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our own, by which we can come of ourselves to this grace, but are fallen creatures in our natural state, without power to make reconciliation with God. And therefore our free. dom from the sins that are past, is proposed and offered to us by the imputative righteous: ness of Christ supplying for us what on our part was lacking, on condition of our obedience to the manifestation of his spirit; but in no case applied for our benefit, while we continue to refuse to walk in his light. I have spoken of sanctification as going before justification. We believe when any one is awakened by the power and spirit of Christ and brought to see his fallen and sinful state, that there is, if I may so speak, a provisional justification for him; by which he is introduced so far into the favour of the Almighty as to receive the opportunity of forgiveness of sins that are past, and stand acquitted from them by the atonement of Christ, on condition that he accept the offered dispensation of repentance; from which will follow, in the progress
of the soul in obedience to Christ, sanctification, and a consequent justification. In this view the apostle places the case. “And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the
name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God.” 1 Cor. vi. 11. « For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, and that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour." Thes. iv. 3, 4.
THE DOCTRINE OF PERFECTION.
The doctrine of perfection appears to me to follow next in course after sanctification and justification. Friends believe that a state of
AS perfection in this life i enjoined in as positive a manner as any other obligation whatever. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Mat. v. 48. If this plain and positive command of Christ be rightly understood, we shall find that it must be taken in connexion with other considerations which he has communicated. We are told, “ I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing." We may therefore consider the doctrine of perfection under this figure : as though our Lord had said that as the branch of the vine is perfect, according to its kind, in tonsequence of the order of nature, by being in connexion with the vine, so also shall ye be if ye abide in me. But unless
But unless ye abide in me, there is in your case a deficiency, and that order which only is perfect is broken, in which state ye cannot be perfect. But the perfection which I have called you to, is entirely possible on my principle : and this you must" believe, if you can believe that your Father which is in heaven is perfect; you have a proof of his perfection in all his works ; and I have told you plainly that as the branch and vine are perfect in consequence of their connexion, so when ye are sustained and live in the same spirit, you will be as perfect in your order, as I am in mine. But as the branch would be imperfect, and fail to bring forth fruit if it abode not in the vine, so also you will fail, if you abide not in me. We have sufficient evidence in favour of the doctrine of perfection, not only from the command of Christ to his disciples, which ought to he conclusive, but also from the doctrine which was common and held forth in the primitive church. Paul has said, “ Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect.” 1 Cor.
ii. 6. If the apostle did not believe that there were those in his day, who had come to this state, we cannot suppose the above sentence would have been offered. But this is far from being the only ease in which the idea of perfection is spoken of. “Be perfect, be of good comfort,” &c. 2 Cor. xii. 11. is mentioned by the same apostle elsewhere. And again, “ Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Eph. iv. 13. “Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded." Phil. iii. 15.“ Warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Col. i. 28. And on this subject the apostle James has said, “ Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing," James i. 4. The foregoing evidently proves that the doctrine of perfection was not only enjoined by Christ upon all his followers, but also believed in and taught by his faithful servants in the primitive church. But whatever may be the objections raised against it at this day, or against the society of Friends for holding it up as indispensible, we cannot believe that
Christianity is maintained according to the fulness of its own obligations by those who reject it. Why any should stumble at this profession, it is difficult to conceive; because, a doubt of the possibility of perfection, must imply unbelief in the all-sufficiency of the means, which God in his mercy has offered, for the restoration and salvation of man; since it must be evident that we are not to be permitted an inheritance in the kingdom of God, unless we are first made pure; doubtless that which is pure is perfect, and the perfection which is required is altogether included in the fulfilment of those commands which are given, and which, as has been before advanced, must be possible. If we take a view of this doctrine, in relation to the will of the Almighty, it must appear that he wills our perfect redemption, and consequent separation from all transgression. This is manifested by every mark of his love to his creature man; but in no instance more so than in that of sending his beloved Son; or as the evangelist John informs us, “God so loved the world that he
, gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John iii. 16. And to the same effect has Paul spoken. “ He that spared not