Regeeneration Is Not Complete Purity
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” — II. Cor. vii. 1. Those who chiefly composed the early churches were certainly true Christians, and a considerable part of the New Testament was written to promote their purity or entire sanctification. All but six of the Epistles were sent to churches, most of whose membership, although converted, were not entirely sanctified.
Three thousand were converted on the day of Pentecost, and five thousand immediately afterward. These were from all parts of the Roman Empire; and they returned to their native places and founded Christian churches. Many of them were established by the Apostles themselves, who afterward wrote Epistles to them.
Paul founded the church in Corinth. He preached there about two years, and had great success. God gave him a vision, assuring him that he had much people in that city, and greatly encouraged him in his work. Those addressed by the Apostle in this passage and Epistle were Christian believers in that church. They were children of God, and are called “brethren,” “beloved brethren,” “dearly beloved,” “believers,” “God’s husbandry,” “God’s building,” “babes in Christ,” and “temples of God;” and yet these very persons, who are thus described, were, as the Apostle asserts, “carnal;” they “walked as men,” were “envious,” and there were “strife and divisions” among them. Therefore he exhorts them to perfect, or complete their holiness in the fear of God; and states that to be cleansed from all sin, is “perfecting holiness.”
That regeneration is the commencement of purification, we suppose no one will question. But that regeneration and entire sanctification are identical, and take place at the same time, is contrary to the whole doctrinal teachings of Christianity, with hardly a trifling exception for nearly two thousand years. This is especially true of doctrinal and experimental Methodism, in which all our standard authors and accredited writers are explicitly a unit.
Mr. Wesley says, — “It is true, we are then delivered, as was observed before, from the dominion of outward sin; and, at the same time, the power of inward sin is so broken, that we need no longer follow, or be led by it; but it is by no means true, that inward sin is then totally destroyed; that the root of pride, self-will, anger, love of the world, is then taken out of the heart; or that the carnal mind, and the heart bent to backsliding, are entirely extirpated. And to suppose the contrary, is not, as some may think, an innocent, harmless mistake. No: IT DOES IMMENSE HARM; IT ENTIRELY BLOCKS UP THE WAY TO ANY FURTHER CHANGE.” — Sermons, vol. i. p. 124.
While the regenerated soul has in itself the essence and principle of true and genuine holiness, it has it in a nature “yet carnal,” — not fully cleansed from indwelling sin. Though regeneration is the beginning of the “life in Christ” “unto righteousness,” it is not the complete “death unto sin.”
We should carefully observe the Bible distinction between indwelling sin — “sin dwelling in my members” — remaining in the heart, but under the control of grace; and sin, strictly speaking, — sin in the life, called in the Scriptures “committing sin” or “transgression of the law.”
Inbred sin remaining in the regenerate heart, indicates its existence and presence, first, to the consciousness of the soul in perverse inclination, and then, more or less, in outward action. It is a positive, operative principle of evil pervading man’s moral nature; and is a matter of consciousness as clear and positive as any mental or moral state. Anger, impatience, envy, pride, hatred, and the like are facts of positive consciousness.
This depravity is inherent, and exists as an evil principle or carnal nature. Its moral quality is known by its tendency and fruit. It has a negative, and a positive aspect, and is evil in both respects. It is “free from righteousness,” and it is positive “unrighteousness.” It is not merely disinclined to holiness, but is positively sin-wardly inclined. Hence it is not merely a negative evil, but has a sadly positive side. Being a negation of God, it, in either mere existence or influence, is opposed to God. — “The carnal mind is enmity against God.”
Its existence is known by its manifestations. As smoke, smut, and sparks from a chimney show that there is fire within, so all “filthy conversation,” “evil speaking,” bitterness, and anger indicate and evidence the pollution of the heart, whence they proceed. All pride, vanity, hypocrisy, envy, malice, jealousy, covetousness and enmity have their seat in the heart, and their “root,” or “seed,” is inbred sin.
Bishop Foster says, “The seat of all moral quality is the soul.” “Properly, nothing can be said to possess moral quality but the soul. Acts indicate the moral quality of the person who performs them. They are the fruit which declares the nature of the tree.” — Christian Purity, p. 91.
Regeneration is the commencement of spiritual life in the soul, in which God imparts, organizes and calls into being the capabilities, attributes and functions of the new nature. While regeneration and entire sanctification are essentially of one nature, there is a distinction; the first includes, in addition to imparted life, the commencement of purification; the other is the completion of purification — “PERFECTING HOLINESS.”
The two works, not being identical, are not to be confounded. “Confounding what God has divided,” says Mr. Fletcher, “and dividing what the God of truth has joined, are the two capital stratagems of the god of error. The first he has chiefly used to eclipse or darken the doctrine of Christian Perfection.” — Last Check, p. 606.
There is both a doctrinal, and an experimental difference; the first, preceding and falling below the other, and there is a transition from one to the other. The regenerated soul, being born of the Spirit, has spiritual life, and possesses all the essential members or features of the “new life.” It possesses all the graces of the Spirit NUMERICALLY, as each lineament or feature of the divine image is imparted to the “Babe in Christ,” at regeneration. The life may be quite feeble and diminutive, but still it possesses all the essential elements of a “man in Christ.” Understand us: the change is great, very great; though the new life is feeble, the change is from death to life, and from the dominion of sin to the reign of grace.
These essentials of the divine life exist as really in its first, as in its more advanced stages; but the being, and opposing force of indwelling sin, to some extent remain. Therefore, while there is the beginning of the new life unto righteousness, there is not a complete death unto sin.
Bishop Hopkins, in his Essay on Regeneration, vol. ii. p. 239, says, — “In the very instant of our regeneration, all the graces of the Holy Spirit are implanted in us at once; for they are all linked together, and whoever receives one grace receives them all.”
“In regeneration,” says Dr. John Dick, “there is an infusion of spiritual life into the soul, in which life all the graces, or all the holy tempers of the Christian are virtually included.” — Lectures on Theology.
In the merely regenerate, these graces of the Spirit, this “new life,” has existence in a soul partially carnal, — possessing inbred sin; which is uncongenial to its own nature, hence antagonisms in the soul. This life is impaired and impeded by this remaining corruption, and an internal war necessitated. Thus, the necessity for a further cleansing — the “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
The purified state, and the merely regenerate state differ in moral quality. Grace in one case has, antagonisms to itself in the heart, in the other it has none. The “new man,” or “new life,” exists in AN UNCLEANSED SOUL in the former case, and, in a PURIFIED SOUL in the latter.
Sin and holiness, purity and defilement are antagonistic terms, and whatever either is, the other must be just its opposite. The Bible represents holiness as the contrast of defilement or pollution.
Indwelling sin, or inborn and acquired depravity are antagonistic, and the opposite of an indwelling and acquired righteousness. Inherent righteousness is communicated in sanctification, and is derived from Christ. As inbred sin is inherent and derived from Adam, the first man; so in purification by faith in Christ, righteousness is inherent, and derived from Him our second Adam; that, “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we may also bear the image of the heavenly,” “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
Though we may not teach that indwelling righteousness is derived from Christ in the same way depravity is from Adam; it is clear that it is just as positive, inherent, and operative in the entirely sanctified soul, as depravity in the unsanctified. The Apostle says — “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” When the soul “after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” this antagonism of depravity must have as positive existence as did the depravity.
Internal righteousness — purity, involving inward, God-ward tendencies, is the direct opposite of inbred sin — impurity, involving inward, sinward tendencies.
This moral state is derived from Christ our second Adam THROUGH FAITH, hence can not be transmitted. This God has withheld. While the Holy Spirit quickens man’s dead spirit in to divine life, he does not impart the power to transmit that life; and if the life can not be transmitted, the moral quality of the life can not be. transmitted. God makes us partakers of the DIVINE NATURE, but withholds the power of transmitting that nature; hence each child that comes into the world has a depraved bias, needs personal redemption, and must embrace Christ for himself.
Rev. Dr. Curry stated in his address before the New York Preachers’ Meeting, that original, or inborn sin, has an existence beyond mere volitions, — “As something real and beyond mere volitions and actions; and this evil condition of the soul it assumes to be INBORN and INHERENT IN MAN’S NATURE, and therefore to be taken away by regenerating and sanctifying power.” — Speeches on Perfect Love, p.47.
Because it may exist as a state, condition, or quality of being, the Doctor expressed doubts regarding the cleansed state being one of consciousness. He said, “Consciousness takes notice of the soul’s processes, but the range of its observance does not extend to the quiescent states of the soul.”
What are rest, freedom from condemnation, peace and repose, but “quiescent states of the soul,” of which we may be as clearly and positively conscious as of any of the soul’s processes? We can no more doubt the testimony of consciousness, than we can doubt our existence, as no testimony is more certain.
It is the only direct and positive testimony of the soul’s existence, states, and exercises. By this we know we live and breathe, we love or hate, we sit, or stand, or walk; or that we are joyful, sorrowful, happy or wretched. The sanctified soul may be as positively and fully conscious of purity, as the unsanctified of impurity. While wicked passions and vicious states — pride, anger, unbelief, and condemnation are matters of positive consciousness; love, peace, humility, patience, faith and obedience are equally so. Conscience usually speaks more loud and clear to the purified heart than to the impure, as grace quickens, while sin paralyzes.
The condition of the regenerate, but not entirely purified believer, in a modified sense, is a mixed one, he is in part holy, and in part unholy; in part sanctified, and in part unsanctified — his soul is not holy throughout. Dr. Adam Clarke says, “God cannot be said to fill the whole soul while any place, part, passion, or faculty is filled, or less or more occupied, by sin and Satan.” — Clarke’s Theology, p. 193.
The merely regenerate is possessed of both grace and inbred sin. The reader will please notice that these have existence in the heart WITHOUT FORMING ANY COMBINATION or COMPOSITION, the same as mixtures may take place in natural substances without combination, being opposed to each other, and possessed of no affiliation. There is no such commingling of grace and inbred sin, as to make an adulterated holiness. Strictly speaking, an adulterated holiness is an absurdity — a contradiction. Holiness is holiness.
The carnal and the spiritual have no fellowship. The tendency of all depravity is earthly, sensual and devilish, and all holiness tends to the virtuous, the heavenly, and Divine.
There is but one kind of religious life; but that life, though divinely imparted, may exist in a partially purified soul, or in one entirely purified; and in that sense there may be a distinction; hence the propriety of regarding the merely regenerate as, in a modified sense, in a mixed moral state — possessed of both spiritual life and indwelling sin.
Mr. Wesley says in his sermon on Patience, — “Till this universal change (purification) was wrought in his soul (the regenerate), all his holiness was mixed.” Mixed, necessarily in a restricted sense. Both grace and inbred sin have existence in the same soul, though antagonistic and at war with each other, and in their essential nature diametrically opposed to each other. Though existing for the time in the same person in admixture, they are distinct in nature and tendency; they “are contrary the one to the other,” and are irreconcilable enemies.
Partly holy, and partly unholy, as in a sense is the case with the merely regenerate, does by no means imply a homogeneous character, combining and assimilating into a common nature the elements of both holiness and inbred sin.
The mixed moral state of the merely regenerate is very different from this. Their possession of the human soul at the same time, does not imply FRIENDSHIP or PARTNERSHIP in any sense. Being antagonistic, and having no conformity to each other, they can not assimilate or grow like each other, so as to become one, or of the same nature. Their existence in the heart without commingling or composition may be illustrated by vegetables and weeds in a garden.
The Apostle refers to this contrariety and antagonism in Galatians, — “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” All that remains in the regenerate soul of the “carnal” is “enmity to God.”
“That in this sense there is sin in the incipient believer,” says Dr. John Dempster, “is a Scriptural truth, sustained by many kinds of evidence.” — Beauty of Holiness, 1863, p. 30.
The implantation of spiritual life does not destroy the carnal mind; though its power is broken, it does not cease to exist. While the new birth is the beginning of purification, it is, perhaps, more the process of imparting or begetting spiritual life, than the process of refining or purification; which in entire sanctification is the extraction of remaining impurity from regenerated human nature.
Where the “new life” exists, grace has the mastery; as Mr. Wesley says, — “Inbred sin may exist where it does not reign.” The justified soul strives against these corruptions, does not allow them, hates them, mourns over them, and groans under them as a burden, and seeks their destruction or removal.
Condemnation is only consequent upon actual transgression in sin of either omission or commission. In both regeneration and purification the soul is free from condemnation. The deficiency of the merely regenerate, is complete purification.
Bishop Hedding says, — “That a soul merely born of God needs a further sanctification (purification) is evident from the whole current of the writings of the Apostles.” — Sermon.
It has been nearly the universal belief of the Evangelical Church that inbred sin, some “unrighteousness” does remain after regeneration. As the Zinzendorf and Maxwell error has recently made its appearance among us, and has been virtually endorsed by some of our chief ministers, and is being taught in some of our pulpits, I have regarded it proper to present the reader with a large number of quotations from the leading writers of the Christian Church.
Mr. Wesley, in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection, page 48, writes:– “When does inward sanctification begin? In the moment a man is justified. Yet sin remains in him, yea the seed of all sin, till he is sanctified throughout.”
In 1763 Mr. Wesley said, “I retired to Lewisham and wrote the sermon on ‘Sin in Believers,’ in order to remove a mistake which some were laboring to propagate, that there is no sin in any that are justified.” In that sermon he says, “Indeed this grand point, that there are two contrary principles in (unsanctified) believers — nature and grace, the flesh and the Spirit, runs through all the Epistles of St. Paul, yea, through all the Scriptures.”
“I cannot, therefore, by any means receive this assertion, that there is no sin in a believer from the moment he is justified; first, because it is contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture; — secondly, because it is contrary to the experience of the children of God; — thirdly, because it is absolutely new, never heard of in the world till yesterday; — and, lastly, because it is naturally attended with the most fatal consequences; not only grieving those whom God hath not grieved, but perhaps dragging them into everlasting perdition.” — Sermons, vol. i. p. 111.
Quotations from Mr. Wesley might be given on this subject to great length if it were necessary.
Rev. John Fletcher wrote an “Address to Imperfect Believers,” in which he says, — “We do not deny that the remains of the carnal mind still cleave to imperfect Christians.” … “Our Church prudently requires our subscription to our ninth article, which asserts, (1) That ‘the fault and corruption of our nature’ is a melancholy reality: and, (2) That this ‘fault, corruption, or infection doth remain in them who are regenerated.’ ” — Last Check, pp. 207, 241.
Dr. Adam Clarke, the celebrated Commentator, says: “I believe justification and sanctification to be widely distinct works. I have been twenty-three years a travelling preacher, and have been acquainted with some thousands of Christians during that time, who were in different states of grace, and never to my knowledge met with a single instance where God both justified and sanctified at the same time.” — Everett’s Life of Dr. A. Clarke.
Bishop Hedding: “Regeneration also, being the same as the new birth, is the beginning of sanctification, though not the completion of it, or not entire sanctification. Regeneration is the beginning of purification; entire sanctification is the finishing of that work.” … “Though the soul in this state enjoys a degree of religion, yet it is conscious it is not what it ought to be, nor what it must be to be fit for heaven.” … “It seems that the sinfulness of our nature, or original sin may remain in the new born soul independent of choice, and even against choice.” … “The person fully sanctified is cleansed from all these inward involuntary sins.” — Address at the N. J. Con.
Rev. Wm. Bramwell wrote to a friend: “An idea is going forth that when we are justified we are entirely sanctified; and to feel evil nature after justification, is to lose pardon. You may depend upon it, this IS THE DEVIL’S GREAT GUN. We shall have much trouble with this, and I am afraid we can not suppress it.” — Memoir of Bramwell.
Rev. Dr. Hodge, of Princeton, says: “By a consent almost universal, the word regeneration is now used to designate, not the whole work of sanctification … but the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life.” … “According to the Scriptures, and the undeniable evidence of history, regeneration does not remove all sin.” Systematic Theology, vol. iii. p. 290.
Dr. Nathan Bangs: “After a sinner is justified freely by his grace, he is made deeply sensible, and perhaps more so than ever, of the impurity of his nature, we freely admit; not indeed because he is more impure, but because the light of God’s Spirit shining into his soul, now more clearly discovers to him the native impurity, the roots of bitterness within.” — Article in Guide to Holiness.
Rev. Wm. McDonald: “Regeneration and entire sanctification are not received at one and the same time, except, perhaps, in a few extraordinary cases, if indeed, the case ever occurs.” — New Testament Standard, p. 44.
“The distinction (says Prof. Upham) is evidently made in the Scripture. The passages of Scripture where it is clearly recognized are so numerous and so familiar to the attentive reader of the Bible that it seems hardly necessary to quote them to any length.” — Interior Life, p. 173.
“We may love God more than all besides (says Dr. H. Mattison), and yet the elements, or seeds of all sin, linger in the soul.” — Article in C. A. and Journal.
Bishop Janes: “There may be, and almost uniformly is, subsequent to this moment when we pass from death to life, remaining in our converted souls, (not our backslidden, but in our converted souls) remains of the carnal mind.” — Guide 1870, p. 181.
Dr. G. Smith, F. S. A.: “But now the clearly observable distinction is felt to exist, that the mind has power over these corruptions, restrains their action, and looking to Jesus by faith, does not, even under their influence, commit sin. Yet the existence of these remains of corrupt nature is painful and dangerous.” — Lectures on Theology, p. 203.
Rev. Dr. Curry said in the Debate in the New York Preachers’ Meeting: “This ‘carnal mind’ survives the work of regeneration, and is often actively rebellious in the hearts of real Christians.” … “The purified spiritual vision discovers a great depth of iniquity within; and the quickened and tender conscience is convicted of and pained by deep inwrought pollution.”
Rev. John Dick, D. D, in his Lectures on Theology, says: “Although in regeneration, holy principles are infused into the soul, yet the change produced is only partial. No Christian grace is wanting in the regenerate man, and no sin or sinful inclination retains its sovereign power; but the graces are imperfect, and remaining depravity continues to operate, and sometimes prevails.”
Bishop Thomson, at the West Va. Conference, in his last clerical address, a few days before his death, said: “The justified and regenerate discover in themselves the remains of the carnal mind. If you accept the theory that you are sanctified when you are justified, if you find the remains of sin after you experience regeneration, you will be led to a melancholy conclusion. The opposite view, that we cannot be made pure, is equally pernicious.”
Rev. Richard Watson says: “That a distinction exists between a regenerate state, and a state of entire and perfect holiness, will be generally allowed.” — Institutes, Part II. chap. 29.
Rev. Dr. Dempster: “The denial of it is a position utterly novel. It is less than two centuries old. Till that modern date no part of the Greek or Latin Churches was ever infested with it. And in the Reformed Churches it was never heard of only among a few raving Antinomians.” — Sermon before Biblical Institute.
Dr. George Peck: “And believing, as I do, that the theory which identifies justification and entire sanctification, in point of time, not only wars against but utterly subverts the Scripture doctrine of sanctification as taught by our standard writers.” Dr. Peck further adds: “And would it not be a sad indication of the degeneracy of Methodism in this country, if what Mr. Wesley, under God our great founder, considered heresy, and opposed with all his might, should be cherished as the very marrow of the Gospel by the ministers and people of the Methodist Episcopal Church? It is to be hoped that the day is far distant when such will be the fact.” — Peck’s Christian Perfection, p. 364.
Bishop Foster says: “Believers are not by virtue of the new birth entirely free from sin, either as it respects the inward taint or outward occasional act.” — Christian Purity, p. 107.
To the distinction between regeneration and complete purification, all ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church have fully set their seal in their ordination vows, or induction into the ministerial office. The following questions have been answered in the affirmative, under the most solemn circumstances, by each one of the eleven thousand ordained ministers in our Church: “Have you faith in Christ? Are you going on unto perfection? Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life? ARE YOU GROANING AFTER IT?” — Methodist Discipline.
More than one hundred thousand ministers of Christ have answered these interrogations in the affirmative during the past hundred years. The command of the Supreme God: “BE YE CLEAN, that bear the vessels of the Lord,” is the foundation of these disciplinary questions.
Bishop Hamline wrote in his diary, in 1847: “He who stands at the altar and repeats the usual answers to the solemn questions in the Conference examination, and then makes light of the doctrine of Perfect Love, is fit for almost anything but the pulpit. According to Mr. Wesley, he is either a dishonest man or has lost his memory.”
A writer in a book recently published endeavors to make a point against the commonly received doctrine of Christian purity, by asserting that hardly one in twenty of our ministers profess it, either publicly or privately; and that even among our Bishops, its confessors are as hard to be found as among any other class of our people.
While we are pleased with the spirit of the book, and the absence of all petty flings against the doctrine it antagonizes, we cannot believe its author has studied this subject as thoroughly, or given it the attention he should have done before writing against it. We are compelled to differ with the book in some of its statements. Instead of hardly one in twenty of our ministers professing it, as is stated, if it had said, there is hardly one in twenty who has not AT SOME TIME DURING HIS LIFE professed this blessing, it would, as we believe, have been nearer the truth.
The fact is, as we understand it, the great majority of our ministers, have at some period of their life professed purity. As to our Bishops, from Asbury to Peck the most of them have professed it more or less. Those, whose testimonies in some form are not on record, are exceptions rather than the majority. That all of them have made the subject a specialty, and professed the blessing as prominently as Asbury, Hamline and Peck, we do not claim; but that a large share of them have confessed it at times we do know, and their lives have vindicated their confession.
The author says Bishop Asbury did not profess it. Bishop Asbury left in writing, written years before his death — “I LIVE IN PATIENCE, IN PURITY, AND IN THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.” I call that a profession of perfect love.
Bishop Whatcoat, in describing his experience long after his regeneration, says:– “My soul was drawn out and engaged in a manner it never was before. Suddenly I was stripped of all but love.” What is this but a profession of perfect love?
The materials in various forms are available to show that a decided majority of our bishops have at times made this profession. It will not do to take the position, that because a Bishop, preacher, or private member, does not profess holiness constantly, repeatedly, or continuously, he, therefore, does not profess it at all, or, NEVER HAS MADE THE PROFESSION. If we judged the profession of justification and regeneration by such a rule, it would exclude a large share of the same persons, from a confession of any religion at all.
We maintain from their writings, diaries, and biographies, that a large share of our Bishops have at some time confessed salvation from all sin; as that grace is commonly understood in the Church. The reader would be astonished to know how many of the prominent ministers of the Church HAVE AT TIMES PROFESSED THIS BLESSING.
In some of our Conferences, to our knowledge, a large share of the preachers have professed to have “a clean heart.” They have not all confessed it at the same time; nor in the same terms; nor have all given either the subject or the profession great prominence. Many may not have said much about it, not as much, perhaps, as they should have done — not so much as would have been pleasing to God, and useful to themselves and the Church.
It may be presumed, the author of the book taking the position stated, may not have had as favorable an opportunity as some others, of knowing how many of the eleven thousand ministers of our Church, at times, have professed this blessing. Then, it is one thing to obtain a clean heart; another to witness to it, and quite another to retain it, and become established therein.
Should it be asked why so many lose it? We answer: when the chief ministers of the Church give this doctrine and experience the prominence, sympathy, and clearness in their teachings their importance demand, or when, in the language of Mr. Wesley, “all our preachers make a point of preaching Christian Perfection to believers CONSTANTLY, STRONGLY AND EXPLICITLY;” we shall hear of less losing it both in ministry and laity before they become established therein.
Mr. Wesley said: “What a grievous error to think those saved from sin can not lose what they have gained! It is a marvel if they do not, seeing all earth and hell are so enraged against them; while meantime, SO VERY FEW even of the children of God skillfully endeavor to strengthen their hands.” — Works, vol. iv. p. 419.
It is a fact of common experience, that the remaining corruptions of the heart after regeneration, become sooner or later, a matter of consciousness with every child of God — that all regenerate souls learn by sad experience, they were not entirely sanctified when converted; and they become amazed and humbled by the consciousness of their remaining corruption — their natural tendency to sin.
In regeneration, as we have seen, are implanted the elements of all holy affections, and so long as justification is retained they are dominant, and not under the control of inbred sin. And yet, though its power is broken, so it does not reign, and the soul is not in bondage to it, — has victory over it through grace; its “root” or “seed,” its inbeing and existence remain, and often strive for the mastery.
So long as it exists in the soul, the soul is not purified — not “complete in Christ.” This is the doctrine which runs through our Theology, our Commentaries, our Discipline, our Hymn Book, and our Biographies.
The human mind is ever inclined to go to extremes. Truth usually lies between these extremes. Some attribute too much to justification and regeneration, and others too little. Those who attribute too much to it, claim [that] at justification the soul is entirely sanctified, so that beyond that there is nothing of obtainable experience left, except simple growth, and development. The second error, of attributing too little to it, is quite prevalent, and a serious one. Such regard it as comparatively an insignificant blessing, and compatible with but little difference between themselves and the world — that they can possess some religion, and live in neglect of duty, and even to some extent in violation of the commands of God.
Whereas the justified state is not consistent with COMMITTING SIN, and is negatived by the commission of any sin. While the justified believer does not willfully commit sin, he may at times yield to the enemy under powerful temptation, or through weakness, ignorance, or want of reflection; and may be blameworthy for negligence, or through a voluntary relation to his ignorance, weakness or carelessness. The neglect of any known duty will certainly bring the displeasure of God upon the justified soul. No man can “commit sin,” or neglect duty, without being condemned before God. It is written concerning the justified soul: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.”
A professing Christian who lives in the commission of sin, is a sinner. The reader will note the following passages taken from the first Epistle of St. John:– “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” Not he that committeth great sins, or little sins, or continues committing sin, but he that “COMMITTETH SIN IS OF THE DEVIL.”
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, IS A LIAR.” — “We know that whosoever is born of God SINNETH NOT.” — “Whosoever abideth in him SINNETH NOT.” — “My little children, I write unto you THAT YE SIN NOT.” — “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law.” — “In this (committing sin or otherwise) the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” — “For this is the love of God, that ye keep his commandments.” In another place it is written — “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.”
We do not teach any state of grace which admits of committing sin, and the least that justification can do for any man is to save him from all guilt, and keep him from committing sin.
Many appear to think the difference between the merely regenerate and the entirely sanctified consists in committing sin or otherwise. This is a mistake. The difference is not one of committing sin; it is not so much a difference in the outward life as in the inward experience — the purity or impurity, the moral state of the soul. Neither the one nor the other can commit sin or neglect duty without standing condemned before God. All the duties of a Christian, as they are written in the Bible, are just as binding on one who is justified as one who is entirely sanctified. This should not be forgotten: every item of God’s law is binding as much on the partially purified as on the entirely purified. It is a great evil that in many Churches the standard of justification is so low.
We often hear people ask, — “Will God partially cleanse the soul?” “Can a new creature be only partly new?” and “Can God do a thing imperfectly?”
Of what God can do, or what he can not do, we know but little, but we do know an objection based on ignorance must be powerless. Some things which He has done and is doing we know by experience, observation, and Revelation. The same questions might be asked in regard to God’s works in nature, as well as in grace; and, so far as analogy gives us any light, it harmonizes with Revelation. PROGRESS IS CERTAINLY THE UNIFORM LAW OF NATURE.
All God’s works doubtless harmonize with His infinite wisdom and power, as well as with the highest well-being of his creatures, and are as complete at every period of their existence as their nature and relations will admit. Those asking these questions might derive some light in contemplating the three great dispensations of human redemption — the PATRIARCHAL, MOSAIC, and CHRISTIAN.
Let it be understood that the favor of God and a title to heaven do not depend upon the highest perfection of which our nature is capable. The babe in Christ is as truly a member of the family of God and as certainly an heir of heaven as a perfect man in Christ. After pardon, adoption, and heirship to heaven, it should be remembered that obedience to all the known will of God, our sanctification included, is the condition of retaining his favor, and our ultimate salvation.
“Nothing resting in its own completeness Can have worth or beauty; but alone Because it leads and tends to farther sweetness, Fuller, higher, deeper than its own.”
“Nor dare to blame God’s gifts for incompleteness, In that want their beauty lies: they roll Towards some infinite depth of love and sweetness, Bearing onward man’s reluctant soul.”