32 Yea, come unto Christ and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness. And if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ. And if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in no wise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father, unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
Compare the ideas embedded in these verses with the entire section III. The State of Grace, or Begun Recovery from Human Nature in its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston, published in Scotland in 17871, especially the section The benefits flowing to believers from union with Christ:
- The first particular benefit that a sinner has by his union with Christ, is JUSTIFICATION; for, being united to Christ, he has communion with him in his righteousness
- His sins are pardoned, the guilt of them is removed.
- Thus the person united to Christ is justified. You may conceive of the whole proceeding herein, in this manner. The avenger of blood pursuing the criminal; Christ, as the Savior of lost sinners, does by the Spirit apprehend him, and draw him to himself; and he, by faith, lays hold on Christ: so the Lord our righteousness, and the unrighteous creature, unite. From this union with Christ results a communion with him in his unsearchable riches, and consequently in his righteousness, that white raiment which he has for clothing of the naked, Rev. 3:18. Thus the righteousness of Christ becomes his; and because it is by his unquestionable title, it is imputed to him; it is reckoned his in the judgment of God, which is always according to truth. And so the believing sinner, having a righteousness which fully answers the demands of the law, he is pardoned and accepted as righteous. See Isaiah 45:22-24; Romans 3:24; and chapter 5:1.
- The second benefit flowing from the same spring of union with Christ, and coming by the way of justification, is PEACE; peace with God, and peace of conscience, according to the measure of the sense the justified have of their peace with God … Their CONSCIENCES are purged of that guilt and filthiness which lay upon them: his conscience-purifying blood streams through their souls, by virtue of their union with him
- Believers, being united to Christ, become children of God, and members of the family of heaven.
- As when a branch is cut off from one tree, and grafted in the branch of another, the engrafted branch, by means of its union with the adopting branch, is made a branch of the same stock with that into which it is engrafted: so sinners, being engrafted into Jesus Christ, whose name is the Branch, his Father is their Father, his God their God, John 20:17. And thus they, who are by nature children of the devil, become the children of God.
- A fourth benefit is SANCTIFICATION, 1 Cor. 1:30, “But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification.” Being united to Christ, they partake of his Spirit, who is the Spirit of holiness.
- [Speaking by analogy to one who has been regenerated in Christ] A tree, that has life and nourishment, grows to its perfection …
- They grow inward, growing into Christ, Eph. 4:15, uniting more closely with him; and cleaving more firmly to him, as the head of influences, which is the spring of all other true Christian growth. They grow outward in good works, in their life and conversation. They not only, with Naphtali, give goodly words; but, like Joseph, they are fruitful boughs. They grow upward in heavenly-mindedness, and contempt of the world; for their conversation is in heaven, Phil. 3:20. And finally, they grow downward in humility and self-loathing.
- Whoever are united to Christ, bring forth the fruit of gospel-obedience and true holiness. Faith is always followed with good works. The believer is not only come out of the grave of his natural state; but he has put off his grave-clothes, namely, reigning lusts, in which he walked, like a spirit; being dead while he lived in them…
- Labor to be steadfast in the truths and way of God. Endeavor to cut off the suckers, as gardeners do, that their trees may thrive. These are unmortified lusts …
- Improve, for these ends, the ordinances of God. It is in the courts of our God where the trees of righteousness flourish, Psalm 92:13. The waters of the sanctuary are the means appointed of God, to cause his people to grow as willows by the water courses. Therefore, drink in with “desire, the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” 1 Pet. 2:2. Come to these wells of salvation: not to look at them only—but to draw water out of them. The sacrament of the Lord’s supper is in a special manner appointed for these ends. It is not only a solemn public profession, and a seal of our union and communion with Christ; but it is a means of most intimate communion with him, and strengthens our union with him, our faith, love, repentance, and other graces,…
- The Christian cannot fall away—but must persevere unto the end
- Christ supports believers in him, under a weight of outward troubles.
- Christ supports his people under a weight of inward troubles and discouragements.
- There is a certain pleasure and sweetness in the cross, to those who have their senses exercised to discern, and to find it out. There is a certain sweetness in a man’s seeing himself upon his trial for heaven, and standing candidate for glory. There is a pleasure in traveling over those mountains, where the Christian can see the prints of Christ’s own feet, and the footsteps of the flock, who have been there before him.
- Strive to obtain and keep up sincere communion and fellowship with Jesus Christ; that is, to be still deriving fresh supplies of grace from the fountain which is in him, by faith: and making suitable returns of them, in the exercise of grace and holy obedience.
- Whatever lusts come to gain your hearts, deny them, seeing the grace of God has appeared, teaching us so to do, and you are joined to the Lord.
- Be of a humble disposition, as being united to the meek Jesus.
- And now, SINNERS, what shall I say to you? I have given you some view of the privileges of those in the state of grace. You have seen them afar off; but alas! they are not yours, because you are not Christ’s. The sinfulness of an unregenerate state is yours; and the misery of it is yours also: you have neither part nor lot in this matter. The guilt of all your sins lies upon you; you have no part in the righteousness of Christ. There is no peace to you, no peace with God, no true peace of conscience; for you have no saving interest in the great peacemaker. You are none of God’s family; the adoption we spoke of, belongs not to you. You have no part in the Spirit of sanctification; and, in one word, you have no inheritance among those who are sanctified. All I can say to you in this matter, is, that the case is not desperate; these choice blessings may yet be yours, Rev. 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Heaven is proposing a union with earth still! The potter is making suit to his own clay! The gates of the city of refuge are not yet closed! O, that we could compel you to come in!
The book was popular enough that it is still considered a classic and reprinted today (e.g., here and here). Reformation Heritage Books noted its popularity “It is evident why Boston’s work enjoyed such popularity. …” and John Macleod, the well known theologian listed the book as one of 22 of his favorite classic reformed, Christian works, noting that it “more than any other stands out as representative of the best of our Scottish religious classics”. ↩