44 Brief Quotes on Holiness
These powerful words need to be read and meditated upon:
One of the great attributes of God and one of the high water marks for the believer is that of holiness. There are hundreds of biblical texts on this, and likely hundreds of thousands of notable words on this that have been penned over the past two millennia.
Thus trying to offer just a small handful of quotes is a rather daunting task. Indeed, the list of quotes that I have on this topic comes to 26 pages in small print. So trying to pick some gems out of all those many hundreds of quotes will be no easy task. But let me try. Here then are 44 great quotes by 33 great saints. And as usual, I list them simply in alphabetical order of the author.
“Any concept of grace that makes us feel more comfortable sinning is not biblical grace. God’s grace never encourages us to live in sin, on the contrary, it empowers us to say no to sin and yes to truth.” Randy Alcorn
“Nothing whatever pertaining to godliness and real holiness can be accomplished without grace.” Augustine
“Holiness is nothing else but the habitual and predominant devotion and dedication of soul, and body, and life, and all that we have to God; and esteeming, and loving, and serving, and seeking Him, before all the pleasures and prosperity of the flesh.” Richard Baxter
“Many who consider themselves Christians, even in so-called evangelical churches, are not Christians. They may profess the right things. They may lead seemingly acceptable lives, if we don’t scratch too far below the surface. But they are not on the path. They are not following hard after holiness. They are not born again.” James Montgomery Boice
“Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sins. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Holiness is a constellation of graces.” Thomas Boston
“It is not great talents or great learning or great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness.” E. M. Bounds
“The pursuit of holiness requires sustained and vigorous effort. It allows for no indolence, no lethargy, no halfhearted commitment, and no laissez faire attitude toward even the smallest sins. In short, it demands the highest priority in the life of a Christian, because to be holy is to be like Christ — God’s goal for every Christian.” Jerry Bridges
“Holiness is a process, something we never completely attain in this life. Rather, as we begin to conform to the will of God in one area of life, He reveals to us our need in another area. That is why we will always be pursuing – as opposed to attaining – holiness in this life.” Jerry Bridges
“Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervors, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wills.” John Brown
“People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” D. A. Carson
“The destined end of man is not happiness, nor health, but holiness. God’s one aim is the production of saints. He is not an eternal blessing machine for men; he did not come to save men out of pity; he came to save men because he had created them to be holy.” Oswald Chambers
“Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and the things we do, hour by hour, day by day.” Chuck Colson
“As God delights in his own beauty, he must necessarily delight in the creature’s holiness which is a conformity to and participation of it, as truly as [the] brightness of a jewel, held in the sun’s beams, is a participation or derivation of the sun’s brightness, though immensely less in degree.” Jonathan Edwards
“Holiness has never been the driving force of the majority. It is, however, mandatory for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom.” Elisabeth Elliot
“Cowards never won heaven. Do not claim that you are begotten of God and have His royal blood running in your veins unless you can prove your lineage by this heroic spirit: to dare to be holy in spite of men and devils.” William Gurnall
“If you want to be popular, preach happiness. If you want to be unpopular, preach holiness.” Vance Havner
“The great concern of the New Testament Epistles is not about the size of the Church, it is about the purity of the Church.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“God does not work through big battalions, He is not interested in numbers; He is interested in purity, in vessels fit and meet for the Master’s use. We must concentrate, not on numbers, but upon doctrine, upon regeneration, upon holiness, upon the realisation that this is a holy temple in the Lord, a habitation of God.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“When God purifies the heart by faith, the market is sacred as well as the sanctuary.” Martin Luther
“Lord, make me as Holy as a pardoned sinner can be.” Robert Murray M’Cheyne
“It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” Robert Murray M’Cheyne
“If you will not determine to be pure, you will grow more and more impure.” George MacDonald
“Holiness is wholeness – that is, the whole-hearted devotion of a whole nature to God, the consecration of every power to His service. This leads us to lean hard on God, and to seek His companionship and fellowship.” F. B. Meyer
“God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.” Andrew Murray
“He leads none to heaven but whom He sanctifies on the earth. This living Head will not admit of dead members.” John Owen
“God’s purpose in our creation, as in our new creation, is that we should be holy. Therefore, moral casualness and unconcern as to whether or not we please God is in itself supremely evil. No expressions of creativity, heroism, or nice-guy behavior can cancel God’s displeasure at being disregarded in this way.” J. I. Packer
“The process of learning to be holy, like the process of to pray, may properly be thought of as a school – God’s own school, in which the curriculum, the teaching staff, the rules, the discipline, the occasional prizes and the fellow pupils with whom one studies, plays, debates and fraternizes, are all there under God’s sovereign providence.” J. I. Packer
“The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that man holy and put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.” Leonard Ravenhill
“We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” J. C. Ryle
“Ah, sirs, holiness is a flower that grows not in Nature’s garden. Men are not born with holiness in their hearts, as they are born with tongues in their mouths: holiness is a divine offspring: it is a pearl of great price, that is to be found in no nature but a renewed nature, in no bosom but a sanctified bosom.” J. C. Ryle
“Of all sights in the Church of Christ, I know none more painful to my own eyes than a Christian contented and satisfied with a little grace, a little repentance, a little faith, a little knowledge, a little charity, and a little holiness. I do beseech and entreat every believing soul that reads this tract not to be that kind of man. If you have any desires after usefulness-if you have any wishes to promote your Lord’s glory-if you have any longings after much inward peace-be not content with a little religion.” J. C. Ryle
“The failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God.” R. C. Sproul
“The Holy Spirit does not bless that church in which holiness is not regarded.” C. H. Spurgeon
“Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person. The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.” C. H. Spurgeon
“Christ did not come to scare us from sin, but to save us from it. Even if there were no hell, true saints would hate sin, and strive after holiness.” C. H. Spurgeon
“If the Savior has not sanctified you, renewed you, given you a hatred of sin and a love of holiness, He has nothing in you of a saving character.” C. H. Spurgeon
“Holiness is not a condition into which we drift. We are not passive spectators of a sanctification God works in us. On the contrary, we have purposefully to ‘put away’ from us all conduct that is incompatible with our new life in Christ, and to ‘put on’ a lifestyle compatible with it.” John Stott
“To love is also to hate. The heart that is drawn to righteousness will be repulsed by iniquity in the same degree. The holiest man is the one who loves righteousness most and hates evil with the most perfect hatred.” A. W. Tozer
“Holy is the way God is. To be holy he does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because he is holy, all his attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy.” A. W. Tozer
“Every man is as holy as he really wants to be.” A. W. Tozer
“Holiness is not merely a feeling, state of mind, or good intention. It involves practical separation from sin and real separation unto God.” Paul Washer
“It is an undoubted truth that every doctrine that comes from God, leads to God; and that which doth not tend to promote holiness is not of God.” George Whitefield
“There is no shortcut to holiness; it must be the business of our whole lives.” William Wilberforce
5 Replies to “44 Brief Quotes on Holiness”
Well, Bill, at my tired period of my 70s, and having experienced in my youth how grace makes it incredibly easy to be holy – then lose it – and having battled since to simply survive as a Christian, I gotta say the one of your excerpts has real hold for me:
“Lord, make me as Holy as a pardoned sinner can be.” Robert Murray M’Cheyne”.
I get the sense from most of the other quoted that the authors preach from an idealic position few of us can achieve. I’ve been pentecostal. I still believe in the incredible power of the Holy Spirit – I’ve experienced it. But many pretend, and I finished up one of them. Then, we bash our heads against the unyielding golden walls, to no avail.
And now I just think God for a good priest who, at regular confession, understands, and says the words, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then to receive Jesus in communion, understanding little because I am dull and sinful, and by faith, know that Jesus in me can accomplish more than I can understand.
Most Christians are not the warriors you have quoted. We are weak losers, but know the Truth and cravenly beg God’s forgiveness, thankfully falling back on the sacraments of the Church. That is where I fell back to, after my years of arrogance.
Thanks Dan. None of the authors I quote here would say we can obtain sinless perfection in this life. But all would say we are urged hundreds of times in Scripture to pursue holiness and godliness. So we can ignore human authors if you like (including you and me!) and simply go by what the Bible teaches. And the words found there are just as hardcore as anything I have quoted here, whether it is Jesus commanding us to ‘be perfect’ (Matthew 5:48) or the writer of Hebrews saying that ‘without holiness no one will see the Lord’ (Heb. 12:14). But of course the biblical balance must be maintained. Perhaps the most godly man of the New Testament, Paul, made it clear that the further he grew in Christ, the more he was aware of his own sinfulness. See more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2012/07/20/the-normal-christian-life-a-growing-awareness-of-sin/
And as I write elsewhere, sanctification is always a joint effort: on the one hand it is all of God’s grace, but on the other hand, it is about the choices we make and the desires we have: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/02/28/cooperating-with-god/
And just recently I penned a piece looking at this matter of if we can be as holy as we want to be: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2023/02/10/can-we-be-as-holy-as-we-want-to-be/
You may not be a warrior. Nor am I! And the writers quoted above would say that same: they are just sinners save by grace seeking to serve God as best they can.
But thanks for your thoughts.
I was hoping someone like Dan Collins would hop in and express the feelings I have after reading things like this:
“Many who consider themselves Christians, even in so-called evangelical churches, are not Christians. They may profess the right things. They may lead seemingly acceptable lives, if we don’t scratch too far below the surface. But they are not on the path. They are not following hard after holiness. They are not born again.”
Anything that I thought of regarding reaching to attain holiness only sounded like “works” as I analysed it, so I was left feeling a bit despondent after the avalanche of excerpts (and the awareness there are hundreds more like them).
Bill’s comments are welcome- that although the Bible is equally as harsh, he recalls the balance that Scripture has regarding our sinful condition which depends entirely upon grace that any of us should be saved.
“[The pursuit of holiness] demands the highest priority in the life of a Christian, because to be holy is to be like Christ — God’s goal for every Christian.” Bridges.
Terrific quote. The highest priority. For all Xtians. Continuously, while we have any breath whatsoever.
I am reminded of the purpose of election:
“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:4, ESV)
Thank you, Bill. And praying for you and your dear wife.