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IV. 1. However let us give a fair hearing to the chief arguments of those who endeavour to support it. And it is, first, from Scripture they attempt to prove, that there is no sin in a believer. (They argue thus.) "The Scripture says, Every believer is born of God, is clean, is holy, is sanctified is pure in heart, has a new heart, is a temple of the Holy Ghost. Now, as that which is born of the flesh is flesh, is altogether evil, so that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit, is altogether good. Again; a man cannot be clean, sanctified, holy, and at the same time unclean, unsanctified, unholy. He cannot be pure and impure, or have a new and an old heart together. Neither can his soul be unholy, while it is a temple of the Holy Ghost.
I have put this objection as strong as possible, that its full weight may appear. Let us now examine it, part by part. And, 1, "That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit, is altogether good." I allow the text, but not the comment. For the text affirms this, and no more, That every man who is born of the Spirit, is a spiritual man. He is 80. But so he may be, and yet not be altogether spiritual. The Christians at Corinth were spiritual men. Else they had been no Christians at all. And yet they were not altogether spiritual. They were still (in part) carnal. "But they were fallen from grace." St. Paul says no. They were even babes in Christ. 2, "But a man cannot be clean, sanctified, holy, and at the same time unclean, unsanctified, unholy." Indeed he may. So the Corinthians were. Ye are washed, says the apostle, ye are sanctified namely, cleansed from fornication, idolatry, drunkenness, and all other outward sin, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10, 11. And yet at the same time, in another sense of the word, they were unsanctified: they were not washed, not inwardly cleansed from envy, evil-surmising, partiality. "But sure they had not a new heart and an old heart together." It is most sure, they had. For at that very time, their hearts were truly, yet not entirely renewed. Their carnal mind was nailed to the cross. Yet it was not wholly destroyed. "But could they be unholy, while they were temples of the Holy Ghost?" Yes, that they were temples of the Holy Ghost, is certain, 1 Cor. vi. 19. And it is equally certain, they were, in some degree, carnal, that is, unholy.
2. "However, there is one Scripture more which will put the matter out of question. If any man be [a believer] in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are past away; behold all things are become new,' 2 Cor. v. 17. Now certainly a man cannot be a new creature and an old creature at once." Yes, he may. He may be partly renewed, which was the very case with those at Corinth. They were doubtless renewed in the spirit of their mind, or they could not have been so much as babes in Christ Yet they had not the whole mind which was in Christ, for they envied one another. "But it is said expressly, Old things are past away all things are become new." But we must not so interpret the Apostle's words, as to make him contradict himself. And if we will make him consistent with himself, the plain meaning of the words is this: His old judgment concerning justification, holiness, happiness, indeed concerning the
things of God in general, is now past away. So are his old desires, designs and affections, tempers, and conversation. All these are undeniably become new, greatly changed from what they were. And yet, though they are new, they are not wholly new. Still he feels to his sorrow and shame, remains of the old man, too manifest taints of his former tempers and affections, though they cannot gain any advantage over him, as long as he watches unto prayer.
3. This whole argument, "If he is clean, he is clean," "if he is holy, he is holy;" (and twenty more expressions of the same kind may easily be heaped together,) is really no better than playing upon words it is the fallacy of arguing from a particular to a general; of inferring a general conclusion, from particular premises. Propose the sentence entire, and it runs thus: "If he is holy at all, he is holy altogether." That does not follow: every babe in Christ is holy, and yet not altogether so. He is saved from sin; yet not entirely; it remains, though it does not reign. If you think it does not remain, (in babes at least, whatever be the case with young men, or fathers,) you certainly have not considered the height, depth, length, and breadth of the law of God; (even the law of love, laid down by St. Paul in the thirteenth of Corinthians,) and that every (avoia) disconformity to, or deviation from this law, is sin. Now, is there no disconformity to this in the heart or life of a believer? be in an adult Christian, is another question. But what a stranger must he be to human nature, who can possibly imagine, that this is the case with every babe in Christ!
4. "But believers walk after the Spirit,* Rom. viii. 1, and the Spirit of God dwells in them. Consequently they are delivered from the guilt, the power, or, in one word, the being of sin."
These are coupled together, as if they were the same thing. But they are not the same thing. The guilt is one thing, the power another, and the being, yet another. That believers are delivered from the guilt and power of sin we allow; that they are delivered from the being of it we deny. Nor does it in any wise follow from these texts. A man may have the Spirit of God dwelling in him, and may "walk after the Spirit," though he still feels "the flesh lusting against the Spirit."
5. "But the church is the body of Christ, Col. i. 24. This implies, that its members are washed from all filthiness. Otherwise it will follow, that Christ and Belial, are incorporated with each other."
Nay, it will not follow from hence, "those who are the mystical body of Christ, still feel the flesh lusting against the Spirit," that Christ has any fellowship with the devil, or with that sin which he enables them to resist and overcome.
6 "But are not Christians come to the heavenly Jerusalem, where nothing defiled can enter?" Heb. xii. 22. Yes; and to an innu
* What follows for some pages is an answer to a paper, published in the Christian Magazine, p. 577-582. I am surprised Dr. Dodd should give such a paper place in his Magazine, which is contrary to our ninth Article.
nerable company of angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect:
"Earth and heaven all agree;
And they are likewise holy and undefiled, while they walk after the Spirit: although sensible, there is another principle in them, and that these are contrary to each other.
7. " But Christians are reconciled to God. Now this could not be, if any of the carnal mind remained: for this is enmity against God: consequently, no reconciliation can be effected, but by its total destruction.'
We are reconciled to God through the blood of the cross. And in the moment, the gornua cagxos, the corruption of nature, which is enmity with God, is put under our feet, the flesh has no more dominion over us. But it still exists and it is still in its nature enmity with God, lusting against his Spirit.
8. "But they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts," Gal. v. 24. They have so: yet it remains in them still, and often struggles to break from the cross. "Nay, but they have put off the old man with his deeds," Col. iii. 9. They have: and in the sense above described, "old things have passed away; all things are become new." A hundred texts may be cited to the same effect. And they will all admit of the same answer. "But to say all in one word, Christ gave himself for the Church, that it might be holy, and without blemish," Eph. v. 25. 27. And so will it be in the end: but it never was yet, from the beginning to this day. 9. "But let experience speak. All who are justified do at that time find an absolute freedom from all sin." That I doubt: but, if they do, do they find it ever after? Else you gain nothing. "If they do not, it is their own fault." That remains to be proved.
10. "But in the very nature of things, can a man have pride in him, and not be proud? Anger, and yet not be angry?"
A man may have pride in him, may think himself in some particulars above what he ought to think, (and so be proud in that particular,) and yet not be a proud man in his general character. He may have anger in him, yea, and a strong propensity to furious anger, without giving way to it. "But can anger and pride be in that heart, where only meekness and humility are felt?" No; but some pride and anger may be in that heart, where there is much humility and meekness.
"It avails not to say, these tempers are there, but they do not reign. For sin cannot, in any kind or degree, exist where it does not reign. For guilt and power are essential properties of sin. Therefore, where one of them is, all must be."
Strange indeed! "Sin cannot, in any kind or degree, exist where it does not reign." Absolutely contrary this to all experience, all Scripture, all common sense. Resentment of an affront is sin, it is ανομία, disconformity to the law of love. This has existed in me a thousand times. Yet it did not, and does not reign. "But guilt
and power are essential properties of sin; therefore, where one is, all must be." No in the instance before us, if the resentment I feel is not yielded to, even for a moment, there is no guilt at all, no condemnation from God upon that account. And in this case, it has no power though it lusteth against the Spirit, it cannot prevail. Here, therefore, as in ten thousand instances, there is sin without either guilt or power.
11. "But the supposing sin in a believer is pregnant with every thing frightful and discouraging. It implies the contending with a power, that has the possession of our strength, maintains his usurpation of our hearts, and there prosecutes the war in defiance of our Redeemer." Not so. The supposing sin is in us, does not imply, that it has the possession of our strength. No more than a man crucified has the possession of those that crucify him. As little does it imply, that "sin maintains its usurpation of our hearts." The usurper is dethroned. He remains indeed where he once reigned; but remains in chains. So that he does, in some sense, "prosecute the war," yet he grows weaker and weaker: while the believer goes on from strength to strength, conquering and to conquer.
12. "I am not satisfied yet. He that has sin in him is a slave to sin. Therefore, you suppose a man to be justified, while he is a slave to sin. Now, if you allow, men may be justified while they have pride, anger, or unbelief in them; nay, if you aver, These are (at least, for a time) in all that are justified: what wonder that we have so many proud, angry, unbelieving believers ?"
I do not suppose any man who is justified, is a slave to sin. Yet, I do suppose, sin remains (at least for a time) in all that are justified. "But, if sin remains in a believer, he is a sinful man: if pride, for instance, then he is proud: if self-will, then he is self-willed; if unbelief, then he is an unbeliever; consequently, no believer at all. How then does he differ from unbelievers, from unregenerate
This is still mere playing upon words. It means no more, than, if there is sin, pride, self-will in him, then-there is sin, pride, selfwill. And this no body can deny. In that sense then he is proud, or self-willed. But he is not proud or self-willed in the same sense that unbelievers are, that is, governed by pride or self-will. Herein he differs from unregenerate men. They obey sin, he does not. Flesh is in them both. But they walk after the flesh; he walks after the Spirit.
"But how can unbelief be in a believer?" That word has two meanings. It means either no faith, or little faith; either the absence of faith, or the weakness of it. In the former sense, unbelief is not in a believer; in the latter, it is in all babes. Their faith is commonly mixed with doubt or fear, that is, in the latter sense, with unbelief. "Why are ye fearful, says our Lord, O ye of little faith?" Again, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" You see here was unbelief in a believer: little faith and much unbelief.
13. "But this doctrine, That sin remains in a believer: That a
man may be in the favour of God, while he has sin in his heart, certainly tends to encourage men in sin." Understand the proposition right, and no such consequence follows. A man may be in God's favour though he feel sin; but not if he yields to it Having sin, does not forfeit the favour of God; giving way to sin does. Though the flesh in you lust against the Spirit, you may still be a child of God. But if you walk after the flesh, you are a child of the devil. Now this doctrine does not encourage you to obey sin, but to resist it with all your might.
V. 1. The sum of all is this. There are in every person, even after he is justified, two contrary principles, nature and grace, termed by St. Paul, the flesh and the spirit. Hence, although even babes in Christ are sanctified, yet it is only in part. In a degree, according to the measure of their faith, they are spiritual: yet, in a degree, they are carnal. Accordingly, believers are continually exhorted to watch against the flesh, as well as the world and the devil. And to this agrees the constant experience of the children of God. While they feel this witness in themselves, they feel a will not wholly resigned to the will of God. They know they are in him, and yet find a heart ready to depart from him, a proneness to evil in many instances, and a backwardness to that which is good. The contrary doctrine is wholly new: never heard of in the church of Christ, from the time of his coming into the world, till the time of Count Zinzendorf. And it is attended with the most fatal consequences. It cuts off all watching against our evil nature, against the Deiilah, which we are told is gone, though she is still lying in our bosom. It tears away the shield of weak believers, deprives them of their faith, and so leaves them exposed to all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
2. Let us, therefore, hold fast the sound doctrine "once delivered to the saints," and delivered down by them, with the written word, to all succeeding generations: that, although we are renewed, cleansed, purified, sanctified, the moment we truly believe in Christ, yet we are not then renewed, cleansed, purified altogether: but the flesh, the evil nature still remains (though subdued) and wars against the Spirit. So much the more, let us use all diligence in "fighting the good fight of faith." So much the more earnestly let us "watch and pray," against the enemy within. The more carefully let us take to ourselves, and "put on the whole armour of God:" that, although "we wrestle" both "with flesh and blood, and with principalities, and powers, and wicked spirits in high places," we "may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."