What is holiness? Horatius Bonar sets out what it isn’t and points to Christ for what it is in the opening paragraphs of chapter 9 of God’s Way of Holiness.
That which among men so frequently takes the name of holiness is very unlike the Bible reality. Whether used in connection with the hardness of a lifeless orthodoxy, or the genialities of a fond idealism, or the smooth regularities of a mechanical devotion, or the religiousness of pictorial superstition, or the austerities of self-righteous mortification, or the sentimentalisms of liberalized theology, or the warm dreams of an earnest pantheism, the words “holy” and “holiness” and “spirituality” have become misnomers or ciphers, as ambiguous in meaning and profane in use, as would have been Aaron’s ephod upon the shoulders of a priest of Baal. This retention of Bible formulas and a Bible terminology after the expulsion or perversion of Bible meaning is one of the sacrilegious dishonesties of the age, which are so uncomfortably offensive to a straight-forward student of the Word.
Holiness may be called spiritual perfection, as righteousness is legal completeness, and both are exhibited in Christ. He is the representation, the illustration, the model. Likeness to Him is holiness. He that is holy is conformed to His image. Every other ideal is vanity. We must learn from the four Gospels what living holiness is, and for a doctrinal exposition of it we must turn to the Epistles. Thus we shall understand both what it is not and what it is.
“Abide in Me,” “learn of Me,” “follow Me,” are the contents and summing-up of the Christian statute-book, constituting our true directory and guide in the pursuit of holiness.