Walter Marshall opens his treatment of the doctrine of sanctification in his book, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, with this direction:
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 by which we may attain to so great an end.
Our holiness begins with God’s holiness. God’s holiness is the standard, but to begin the process of holiness one must understand the demands of the Law. But Marshall cautions that understanding the demands of the Law is not to believe that we have any natural ability to satisfy those demands. Marshall writes,
This is an advertisement very needful; because many are apt to skip over the lesson concerning the means as superfluous and useless. When once they know the nature and excellencies of the duties of the law, they account nothing wanting but diligent performances; and they rush blindly on immediate practice, making more haste than good speed.
Marshall teaches that no one has the ability or strength to do what the Law demands. To speak about God’s holiness is to also speak about God’s justice and power. The Law accentuates God’s complete authority and power, and as such shows our dependency upon the Word. For Marshall, sanctification is inseparable from the Word.
The way of attaining to godliness is so far from being known without learning out of the Holy Scriptures that, when it is here plainly revealed, we cannot learn it so easily as the duties of the law, which was known in part by the light of nature, and therefore the more easily assented to.
Marshall’s foundation for understanding sanctification is the Word. The Law establishes God’s high demands and man’s utter inability to satisfy those demands.
In my next post we will see how Marshall connects reconciliation with God to sanctification.