Horatius Bonar was a pastor who ministered in Scotland in the 19th century (1808-1889). In an article entitled, “The Root and Soil of Holiness,” he deals with what produces the fruit of new life in true Christians. It is fuel for the soul that craves (and yet struggles) to believe that free grace really is true.
Every plant must have both soil and root. Without both of these there can be no life, no growth, no fruit. The root is “peace with God.” The soil in which that root strikes itself, and out of which it draws the vital sap, is the free love of God in Christ. “Rooted in love” is the apostle’s description of a holy man. The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety, and his daily communion with a crucified and risen Lord. All divine life, and all the precious fruits of it, pardon, peace, and holiness, spring from the cross. All fancied sanctification which does not arise wholly from the blood of the cross is nothing better than Pharisaism. If we would be holy, we must get to the cross, and dwell there…
Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favour can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.
There is no spring of holiness so powerful as that which our Lord assumes: “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). Free and warm reception into the divine favour is the strongest of all motives in leading a man to seek conformity to Him who has thus freely forgiven him all trespasses. A cold admission into the paternal house by the father might have repelled the prodigal, and sent him back to his lusts. But the fervent kiss, the dear embrace, the best robe, the ring, the shoes, the fatted calf, the festal song, all without one moment’s suspense or delay, as well as without one upbraiding word, could not but awaken shame for the past, and true-hearted resolution to walk worthy of such a father, and of such a generous pardon… Sensuality, luxury, and the revelry of the flesh have lost their relish to one who has tasted the fruit of the tree of life.