot rationally doubt that love to God and our neighbor are absolutely necessary to true religion.
  8. Knowledge of these means is of great importance and necessity for establishment in holy practice, because one cannot apply himself to the practice of holiness with hope of success without some expectation of divine assistance, which one cannot expect without using the means God has appointed.

Take up and read!  If you need a copy, it is available from Reformation Heritage Press here.

Gospel Mystery of Sanctification Marshall cover


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