Mr. Hill's first argument against Christian perfection is taken from the ninth and fifteenth articles of the Church of EnglandThese articles, properly understood, are not contrary to that doctrineThat our Church holds it, is proved by thirteen argumentsShe opposes Pharisaic, but not Christian perfectionEight reasons are produced to show that it is absurd to embrace the doctrine of a death purgatory because our reformers and martyrs, in following after the perfection of humility, have used some unguarded expressions, which seem to bear hard upon the doctrine of Christian perfection. IN the preceding sections I have laid the axe at the root of some prejudices, and cut up a variety of objections. The controversial field is cleared. The engagement may begin: nay, it is already begun; for Mr. Hill, in his Creed for Perfectionists, and Mr. Toplady, in his Caveat against unsound Doctrines, have brought up, and fired at our doctrine, two pieces of ecclesiastical artillery;the ninth and fifteenth articles of our Church: and they conclude that the contents of these doctrinal cannons absolutely demolish the perfection we contend for. The report of their wrong-pointed ordnance, and the noise they make about our subscriptions are loud; but that we need not be afraid of the shot, will, I hope, appear from the following observations:
The design of the fifteenth article of our Church is pointed out by the title, "Of Christ alone without Sin." From this title we conclude that the scope and design of the article is not to secure to Christ the honour of being alone cleansed from sin; because such an honour would be a reproach to his original and uninterrupted purity, which placed him far above the need of cleansing. Nor does the article drop the least hint about the impossibility of our being "cleansed from sin" before we go into the purgatory of the Calvinists: I mean the chambers of death. What our Church intends, is to distinguish Christ from all mankind, and especially from the Virgin Mary, whom the Papists assert to have been always totally free from original and actual sin. Our Church does this by maintaining, (1.) That Christ was born without the least taint of original sin, and never committed any actual transgression. (2.) That all other men, the Virgin Mary and the most holy believers not excepted, are the very reverse of Christ in both these respects; all being conceived in original sin, and offending in many things, even after baptism, 5 and with all the helps which we have under the Christian dispensation to keep us "without sin" from day to day. And, therefore, (3.) That "if we say we have no sin;" if we pretend, like some Pelagians, that we have no original sin; or if we intimate, like some Pharisees, that "we never did any harm in all our lives," that is, that we have no actual sin, "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;" there being absolutely no adult person without sin in those respects, except our Lord Jesus Christ.
That this is the genuine sense of the article appears, (1.) By the absurdity which follows from the contrary sentiment. For if these words, "Christ alone without Sin," are to be taken in an absolute and unlimited sense; if the word alone entirely excludes all mankind, at all times; if it is levelled at our being cleansed from sin, as well as at our having been always free from original and actual pollution; if this is the case, I say, it is evident that not only fathers in Christ, but also Enoch and Elijah, St. John and St. Paul, are to this day tainted with sin, and must to all eternity continue so, lest Mr. Hill's opinion of Christ alone without sin should not be true.
2. Our sentiment is confirmed by the article itself, part of which runs thus:"Christ, in the truth of our nature, was made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh and in his spirit. He came to be a Lamb without spot; and sin, as St. John says, was not in him. But all we the rest, although baptized and born again in Christ, [i.e. although we have from our infancy all the helps that the Christian dispensation affords men to keep them without sin,] yet we offend in many things, [after our baptism,] and if we say, [as the above-mentioned Pelagians and Pharisees,] that we have no [original or actual] sin, [i.e. that we are like Christ, in either of these respects; our conception, infancy, childhood, youth, and age, being all taken into the account,] we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
Having thus opened the plain, rational, and Scriptural sense in which we subscribe to our fifteenth article, it remains to make a remark upon the ninth.
Some bigoted Pelagians deny original sin, or the Adamic infection of our nature; and some bigoted Papists suppose that this infection is entirely done away in baptism: in opposition to both these, our Church prudently requires our subscription to her 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;" that is, in them who are "baptized, or made children of God," according to the Christian dispensation. For every person who has attentively read our liturgy, knows that these expressions, baptized, regenerated, and made a member of Christ, and a child of God, are synonymous in the language of our Church. Now, because we have acknowledged, by our subscription to our ninth article, that "the infection of our nature" is not done away in baptism, but "does remain in them which are regenerate," or baptized, Mr. Hill thinks himself authorized to impose upon us the yoke of indwelling sin for life; supposing that we cannot be fair subscribers to that article, unless we renounce the glorious liberty of God's children, and embrace the Antinomian gospel, which is summed up in these unguarded words of Luther, quoted by Bogatsky in his Golden Treasury: 6 "The sins of a Christian are for his good, and if he had no sin, he would not be so well off; neither would prayer flow so well," Can any thing be either more unscriptural or absurd? What unprejudiced person does not see we may, with the greatest consistency, maintain that baptism does not remove the Adamic infection of sin, and that nevertheless this infection may be removed before death?
Nevertheless, we are willing to make Mr. Hill all the concessions we can, consistently with a good conscience. If by "the infection of nature, he understand the natural ignorance which has infected our understanding; the natural forgetfulness which has affected our memory; the inbred debility of all our mental powers, and the poisonous seeds of mortality which infect all men from head to foot, and hinder the strongest believers from serving God with all the fervour they would be capable of, were they not fallen from paradisiacal perfection, under the curse of a body sentenced to die, and "dead because of sin:" if Mr. Hill, I say, understand this by the "infection of nature," we believe that such an infection, with all the natural, innocent appetites of the flesh, remains, not only in those whom the Scriptures call "babes in Christ," but also in "fathers;" there being no adult believer that may not say, as well as Christ, Adam, or St. Paul, "I thirst. I am hungry. I want a help-meet for me. I know but in part. I see darkly through a glass. I groan, being burdened. He that marrieth sinneth not. It is better to marry than to burn," &c.
But if Mr. Hill, by "the infection of nature," mean the sinful lusts of the flesh, such as drunkenness, gluttony, whoredom, &c; or, if he understand unloving, diabolical tempers, such as envy, pride, stubbornness, malice, sinful anger, ungodly jealousy, unbelief, fretfulness, impatience, hypocrisy, revenge, or any moral opposition to the will of God: if Mr. Hill, I say, understand this by "the infection of nature;" and if he suppose that these evils must radically and necessarily remain in the hearts of all believers (fathers in Christ not excepted) till death comes to "cleanse the thoughts of their hearts" by the inspiration of his ill-smelling breath, we must take the liberty of dissenting from him; and we produce the following arguments to prove that, whatever Mr. Hill may insinuate to the contrary, the Church of England is not against the doctrine of evangelical perfection which we vindicate.
I. Our Church can never be so inconsistent as to level her articles against what she ardently prays for in her liturgy: but she ardently prays for Christian perfection, or for perfect love in this life. Therefore she is not against Christian perfection. The second proposition of this argument can alone be disputed, and I support it by the well-known collect in the communion service, "Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Here we see, (1.) The nature of Christian perfection; it is perfect love. (2.) The seat of this perfect love, a heart cleansed from its own thoughts. (3.) The blessed effect of it, a worthy magnifying of God's holy name. (4.) Its author, God, of whom the blessing is asked. (5.) The immediate mean of it, the inspiration of his Holy Spirit. And, lastly, the gracious procurer of it, our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. This vein of godly desire after Christian perfection runs through her daily service. In her confession she prays: "Restore thou them that are penitent, according to thy promises, &c, that hereafter we may live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of thy holy name." Now, godliness, righteousness, and sobriety, being the sum of our duty toward God, our neighbour, and ourselves, are also the sum of Christian perfection. Nor does our Church absolve any but such as desire "that the rest of their lives may be pure and holy, so that at the last they may come to God's eternal joy;" plainly intimating that we may get a pure heart; and lead a pure and holy life, without going into a death purgatory; and those who do not attain to purity of heart and life, that is, to perfection, are in danger of missing God's eternal joy.
III. Hence it is that she is not ashamed to pray daily for sinless purity in the Te Deum: "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin," that is, sinless; for, I suppose, that the title of our fifteenth article, "Of Christ alone without Sin," means, Of Christ alone sinless from his conception to his last gasp. This deep petition is perfectly agreeable to the collects for the ninth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth Sundays after Trinity: "Grant to us the Spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful, that we may be enabled to live according to thy will," i.e. to live without sin. "We pray thee, that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us to be continually given to all good works," &c. "Grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee." "Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts." Again: "May it please thee, that by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, [Luke, the evangelist and physician of the soul,] all the diseases of our souls may be healed," &c. (St. Luke's Day.) "Mortify and kill in us all vices, [and among them envy, selfishness, and pride,] and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith unto death, we may glorify thy holy name," &c. (The Innocents' Day.) "Grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee both in will and deed." (First Sunday after Trinity.) "Direct, sanctify, and govern both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments, that we may be preserved [in these ways and works] in body and soul." "Prevent us in all our doings, &c, and farther us with thy continual help; that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name." (Communion Service.) Once more: "Grant that in all our sufferings here on earth, &c, we may steadfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to bless our persecutors by the example of thy first martyr," &c. (St. Stephen's Day.) It is worth our notice. that blessing our persecutors and murderers is the last beatitude, the highest instance of Christian perfection, and the most difficult of all the duties, which, if we may believe our Lord, constitute us perfect in our sphere, "as our heavenly Father is perfect:" see Matt. v, 11, 44, 45, 48.
IV. Perfect love, i.e. Christian perfection, instantaneously springs from perfect faith: and as our Church would have all her members perfect in love, she requires them to pray thus for perfect faith, which must be obtained in this life or never: "Grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ, that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved." (St. Thomas' Day.)
V. Our Lord teaches us to ask for the highest degree of Christian perfection, where he commands us "when we pray to say, &c, Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." And our Church, by introducing this deep prayer in all her services, shows how greatly Mr. Hill is mistaken, when he supposes that she looks upon our doctrine of Christian perfection as "shocking."
Should this gentleman object that although our Church bids us pray for Christian perfection in the above-cited collects, and in our Lord's prayer, yet she does not intimate that these deep prayers may be answered in this life: I oppose to that argument not only the word on earth, which she so frequently mentions in the Lord's prayer, but also her own words: "Everlasting God, who art more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than we desire, &c, pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy," &c. (Twelfth Sunday after Trinity.) Mr. Hill must therefore excuse us, if we side with our praying Church, and are not ashamed to say, with St. Paul, "Glory be to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us," Eph. iii, 20.
VI. That our Church cannot reasonably be against Christian perfection, I farther prove thus: what the Church of England recommends as the end of baptism, can never be contrary to her doctrine: but she recommends a "death unto sin," or Christian perfection, as the end of baptism; therefore she cannot be against Christian perfection. The second proposition, which alone is disputable, I prove by these words of her catechism: "What is the inward or spiritual grace in baptism? A death unto sin, and new birth unto righteousness." Hence she prays at the grave, "We beseech thee to raise us from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him," [Christ.] Now, that a death to sin is the end of baptism, and that this end is never fully answered till this death has fully taken place, is evident by the following extract from our baptismal office: "Grant that the old Adam in this person may be so buried that the new may be raised up in him." "Grant that all carnal affections [and consequently all the carnal mind and all inbred sin] may die in him, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him." "Grant that the person now to be baptized may receive the fulness of thy grace. Grant that he being dead to sin, and living to righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin." How can we maintain, with our Church, that we to crucify, mortify, (i.e. kill,) and utterly abolish the whole body of sin; so as to be dead to sin, and to have the old Adam buried in this life; and yet hold, with Mr. Hill, that this "whole body of sin," which we are utterly to abolish, is to remain wholly and utterly unabolished till death come to abolish it?
VII. Our Church is not against that end of the Lord's Supper which she constantly inculcates: but that end of the Lord's Supper which she constantly inculcates is Christian perfection: therefore our Church is not against Christian perfection. The second proposition, which alone needs proof, is founded upon these deep words of our Communion Service:"Grant us to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us." These words express the height of Christian perfection, nor has the Lord's Supper had its full end upon us till that prayer is answered.
VIII. Our Church is not against what she considers the end of Christ's nativity, and of his being presented in the temple: but what she considers as that end, is Christian perfection: therefore she is not against Christian perfection. The second proposition of this argument is founded, (1.) Upon the proper preface to Christmas day in the Communion Service:"Christ, &c, was made very man, &c, without spot of sin, to make us clean from all sin." And, (2.) Upon these words of the collect for the presentation of Christ in the temple:"We humbly beseech thee, that as thy only begotten Son was presented in the temple in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts."
IX. The same argument holds good with respect to our Lord's circumcision, his keeping of the passover with unleavened bread, his ascending into heaven, and his sending the Comforter from thence. That, according to our Church, the end of these events is our Christian perfection, appears by the following extracts from her collects:"Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit, that our hearts and all our members being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey," &c. (The Circumcision of Christ.) "Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may alway serve thee in pureness of living and truth." (First Sunday after Easter.) "Grant, &c, that we may also in heart and mind thither [to heaven] ascend, and with him [Christ] continually dwell," &c. (Ascension Day.) "Grant us, by the same Spirit, to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort." (Whitsuntide.)
X. Our Church cannot reasonably oppose what she ardently wishes to all her communicants, and what she earnestly asks for and strongly recommends to all her members: but she thus wishes, asks, and recommends deliverance from all sin, and perfect charity, that is, Christian perfection: and therefore she cannot be against Christian perfection. The second proposition is founded, (1.) Upon these words of the absolution which she gives to all communicants:"Almighty God, &c, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness." (2.) Upon her collect for Quinquagesima Sunday:"Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues:" (St. Paul calls it "the bond of perfection.") And, (3.)Upon the definition which she gives us of charity, in her homilies:"Charity," says she, "is to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our power and strength. With all our heart; that is to say, that our heart, mind, and study be set to believe his word, and to love him above all things that we love best in heaven or in earth. With all our soul; that is to say, that our chief joy and delight be set upon him, and our whole life given to his service. With all our power; that is to say, that, with our hands and feet, with our eyes and ears, our mouths and tongues, and with all our parts and powers, both of body and soul, we should be given to the keeping of his commandments. This is the principal part of charity, but it is not the whole; for charity is also to love every man, good and evil, friend and foe, whatsoever cause be given to the contrary." (Hom. on Charity.) "Of charity [St. John] says, He that doth keep God's word and commandment, in 'him is truly the perfect love of God,' &c. And St. John wrote not this as a subtle saying, &c, but as a most certain and necessary truth." (Homily of Faith, part ii.) "Thus it is declared unto you what true charity or Christian love is, &c, which love, whosoever keepeth, not only toward God, whom he is bound to love above all things, but also toward his neighbour, as well friend as foe, it shall surely keep him from all offence of God, and just offence of man." (Homily on Charity, part ii.) Again: "Every man persuadeth himself to be in charity; but let him examine his own heart, his life and conversation, and he shall truly discern whether he be in perfect charity or not. For he that followeth not his own will, but giveth himself earnestly to God, to do all his will and commandment, he may be sure that he loveth God above all things, or else surely he loveth him not, whatsoever he pretend." (Homily on Charity.) Once more: perfect "patience careth not what, nor how much it suffereth, nor of whom it suffereth, whether of friend or foe, but studieth to suffer innocently. Yea, he in whom perfect charity is, careth so little to revenge, that he rather studieth to do good for evil, according to the most perfect example of Christ upon the cross. Such charity and love as Christ showed in his passion, should we bear one to another, if we will be his true servants. If we love but them that love us, what great thing do we do? We must be perfect in our charity, even as our Father in heaven is perfect." (Homily for Good Friday.)
XI. That state which our Church wants all her priests to bring their flocks to is not a "shocking" or chimerical state: but she wants all her priests to bring all their flocks to "perfectness in Christ," that is, to Christian perfection: and therefore the state of Christian perfection is neither shocking nor chimerical. The minor, which alone is contestable, rests upon this awful part of the charge which all her bishops give to her priests:"See that you never cease your labour, care, and diligence, until you have done all that lieth in you to bring all such as shall be committed to your charge unto that agreement of faith, and that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you for error in religion, or viciousness in life." (Ordin. Office.)
XII. Nor is our Church less strict with the laity than with the clergy; for she receives none into her congregation but such as profess a determination of coming up to Christian perfection. Accordingly, all her members have solemnly promised and vowed by their sponsors at their baptism, and in their own persons when they were confirmed by the bishop: (1.) "To renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, without reserve, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh. (2.) To believe all the articles of the Christian faith. And, (3.) To keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of their life." And is not this vowing to "perfect holiness in the fear of God?" Does the first part of this sacred engagement leave any room for a moment's agreement with the devil, the world, or the flesh? Does the second make the least allowance for one doubt with respect to any one article of the Christian faith? Or the third for one wilful breach of God's commandments? Again: are not these commandments thus summed up in our Church catechism:"I learn in them my duty toward God, which is to love him with all my heart; and my duty toward my neighbour, which is to love him as myself?" Is not this perfect love, or Christian perfection? And have we not "vowed to walk in the same all the days of our life?" As many Churchmen, therefore, as make conscience of keeping their baptismal vow, must not only "go on, but attain unto perfection:" and if there have been no perfect Christians in our Church, all her members have died in the actual breach of the awful promise which they made in their baptism: a supposition too shocking either to make or allow.
If you ask, Where are those perfect Churchmen or Christians? I answer, that if the perfect love that keeps the commandments is not attainable, our baptismal vow is absurd and detestable; for it is both irrational, and very wicked, to vow things absolutely impossible. But this is not all: upon that supposition the Bible, which makes such frequent mention of the perfect and of perfection, is not better than a popish legend; for that book ought to rank among religious romances, which recommends imaginary things as if they were indubitable realities. So sure then as the Bible is true, there are, or may be perfect Christians; but
Virtutem incolumem odimus,
Sublatam ex oculis quærimus, invidi.
"While we honour dead saints, we call those who are alive enthusiasts, hypocrites, or heretics." It is not proper, therefore, to expose them to the darts of envy and malice. And suppose living witnesses of perfect love were produced, what would be the consequence? Their testimony would be excepted against by those who disbelieve the doctrine of Christian perfection, just as the testimony of the believers, who enjoy the sense of their justification, is rejected by those who do not believe that a clear experience of the peace and pardoning love of God is attainable in this life. If the original, direct perfection of Christ himself was horribly blackened by his bigoted opposers, how could the derived, reflected perfection of his members escape the same treatment from men, whose hearts are tinctured with a degree of the same bigotry?
Add to this, that in order to harden unbelievers, "the accuser of the brethren" perpetually obtrudes upon the Church, not only false witnesses of pardoning grace, but also vain pretenders to perfect love: for he knows that by putting off as many counterfeits as he possibly can, he will give the enemies of the truth room to say that there is in the Church no gold purified seven times,no coin truly stamped with the king's image, perfect love; and bearing the royal inscription, "Holiness unto the Lord." 7
Therefore, instead of saying that this or the other eminent believer has attained Christian perfection, we rest the cause upon the experience of St. John, and of those with whom that apostle could say, "There is no occasion of stumbling in him that loveth. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because [with respect to holiness] as He is [in his human nature] so are we in this worldpure, undefiled; and filled with perfect love; with this difference nevertheless, that he is in the kingdom of glory, and we in the kingdom of grace; he has a glorified, and we a corruptible body; he has the original perfection of a tree, and we the derived perfection of branches growing upon it. Or, to use another comparison, he shines with the communicative perfection of a pure, bright, unextinguishable fire; and we with a borrowed, and yet inherent perfection of a coal entirely lighted. The burning mineral was black, cold, and filthy, before it was impregnated with the perfection of the fire; it continues bright, hot, and pure, only so long as it remains in the fire that kindled it: for if it fall from it by any accident, the shining perfection which it had acquired gradually vanishes, and it becomes a filthy cinder, the black emblem of an apostate. So true is that saying of our Lord, "Without me [or rather separate from me] ye can do nothing;" ye can neither get, nor keep light or heat, knowledge or love. But when we live not, and Christ liveth in us; when our life is hid with Christ in God, when we dwell in God, and God dwells in us; then it is that our love is made perfect, and that, loving one another even as Christ hath loved us, as he is loving, "so are we in this world," 1 John iv, 17.
Such was the avowed experience of fathers in Christ in the apostolic times, and such it undoubtedly is also in our days. Nor can I persuade myself that our Church trifles with her children when she describes the perfect Christian thus, in our Homily for Good Friday: "He in whom perfect charity is, careth so little to revenge, that he rather studieth to do good for evil, according to the most perfect example of Christ upon the cross."
XII. If Mr. Hill reply, that our Church speaks there of a mere nonentity; and that we can never have a grain of perfect charity in this life, because the old leaven of indwelling sin will always corrupt the sweetness of our tempers before God; I answer his objection by producing my last proof, that our Church holds the very doctrine for which we are called perfectionists. Hear her pressing perfect love and purity, (1.) Upon all her communicants: "Have a lively and steadfast faith in Christ, &c, and be in perfect charity with all men." (Com. Office.) And, (2.) Upon all her feeble children:"Though your power be weak," says she to them, "yet Christ is risen again to strengthen you in your battle: his Holy Spirit shall help your infirmities. In trust of his mercy take you in hand to purge the leaven of sin, that corrupteth and soureth the sweetness of our life before God; that ye may be as new and fresh dough, void of all sour leaven of wickedness; so shall ye show yourselves to be sweet bread to God, that he may have his delight in you." (Hom. on the Resur.)
All the preceding arguments support our sense of the ninth and fifteenth articles; and if Mr. Hill urge that our Church contradicts herself, and sometimes pleads for Christian imperfection and a death purgatory; we reply, that, supposing the charge were well grounded, yet we ought rather to follow her, when she soberly follows Scripture, than when she hastily follows inconsistent Augustine. But we would rather hope that when she speaks of human depravity in a manner which seems to bear hard upon the preceding quotations, it is either when she speaks of human depravity in general, or when she inculcates the perfection of humility; or when she opposes the feigned perfection of those whom she ironically calls "proud, just, perfect, and holy Pharisees." (Hom. on the Misery of Man.) From these and the like words, therefore, we have as much reason to conclude that she renounces true Christian holiness, as to infer that she decries true Christian perfection. Beside, the delusion of those Pharisees, who have missed a perfection of evangelical righteousness and humility, and have attained a perfection of self righteousness and pride, is so horrible and so diametrically opposite to the spirit of Christianity, that our reformers deserve to be excused, if they have sometimes opposed that error in an unguarded manner; especially as they have so clearly and so frequently asserted the glorious liberty of God's children.
I shall close this vindication of the Church of England with some remarks upon her "martyrs," whom Mr. Hill produces also in his creed, to keep the doctrine of Christian imperfection in countenance.
1. If any of our martyrs, speaking of his converted, renewed, and sanctified state, said, "I am all sin," or words to that purpose, he spoke the words of unguarded humility, rather than the words of evangelical soberness: for a man may have grace and zeal enough to burn for one truth, without having time and prudence enough properly to investigate and state every truth.
2. In our state of weakness, the very perfection of humility may betray an injudicious martyr into the use of expressions which seem to clash with the glorious liberty of God's children; just as an excessive love for our friends may betray us into an injudicious and teasing officiousness.
3. When a martyr considers himself in his fallen state in Adam, or in his former state of disobedience, he may say, "I am all sin," in the very same sense in which St. Paul said, "I am the chief of sinners." But allow him time to explain himself, and he will soon give you to understand that he "rejoices in the testimony of a good conscience, purged from dead works to serve the living God;" and that, far from harbouring any sin in himself, he is determined to "strive against sin in others, resisting unto blood." And is not such a disposition as this one of the highest steps in the ladder of Christian perfection?
4. Hence it appears that the unguarded expressions of our martyrs were levelled at Pharisaic pride, or at absolute perfection, and not at Christian perfection. Like some pious Calvinists in our days, they embraced Christian perfection in deed, while, through misapprehension, they disclaimed it in word. And therefore their speeches against the glorious liberty of God's children, show only that Christian perfection is a perfection of humility and love, and not a perfection of wisdom and knowledge.
5. If it can be proved that any of those who rank among our martyrs died full of indwelling sin, I will not scruple to say that he died a bigot and not a martyr; for to die full of indwelling sin is to die full of secret obstinacy and uncharitableness; and St. Paul declares that were an apostle himself to "give his body to be burned" in such a disposition, "it would profit him nothing."
6. As many brave Englishmen have laid down their lives in the field of battle, to defend their country against the French, without being properly acquainted with the liberties and boundaries of the British empire; so many Protestants have laid down their lives in Smithfield, to defend their religion against the Papists, without being acquainted with all the landmarks which divide the land of spiritual Israel from that of the Philistines, and perfect Christianity from Antinomian dotages.
7. The Jews can produce their martyrs as well as the Protestants. The Maccabees, for example, died entirely satisfied with the Mosaic covenant, and strangers to the transcendent glory of the Christian dispensation. But is this a sufficient reason for preferring Judaism to Christianity? Yes, if Mr. Hill be in the right, when he decries the doctrine of perfect faith and perfect love, and imposes upon us the doctrine of a death purgatory, because some good men formerly died without having clear views of the doctrine of Christian perfection; though, like men who eat honey in the dark, they tasted its sweetness, and delightfully experienced its power.
8. To conclude: I am persuaded that were all our reformers and martyrs alive, none of them would object to this argument, which sums up the doctrine of the Church of England with respect to purgatory: "If death cleanseth us from indwelling sin, it is not Christ's blood applied by the Spirit through faith. But the only purgatory wherein we [Christian men] trust to be saved, is the death and blood of Christ, which, if we apprehend it with a true and steadfast faith, purgeth and cleanseth us from all our sins. 'The blood of Christ,' says St. John, 'hath cleansed us from all sin.'" (Homily on Prayer, part iii.) Therefore, the doctrine, that "death, &c, cleanseth us from all indwelling sin," or the doctrine of a death purgatory, is as contrary to the doctrine of our Church as to that of St. John.