The spiritual and moral woes that plague our society today can be traced back to the loss of the holiness of God and the awfulness of sin. The loss of a sense of the vileness and the destructiveness of sin is the result of the loss of the Holy. The Wisdom Writer wisely wrote, “Knowledge of the Holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). When we understand the Holy, we see our sin for what it is, and then we discover the power of grace found in the cross enables us to be something we could not otherwise be or do. P.T. Forsyth (1848-1921) was a prophetic writer ahead of his time. As I so often discover, Forsyth expresses thoughts much better than I ever could. Read him slowly and digest his words. They are words individuals and society today needs to urgently heed. The following are selected excerpts from two of his works.
“To bring sin home, and to bring grace home, we need that something else should come home which alone gives meaning to both — the Holy. The grace of God cannot return to our preaching or to our faith till we recover what has almost clean gone from our general, familiar, and current religion, what liberalism has quite lost — I mean a due sense of the holiness of God. This sense has much gone from our public worship, with its frequent irreverence; from our sentimental piety, from our rational religion, which banishes the idea of God’s wrath [on sin]…If our gospel be obscure it is obscure to them in whom the anemic God of the day has blinded their minds and hidden the Holy One who inhabits eternity. This holiness of God is the real foundation of religion — it is certainly the ruling interest of the Christian religion. In front of all our prayer or work stands ‘Hallowed be Thy Name.’ If we take the Lord’s Prayer alone, God’s holiness is the interest which all the rest of it serves. Neither love, grace, faith, nor sin has any but a passing meaning except as they rest on the holiness of God, except as they arise from it, and return to it, except as they satisfy it, show it forth, set it up, and secure it everywhere and forever. Love is but its outgoing; sin is but its defiance; grace is but its action on sin; the Cross is but its victory; faith is but its worship. The preacher preaches to the divinest purpose only when his lips are touched with the red coal from the altar of the thrice holy in the innermost place. We must rise beyond social righteousness and universal justice to the holiness of an infinite God. What we on earth call righteousness among men, the saints in heaven call holiness in Him.” (The Cruciality of the Cross, pp. 22-23.)
“When we are dealing with the holy, therefore, we are in a region which thought cannot handle nor even reach. We cannot go there, it must come to us. We are beyond both experience and thought, and we are dependent on revelation for any conviction of the reality of that ideal which moral experience demands but cannot ensure. Life is ruined if our greatest moral ideals are not fixed in the greatest reality; yet we have no means in our own power of any conviction of such [wholly Holy]. The holy is both urgent and inaccessible. It is imperative, yet unapproachable. The situation is only soluble by a miracle. That is the miracle of revelation, of grace. The unapproachable approaches, enters, tarries, lives, dies, conquers among us and in us, knows us into our only knowledge of itself, subdues all things to its sanctity, and establishes its good and blessed self in us and on us all…We do not only desire it [the holy], we dread it. Its very grandeur fills us with a sense of weakness, nay, of blame, shame, and despair. We are not only weak but helpless. And it is chiefly by our fault, crime, and sin. So we do not simply worship afar, we repent in the dust.”
“But what does that mean? It means that the revelation of the holy can only come through redemption by the holy; that to us, ruined by sinful act, the only truth that represents Him is an act; that the absolute reality of the active and mighty world in its actual case is expressible only in an Eternal Deed [the cross]. That the holy nature of God comes home by no prophetic exposition, even through apostle or Savior, but only by the priestly act in which the saving person consummates; that it cannot be taught us, it must be created in us by that act; that the Cross is the creative revelation of the holy, and the holy is what is above all else revealed in the Cross, going out as love and going down as grace; that the Holy Spirit’s point of departure in history is the Cross; and that while our justification has its source in God’s self-justification of His holiness there, our sanctification has the same source as both” (The Principle of Authority, pp. 4-7).
We should long to wade in the spiritual depth of Forsyth’s timeless insights. Man’s active defiance today in the face of the Holy Father is the result of him losing a sense of the Holy which has resulted in a loss of the blackness of sin; thus the woes we are experiencing in society. It is not the cross that needs banishing from society, as many are trying to do today, but the need of society is to knell before the cross. For both the holy-love of God and the judgment of our sins meet at the cross. At the cross Jesus presented the Father perfect holiness amidst the penalty due for our sins. He presented the Father loving obedience amidst the penalty for our loveless disobedience. It is only as we return to the cross that we discover that holiness is the root of God’s love, mercy, grace, forgiveness and redemption. It is at the cross one finds the answer to both the root problem and the answer to the woes of society and our individual lives.