« PreviousContinue »
“ wlien I was mourning over my own corrupti
ons, I felt the sanctifying fire come out of “ heaven into my heart, like a dry leaf in the 6 flame, it burnt up all the sin that was in me, « and I have not finned a fin since.” A believer in the Gospel, would be at no lofs to reply to such presumption ; unmovedi by any or all the great swelling words of vanity, which such' might. utter, he would answer, If we say we have no fin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. To him it will be perfectly obvious, that such a sentiment can only be the offspring of pride, and could only be indulged in a mind that abideth in darkness. He will plainly perceive, it is unsupported by fact, and not merely uncountenanced, but decidedly condemned in the Scriptures. A fentiment, to support which, the law of God muft be abridged or mutilated, and which, admitting it to be possible, would call away our attention from the truth revealed in the Gospel, to some attainment in ourselves. In opposition to it, it were easy to produce many declarations of divine truth; Who can understand his errors ?-Who can say, I have made ту
heart clean, I am pure from my fin ?--For in many things we offend all, and come short of his glory. But the supporters of this fentiment ask with an air of triumph, Is it not afferted, whosoever abideth in him hinneth not? It is but just as explicitly asserted in the same passage, that whosoever. bonneth, hath not seen him, neither known him; and therefore, it militates with as much force, against past experience, as present acceptance. In the fense in which perfectionists use the expression Jon, it is also contrary to the word of God.
If any man fin we have an advocate with the Father. No, says the Arminian, (he must say it
to be consistent) If any man fin, he has neither seen Christ, nor known him, nor abideth in him, he is without Christ, and therefore without God, and without hope in the world. As the Scripture cannot be broken, we have yet. to enquire, what is the fin which is here specified ? It will aid us in this enquiry, to consider what is said respecting it. It is plain, from the words which introduce the essay, that it is a sin which no believer commits, He that abideth in him finneth not. It is as evident from the 9th verse that no believer can commit it. He cannot: fin; the reasons are, because his feed remaineth in him, and because he is born of God. He is therefore under the dominion of a mind, in direct opposition to it, and in poffeffion of a principle quite the reverse; the feed of God, or truth of the Gospel, remaineth in him, effectually leading him, to love God and delight in his character,-in his character as revealed in his word, and in the effects of this character, in those who believe. Again, the fin here fpoken of, is the fin of the devil, v. 8th. Our Saviour informs us what that sin is, He abode not in the truth, i. e.. he opposed the character, hated the government, and rejected the testimony of God concerning Jesus; and the whole of his influence, from the beginning till now, has been employed in oppo- . fition to that truth, under one form or another... In this he is readily fallen in with by the world that lieth in wickedness, who either treat it with indifference, or corrupt its fimplicity, or blafpheme its principles, and they do so, because the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, and the carnal mind is enmity against him. But this is a fin which no believer either does or can commit. He that is born of God loveth him
that begat, and also the truth by which he was begotten, and will therefore, as a new born babe, desire the fincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby. He does not give opposition to that truth which he fees is so suitable to his wants, and conducive to his happiness. He cannot hate that truth, which he is convinced, alone. provides for his safety, and gives birth to all his expectations. Such then seems, evidently seems, to be the import of the passage we are now confidering; whosoever abideth in Christ, hateth not the truth by which he was brought into him; whoever has been blessed with a sweet, a supernatural discovery of Jesus, which is life everlasting, cannot have malice against that truth, by which so precious, so glorious, a blessing was conveyed to his soul.-Once more, the love of the truth produces defire for, and love to, the effects of it. It makes those who have it to be, not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and New bis brother, because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous ;. but it makes them to be like Barnabas, who when he had seen the grace of God was glad, and exhorted them with purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord. As a believer loves Christ himself, he must love every degree of his image, wherever it appears-must rejoice over every additional trophy of divine grace-and be delighted the nearer that any follow the example which Christ hath left them, that they should walk in his steps ; and thus we know we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. We see then that the fin here spoken of is, hatred of the truth-oppofition to the character of God as drawn in that truth-and enmity against the effects of this truth in the minds and lives of others ;—that this fin is not agreeable to
the nature, and cannot be committed by him who believes; for the seed of God remaineth in him, and he cannot fin because he is born of God.
This view of the passage, makes it quite consistent, with itself,—with other passages of the Scripture,-with the general tendency of the Gospel, and the experience of believers. On all these I could easily enlarge, but a few reflections may suffice. It makes it quite consistent with itfelf. The Apostle speaks of it as a peculiar characteristic of the Son of God, in him is no fin. But this could not be peculiar to Chrift, if many perfectionists, even in this world, were in the same situation. Further, the time of our perfect conformity to Christ is fixed to be when he shall appear, v. 2d; but this could not be the cale, if long before his appearance, many were perfe&tly pure in their own persons, and com pletely purified in their walk and conversation. This view also makes it consistent with such. passages as point out the existence of different principles in those who believe, the flesh lufteth against the Spirit,--and these are contrary the one to the other; for in my flesh dwelleth no good thing. The dominion of fin ceases, when the finner is. brought under subjection to the Gospel; the existence and motions of sin, and the conflict consequent thereon, fhall only terminate when mortality is swallowed up of life, according to that delightful portion, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lard-they rest from their labours.
Again, this view of the passage harmonizes with the general tendency of the Gospel, whichi is to bring us to trust in the Son of God, to give us to see, that we are only complete in him who is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth--that we need him daily in his vari
ous characters--and that it is necessary for us to be coming daily to his throne, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need. And surely this view of the passage accords with the experience of believers, who find their perfons polluted, and their best services defiled with sin-who find there is a law within them striving against their new mind, and which they are compelled to resist, in the strength of the Lord !
Nor need it be objected, that this illustration of the passage seems to encourage any idleness. It is directly the reverse. It will powerfully stimulate those who believe it to gratitude, and love, and devotedness to che glory of God; for this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous. While our love to these commandments leads us to fee and acknowledge how very far we come short of their spirit; it strongly prompts us to seek, to have our lives conformable to them, as dead indeed unto Jon, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. In short, we do not hefitate to affert, that the saving operation of the truth produces, and the view we have given of this paffage renders indispensible, to give validity to a Christian profeffion, a character, which (motives and conduct considered) is as far superior to an Arminian perfectionist, as he is above an open profligate. This will appear by a short contrast. Instead of falling in love with, and taking comfort from our own attainments; we are kept constantly humble, under a sense how very far we come short of what we ought to be. Instead of mangling the law of God, or murmuring at its strictness; we let it stand in its purity, and trust and rejoice in that righteousnefs which magnifies and makes it honourable.