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such passages as recognize an interior life in such a way that they seem to favor his idea of such persection, while really they do not. We must question, therefore, the propriety, the fairness we will say, of such a use of the language. We must object to it as unscriptural, and as giving the author an advantage in the support of his peculiar views to which he is not entitled. It is a concession, too, which we would be slow to make, and one which we should fear would be practically dangerous, that men can be Christians at all, who have not evidence that it is, in an important sense, true of them that they are dead to sin, and alive to holiness; or as it is expressed again, that they are dead, and that their life is hid with Christ in God. If it be correct, to restrict the idea of the interior of life to those only who have reached a given point of Christian progress, we should be at a loss how to distinguish all who as yet are short of this from the unrenewed.
But not to dwell upon the term in question, we pass to the state itself which Prof. Upham uses it to desig
nate. What is evangelical perfec
tion, holiness, or sanctification in his view This inquiry is fundamental, in order to a right understanding of his book; and we will endeavor to put our readers in possession of the answer, as briefly and precisely as we can ; reserving, for the present, what we wish to say as to the propriety of applying such language to describe the state intended. The nature of holiness, as described in the second chapter of the work before us, is substantially what Mr. Wesley defines it to be in his sermons on the subject of Christian perfection. It does not mean sinless perfection. It consists with “imperfection of the physical system, and of the intellectual powers; with liability to interruption or suspension; with the weakness and vitiation of its exer
cises by infirmity; with strong temptations; and, also, with all unavoidable errors and imperfections of judgment, which, in their ultimate causes, result from Adam's sin, and require atonement.” We quote verbatim these expressions. Positively, it is a state in which the power of faith and love preserves from all known deliberate sin. We are at pains to be exact where the author has not defined directly, but has only described in a somewhat vague and general manner; and if we understand him, the above statement expresses precisely his idea. Is it asserting wholly a new doctrine, when he affirms that this attainment all Christians may make, and are bound to make, and that it is actually made by many in the present life 2 We think not. We know no orthodox. writer who maintains that Christians can not, and do not often, attain to such a degree of faith and love, as that they would sooner die than commit deliberate willful sin; or who does not, on the contrary, urge the duty of attaining it on all. And the recorded experience of many eminent Christians shows, that they had so consecrated themselves to God, and had arrived at such an assurance of faith and purity of love, that they were willing to do any thing, to be any thing, or to suffer any thing, for Christ; although it is true that the thought that they were entirely holy, sanctified, or perfect, in any proper meaning of these terms, never once occurred to them. Prof. Upham, then, and our standard Congregational writers, agree in this, that a certain Christian attainment may be reached and should be in the present life. To this state Prof. Upham applies the name holiness; but these writers mean something widely different by this term, when they use it as the synonym of perfection ; viz. the absolute holiness which existed in Adam before the fall, and in the man Christ Jesus. He then affirms that holiness, that is, in his sense, is attained in this life; they affirm that holiness, that is, in their sense, is not thus attained. The parties mean to affirm entirely different things ; inasmuch as the admitted existence of a large class of sins, is not inconsistent with the idea of holiness which one adopts, while it is wholly incompatible with the idea of holiness adopted by the other. When, therefore, Prof. Upham assumes it as “the popular doctrine, that no man ever has been sanctified, or ever will be sanctified till the moment of death,” and speaks of “the common doctrine of the impossibility of present sanctification,” we can not but think that, however unintentionally, he misleads his readers; and that all he says by way of opposing the common doctrine is gratuitous, a probandum non negata. It is not the common doctrine, but merely the words of that doctrine with his own definitions put upon them, which in reality he opposes. The common doctrine is, that absolute, sinless perfection is not attained in the present life, and this he also believes, according to his own statements. This inaccuracy in a matter so essential, is peculiarly unfortunate. It embarrasses the reader, throughout the book, by an ambiguity attaching to such words as holy, perfect, sanctified, whenever they occur. Justice, both to himself and others, as it seems to us, imposed on the author the duty of stating explicitly, in what sense he would maintain holiness to be attainable in the present life, and as explicitly, whether the “popular doctrine” denies it in the same sense. As we have said, we think it generally admitted by orthodox writers and teachers, that such a state, substantially, as Prof. Upham denominates sanctification or perfection, is not only attainable, but that its attainment is essential to a clear and and satisfying evidence of discipleship. It is such a state, we sup
pose, which Paul describes, when he says that he exercised himself daily to have a conscience void of offense towards God and towards men ;and that his rejoicing is this, the testimony of his conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, and not with fleshly wisdom, he had his conversation in the world. Brainerd must have advanced so far as that his whole soul was bent on serving God, and that indulgence in deliberate sin was with him not to be thought of, when he could say, “I longed to be perpetually and entirely crucified to all things here below by the cross of Christ; my soul was sweetly resigned to God's disposal of me in every regard ; and I saw that nothing had happened but what was best for me. I confided in God that he would never leave me, though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It was then my meat and my drink to be holy, to live to the Lord and die to the Lord.” And Edwards, when he could thus express himself: “The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated ; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love; to trust in him ; to live upon him ; to serve and follow him, and to be perfectly sanctified, and made pure by a divine and heavenly purity.” And Henry Martyn, when such language as the following burst forth from the fullness of his heart:—“I do not know that any thing would be a heaven to me, but the service of Christ and the enjoyment of his presence. O, how sweet is life when spent in his service s” Although the new-born soul is ordinarily defective, at first, in its views, and as it were feeble and trembling in its first steps in the way of life, is in short a babe in Christ,--it naturally comes in a longer or shorter period, as the case may be, to a point at which its views are clear, its evidence of inward grace in a good degree conclusive; its love to God's character, to his cause, and to his people, and its submission to his will, things of delightful consciousness; its hatred of sin deep, and its devotion to God's service firm and settled. There are those, indeed, and they are too numerous, who are by their own neglect, always saltering, always lingering amidst the rudiments of evangelical experience; but there are many, also, who having passed the point just mentioned, are thenceforward steadfast, consistent, vigorous Christians; in simplicity of faith and love, and in singleness and purity of purpose, steadily aiming at the glory of that Savior whom their souls adore ; and whose constraining love gives them their highest impulse. Such a state is, we conceive, inconsistent with the idea of indulging even one “deliberate, willful sin.” The faith of such a state, is so full of assurance, that the soul rests with habitual comfort upon God ; and its love is so pure and so perfect, that it casteth out fear. Such we take to be the state of those who use language like that which we have just now quoted ; – a state reached in all cases, by oftrepeated acts of self-consecration, by earnest longings for the inward unction of the Holy Spirit, and by a cordial acceptance of the promises. And yet Brainerd and Edwards and Martyn, and others like them, are found after having reached this state, mourning deeply over their daily sins. How is this to be interpreted Prof. Upham's theory says, that such are sanctified, holy, perfect persons; only that for want of right views, they do not rightly understand their own spiritual state ; that these sins of which they are still conscious, and which consist in the “interruption or suspension” of holy exercises, or in their “weakness
and vitiation by infirmity, together with all errors and imperfections of judgment which in their ultimate causes result from Adam's sin and require atonement,” are not incompatible with persection ; inasmuch as they exist not by the deliberate choice and purpose of the soul, but notwithstanding such a choice and purpose to be the Lord's. The distinction which this theory makes between the sins which proceed directly from the deliberate choice of the mind, and those which, in opposition to the supreme purpose of the soul, result from the workings of depraved nature, and from the effects of long habits of sin, is a clear and important one. Doubtless the Christian who has the consciousness that he no longer knowingly and willfully yields himself to be the servant of sin, and that he cordially relies for acceptance on the atoning sacrifice of Christ, while he struggles with the law in his members which wars against the law of the mind, is in a state which authorizes him to be calm and happy; and to feel that to him there is now no more condemnation, since he has ceased to be willingly subject unto sin, and has found refuge in Christ Jesus. He may say—Abba, Father! with a sweet spirit of adoption; he may repose in all his duties, cares and sorrows, calmly and fearlessly on the arm of everlasting love; he may delight in God as his full, satisfying and eternal portion; and be willing to leave all and to suffer all, to do his will. He may be, in short, a genuine, true-hearted, faithful, steadfast believer. But is it proper, is it safe to say, that he is now perfect, sanctified, holy, while he is still at so wide a remove from the state in which, as a man, his divine Redeemer lived on earth 2 The church in general says, no; and we think correctly. Is it then true, the inquiry will occur, that there is no real difference between the views of Prof. Upham and those which generally prevail on the subject of his treatise 2 Is the whole apparent difference in fact a merely verbal one * The answer is, that his theory and that generally received, both agree that all Christians are bound to be as holy as they can be ; that they can, and often do, love God with a servent and supreme affection, which prefers him, as the portion of the soul, above all selfish and carnal gratifications, and which trusts him so simply and implicitly, as that they sweetly and peacefully leave all their interests in his hands, and have no will but his ; and that they can keep themselves so unspotted from the world, as to be habitually led by the Spirit of God, and so as not to indulge in any known and willful sin.—But here are essential points of difference. The common theory holds up before the mind of the believer, as the perfection at which he is to aim, the spotless, absolute perfection which the divine Redeemer exhibited in his complete obedience to the holy law of God. The other presents to him, as perfection, a state, desirable indeed, and elevated, but very far short of this. The common theory supposes, that when the heart is first renewed, all its moral exercises, and faith and love among the rest, are feeble and imperfect; that by grace and spiritual discipline combined, they are gradually matured; that the causes which disturb them are gradually rooted out, and the powers of the spiritual man steadily developed and improved ; and that this process, by which the soul of the disciple is moulded into the likeness of Christ and prepared for heaven, is sanctification. The other requires the new-born soul to exercise perfect faith and perfect love at once; and on condition that this is done, promises the gift of deliverance from the power of sin, by a simple act of God. Sanctification, according to this view, is this gift; and like justification, is not a process, but an instantaneous
work of divine grace upon the soul. It is easy to see that these differences, when followed out into details, are very wide. Which, then, is the true doctrine of holiness or perfection ; that which presents to the mind, as the mark towards which it is to press, absolute, Christ-like perfection, or that which presents a lower, and in many respects, a defective state 2 We turn to the Scriptures: and we readily admit, that the sacred writers apply the terms holy, sanctified, and even perfect, to Christians in the present life; not, however, as we think it entirely obvious, in their strict and proper meaning, but in a qualified and peculiar sense. If it is said that this is all that the theory of perfection in the present life requires, inasmuch as it is just this qualified sense in which the advocates of this theory use the term, the answer is, that when believers are called, in reference to their present state, holy, sanctified or perfect, in the Scriptures, it is never with respect to any certain point of spiritual progress which they have reached, or any peculiar modification of the divine life to which they have attained, and by which they are distinguished from other converted men ; but invariably to denote the simple fact, that they are truly pious men—men who have been born again, and have some gracious dispositions—and to distinguish them from the wholly sinful world. If any choose to call all renewed persons holy, sanctified, or perfect, in a comparative sense, and to distinguish them from natural men who have no holiness at all, we grant them without doubt the sanction of the Bible; and we have no fear that this use of language will prove in any way pernicious. But we can not for a moment admit, that to take these terms to designate a particular state, or point of progress in the life of God, such as that to which Prof. Upham and others have applied them, has any warrant in the Scriptures. And on the other hand, we understand our Lord and his Apostles to hold up continually to every Christian, absolute moral perfection as the prize of his high calling, and as a practicable ultimate attainment. When the divine Redeemer undertook his mission to our world, he proposed to himself to open the door for a complete deliverance of those who, as transgressors, were cut off from access to God—were under the heavy condemnation of his law, and hopeless of relief from any means of their own devising. He meant to bring to those who should receive him as a Savior, a full release from the power of Satan, and from all the evils of a state of sin. Hence he did three things. He rendered pardon and justification possible, that is, consistent with justice, by the offering of himself a sacrifice; he supplied the means and influences which were adapted to lead to holiness; and finally, he placed clearly and distinctly before the minds of men, the true standard, the divine IDEAL, of moral excellence.
In the Sermon on the Mount, for example, we have an admirable specimen of the manner in which he sought to exalt men's conceptions of the nature of true goodness, and at the same time to enforce the obligation to attain it. He insists on a class of virtues as of the highest value, which are very lightly thought of by the world; sanctions the moral law and upholds its spirituality; and then sums up all by pointing us to the spotless moral purity of our Heavenly Father, and commanding us to take that as our glorious model; to make that the measure by which to judge ourselves; and never to rest satisfied till we attain an entire likeness to that unsullied excellence. “Be ye therefore PERFECT, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” The Apostles en
force continually this great lesson of their Master. Ercelsior—higher —higher—is their watchword. The perfection of Christ it is that they continually hold up as that which the disciple must aspire to reach. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy.” “Brethren,” says Paul, “I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do ; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Now this absolute moral perfection, for which man was originally made, from which he has been utterly cast down by sin, and to which it is the design of the great plan of salvation to restore him, involves two things. The first is, right moral action. The infallible rule of moral action is the law of God. As God is infinite in wisdom, he perfectly understood, when he gave his law, all the relations and all the duties of man, and the limits of his capacities. While it is clear, then, that actual obedience to God's law is within the reach of man's ability, it is equally clear that this will make him perfect in his conduct, and that any thing short of this will destroy perfection.
The second thing involved in true perfection is, a sound moral condition of all the faculties, propensities and habits of the soul. A being can not properly be called perfect, even if his actions are strictly right, unless all the powers, dispositions and propensities of his nature, are such as that he acts right easily, as it were, spontaneously, and without a struggle. God did not intend, when he created man, that he should find the doing of the divine will a burdensome and painful work. All the powers of the soul were so adapted to his service, that no painful ef