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being required to be perfectly holy and devoted to God, in this life. I may add,

5. That all those passages of scripture, which enjoin it upon christians to put away, mortify, and subdue all sin, require them to be perfectly pious and holy. The gospel abounds with injunctions and admonitions to this purpose." The grace of God," says the apostle," that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”

And Peter says, " Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and evil speakings, as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” Paul says, “ Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” Again he says, “ Let not sin reign in your mortal body that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." And again he exhorts the Ephesians, to “ put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and to put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Thus it appears from the light of nature, from the law of God, and from the gospel of Christ

, that christians ought to be perfectly holy, and totally free from sin; which is sinless perfection, in this life.

But lest several objections should weaken the conviction of this truth in the minds of some, I will say

few words to remove them. 1. It may be thought that if christians are required to be perfectly holy in this life, then there is no difference between the law and the gospel. The law requires sinless perfection, and for that reason, men could not be saved by it; and if the gospel requires sinless perfection, then it is as difficult to be saved by the gospel, as by the law. Answer. - The law does require sinless perfection, and condemns the transgressor, for the least offence, to eternal destruction; and therefore none can be saved by the law. And it is equally true, that the gospel requires sinless perfection, but not as a condition of eternal life. For it makes provision through the atonement of Christ, for the transgressions of believers, and promises forgiveness to their faith and repentance. The law knows no forgiveness, but the gospel does. And, therefore, notwithstanding the law of love binds christians to constant and perfect obedience, and notwithstanding christians violate this law, yet through the gospel, they may be forgiven and saved. So that perfection of holiness is a duty under the gospel, though not a condition of pardon and acceptance with God.

2. It may be said, it is not the will of God that any should be perfectly holy, in this life. There is no man that liveth, and


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sinneth not. If any man say he hath no sin, he deceiveth himself, and the truth is not in him. How then can it be the duty of christians to be perfect, when God has determined, that they shall not be so? Answer. - Our duty does not depend upon the divine decrees. It arises from the nature of things, and the preceptive will of God. It was decreed that angels should fall; but it was their duty to persevere in sinless perfection. It was decreed that Adam should fall; but it was his duty to continue perfectly holy and innocent. It was decreed that every christian shall be just as imperfect as he is; but it is his duty to be free from all moral imperfection. If it be the duty of christians to grow in grace, and be any more holy than they are at present, then it is equally their duty to sin no more, and to be perfectly holy. So that God's determination, that christians shall not reach absolute perfection in this life, is no obstruction, nor objection, to the duty of becoming perfectly holy.

3. It may be said, that it is the opinion of some good men, that christians are not bound to be perfectly holy, in this life. The Assembly of divines say, “ No mere man since the fall is able in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them, in thought, word, and deed.”

AnIf this means that christians are morally unable, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, it is true ; but is no objection against their being naturally able, and bound to pay perfect obedience to the divine commands. It is probable those divines meant to guard against the notion of some in their day, as well as in this, who professed to be perfectly holy. But if they did not mean a moral inability, in distinction from a natural inability to be perfectly holy, their opinion was unscriptural and unsound, and ought to be rejected.



1. If christians ought to be perfectly holy in this life, then they are much more sinful than they appear to be in the eyes of the world. The world see that they fall below that perfection of holiness which the gospel requires, and even below that perfection which their profession requires. Their external conduct shows the imperfection of their hearts. But their external conduct is better than their internal exercises, which they often conceal, and never fully exhibit. They often externally obey the divine commands, while they are far from feeling that pure love to God and man, which they ought to feel. So that the external imperfection, which the world see and condemn, is a small part of that imperfection, which they see and lament in

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their own hearts; and a much smaller part of that imperfection, which God sees and condemns. The apostle John says, “ If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." Christians have a spiritual discerning of spiritual things, and can easily discern the difference between selfishness and benevolence, or between right and wrong affections in their own hearts. And when they discover wrong affections, they feel them to be a criminal imperfection, whether they express them externally or not; and whether their external conduct, which flows from their sinful affections, meets the approbation or disapprobation of the world. They often condemn themselves for that, which the world approve and admire. They make the law of God the standard of their internal motives as well as of their external actions. And so far as their hearts fall short of this infallible standard, they judge and condemn themselves, as sinfully imperfect.

2. If it be the duty of christians to be perfectly holy, then they are never satisfied with their present attainments in holiness. They appear to them low, in comparison with the standard of perfection, and even in comparison with the apparent attainment of others. They are apt to think others better than themselves, and that they are less than the least of all real saints, though not of all professors. They may know that they externally conduct better than some who name the name of Christ. But they do not know, and are not apt to think, that they are better than exemplary professors. They can hardly think that sincere christians fall so far below the standard of perfection as they are conscious they do. They are greatly dissatisfied with their present imperfect views and exercises, and desire to approach nearer and nearer to that perfection which God requires. How often does David lament his imperfection, and pray for quickening grace, in the one hundred and

, nineteenth psalm ?

My soul cleaveth unto the dust; quicken thou me according to thy word.” And soon after he says, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Paul acknowledges his imperfection, and resolves to press forward after higher and higher attainments in grace. “ Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before; I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." All who have the love of God in them, not only desire to keep themselves in the love of God, but desire larger

He says,


measures of that love, or to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. They ardently desire to go from one degree of grace to another, until they arrive at the full stature of perfect men.

3. If it is the duty of christians to be perfectly holy, then the best christians are the most sensibly burdened with sin. Not because they have the most sin, but because they hate sin the most, and feel it to be their greatest burden. The more holy christians are, they more they attend to the exercises of their hearts, and the more clearly they distinguish sin from holiness, and the more they loathe and abhor themselves for the least sin, in thought, word and deed. Accordingly, we find the best of men most bitterly complaining of the burden of sin. Job, in clear view of God and himself, cries out, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” David complains most bitterly of the burden of sin. He cries, “ Mine iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink, and are corrupt, because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.” When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and heard the seraphim crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory," he exclaimed, “ Wo is me! for I am undone ; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” A clear view of the divine holiness filled the prophet with a deep sense of his own unholiness and vileness, which sunk him in self reproach and self abasement. The apostle Paul, who arrived as near to perfection as

. any man ever did in this life, appears to have been the most sensibly burdened with sin, in the view of the purity and strictness of the divine law, which he fell short of perfectly obeying. He expresses his feelings upon this subject with the utrnost freedom. “ And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual ; but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not, but what I hate, that I do." “ ) wretched mak that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The best of saints are the most disposed to compare their hearts with the strictness and spirituality of

the divine law, which discovers their great imperfection, and fills them with the deepest sense of the burden of sin.

4. If christians ought to be perfectly holy, then they grow in humiliation, more than in any other christian grace. All their other attainments in holiness, unitedly tend to produce humiliation and self abasement. The clearer views they have of God, of Christ, of the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, and of the holiness and blessedness of heaven, the clearer views they have of their great imperfection in divine knowledge, in love to God and man, and in the discharge of every duty. Though they may have joyful and grateful views of God and divine things, yet these very views lead to humiliation and self abasement, as they serve to show them how much they rob God of his glory, and themselves of peace and happiness. For nothing but their sinful imperfections cause God to withdraw his gracious influences, and the manifestations of his love. They know by happy experience, that so long as they dwell in love, they dwell in God, and God in them; and that whenever they draw near to God, God draws near to them. Though they do really grow in grace, and make some advances towards perfection, yet they find no occasion of boasting of their spiritual attainments; but much occasion of humiliation and self condemnation, that they grow so slowly, and approach no nearer to what God requires them to be, and they desire to be. There is no christian grace they find more occasion to exercise, and none which they more habitually exercise, than humiliation and self abasement.

5. If christians ought to be perfectly holy, then they are the most inconsistent persons in the world. They sometimes feel their obligation to be perfect, and sometimes they are totally insensible of it. They sometimes do their duty, and sometimes neglect it. They sometimes see God and are pleased, and they sometimes see him and are displeased. They sometimes rejoice that the Lord reigns, and they sometimes distrust his care and faithfulness, and murmur and complain. They sometimes go forward in their religious course, and they sometimes go backward. This inconsistency they are more or less guilty of every day, which they cannot justify, but feel constrained to condemn; and this lays a foundation for a spiritual conflict or warfare in their minds; such as Paul experienced, when he said, " That which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not, but what I hate, that do I.” They never feel safe from unholy exercises, which puts them in a state of constant watching and guarding against wrong affections creeping into their hearts, and obliges them to keep their hearts with all diligence.

6. If christians ought to be perfectly holy, and yet are so inconsistent as not to be perfectly holy; then this inconsistency is no counter evidence of their being in a state of grace.


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