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is perfect. Not only Noah, Job and a few others are called perfect men, but also every man whose heart is right with God. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” Psal. xxxvii. 37. Every good man is an upright man, and yet, from this passage, it is evident, that an upright man is the same as a perfect mai). In the first epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle shows what foolishness the gospel was to natural men, who did not receive the things of the Spirit of God. "Howbeit” he says, “s we speak wisdom among them that are perfect." Here it is evident, that by perfect, he means all who were enlightened from baove, whether their graces were strong or weak. Religion is perfect in its nature. It is the image of God in the soul. The man, who possesses the least degree of this holy thing, is therefore called a perfect man. But we are guarded against understanding this in the sinless sense. In the epistle to the Philippians, when Paul had explicitly declared, that he was not perfect, he directly adds, “ But let as many of us as are per. fect be thus minded.” If the word were not used in two senses, the apostle would contradict himself. But the difficulty vanishes when we understand him, by perfect in the first instance, to mean a sinless state, and, by perfect, in the second instance, to mean a state of begun freedom from sin. It has already been mentioned, that one reason why a person in this state is called perfect, is that he possesses the holy perfect nature of his Creator. A second reason for his bejpg so called, as soon as there is any degree of this nature within him, may be, to denote the progression of this, according to the covenant of grace, until this perfect nature becomes perfect in degree. “The path of the just is as the shining light which shineth more and more until the perfect day.” Another reason may be added, why a christian, as soon as he is born of the Spirit, is called a perfect man----it is this, that such a change brings him into a mystical union with Christ, who is altogether lovely. He is benefitted by the perfect righteousness of Christ, before he becomes himself perfect.
When God commands us to be perfect, we are to understand the word in its most unlimited meaning; because it is undoubtedly the duty of all creatures to be free from sin, and that with. out the least delay. When the spirits of just men in heaven are spoken of as perfect, we are to understand the same, because we know that in that world there is no sin; but when the peo, ple of God in this world are said to be perfect, we are to understand the word to express their new nature and union to Christ, and not a sinless state ; “ For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not."*
Because christians are called good, righteous and holy, we are not to obtain an idea, that they are altogether good, righteous and holy. It is still suitable for every one of them to pray, “ God be merciful to me a sinner." They are denominated by their new nature, which distin,
* What is said above will serve to reconcile what the Lord said about Job, chap. i. 8; with what Job said about himself, chap. ix. 20 without being obliged to suppose that either was under a mistake concerning Job's character.
guishes them from the unconverted. But from this it is wrong to draw the conclusion, that they do not possess any degree of the same sinful nature, under the perfect dominion of which the unconverted still remain. When David says, 66 I am holy," we are not to understand him to say, "I have no sin.” And when he says, " Mine iniquities are gone over my head,” we are not to understand him to say, that he had no holiness. These declarations were both true; for he was possessed of both these natures.
But it will be said, that the apostle John in his ist epistle iii, 9. declares, 6 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." On this passage we observe, Ist, If it prove any thing, it proves too much. It would prove that there never was, nor can be such a thing as a true convert being guilty of the least degree of sinful imperfection after his conversion : since the apostle adds, 6. For his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” I am persuaded the objector would not be willing to allow, that there was never any such thing as sin found in one who had been born of God. We observe 2nd, The apostle means to say, that he, who has a new and holy heart, will have a new and boly life. And that the man who is a committer of sin, in distinction of being an obedient follower of Christ, is not born of God: For if he was born of God, the new and holy nature, which abides in the christian, would prevent his living in sin.
3. If good men in this life are sinfully imperfect, then they have more and more reason, every day, to be penitent and broken hearted. They have reason to be penitent and broken hearted to all eternity, for the sins which they committed before they knew God: And to these they are adding, every day of their life. No man can review a single day of his life, without discovering some new reasons for humiliation before the Holy One of Israel. In the sermon on the mount, Christ pronounced the second blessing on them who mourn. " Blessed are they that mourn." This holy mourning is a daily thing. Whenever the children of God have a near view of him, who is holy, they cry out, We are vile, We are men of unclean lips! When they have been denying their divine Master, they go out and weep bitter. ly. This, in some way or other, more or less aggravated, they are daily doing. Confession of sin is a suitable thing to have a distinguished place in all the prayers which are made upon earth.
4. If christians, while they remain on earth, are never free from sinful imperfection, there is always room for them to amend and grow better, There is not only room for them to know more, but to love more, and to be less opposed to God and holiness. Even he that hath clean harids may wax stronger and stronger. There is no man on earth so good, but that he may be better. There is no one who loves God so much, but that he may love him more. There is no one so humble, but that he may lie still lower before God. There is no one whose faith is so strong, but that it is proper for him to pray for an in. crease of his faith. There is no man so weaned from the world, but that he needs more of this
holy temper. Nor is there any saint on earth, who is so meetened for heaven, but that he may be made still more meet for that holy place. Let christians therefore forget the things which are behind, and reach forth to the things which are before, and keep their eye on the mark of sinless perfection, and never rest until they have reach. ed it.
5. If good men are sinfully imperfect in this life, then they are growing, instead of less, more deserving of bell every day. God has a claim on us for perfect obedience. If this is rendered to him, it is no more than simply what is his due. Any thing less than this brings us into debt to divine justice, and makes us deserving of the dampation of hell. Since, even good men do not, in this life, render perfect obedience to the divine requirements, they are daily increasing their desert of punishment. It is true they do some things pleasing to God, but as these are duties, i. e. things due to God, they do nothing towards diminishing the debt. Those of you who are the real subjects of divine grace, were never so guilty and ill-deserving, as you are this moment. You have increased your ill-desert since you came into the house of God, and since you began to hear this sermon. Your good works do not make you less dependent on mercy, but your sins make you increasing debtors to free grace. If this be a just inference from our subject, then all self-righteous dependences are vain. Good works will not do as an off-set a. gainst bad ones. Good works are no more than what we ought to do, but bad ones are infinitely