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man, which is created after God,"—that is, after the image of God,“ in righteousness and true holiness," he leaves us no room to doubt, but God will thus “ renew us in the spirit of our mind,” and “ create us anew in the image of God, wherein we were at first created: Otherwise it could not be said, that this is 66 the truth as it is in Jesus.”
5. The command of God, given by St. Peter, “Be ye holy, as he that hath called you is holy, in all manner of conversation,” implies a promise that we shall be thus holy, if we are not wanting to ourselves. Nothing can be wanting on God's part: As he has called us to holiness, he is undoubtedly willing, as well as able, to work this holiness in us. For he cannot mock his helpless creatures, calling us to receive what he never intends to give. That he does call us thereto is undeniable ; therefore he will give it if we are not disobedient to the heavenly calling
6. The prayer of St. Paul for the Thessalonians, that God would " sanctify them throughout, and “ that the whole of them, the spirit, the soul, and the body, might be preserved blameless," will undoubtedly be heard in behalf of all the children of God, as well as of those at Thessalonica. Hereby, therefore, all Christians are encouraged to expect the same blessing from “ the God of peace ;" namely, that they also shall be “ sanctified throughout, in spirit, soul, and body ;' and that “the whole of them shall be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
7. But the great question is, whether there is any promise in Scripture, that we shall be saved from sin. Undoubtedly there is. Such is that promise, (Psalm cxxx. 8,)“ He shall redeem Israel from all his sins;" exactly answerable to those words of the angel, “He shall save his people from their sins.” And surely“ he is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God through him." Such is that glorious promise given through the Prophet Ezekiel : (xxxvi. 25—27:) “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my
shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Such (to mention no more)
is that pronounced by Zechariah, (Luke i. 73–75,) “ The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies,” (and such, doubtless, áre all our sins,) “ to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” The last part of this promise is peculiarly worthy of our observation. Lest any should say, “ True, we shall be saved from our sins when we die,” that clause is remarkably added, as if on purpose to obviate this pretence, all the days of our life. With what modesty then can any one affirm, that none shall enjoy this liberty till death?
8. “ But,” say some, “this cannot be the meaning of the words ; for the thing is impossible.” It is impossible to men: But the things impossible with men, are possible with God. “Nay, but this is impossible in its own nature: For it implies a contradiction, that a man should be saved from all sin while he is in a sinful body."
There is a great deal of force in this objection. And perhaps we allow most of what you contend for. We have already allowed, that while we are in the body.we cannot be wholly free from mistake. Notwithstanding all our care, we shall still be liable to judge wrong in many instances. And a mistake in judgment will very frequently occasion a mistake in practice. Nay, a wrong judgment may occasion something in the temper or passions which is not strictly right. It may occasion needless fear or ill-grounded hope, unreasonable love or unreasonable aversion. But all this is no way inconsistent with the perfection above described.
“ Yes, it is inconsistent with the last article: It cannot consist with salvation from sin.” I answer, It will
perfectly well consist with salvation from sin, according to that definition of sin, (which I apprehend to be the scriptural definition of it,) a voluntary transgression of a known law. “Nay, but all transgressions of the law of God, whether voluntary or involuntary, are sin: For St. John says, 'All sin is a transgression of the law."" True, but he does not say, All transgression of the law is sin. This I deny: Let him prove it that can.
To say the truth, this is a mere strife of words. You say none is saved from sin in your sense of the word; but I do not admit of that-sense, because the word is never so taken in Scripture. And you cannot deny the possibility of being saved
9. You say,
from sin, in my sense of the word. And this is the sense wherein the word sin is over and over taken in Scripture.
“ But surely we cannot be saved from sin, while we dwell in a sinful body." A sinful body? I pray observe, how deeply ambiguous, how equivocal, this expression is! But there is no authority for it in Scripture: The word sinful body is never found there. And as it is totally unscriptural, so it is palpably absurd. For no body, or matter of any kind, can be sinful: Spirits alone are capable of sin. Pray in what part of the body should sin lodge? It cannot lodge in the skin, nor in the muscles, or nerves, or veins, or arteries; it cannot be in the bones, any more than in the hair or nails. Only the soul can be the seat of sin.
10. “But does not St. Paul himself say, "They that are in the flesh cannot please God ?"" I am afraid the sound of these words has deceived many unwary souls ; who have been told, Those words, they that are in the flesh, mean the same as they that are in the body. No; nothing less. The flesh, in this text, no more means the body than it does the soul. Abel, Enoch, Abraham, yea, all that cloud of witnesses recited by St. Paul in the eleventh of the Hebrews, did actually please God while they were in the body, as he himself testifies. The expression, therefore, here means neither more nor less than they that are unbelievers, they that are in their natural state, they that are without God in the world.
11. But let us attend to the reason of the thing. Why cannot the Almighty sanctify the soul while it is in the body ? Cannot he sanctify you while you are in this house, as well as in the
open air? Can the walls of brick or stone hinder him ? No more can these walls of flesh and blood hinder him á moment from sanctifying you throughout. He can just as easily save you from all sin in the body as ouť of the body.
“But has he promised thus to save us from sin while we are in the body?” Undoubtedly he has: For a promise is implied in every commandment of God: Consequently in that, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” For this and every other commandment is given, not to the dead, but to the living. It is expressed in the words above recited, that we should walk “ in holiness before him all the days of our life.”
I have dwelt the longer on this, because it is the grand
argument of those that oppose salvation from sin ; and also, because it has not been so frequently and so fully answered : Whereas the arguments taken from Scripture have been answered a hundred times over.
12. But a still more plausible objection remains, taken from experience; which is, that there are no living witnesses of this salvation from sin. In answer to this, I allow,
(1.) That there are not many. Even in this sense, there are not many fathers. Such is our hardness of heart, such our slowness to believe what both the Prophets and Apostles have spoke, that there are few, exceeding few, true witnesses of the great salvation.
(2.) I allow that there are false witnesses, who either deceive their own souls, and speak of the things they know not, or “speak lies in hypocrisy.” And I have frequently wondered, that we have not more of both sorts. It is nothing strange, that men of warm imaginations should deceive themselves in this matter. Many do the same with regard to justification : They imagine they are justified, and are not. But though many imagine it falsely, yet there are some that are truly justified. And thus though many imagine they are sanctified, and are not, yet there are some that are really sanctified.
(3.) I allow that some who once enjoyed full salvation have now totally lost it. They once walked in glorious liberty, giving God their whole heart, “rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in every thing giving thanks.” But it is past. They now are shorn of their strength, and become like other men. Yet perhaps they do not give up their confidence; they still have a sense of his pardoning love. But even this is frequently assaulted by doubts and fears, so that they hold it with a trembling hand.
Nay, this,” say some pious and sensible men, “is the very thing which we contend for. We grant, it may please God to make some of his children for a time unspeakably holy and happy. We will not deny, that they may enjoy all the holiness and happiness which you speak of. But it is only for a time: God never designed that it should continue to their lives' end. Consequently, sin is only suspended : It is not destroyed.” This you affirm.
affirm. But it is a thing of so deep importance, that it cannot be allowed without clear and cogent proof. And
where is the proof? We know that, in general, “ the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” He does not repent of any gifts which he hath bestowed upon the children of men. And how does the contrary appear, with regard to this particular gift of God? Why should we imagine, that he will make an exception with respect to the most precious of all his gifts on this side heaven? Is he not as able to give it us always, as to give it once? as able to give it for fifty years, as for one day? And how can it be proved, that he is not willing to continue this his lovingkindness ? How is this supposition, that he is not willing, consistent with the positive assertion of the Apostle ? who, after exhorting the Christians at Thessalonica, and in them all Christians in all ages, to “ rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks,” immediately adds, (as if on purpose to answer those who denied, not the power, but the will of God to work in them,) “For this is the will of God concerning you in Christ Jesus.” Nay, and it is remarkable, that, after he had delivered that glorious promise, (such it properly is,) in the twenty-third verse, very God of peace shall sanctify you wholly : And the whole of you,” (so it is in the original,) “ the spirit, the soul and the body, shall be preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ ;" he adds again, “Faithful is he that hath called you, who also will do it.” He will, not only sanctify you wholly, but will preserve you in that state until he comes to receive you unto himself.
14. Agreeably to this is the plain matter of fact. Several persons have enjoyed this blessing, without any interruption, for many years. Several enjoy it at this day. And not a few have enjoyed it unto their death, as they have declared with their latest breath; calmly witnessing that God had saved them from all sin till their spirit returned to God.
15. As to the whole of the objections taken from experience, I desire it may be observed farther, either the persons objected to have attained Christian perfection, or they have not. If they have not, whatever objections are brought against them strike wide of the mark. For they are not the persons we are talking of: Therefore, whatever they are or do is beside the question. But if they have attained it, if they answer the description given under the nine preceding articles, no reasonable objection can lie against them. They are superior to all