« AnteriorContinuar »
ON THE DENIAL OP INTERNAL AND PROGRESSIVE SANCTIFICATION.
calculated to keep the children of God in bondage, and from that liberty which they can only derive from looking to Christ.” But this objection is exclusive and partial. It only acknowledges the work of Christ, while it excludes the work of the Spirit. “But,” says the objector, “ the work of the Spirit we deny not, nor yet the indwelling of the Spirit.” But what is this admission, if the work of the Spirit is made only to consist in light and knowledge, and not in purity and conformity to the will of God? It is just such an admission as every hypocrite and self-deceived professor would be glad to make ; but Christ says solemnly to His own disciples, * Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of God.”
II. It is the will of God, that our sanctification should be external as well as internal.
1. That our bodies should be sanctified-1 Thess. v. 23; Rom. i. 2; 1 Cor. vi. 13–20.
2. That all the members of our body should be sanctified-Rom. vi, 13. 3. That our conversation should be holy-1 Pet. i. 15.
4. That our general deportment snould be circumspect, and even blamelessEph. v. 15; Phil. ii. 15. That all this is possible, let us remember that Caleb followed the Lord fully, and Zecharias and Elizabeth his wife " walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” But, observe, all this external sanctity may appear in the outward conduct, while the heart is not right with God, as was the case with Judas, Ananias, Sapphira, and the Scribes and Pharisees; therefore our Saviour gives us the awful warning—Matt. v. 20.
III. It is the will of God, that our sanctification should be progressive ; that we should increase
1. In light and knowledge-2 Pet. iii. 18; Prov. iv; Eph. iii. 18, 19; Eph. i. 17, 18.
2. In faith--Luke xvii. 5; 2 Thess. i. 3.
5. In purity--2 Cor. vi. 14-18; 2 Cor. vii. 1; 1 John iii. 3; Matt. v. 48; Phil. iii. 12. Faith purifies the heart—(See Acts xv. 9). If faith increases, must there not be an increase of purity ?
6. In all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit--2 Pet. i. 5-11.
But how can this progress be reconciled with the numberless backslidings and declensions of the people of God? It is true, the sun once stood still, and even went back several degrees; but what is the general course of the sun ? Not to go back, but to make progress. So“the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day”-Prov. iv.
IV. It is the will of God that our sanctification should be completed. It is now only begun, and in many very imperfect, but it shall be completed--Phil. i. 6.
“ Grace will complete what grace begins,
To save from sorrows and from sins ;
Eternal mercy ne'er forsakes. 1. But, observe, this work cannot be completed without union to Christ-John XV. 4, 5.
2. Without the use of the means-Hosea x. 12. 3. Without the instrumentality of the Word-John xv. iii; Eph. v. 25---27. 4. Without fatherly chastisement-Heb. xii. 10.
5. Without the powerful operations of God's grace-Rom. v. 20, 21; 2 Cor. ix. 8. And blessed be His name, He is able to present us faultless before the throne of His glory with exceeding joy. Bath, Aug. 14, 1841.
MR. Epitor,—Having so extensively explained the doctrine which forms the basis of our present subject, we shall come at length to show the why, the how, and the wherefore, the practice of it should be urged upon sinners. And we hope, in pursuing this plan, we shall be able to make manifest the gross absurdity of Gospel ministers refraining, and of any arrogant opinionist asking them to refrain, from the performance of their positive duty of entreating sinners to repent, and of beseeching them “to turn unto the Lord, that He might have mercy upon them, and to our God, that He might abundantly pardon.” And it will not be irrelevant to our present design, to state here very briefly, our reason why we should have entered so largely into this subject, and why we should still feel anxious to pursue our disquisition of it until we search it out to its very core.
The writer, when supplying the pulpit at the place to which an allusion was made in our first epistle, was solicited by a heloved Christian friend to give a discourse on the vital and salutary doctrine which employed our pen in our last three sections. And the reason he assigned for making such a request was, that he had been sitting under the ministry there for upwards of nine months, but had scarcely heard from the pulpit even the word “repentance" uttered, much less the doctrine elucidated and enforced during that period. Really when one hears such a circumstance as this related, it is a hard matter to refrain from exclaiming with considerable emotion of mind-What a contempt offered to the command and authority of the holy Saviour! And what a prostitution of the sacred desk ! a place specifically appointed, and by primitive and universal usage consecrated to proclaim this cardinal doctrine, with its cheering concomitant, called by the Head of the Church, “remission of sins,"-alienated to other purposes, yea, purposes subversive of the original design, even to encourage all the kindred of the wicked and slothful servant in the parable, to persist in “ hiding their talent in the earth” until their Lord will come, who will awfully undeceive them, and condemn them to be bound “hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Yes, we may easily discover that the ministry of the exclusives has a contrary tendency to the original design of such an office even a tendency to cherish the frolicsomeness of the spiritual goats that obtrude themselves into the flock of the great Shepherd of immortal souls, or to paniper the spiritual appetite of those hearers that are given to incontinency, with savoury and high seasoned meat, which even in our corporeal constitution produces indigestion and irregularities. And we know not why it should not also be the case in feeding the mind, especially to give it strong meat when it should be fed with milk, and while it needs nutritious aliment to give it nothing but sweetmeats which invariably gender surfeits, and delicacies which bring on nauseous qualms, that more or less destroy our comforts and undermine our present enjoyment of religion. Yes, such things are very prejudicial to that happy state of mind, which afforded so much joy to John the Divine, with reference to his beloved Gaius, when he said, “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth; for I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.”—3 John 2, 3.
Moreover, with reference to this perversion of pulpit observances, we have often thought in our musings, but it may be from false charity,—we have thought that such a ministry serves the purpose well of pillowing up the sick in Israel, that are troubled with plague spots, until haply they may be restored, which from present circumstances appears to be rather a hopeless case, but certainly we must admit that “ nothing is impossible with God.” Well,' one is ready to say, 'here the sick are to be attended to Yes, most assuredly they are; that point is fully granted; but the question is, May there no danger arise by keeping them lingering? Is there not, think you, any risk incurred by such a procedure? Why wish to lead them at all to Pharpar and Abana, the waters of Damascus, while their leprosy may instantly depart were they brought to the river prescribed by
AN ANTIDOTE FOR AN ANTINOMIAN ERROR.
the prophet of the Lord ? Let them fully enjoy the means appointed of Heaven, and who can say but that their sicknessess will vanish away as by the word of Jesus? Oh! do your utmost therefore to lead souls to the health-giving pools of Siloam and Bethesda. Bring them to the despised waters of the sanctuary, and let them be washed even seven times in those healing and purifying streams, that have issued forth from under the threshhold of the holy temple: having been received into the reservoir of Divine truth, and having been flowing thence for ages immemorial in the channel of the living Church, widening their course and deepening their bed as they have been proceeding along, till at length they have reached the great sea, (meaning doubtless the Gentile world,) diffusing their salutary influence there ; for it is said in the vision alluded to—“ These waters issue out towards the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed”—(Ezekiel xlvii. 8).
Now our present subject is more especially to endeavour to ascertain whether it is the duty of Gospel ministers to urge repentance on the unconverted or not; and whether it is their duty to turn a deaf ear to the Antinomian requisition already mentioned, considering the mouths of them that give it utterance, to be those belonging to the progeny of that serpent that originally beguiled man into the intricate paths of error and of sin. And ere we proceed further, we shall propose here a few questions to those, whose opinions are opposite to ours, and let conscience receive the answers as in the sight of God; and they are as follows :- Is it not the solemn and positive duty of those who are called and employed by the great Master of assemblies, to deliver the whole counsel of God to their audience, as they are commanded ? Is not the ambassador of heaven to be true and faithful to his charge and to his Sovereign ? Should not the disciple in the school of Christ tread in the footsteps of his Divine Master? Should not the evangelist feel deeply concerned not to incur upon himself the blood of souls ? Ought he not to aim to the utmost of his power to deliver himself, and those that hear him, from impending and eternal ruin ? And ought not those that stand on the walls of Zion, and patrol her streets and her lanes-ought they not to be ready, we ask, when any inquire, “ Watchman, what of the night ? watchman, what of the night?”—to give the response, “ The watchman saith, The morning cometh, and also the night; if ye will inquire, inquire ye; return, come.” Who can negative these interroga.. tions ? Who can revoke or abrogate these Divine laws, since they are the positive injunctions of the Lord of Hosts? And who can withstand or resist their sovereign power, since they have the impress of heaven upon them, and since they evidently bear the privy-seal of the King of kings, and the Lord of lords ? None will dare the attempt, we presume; and if they do, they cannot do it without incurring guilt of the deepest die. Then let the children of error blush and be ashamed, and let them without delay yield themselves to the healthful influence of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but truth, contained in the Divine Volume.
It is truly painful and somewhat revolting, to hear objectiuns raised against scriptural and enlightened views of truth; the spirit of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ cavilled at and objected to, and the expansive benevolence of God circuniscribed to a narrow compass. In such a case, shall we reiterate the voice of Wisdom and say, “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity ? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge ?' (Prov. i. 22.) But this question arises here, Of what description of character are the objectors, and what is their standing in the scale of intellectual attainments? We would readily answer, that as far as we are acquainted with them, they are, with very few exceptions, persons of limited acquaintance with biblical erudition, and persons who possess many airy notions on the grand affair of true religion. Yes, persons that have formed views on this most momentous subject, which are for the most part vague and indefinite; the result apparently of some superficial thoughts, that have been stirred up within them by a kind of an incidental agency, and made to crawl out from the dormitory of the mind, to stand in groups as it were in the vicinity of the tongue, to present themselves on any and on every occasion. For we have observed, that such individuals are universally very talkative; yea, as loquacious as the most skilful parrot that ever learned to mimic the human voice. But religion in
theory and not in practice,-religion on the tongue and not in the heart, is an abused one, and misplaced altogether.
Let us follow for a moment the Antinomian in his walks of life. Let us go with him to his family, and observe minutely his domestic movements. For instance, in the evening, after the toils and mercies of the day, is there an altar raised in his house to the God of all mercies ? Is there any evening incense ascending in columns to invoke the smiles of a propitious Heaven? And is the altar made to bend under the ponderous sacrifice and blaze with the fire of gratitude, until the God of all praise extends His approbation to every inmate, and confers upon them all a similar blessing to that, which He did upon the house of Obed-edom? But alas! no; all retire prayerless, and, like the brute, lie down without returning their acknowledgments for blessings received : without prostrating their souls at the footstool of Divine mercy, imploring forgiveness for the offences of the day, and without committing body and soul to the kind care and keeping of Him, who is the preserver of all living. Thus regarding themselves, but on very false grounds, the sons and daughters of the Most High, they glide through the dull hours of the night in the arms of Somrius, and all in the morning refreshed with sweet sleep awake and arise ; and surely first of all they breathe forth their silent sentences in grateful accents to Him, who heareth as well as seeth in secret, and with complacent countenances they step out from the chambers of sleep invigorated and refreshed; and presently we witness the head of the family in solemn gait and masculine godliness, and his partner in life, in the milder appearance of feminine piety, both joining to lead their offspring and their domestics to the shrine dedicated to the God of Israel, there presenting their united homage a tribute justly due to the Creator from the creatures of His bounty; then the devotions of the morning over, every one departs to his lawful avocation with his conscience at rest, and “ the peace of God which passeth all understanding, keeping their hearts and minds through Jesus Christ." But nay, the scene is otherwise ; for the name, you perceive, indicates that they are lawless; and so, like a band of libertines, they go abroad heedlessly and promiscuously until they come again.
These, and such as these, set themselves up sometimes as dictators to the sincere officers of the cross. These, and such as these, occasionally venture to prescribe unscriptural laws to them that have been sitting at the feet of Jesus, imbibing His spirit and learning His precious doctrines. Now is not this revolting? Is not this enough to move the most latent passions of that heart, that is almost wholly Christianised, to breathe out against such conceited individuals Paul's anathemas maranathas; or, rather, to speak in milder language and say, as our holy Saviour did on another occasion, “Get thee behind me, Satan?" But we may imagine that some one is inclined to ask here a question to this effect: Do you mean that your satire should apply to those ministers, who adhere to the principles you repudiate, who appear to be amiable in their demeanour and pious in their walk and conversation ? Our answer is, that there is no rule without an exception; and we mean, that what may be called our satire, should apply to none but those to whom it may belong. Yet we cannot less than express in this place our unbounded surprise, that there are hearts so narrow and minds so contracted, that have obtruded themselves into the high office of the Christian ministry; an office that requires him who fills it to have a soul as spacious as the world, and desires as deep and as broad as the waters of the sanctuary, after they had become thoroughly navigable, reaching from Engedi even unto En.eglaim; then when such noble minds throw their nets into the great deep, they draw them forth laden with fish that shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many(Ezek. xlvii. 10). But we . would say here, How often do we find in a picture one shade that mars the whole piece! How often in a character may we discover one lineament, that distorts, and brings a cloud on all the other amiable qualities belonging to it! And how often is it the case, that even “ dead flies," as Solomon saith, “ will cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth an unpleasant savour, and so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour”-(Eccles. x. 1.)
However, we must dwell a moment or two on this subject, because we are sensible that we are treading upon delicate grounds, and that we are liable to involve in
AN ANTIDOTE FOR AN ANTINOMIAN ERROR.
a dilemma characters that stand high in the estimation of Heaven; which we would scrupulously avoid as far as it lies in our power. Consequently let it be understood, that it is very far from the writer's mind to huddle up the practical Christian, be he of a public or a private character, though he may dive deep into the Scriptures and soar as high in doctrine as the Bible will allow him. And by the bye, we presume indeed that this is the full figure of a Christian ; that is, a Christian ought to include in his creed all the doctrines that can be found in the inspired page, rejecting none, and remembering at the same time that the wise God who gave them intended that each and all should be received, and that each and all should have a holy influence over our hearts and lives. But what we would say is this; we are not disposed to huddle up the practical Christian, though he may even have some forbidding qualities attached to him, with those detestable characters, of whom Paul speaks in the third chapter of his second epistle to Timothy, to whose dark picture, correctly drawn by the pencil of inspiration, he gives this finishing stroke “ Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away." Oh! no; this would be injudicious and wholly unwarrantable.
But pursuant to our foregoing paragraph, we observe, that there are not so many ministers standing in the ranks of Antinomians as the world would place there ; and could we call over the true and authorised roll, we would find them in the list to be but a “few and far between.” And indeed the world is not at all a good judge in this case, being addicted, as it is, to form a judgment too superficially and too hastily on most matters, and especially on this. For instance, when many hear a doctrinal discourse, if it be high, though it may be eminently practical, they set the preacher down immediately, and oftentimes injudiciously, as an Antinomian : but we apprehend that this is a wrong and not a very just mode of procedure. But we may go farther : if some persons hear. a sermon that is thoroughly doctrinal, which, according to their opinion, is not sufficiently practical, then they suppose themselves warranted to place him almost at the head of the sect in question, irrespective of the holy life he leads, and the correspondence that exists between his character and the preceptive part of God's holy Word. However, should our reader wish further illustration of this subject, we would refer him to the introductory section of our present antidote.
But to come to our subject : not to urge sinners to repentance, is, we apprehend, a complete anomaly in the sacred profession. It is indeed running counter to the tenour of the Scriptures ; and it is militating against the original design of preaching the Word of life. Could any show us, that the Almighty ever dealt with rational beings as we do with stones and wooden logs,-throw the one out of the way and cast the other into the fire,— we would at once close our mouths, and remonstrate no longer with our fellow-immortals ; but while clear demonstrations to the contrary abound in the holy Book, we esteem it a heinous sin to refrain ; and while positive commands are on record there, for the prophets of the Lord to “ cry aloud and spare not,' we cannot less than consider the act of refraining in the light of a criminal disobedience to the highest and the holiest authority. Oh! when the greatest of all Sovereigns will summon all His servants before Him, to give an account of their stewardships, will there not be many found then who will be constrained to plead guilty on this score-guilty of disregarding the general strain of Scripture-guilty of obeying some vain scruples in the mind, rather than the positive commands of the Most High-and guilty of having circumscribed the channels wherein the waters of life should flow, instead of allowing them a free course, that God in Christ may be glorified among men ?
Will there not be many, in the judgment day, who are now considered officials in the Gospel, having thrust themselves, or without being called of Heaven, aspired into that highest of all offices,—will there not be many addressed, then, we ask, by the great and terrible Judge in these words, “ What hast thou to do to declare My statutes, or that thou shouldest take My covenant in thy mouth ? seeing thou hatest instruction and castest My words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother : thou slanderest thine own mother's son These things hast