A Pure Conscience And Moral Accidents
“My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not, and if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father.”
Everything in the material realm is subject either to decay, failure, wear and tear, accident or limitation. Perpetual motion has never been discovered. Neither has any indestructible material. “Change and decay in all around, we see.” The greatest works of art perish with the flight of time. The ruins of the so‑called Eternal City (Rome) are with us. The indestructible, nonsinkable, ill‑fated Titanic is at the bottom of the Atlantic. Some when informed of her plight said, “Impossible!” Alas for man’s conceit in man’s achievements! The Imperator may go next with all her boasts of superiority over the Titanic. Non‑telescopable, all steel, perfection trains are seen reduced to junk while from beneath their ruins the groans of the wounded and dying are heard as piteously calling for help as from the wreckage of the less perfect trains. The tower of Babel came down. New York’s sky‑line, the last word in architecture, will, in the last day, when their cup of iniquity is full, rock and reel as a drunken man and be melted with intense heat; if, perchance, God may not see fit sooner to judge their (often) heartless occupants. A device guaranteeing immunity for life and limb, in travel, or in the ordinary occupations of life has not been invented. So is it with all man touches in the material realm, it is subject to accident, failure or limitation.
So likewise in man’s mental and moral nature similar conditions prevail. The most perfect human being existent, in grace as well as knowledge, if truly humble, is conscious of limitations, frailties, foibles, and infirmities, both physical and mental, and in proportion to his real unfeigned humility will acknowledge, deplore, and plead the blood of Christ to cover them. All of our readers are thoroughly conversant with the fact we must think through faculties which have been impaired in the fall, .and that this thinking through such mediums is liable to occasion mistakes in practice and conduct as well as in thought. This is thoroughly consistent with our denial of infallibility in the sanctified state. Rational teachers on sanctification do not teach it to be a state in which moral accidents are not liable to occur. Sanctification may be lost, and has been, we are pained to say, by some bright lights and doubtless by many more who have not been found out. On the contrary it is a state in which We are not only liable to accident, but we fear spiritual failures do often occur with many young professors before establishment. In this state, however, failures are readily recognized, CONFESSED, deplored and adjusted in so far as possible. Deliberate premeditated sin, properly so called, is rare in this state, but inadvertencies may be more or less frequent according to the degree of care, watchfulness, prayer and obedience exercised.
Some may doubt the expediency of the sanctified confessing anything. It is generally thought that confession of failure will injure the cause of holiness in general and confidence locally in the individual professor. But such is not the case. This is so of the opposite course. A few examples of this position. The saintly Fletcher said, “The grace of perfect love or perfection, shines as much in the childlike simplicity with which the perfect readily confess their faults, as it does in their manly resistance of sin,” and Mr. Wesley said, “Never dream putting things in their true light will hurt the cause of God.” Even our own Dr. Keene, of blessed memory, after writing of the marvelous new manifestation of Christ to his heart ten years after he entered Canaan, said, “This wonderful period chronicled some painful blunders.” So we are ever reminded, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” These things are not written to encourage looseness, carelessness, or presumptuous sin; but rather that if one be so unfortunate as to be overcome or overtaken in a fault he may be encouraged to know while they need not be, yet such have been the experiences of not a. few eminently spiritual and useful men.
We Should Distinguish Between Inadvertent and Deliberate Sin
Eminent writers on the deep things of God recognize a distinction between deliberate sins and those which are more properly called sins of surprise or inadvertencies; that the soul under powerful, sudden and unexpected onslaught of the enemy may yield momentarily at some one point, while at every other point the heart is in obedience to Christ. Even Peter’s shameful denial is supposed by some commentators to have been of this character‑even as martyrs have momentarily recanted under pressure of instinctive fear, and immediately afterwards upon recognition of their act have recanted their recantation. So Peter immediately thought thereon and wept bitterly. This may be hard to prove, yet the Greek would seem to give it some justification. “I have prayed that thy faith fail not utterly.” It did fail painfully and momentarily under pressure of fear, but was not utterly eclipsed, for as he soon thought thereon he recovered and even advanced beyond anything previously known. So God may sometimes send greater victory by permitting momentary defeat.
The beloved disciple in our text writes certain things that his children sin not, that is, deliberately and then be goes on and encourages them if any man should happen to sin he should not give up because he has an advocate with the Father.’ It is our conviction, numerous are the spiritual accidents of young professors of sanctifying grace, which are not deliberate, doubtless occasioned through impaired and weakened constitutions, or by reason of the momentum of old long established habit, while in desperation of faith they still cleave to God. To such we would speak comfortingly. Never give up! Look to your Advocate. Give your case up to Him! The following might be helpful, incidentally: “The renowned Jerry McCauley even went back into deliberate sin (however we are writing of unintentional sin) seven times, and yet God in long suffering love bore with him until he was finally established in His grace and entered his wonderful career as the apostle to the lost and outcast of the Bowery.
God’s Provision For Unintentional Failures
The atonement’s provision for all classes of sin is revealed in inspiration. John writes of three kinds of sin: First, our sins, personal transgressions; the remedy is, “If we confess our sins,” God will forgive them. Second, inbred sin. The blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin. Singular number. A state. Third, inadvertent transgressions: “My little converts I write these things (among others that God would pardon all sins and cleanse from all sin) that ye sin not.” That is, volitionally, intentionally, deliberately, of set purpose, or premeditatedly‑beforehand arrange to do at a convenient time what you know to be wrong against God and man. In this sense sin not. You need not. The grace of God will save you from all gross sin. But be manifestly continues speaking of a different kind of sin (so the consensus of opinion of scholars, eminent for piety), and if any man sin, not of set purpose, but when off his guard or through unexpected Satanic subtlety, we have an Advocate with the Father. There is a distinction between such sin as here described and deliberate sin as well as from inbred sin. However, as be continues writing of one who is the propitiation for this class of sin, as well as the actual and original sin before mentioned, it is manifest that even this class of sin needs also the atonement while strictly speaking, in that it is of surprise and occasioned when the soul is making an honest effort to do God’s will, it has not the same degree of God’s displeasure (provided, however, it is not repeated; it would then come into the realm of deliberate sin), and while it does occasion chagrin, holy grief, and regret that such are the limitations of the soul, yet it does not bring the strong condemnation and sense of guilt that intentional sin does. Though, as before intimated, such inadvertencies need the blood of Christ to cover, and Dr. Upham says “anything needing the blood of Christ to cover should be confessed.”
When it is said, “He that being often reproved and hardens his neck shall suddenly be destroyed,” evidently this refers to the continuous persistent resistance, and rejection of light, but it does not refer to one who is doing his level best to serve and obey God, but who is, notwithstanding, inadvertently overtaken in a fault, as we are commanded to restore such an one. If we succeed he shall not be cut off. Being overtaken is not the rule of his life, but the exception, indeed such is very rare, the general tendency of his life is obedience to Christ. Shall he now give up all because he is overtaken by an accident? Nay. This would be folly.
LET NONE MISUNDERSTAND US. DELIBERATE SIN MUST BE DELIBERATELY REPENTED OF, CONFESSED, FORSAKEN, FORGIVEN, AND CLEANSED AWAY. But inadvertencies, while causing regret, need not cause the forfeiture either of the grace of pardon or purity, or whatever standing the soul has with God, (so says Dr. Keen in substance,) providing the case is immediately turned over to our Advocate in faith. The adjustment can be made in private, apart from a public altar. Through Satanic subtlety many a victim of unintentional blunder has been accused, as though it were deliberate sin, and given up all as though hopelessly backslidden. All the soul’s standing with God is not lost by unintentional failures. For example, my little boy was coming home with milk and suddenly slipped and fell and spilled the contents of his pail. He looked up instantly into my face as though recognizing instinctively the justice of his claim, and said, “Papa, I did not mean to do dat!” and with an expression that said as intelligently as any words can describe, “Papa, you will not punish me when you saw it was an accident, and that I could not help it?” Do you think I could punish that boy? Never. It would have been the height of folly and injustice. Neither did I cast him off or act coolly toward him or love him any the less freely because he had had an accident. Indeed, I took particular pains to love and embrace and encourage him. I saw it was unavoidable. Has God any less sense than man in dealing with similar conditions? I don’t remember of his ever having that type of accident again. So it may be with the soul. Oh, for the leniency of God toward those who blunder in His service! My boy was honestly trying to serve me when the accident occurred, and so may we be putting forth our best effort to serve God when a spiritual accident is permitted.
Another illustration: We were traveling by automobile at the rate of twenty‑five miles per hour, when “Pop” went the inner tube. Instantly the driver slowed down, drove to one side of the road and proceeded to make repairs. We observed he did not repair the whole car. Renewal would only have been necessary had the entire car been demolished. Many incidental accidents are not demolishing wrecks! Neither in nature or grace. Would it have been wisdom to have thrown away or repaired the whole car because one point gave way under strain? I trow not.
Still another similar illustration: A friend was traveling nicely when up jumped the front end of his car and came down with sufficient force to break both springs. The car was crippled, but on it traveled. It was a rough road. He said, “I did not know this road was so rough. I will not come this way again.” What folly to throw the car away because one part was damaged. To all general appearances the other parts of the car are good. He repairs only the injured part. He is sorry if he gets stuck in the mud, but he does not remain there. Pries out and goes on. He will be more careful next time. The soul has similar lessons and experiences. A MAN DOES NOT LOSE ALL WHEN SUBJECT TO A MORAL ACCIDENT OR UNAVOIDABLE INADVERTENCY ANY MORE THAN THE AUTO FAILING AT ONE PART IS WORTHLESS AT ALL OTHER PARTS. Every other part good but one, so every other part of the soul’s functions may be sound, but this one which had a moral accident and needs repairs. There will be no confusion if our readers will bear in mind the distinction between inadvertent and deliberate and intentional sin.
A Final Word
DO NOT PRESUME ON THE “EMERGENCY PROMISE.” It is not for everyday use, no more than side tracks are for running main line through trains, or life preservers for use every trip across the ocean. The fire escape is only for use in emergency. Trains, autos, electric cars, etc., have emergency brakes used at times signified by their names. Battleships have emergency steering gears for use only when regular steering apparatus is shot away or disabled. We have traveled seventy‑five thousand miles and never once, thank God, has the emergency tool box of tools, for use in an accident, been used. But they were on every train in readiness for the unexpected. ,God’s word has this emergency promise. It is remote. It does not occur often specifically in either the Old or New Testaments, though here are other promises which may include its substance. It is there for use in emergency. Some may make the whole trip to heaven without ever having to use it. Let them praise God. This scribe and many he has met have not been so fortunate; they praise God for the promise.
Remember mistakes, blunders and inadvertencies graduate into deliberate voluntary sin if repeatedly and persistently indulged after light has come on them. Through their discovery to the heart God would make us more careful and watchful. We must avoid everything avoidable and improve everything in character or conduct improvable.
Do not commit deliberate sin and then apologize for it under the plea it was mistake, or ignorance or inadvertence. Let the thing appear in its true light. This is a common dodge with many holiness professors.
It is emphatically not our purpose to treat sin lightly, or to encourage to trypresumptuous sin. Deliberate sin is fearful. It will damn the soul. None can be comforted in sin. But to help that great company of “down in the mouthers” among us, who, because of over‑conscientiousness, wrong teaching and Satanic accusations, have cast away all their confidence when they have, we are persuaded, been guilty of no deliberate sin. John 2:1 is for that class of New Testament saints as truly as the “special sacrifice” was God’s provision for the moral accident of Old Testament saints. Bishop Thoburn, in his Church of Pentecost, tells of the godly Dr. Currey dreaming he stood at heaven’s gate. The attendant angel said: “Who are you?” “Dr. Currey,” was the reply. “Are you a good man?” “I trust that I am.” “Have you always been a good man?” “I regret to say I have not.” “Have you never sinned since you were converted?” Abashed and confused at such searching questions re‑, vealing perfect intimacy with all his life, he hung his head in shame, and was about to give up hope. All seemed dark. His case was hopeless. just then Jesus appeared on the scene and said, “I have under taken the case of Dr. Currey.” So, my beloved reader, if any man sin, even after conversion or sanctification, either deliberately or inadvertently, we have an Advocate (lawyer) with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous, and He will undertake all similar cases put by faith in His hands, and work them through to a glorious and victorious consummation. Glory be to God!
“It is not well to dwell exclusively on any one subject, or to keep our thoughts and energies in one direction only.
“The mind is so constituted by our Heavenly Father that it is healthiest when it passes from one object to another. You must not allow the devil to get astride your CONSCIENCE and ride you to death. God intends His children shall not only be the best, but the happiest, in the world. Get pure innocent joy from all legitimate earthly sources.”‑A Cookman.