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cious of all his gifts on this side heaven? Is he not as able to give it us always, as to give it once? As able to give it for fifty years, as for one day? And how can it be proved, that he is not willing to continue this his loving kindness? How is this supposition, that he is not willing, consistent with the positive assertion of the apostle ? who, after exhorting the Christians at Thessalonica, and in them all Christians in all ages, to“ rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks," immediately adds, (as if on purpose to answer those, who denied, not the power, but the will of God to work in them,)“ For this is the will of God concerning you in Christ Jesus.” Nay, and it is remarkable, that after he had delivered that glorious promise, (such it properly is,) in the twenty-third verse, “The very God of peace shall sanctify you wholly: and the whole of you," (so it is in the original,) “the spirit, the soul, and the body, shall be preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ;" he adds again,
Faithful is he that hath called you, who also will do it.” He will not only sanctify you wholly, but will preserve you in that state, until he comes to receive you unto himself.
14. Agreeably to this is the plain matter of fact. Several persons have enjoyed this blessing, without any interruption, for many years. Several enjoy it at this day. And not a few have enjoyed it unto their death, as they have declared with their latest breath; calmly witnessing that God had saved them from all sin, till their spirit returned to God.
15. As to the whole of the objections taken from experience, I desire it may be observed farther, either the persons objected to, have attained Christian perfection, or they have not. If they have not, whatever objections are brought against them, strike wide of the mark. For they are not the persons we are talking of: therefore, whatever they are or do, is beside the question. But if they have attained it, if they answer the description given, under the nine preceding articles, no reasonable objection can lie against them. They are superior to all censure. And "every tongue that riseth up against them will they utterly condemn."
16.“ But I never saw one,” (continues the objector,)“that answered my idea of perfection.” It may be so. And it is probable (as I observed elsewhere) you never will. For your idea includes abundantly too much : even freedom from those infirmities, which are not separa ble from a spirit that is connected with flesh and blood. But if you keep to the account that is given above, and allow for the weakness of human understanding, you may see, at this day, undeniable instances of genuine scriptural perfection.
III. 1. It only remains, in the third place, to expostulate a little with the opposers of this perfection.
Now permit me to ask, Why are you so angry with those who profess to have attained this ? And so mad (I cannot give it any softer title) against Christian perfection !- Against the most glorious gift which God ever gave to the children of men upon earth ? View it in every one of the preceding points of light, and see what it contains that is either odious or terrible: that is calculated to excite either hatred or fear in any reasonable creature.
What rational objection can you have, to the loving the Lord your God with all your heart? Why should you be afraid of it? Would it
do you any hurt? Would it lessen your happiness, either in this world, or the world to come? And why should you be unwilling that others should give him their whole heart? Or that they should love their neighbours as themselves ?-Yea, “ As Christ hath loved us?” Is this detestable ? Is it the proper object of hatred? Or is it the most amiable thing under the sun ? Is it proper to move terror? Is it not rather desirable in the highest degree ?
2. Why are you so averse to having in you the whole “mind which was in Christ Jesus ?” All the affections, all the tempers and dispositions, which were in him, while he dwelt among men ? Why should you be afraid of this? Would it be any worse for you,
were God to work in you this very hour, all the mind that was in him ? If not, why should you hinder others from seeking this blessing? Or be displeased at those who think they have attained it ? Is any thing more lovely? Any thing more to be desired by every child of man?
3. Why are you averse to having the whole “ fruit of the Spirit ?" " love, joy, peace, long suffering, meekness, gentleness, fidelity, goodness, temperance ?" Why should you be afraid of having all these planted in your inmost soul ? As“ against these there is no law,” so there cannot be any reasonable objection. Surely nothing is more desirable, than that all these tempers should take deep root in your heart: nay, in the hearts of all that name the name of Christ : yea, of all the inhabitants of the earth.
4. What reason have you to be afraid of, or to entertain any aversion to, the being “ renewed in the [whole) image of him that created you ?” Is not this more desirable than any thing under heaven ? Is it not consummately amiable? What can you wish for in comparison of this, either for your own soul, or for those for whom you entertain the strongest and tenderest affection ? And when you enjoy this, what remains but to be " changed from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord ?"
5. Why should you be averse to universal holiness? The same thing under another name. Why should you entertain any prejudice against this, or look upon it with apprehension? Whether you understand by that term, the being inwardly conformed to the whole image and will of God; or an outward behaviour, in every point suitable to that conformity. Can you conceive any thing more amiable than this? Any thing more desirable ? Set prejudice aside, and surely you will desire to see it diffused over all the earth.
6. Is perfection, (to vary the expression,) the being " sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul, and body?” What lover of God and man can be averse to this, or entertain frightful apprehensions of it? Is it not, in your best moments, your desire to be all of a piece ?-All consistent with yourself!-Ail faith, all meekness, all love ?-And suppose you were once possessed of this glorious liberty, wvuld not you wish to continue therein? To be preserved “ blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ?"
7. For what cause should you that are children of God, be averse to, or afraid of, presenting yourselves, your souls and bodies, as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God?-to God your Creator, your Redeemer, your Sanctifier ? Can any thing be more desirable than this entire self dedication to him? And is it not your wish that all mankind should unite in this reasonable service ?" Surely no one can be averse to this, without being an enemy to all mankind.
8. And why should you be afraid of, or averse to, what is naturally implied in this ? namely, the offering up all our thoughts, and words, and actions, as a spiritual sacrifice to God, acceptable to him through the blood and intercession of his well beloved Son ? Surely you cannot deny that this is good and profitable to men, as well as pleasing to God. Should you not then devoutly pray, that both you and all mankind may thus worship him in spirit and in truth?
9. Suffer me to ask one question more. Why should any man of reason and religion be either afraid of, or averse to, salvation from all sin ? Is not sin the greatest evil on this side hell ? And if so, does it not naturally follow, that an entire deliverance from it is one of the greatest blessings on this side heaven ? How earnestly then should it be prayed for by all the children of God! By sin I mean, a voluntary transgression of a known law. Are you averse to being delivered from this ? Are you afraid of such a deliverance? Do you then lore sin, that you are so unwilling to part with it? Surely no. You do not Jove either the devil or his works. You rather wish to be totally delivered from them: to have sin rooted out both of your life and your heart.
10. I have frequently observed, and not without surprise, that the opposers of perfection are more vehement against it when it is placed in this view, than in any other whatsoever: they will allow all you say of the love of God and man; of the mind which was in Christ; of the fruit of the Spirit; of the image of God; of universal holiness; of entire self dedication; of sanctification in spirit, soul, and body; yea, and of the offering up of all our thoughts, words, and actions, as a sacrifice to God ;-all this they will allow, so we will allow sin, a little sin, to remain in us till death.
11. Pray compare this with that remarkable passage in John Bunyan's Holy War. “When Immanuel," says he,“ had driven Diabolus and all his forces out of the city of Man-soul, Diabolus preferred a petition to Immanuel, that he might have only a small part of the city. When this was rejected, he begged to have only a little room within the walls.” But Immanuel answered, “ He should have no place in it at all, no, not to rest the sole of his foot."
Had not the good old man forgot himself? Did not the force of truth so prevail over him here, as utterly to overturn his own system ?-To assert perfection in the clearest manner? For if this is not salvation from sin, I cannot tell what is.
12. “ No," says a great man, " this is the error of errors: I hate it from my heart. I pursue it through all the world with fire and sword." Nay, why so vehement? Do you seriously think there is no error under heaven equal to this! Here is something which I cannot understand. Why are those that oppose salvation from sin, (few excepted,) so eager ! I had almost said, furious? Are you fighting pro aris et focis! For God and your country? For all you have in the world? For all that is near and dear unto you? For your liberty? Your life? In God's name, why are you so fond of sin ? What good has it ever done you? What good is it ever likely to do you, either in this wor!d, or in the world to come? And why are you so violent against those that hope for a deli
verance from it? Have patience with us, if we are in an error; yea, suffer us to enjoy our error. If we should not attain it, the very expectation of this deliverance gives us present comfort; yea, and ministers strength, to resist those enemies which we expect to conquer. If you could persuade us to despair of that victory, we should give over the contest. Now we are saved by hope :" from this very hope a degree of salvation springs. Be not angry at those who are felices errore suo ; happy in their mistake. Else, be their opinion right or wrong, your temper is undeniably sinful: bear then with us, as we do with you ; and see whether the Lord will not deliver us! Whether he is not able, yea, and willing, “to save them to the uttermost that come unto God through him.”
Sermon LXXXII.-Spiritual Worship.
“This is the true God and eternal life,” 1 John v, 20. 1. In this epistle, St. John speaks, not to any particular church, but to all the Christians of that age : although more especially to them among whom he then resided. And in them he speaks to the whole Christian church, in all succeeding ages.
2. In this letter, or rather tract, (for he was present with those to whom it was more immediately directed, probably being not able to preach to them any longer, because of his extreme old age,) he does not treat directly of faith, which St. Paul had done; neither of inward and outward holiness, concerning which, both St. Paul, St. James, and St. Peter, had spoken; but of the foundation of all, the happy and holy communion which the faithful have with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
3. In the preface, he describes the authority by which he wrote and spoke, chap. i, 1-4, and expressly points out the design of his present writing. To the preface exactly answers the conclusion of the epistle, more largely explaining the same design, and recapitulating the marks of our communion with God, by “we know,” thrice repeated, chap. , 18-20. 4. The tract itself treats,
First, Severally of communion with the Father, chap. i, 5-10; of communion with the Son, chap. ii, and iii; of communion with the Spirit, chap. iv.
Secondly, Conjointly, of the testimony of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; on which, faith in Christ, the being born of God, love to God, and his children, the keeping his commandments, and victory over the world, are founded, chap. v, 1-12.
5. The recapitulation begins, chap. v, 18, “We know that he who is born of God;" who sees and loves God; “sinneth not;" so long as this loving faith abideth in him. “We know we are of God;" children of God, by the witness and the fruit of the Spirit; "and the whole world,” all who have not the Spirit,“ lieth in the wicked one.” They are, and live, and dwell in him as the children of God do in the Holy One. “We know, that the Son of God is come, and hath given us (a Epiritual] understanding, that we may know the true one;" the faithfi:] Vol. II.
and true Witness. “And we are in the true One;" as branches in the vine. “This is the true God, and eternal life.”
In considering these important words, we may inquire,
I. And first we may inquire, How is he the true God ? He is “God over all blessed for ever." “ He was with God;" with God the Father; “ from the beginning ;" from eternity; “ and was God. He and the Father are one;" and, consequently," he thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”. Accordingly, the inspired writers give him all the titles of the most high God. They call him over and over, by the incommunicable name, Jehovah ; never given to any creature. They ascribe to him all the attributes, and all the works of God. So that we need not scruple to pronounce him, “God of God, light of light, very God of very God: in glory equal with the Father, in majesty, co-eternal.”
2. He is the true God, the only cause, the sole creator of all things. “By him," saith the apostle Paul, “were created all things that are in heaven, and that are on earth;"-yea, earth and heaven themselves; but the inhabitants are named, because more noble than the house ;“visible and invisible.” The several species of which are subjoined:
whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers." So St. John: “all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." And accordingly St. Paul applies to him those strong words of the Psalmist: “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands.”
3. And as the true God, he is also the supporter of all the things that he hath made. He beareth, upholdeth, sustaineth, all created things by the word of his power : by the same powerful word, which brought them out of nothing. As this was absolutely necessary for the beginning of their existence, it is equally so for the continuance of it: were his almighty influence withdrawn, they could not subsist a moment longer. Hold up a stone in the air ; the moment you withdraw your hand, it naturally falls to the ground. In like manner, were he to withdraw his hand for a moment, the creation would fall into nothing.
4. As the true God, he is likewise the preserver of all things. He not only keeps them in being, but preserves them in that degree of well being, which is suitable to their several natures. He preserves them in their several relations, connections, and dependencies, so as to compose one system of beings, to form one entire universe, according to the counsel of his will. How strong!y and beautifully is this expressed: Τα παντα εν αυτω συνέβηκε: * By whom all things consist :" or, more literally, “ By and in him are all things compacted into one system.” He is not only the support, but also the cement of the whole universe.
5. I would particularly remark, (what perhaps has not been sufficiently observed,) that he is the true author of all the motion that is in the universe. To spirits, indeed, he has given a small degree of self moving power, but not to matter. All matter, of whatever kind it be, is absolutely and totally inert. It does not, cannot, in any case, mova