« FöregåendeFortsätt »
for innumerable violations of the Adamic as well as the angelic law. It is well, therefore, for us, that we are not now under these, but under the law of love. "Love is [now] the fulfilling of the law," which is given to fallen man. This is now, with respect to us, "the perfect law." But even against this, through the present weakness of our understanding, we are continually liable to transgress. Therefore every man living needs the blood of atonement, or he could not stand before God.
4. What is then the perfection of which man is capable, while he dwells in a corruptible body? It is the complying with that kind command; "My son, give me thy heart." It is the "loving the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind." This is the sum of Christian perfection: it is all comprised in that one word, love. The first branch of it is the love of God: and as he that loves God loves his brother also, it is inseparably connected with the second; "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:" Thou shalt love every man as thy own soul, as Christ loved us. "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets :" these contain the whole of Christian perfection.
5. Another view of this is given us, in those words of the great apos tle; "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." For although this immediately and directly refers to the humility of our Lord, yet it may be taken in a far more extensive sense, so as to include the whole disposition of his mind, all his affections, all his tempers, both towards God and man. Now it is certain that as there was no evil affection in him, so no good affection or temper was wanting. So that "whatsoever things are holy, whatsoever things are lovely," are all included in the mind that was in Christ Jesus."
6. St. Paul, when writing to the Galatians, places perfection in yet another view. It is the one undivided fruit of the Spirit, which he describes thus: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity," (so the word should be translated here,) "meekness, temperance.' What a glorious constellation of graces is here! Now suppose all these things to be knit together in one, to be united together in the soul of a believer, this is Christian perfection.
7. Again: He writes to the Christians at Ephesus, of "putting on the new man, which is created after God in righteousness and true holiness:" And to the Colossians, of "the new man renewed after the image of him that created him :" plainly referring to the words in Genesis, chap. i, 27, " So God created man in his own image." Now the moral image of God consists (as the apostle observes)" in righteousness and true holiness." By sin this is totally destroyed. And we never can recover it, till we are created anew in Christ Jesus." And this is perfection.
8. St. Peter expresses it in a still different manner, though to the same effect. "As he that hath called you is holy, so be ye holy, in all manner of conversation," 1 Peter i, 15. According to this apostle then, perfection is another name for universal holiness: inward and outward righteousness: holiness of life, arising from holiness of heart. 9. If any expressions can be stronger than these, they are those of St. Paul to the Thessalonians: 1 Epistle v, 23, "The God of peace
himself sanctify you wholly; and may the whole of you, the spirit, the soul, and the body, [this is the literal translation,] be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
10. We cannot show this sanctification in a more excellent way, than by complying with that exhortation of the apostle; "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies," [yourselves, your souls and bodies; a part put for the whole, by a common figure of speech,] a living sacrifice unto God;" to whom ye were consecrated many years ago in baptism. When what was then devoted, is actually presented to God, then is the man of God perfect.
11. To the same effect St. Peter says, 1 Epistle ii, 5, "Ye are a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ." But what sacrifices shall we offer now, seeing the Jewish dispensation is at an end? If you have truly presented yourselves to God, you offer up to him continually all your thoughts, and words, and actions, through the Son of his love, as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
12. Thus you experience, that he whose name is called JESUS, does not bear that name in vain: that he does, in fact, save his people from their sins;" the root, as well as the branches. And this salvation from sin, from all sin, is another description of perfection, though indeed it expresses only the least, the lowest branch of it, only the negative part of the great salvation.
II. I proposed, in the second place, to answer some objections to his scriptural account of perfection.
1. One common objection to it is, that there is no promise of it in the word of God. If this were so, we must give it up; we should have no foundation to build upon: for the promises of God are the only sure foundation of our hope. But surely there is a very clear and full promise, that we shall all love the Lord our God with all our hearts. So we read, Deut. xxx, 6, "Then will I circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul." Equally express is the word of our Lord, which is no less a promise, though in the form of a command: Matt. xxii, 37, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." No words can be more strong than these; no promise can be more express. In like manner, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," is as express a promise as a command.
2. And, indeed, that general and unlimited promise, which runs through the whole gospel dispensation; "I will put my laws in their minds, and write them in their hearts;" turns all the commands into promises; and consequently that among the rest: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." The command here is equivalent to a promise, and gives us full reason to expect, that he will work in us what he requires of us.
3. With regard to the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle in affirming, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance," does, in effect, affirm, that the Holy Spirit actually works love, and these other tempers, in those that are led by him. So that here also, we have firm ground to tread upon this scripture likewise being equivalent to a promise, and
assuring us, that all these shall be wrought in us, provided we are led by the Spirit.
4. And when the apostle says to the Ephesians, chap. iv, 21-24, "Ye have been taught, as the truth is in Jesus," to be "renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man, which is created after God;" that is, after the image of God," in righteousness and true holiness;" he leaves us no room to doubt, but God will thus “renew us in the spirit of our mind" and "create us anew" in the image of God, wherein we were at first created: otherwise it could not be said, that this is "the truth as it is in Jesus."
5. The command of God given by St. Peter; "Be ye holy, as he that hath called you is holy, in all manner of conversation," implies a promise that we shall be thus holy, if we are not wanting to ourselves. Nothing can be wanting on God's part: as he has called us to holiness, he is undoubtedly willing, as well as able, to work this holiness in us. For he cannot mock his helpless creatures, calling us to receive what he never intends to give. That he does call us thereto is undeniable; therefore, he will give it, if we are not disobedient to the heavenly calling.
6. The prayer of St. Paul for the Thessalonians, that God would "sanctify them throughout," and "that the whole of them, the spirit, the soul, and the body, might be preserved blameless," will undoubtedly be heard in behalf of all the children of God, as well as of those at Thessalonica. Hereby, therefore, all Christians are encouraged to expect the same blessing from " the God of peace," namely, that they also shall be "sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul, and body ;" and that "the whole of them shall be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
7. But the great question is, whether there is any promise in Scripture, that we shall be saved from sin? Undoubtedly there is. Such is that promise, Psalm cxxx, 8, "He shall redeem Israel from all his sins;" exactly answerable to those words of the angel; "He shall save his people from their sins." And surely "he is able to save unto the uttermost, them that come unto God through him." Such is that glorious promise given through the prophet Ezekiel: chap. xxxvi, 25-27, "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." Such (to mention no more) is that pronounced by Zechariah, Luke i, 73-75, "The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, [and such doubtless, are all our sins,] to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life." The last part of this promise is peculiarly worthy of our observation. Lest any should say, "True, we shall be saved from our sins when we die ;" that clause is remarkably added, as if on purpose to obviate this pretence, all the days of our life. With what modesty then can any one affirm, "that none shall enjoy this liberty till death?
8. "But," say some, "this cannot be the meaning of the words; for the thing is impossible." It is impossible to men: but the things impossible with men, are possible with God. "Nay, but this is impossible in its own nature: for it implies a contradiction, that a man should be saved from all sin, while he is in a sinful body.”
There is a great deal of force in this objection. And perhaps we allow most of what you contend for. We have already allowed, that while we are in the body, we cannot be wholly free from mistake. Notwithstanding all our care, we shall still be liable to judge wrong in many instances. And a mistake in judgment will very frequently occasion a mistake in practice. Nay, a wrong judgment may occasion something in the temper or passions, which is not strictly right. It may occasion needless fear, or ill-grounded hope; unreasonable love, or unreasonable aversion. But all this is no way inconsistent with the perfection above described.
9. You say, "Yes, it is inconsistent with the last article: it cannot consist with salvation from sin." I answer, it will perfectly well consist with salvation from sin, according to that definition of sin, (which I apprehend to be the scriptural definition of it,) a voluntary transgression of a known law. Nay, but all transgressions of the law of God, whether voluntary or involuntary, are sin: for St. John says, All sin is a transgression of the law." True, but he does not say, All transgression of the law is sin. This I deny: let him prove it that can.
To say the truth, this is a mere strife of words. You say "None is saved from sin in your sense of the word;" but I do not admit of that sense, because the word is never so taken in Scripture. And you cannot destroy the possibility of being saved from sin, in my sense of the word. And this is the sense wherein the word sin is over and over taken in Scripture.
"But surely we cannot be saved from sin, while we dwell in a sinful body." A sinful body? I pray observe, how deeply ambiguous, how equivocal this expression is! But there is no authority for it in Scripture: the word, sinful body, is never found there. And as it is totally unscriptural, so it is palpably absurd. For no body, or matter of any kind, can be sinful: spirits alone are capable of sin. Pray in what part of the body should sin lodge? It cannot lodge in the skin, nor in the muscles, or nerves, or veins, or arteries; it cannot be in the bones, any more than in the hair or nails. Only the soul can be the seat of sin.
10. "But does not St. Paul himself say, They that are in the flesh cannot please God?'" I am afraid the sound of these words has deceived many unwary souls; who have been told those words, they that are in the flesh, mean the same as they that are in the body. No; nothing less. The flesh, in this text, no more means the body than it does the soul. Abel, Enoch, Abraham; yea, all that cloud of witnesses recited by St. Paul in the eleventh of the Hebrews; did actually please God, while they were in the body, as he himself testifies. The expression, therefore, here means neither more nor less, than they that are unbelievers; they that are in their natural state; they that are without God in the world.
11. But let us attend to the reason of the thing. Why cannot the Almighty sanctify the soul while it is in the body? Cannot he sanctify you while you are in this house, as well as in the open air? Can the
walls of brick or stone hinder him? No more can these walls of flesh and blood hinder him a moment from sanctifying you throughout. He can just as easily save you from all sin in the body as out of the body.
"But has he promised thus to save us from sin while we are in the body?" Undoubtedly he has: for a promise is implied in every commaudment of God: consequently in that, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." For this and every other commandment is given, not to the dead, but to the living. It is expressed in the words above recited, That we should "walk in holiness before him all the days of our life."
I have dwelt the longer on this, because it is the grand argument of those that oppose salvation from sin; and also, because it has not been so frequently and so fully answered; whereas the arguments taken from Scripture have been answered a hundred times over.
12. But a still more plausible objection remains, taken from experience: which is, That "there are no living witnesses of this salvation from sin." In answer to this, I allow,
(1.) That there are not many. Even in this sense, there are not many fathers. Such is our hardness of heart; such our slowness to believe what both the prophets and apostles have spoke; that there are few, exceeding few true witnesses of the great salvation.
(2.) I allow, That there are false witnesses, who either deceive their own souls, and speak of the things they know not; or "speak lies in hypocrisy." And I have frequently wondered, that we have not more of both sorts. It is nothing strange, that men of warm imaginations should deceive themselves in this matter. Many do the same with regard to justification: they imagine they are justified, and are not. But though many imagine it falsely, yet there are some that are truly justified. And thus though many imagine they are sanctified, and are not, yet there are some that are really sanctified.
(3.) I allow, That some who once enjoyed full salvation, have now totally lost it. They once walked in glorious liberty, giving God their whole heart," rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in every thing giving thanks." But it is past. They now are shorn of their strength, and become like other men. Yet, perhaps, they do not give up their confidence: they still have a sense of his pardoning love. But even this is frequently assaulted by doubts and fears, so that they hold it with a trembling hand.
13. "Nay, this," say some pious and sensible men," is the very thing which we contend for. We grant, it may please God, to make some of his children, for a time, unspeakably holy and happy. We will not deny, that they may enjoy all the holiness and happiness which you speak of But it is only for a time: God never designed, that it should continue to their lives' end. Consequently, sin is only suspended: it is not destroyed."
This you affirm. But it is a thing of so deep importance, that it cannot be allowed without clear and cogent proof. And where is the proof! We know that, in general, "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." He does not repent of any gifts which he hath bestowed upon the children of men. And how does the contrary appear, with regard to this particular gift of God? Why should we imagine, that he will make an exception, with respect to the most pre