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natures, the one sinful, the other holy; the one being the remains of his totally corrupt heart, and the other the fruit of a gracious change. Now why should we be considered, as holding to a palpable contradiction, because we suppose this twofold character exists in the regenerate, while those who contemn our doctrine, mppose it exists in awakened sinners? Let it also be remembered, that they do not pretend to believe, that all the children of God are wholly freed from indwelling sin. If then there are any of the children of God, who are not wholly sanctified, but who have a warfare between sin and holiness in their own breasts, I cannot see why the experience, which the apostle gives us in the 7th chapter of Romans, may not with great propriety apply to them.
The christian warfare, as described in Paul's epistle to the Galatians, (chap. v. 17,) Mr. B. supposes applicable to them only as a fallen people: "For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." On looking over this passage, it strikes the mind at once; that all who believe there is a struggle in the breast of the christian soldier, between nature and grace ; and that he has to fight at home, as well as abroad, will very naturally see this warfare here pointed out. Those who do not believe in any such internal conflict in the heart of the christian, will naturally seek for some other way to interpret the passage. If this were the only scripture in which there was to be found an intimation of this internal conflict, there might be more reason to inquire whether it would not bear some other construction. We have spent so much time in examining into the experiences of Paul, as they are found in the 7th chapter of Romans, that we shall not devote any more attention to the passage which is now before us.
Let us now devote a little attention to those passages of scripture, which were made use of in the 4th Sermon, to establish the doctrine of the sinful imperfection of the saints while on earth. The first passage which was introduced under this head, was 1 Kings, viii. 46; '' If they sin against thee, (for there is no mun that sinneth not.") Mr. B. supposes the meaning of this text is this, " There are none but are liable to sin." All, it is true, are liable to sin, i. e. in external acts of transgression, because all have sin dwelling in them. Therefore where they are humbled for their sins committed , they are in this same chapter described as knowing every man the plague af his own heart. See v. 38. Read the passage, and you will see it implies, that no man, let him be who he will, can pray acceptably to the God of Israel, if he does not have a present sense of the sinfulness of his heart. He must be convinced not only that he had, but that he now has a sinful heart.
The next scripture proof of the doctrine advanced, was Prov. xx. 9 ; " Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin i" To this Mr. IJ. replies ; "If Solomon, in. the above passage, meant that none had made themselves pure, abstract from the Spirit of grace, and independent of the merits of Jesus Christ, as he unquestionably did, he spoke perfectly according to the evangelical purity for which the scriptures plead." p. 177. Is it unquestionable that this was the meaning of Solomon; or of the Spirit of inspiration? To us, such an interpretation appears as unnatural as to say; that when the apostle John declares, " And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself," he means, that he does this abstractedly from the Spirit of grace, and independent of the merits of Jesus Christ. To the quotation just made, our author adds; " To understand him otherwise, is to make him contradict the Psalmist David, his royal father, who said, lam holy" &c. The answer to this difficulty is this —David speaks of initial holiness, which is common in a greater or less degree, to every child of God; and Solomon refers to perfected holiness; in which sense there was no man could say, that he was pure from his sin.
The next scripture which was brought to prove our doctrine, was Job ix. 20; If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. On this text Mr. B. among other things, remarks: "From the whole of his (i. e. Job's) arguments in justification of himself, it is undeniably certain, that he never meant to confess himself " sinfully imperfect,'\in your sense of the word." p. 178, Is not sinful imperfection confessed, chap, xl 4, 5, " Behold lam vile, what shall I answer tlise? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once Have I spoken, but I will not ansiver': Yea, twice, hut I will proceed no further I" Did not Job feel ri present and a sinful imperfection, when he said to the all-seeing God, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the car: but now mine eye seeth th^o. Wherefore T abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes I" chap, xlii. 5, 6. That Job had no idea of sinless perfection existing among the children of Adam, is evident from such a passage as this: " But how should man Lc just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answci Kim one of a thousand." This is contained in the former part of the same chapter, where the controverted text is found. Job ix. 2, 3.
I have endeavored to weigh the force of Mr. B's. explanation of 1 John i. 8: If we say we have no sin, Vip deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in its. Although at first glance, there seems to be something specious in his explanation, still I think there is on the whole much more reason for adhering to the interpretation which we have already given. The apostle had in the Gth verse spoken of the inconsistency of pretending to have fellowship with the Holy One. and living in sin, which is the thing meant by walking in darkness. Living in sin, in the language of the Bible, is living a wicked life, instead of a godly life. In the 7th verse the apostle dec Lues, If we walk in the tight a* he is in the light, we havefellowshifi one with another, and the blood qf Jesus Christ his Son cleunseth us from all sin. But lest any should say, that this cleansing was already perfected in th-em, so that in their outward and inward man, they were free from all corruption, the apostle throws in this caution in the 8th verse: " If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
The text in Jam. iii. 2, For in many things we offend all, when examined in its connexion, seems to us most evidently to give the idea of a sinful imperfection, even in the best. The original word, translated masier's,in the first versa, is teachers, or masters in Israel. Th« apostle dissuades his brethren fronvambitiousiy. aspiring to be teachers; and from going in crowds into the difficult, and highly responsible wbrk of the gospel mill
nistry. He reminds them, that all were imperfect men —all were liable to do wrong—even the apostles themselves did not pretend to be faultless. He reminds them that the tongue was the most difficult member to be regulated, and be kept from offending; and at the same time intimates, that if they had not by much sanctification and self-government, brought that utiruly memher into subjection, they would be,in peculiar danger of doing injury to the nausc of truth.
I will iiow add a few other arguments, which were Dot made use of in the Sermon, to confirm the doctrine there laid down; and after this, an attempt will be made so refute the principal arguments used by my antagonist, to support this doctrine.
One argument, which seems calculated to establish the doctrine of the sinful imperfection of the children of God in this life, is the representation which the scriptures make of growth in grace. "He that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger." Job xvii. 9. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineih more and more unto the perfect day." Prov. iv. 13. Here the commencement of a work of sanctification in the heart, is compared to the breaking of the day; and the progress of the work, to tho gradual prevalence of the light ever the darkness, until the sun itself appears. Then it is perfect day. From the breaking of the day until the rising of the sun, darkness and light both exist together, tho' the darkness is continually retreating before the rising light. Our divine Lord, in one of his parables, said, " The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, ti!l the whole was leavened." Mat, xiii. 33. The kingdom of heaven is the Church of Christ set up in this fallen world, and making gradual progress, until the whole world is.filled with the glory of God. The kingdom of heaven is also that hoiy interest, which is set tip in the heart of every one who is born of God, and this will gradually extend its heavenly influence, until the whole heart is sanctified.
Another proof <}f the saints imperfection in holiness in this life, rnay be derived from the directions given them to examine and try themselves, to determine the truth of the work of grace in their hearts. They are commanded to examine themselves, and firo-ve themselves, whether they be in the faith. They are called upon to give all diligence to make their calling and election sure. The apostle John, towards the close of his first epistle, says; " These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life." He had laid down many discriminating marks by which to know a true work*of the Spirit, and distinguish it from all counterfeits. The force of the present argument is this; That if the christians had no sinful imperfection, there could be no need of this close search, to determine the genuineness of their religion. If their hearts were wholly cleansed from sin,—it their love to God and men were perfect, so that nothing remained in their hearts of a nature contrary to love, there would be no more need of self-examination, to determine their state to be good, than tiiere is need of it among the saints in glory. It is wholly through remaining corruption in the hsarts of God's people, and through the imperfection of their obedience, that they can have a single doubt of their inteiest in the covenant.
Let us now look at the principal arguments, by which our opponents seek to support their doctiine of a Otjless perfection in this life.*
I. One of their most potent arguments is drawn from the characteristic names, by which the scriptures distinguish saints from sinners. They are frequently called fierfett. Noah is called a pe:ftct mui ; Jcb is called a perfect man, and others of God's children are said to be perfect. 'Now,' say our opponents, ' here is divine testimony, that saints may arrive to a state of perfection in this life : and surely if they had much
• I still consider them as holding to a sinless perfection m this life ; for if we bring a text to show that saint* are not sinless, they immediately give it a different explanation, so as to make it mean only that lUey once were pinners, or that they may again become sinful. What can be more decided proof, that they do believe in sinless perfection in this life !" The moment you acknowledge that a christian maj live a day vitk•ut sinning, you give up the point." Letters p. 199.