It is hard to kill error. If it is subverted and banished in one generation, it will creep in again in the next. The greatest injury perhaps that the enemy of all good has accomplished is in modifying the truth and instilling false doctrine in a greater or less measure.
In some instances he boldly presents heresies that are clearly seen to be of that character. In others he allows the appearance of the truth, which is gently modified, just as some kinds of food are as good-looking as ever, after they have been adulterated or inoculated with poison. By this method he even deceives some of the elect.
The old-fashioned Calvinism which John Fletcher exposed so effectually as to make it harmless in his day, has in this generation taken another form. It is the same old poison, but in a different form. It is “Antinomianism Revived.” It makes salvation consist, not in an actual experience, but in a make-believe, fictitious affair. It declares that Jesus died on the cross and paid all the debt, and that we have nothing to do in the matter. It uses the phrase of Paul, “Complete in Him,” and asserts that all our righteousness is in him and that his righteousness never gets into us; that salvation is imputed to us but never gets to be an actual experience; that conversion is obtained not by repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and a tarrying until we have the witness of the Spirit, but is accomplished by a mental assent to the truth, a mental reception of Jesus, and an inference that we get by a logical process from certain scriptures.
For instance, this is the formula, “Whosoever believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. Do you believe on the Son?” “Yes.” “Then you have everlasting life.” It asserts that the man who has gone through this formula without forsaking his sins, is saved, no matter if he does continue in sin, for he is “in Christ,” and though there may be sin in him there is none in Christ. The sinner is now covered with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, and no matter what he does, he will not lose his standing with God, even though his state is sinful.
One of its advocates says of David in Uriah’s bed that his state was bad, but being a child of God he could not lose his standing with God. Having on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, God can not see through that, the sins that are underneath it, and accepts him as righteous for Christ’s sake.
Bishop Taylor very facetiously says of this figure that if that is all that salvation consists of – simply a robe of righteousness covering up the sinner’s misdeeds – when the Lord draws the robe of righteousness up into heaven where it belongs, the sinner will drop down into hell where he belongs.
This same error teaches that all our sanctification is in Christ. That we never have it as a possession, but that it is all imputed to us, because we are of the elect. One of their illustrations is that salvation is like the fall of snow over a barnyard. It looks very clean and white in spite of the filth underneath it.
The Salvation Army officer said very pertinently of this figure that a thaw would make a very disagreeable matter of this arrangement. The Psalmist never had any such perversion of salvation in his mind. He said, “Wash me and I shall be clean.” This meant real cleanness and not a make-believe theory. He did not pray for imputation. He prayed not “impute to me,” but “create in me” a clean heart, O God.” The case was so far gone that the hand that created the world must interpose, not to impute to him but to create in him, a clean heart.
This was just as real a transaction as the creation of the world. David did not want any whitewashing. He wanted to be washed white. The case of the imputationists is whitewashing. Everybody knows what whitewashing is. A man comes along with a brush and a pail containing a bluish white mixture, which he proceeds to apply to an old stained wall to cover up its filth. After considerable time he succeeds in applying it in such a manner that everything looks white and fair, but there is just as much dirt there as before. It is hid from sight for a little time. The rains will fall, the winds will blow upon it; the frost and sun will try it and it will scale off little by little until, after a time, there stands the dirt just as before.
This is just the case with imputed holiness. It is only whitewashing. The storms of life and its many trials will reveal it in time. It is only hypocrisy. The Pharisees of Christ’s time were exponents of this theory. Their religion looked well to men, but it was the whitewashing of foul sepulchers. Jesus had these same errors to meet in his day. Church membership and religiousness only concealed foul hearts, which he could not tolerate. There is much of this idea that salvation is an insurance of old weather-beaten, worm-eaten ships not worth insuring, but as long as we pay the insurance, go through the religious performances, God has a way provided to bring the old weather-beaten, worm-eaten hulks through to the port of eternal glory. But the word says he died to sanctify his church, “that he might present it unto himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” This is the mission of Christ, not to get a spotted, smirched bride th rough to heaven, saved as by fire, but to present it “blameless at his coming.”
To this end Peter exhorts the saints in view of the great day of accounts, to see to it that “ye may be found of him in peace without spot and blameless.” An actual experience and not a make-believe affair. Reader, have a Bible experience and not a salvation that is only imaginary. Wait before God until you have an actual salvation. Only this will help you in the trying hours of life, and only this will give you victory over death. Let others hug shadows and delusions, but persevere until God gives you real, tangible, experimental salvation. With the Psalmist pray not that it be imputed, but pray that a clean heart be created in you. Pray until you not only feel no stirring of evil affections, but until your heart is full of just the opposite; until your love is purified from every contrary affection.