LAST CHECK TO ANTINOMIANISM.
An address to prejudiced imperfectionists.
I FEAR that, next to the persons whom I have just addressed, ye injure the cause of holiness, O ye believers, who have been deluded into doctrinal Antinomianism, by the bad arguments which are answered in the preceding pages. Permit me therefore to address you next: nor suffer prejudice to make you throw away this expostulation, before you have granted it a fair perusal.
Ye directly or indirectly plead for the necessary continuance of indwelling sin in your own hearts, and in the hearts of all true Christians. But may I be so bold as to ask, Who gave you leave so to do? And when were ye commissioned to propagate this unholy gospel? Was it at your baptism, when ye were ranked among Christ's soldiers, and received a Christian name, in token that ye would "keep God's holy will and commandments all the days of your life?" And that you would "not be ashamed to fight manfully against the world, the flesh, and the devil, unto your life's end?" Are not these three enemies strong enough sufficiently to exercise your patience, and to try your warlike skill to the last? Did your sponsors promise for you that you would quarter a fourth enemy, called indwelling sin, in your very breast, lest ye should not have enemies enough to fight against? On the contrary, were ye not exhorted "utterly to abolish the whole body of sin?" If so, is it not strange that ye should spend part of your precious time in pleading, under various pretexts, for the preservation of heart sin, a sin this, which gives life, warmth, and vigour to the whole body of sin? And is it not deplorable that, instead of conscientiously fulfilling your baptismal engagements, ye should attack those who desire to fulfil them by seeking to have "the whole body of sin" utterly abolished?
But ye are, perhaps, ministers of the Established Church: and, in this case, I ask, When did the bishop send you upon this strange warfare? Was it at your confirmation, in which he bound upon you your solemn obligations to "keep God's holy will and commandments" so as utterly "to abolish the whole body of sin?" Is it probable that he commissioned you to pull down what he confirmed, and to demolish the perfection which he made you vow to attain, and to "walk in all the days of your life?" If the bishop gave you no such commission at your confirmation, did he do it at your ordination, when he said, "Receive authority to preach the word of God?" Is there no difference between "the word of God," which cuts up all sin, root and branch, and the word of Satan, which asserts the propriety of the continuance of heart sin during the term of life? If not, did the bishop do it when he exhorted and charged you "never to cease your labour, care, and diligence, till you have done all that lieth in you, to bring all such as are committed to your charge to that agreement of faith, and that perfectness of age in Christ, that there shall be no place left among you for error in religion or viciousness in life;" that is, I apprehend, till the truth of the Gospel and the love of the Spirit have perfectly purified the minds, and renewed the hearts of all your hearers?
How can ye, in all your confessions and sacramental offices, renounce sin, the accursed thing which God abhors, and which obedient believers detest; and yet plead for its life, its strength, its constant energy, so long as we are in this world? We could better bear with you, if ye appropriated a hand or a foot, an eye or an ear to sin, during the term of life; but who can bear your pleas for the necessary continuance of sin in the heart? Is it not enough that this murderer of Christ, and of all mankind, rambles about the walls of the city? Will ye still insinuate that he must have the citadel to the last, and keep it garrisoned with filthy lusts, base affections, bad tempers, or "diabolonians," who, like prisoners, show themselves at the grate: and" like snakes, toads, and wild beasts, are the fiercer for being confined?" Who has taught you thus to represent Christ as the keeper, and not the destroyer of our corruptions? If believers be truly willing to get rid of sin, but cannot, because Christ has bolted their hearts with an adamantine decree, which prevents sin from being turned out: if he have irrevocably given leave to indwelling sin, to quarter for life in ever), Christian's heart, as the king of France, in the last century, gave leave to his dragoons to quarter for some months in the houses of the poor, oppressed Protestants, who does not see that Christ may be called the protector of indwelling sin, rather than its enemy?
Ye absurdly complain that the doctrine of Christian perfection does not exalt our Saviour, because it represents him as radically saving his obedient people from their indwelling sin in this life. But are ye not guilty of the very error which ye charge upon us, when ye insinuate that he cannot or will not say to our inbred sins," Those mine enemies which will not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me?" If a common judge has power to pass sentence of death upon all the robbers and murderers who are properly prosecuted; and if they are hanged and destroyed in a few days, weeks, or months, in consequence of his sentence, how strangely do ye reflect upon Christ, and revive the Agag within us, when ye insinuate that he, the Judge of all, who was "manifested for this very purpose, that he might destroy the works of the devil," so far forgets his errand, that he never destroys indwelling sin in one of his willing people, so long as they are in this world, although that sin is the capital and most mischievous "work of the devil?"
Your doctrine of the necessary continuance of indwelling sin in all faithful believers traduces not only the Son of man, but also the adorable trinity. The Father gives his only begotten Son, his Isaac, to be crucified, that the ram, sin, may be offered up and slain. But you insinuate that the life of that cursed ram is secured by a decree, which allots At the heart of all believers for a safe retreat, and a warm stable, so long as we are in this world. You represent the Son as an almighty Saviour, who offers to "make us free" from sin; and yet appoints that the galling yoke of indwelling sin shall remain tied to, and bound upon our very hearts for life. Ye describe the Holy Ghost as a Sanctifier, who applies Christ's all-cleansing blood to the believer's heart; filling it with the oil of holiness and gladness: and yet ye suppose that our hearts must necessarily remain "desperately wicked," and full of indwelling sin! Is it right to pour contempt upon Christianity, by charging such inconsistencies upon Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
It can hardly be expected that those, who thus misrepresent their God, should do their neighbour justice. Hence the liberty which ye take to fix a blot upon the most holy characters. What have the prophets and apostles done to you that ye should represent them, not only as men who had hearts partly evil to the last, but also as advocates for the necessary indwelling of sin in all believers till death? And why do ye so eagerly take your advantage of holy Paul in particular, and catch at a figurative mode of speech, to insinuate that he was "a carnal wretch, sold under sin," even when he expected "a crown of righteousness at the hand of his righteous Judge," for having "finished his course with the just men made perfect?" Nay, what have we done to you, that ye should endeavour to take from us the greatest comfort we have in fighting against the remains of sin? Why will ye deprive us of the pleasing and purifying hope of taking the Jericho which we encompass, and killing the Goliath whom we attack? And what has indwelling sin done for you, that ye should still plead for the propriety of its continuance in our hearts? Is it not the root of all outward sin, and the spring of all the streams of iniquity, which carry desolation through every part of the globe? If ye hate the fruit, why do ye so eagerly contend for the necessary continuance of the root? And if ye favour godliness, (for many of you undoubtedly do,) why do you put such a conclusive argument as this into the mouths of the wicked: "These good men contend for the propriety of indwelling sin, that grace may abound: and why should we not plead for the propriety of outward sin for the same important reason? Does not God approve of an honest heart, which scorns to cloak the inward iniquity with outward demureness?"
Mr. Hill has lately published an ingenious dialogue, called, A Lash to Enthusiasm, in which, (p. 26,) he uses an argument againt pleading for lukewarmness, which, with very little variation, may be retorted against his plea for indwelling sin:"Suffer me," says he, "to put the sentiments of such persons [as plead for the middle way of lukewarmness] into the form of a prayer, which we may suppose would run in some such expressions as the following: 'O Lord, thy word requires that I should love thee with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength; that I should renounce the world, [and indwelling sin,] and should present myself as a holy, reasonable, and lively sacrifice unto thee: but, Lord, these are such over-righteous extremes [and such heights of sinless perfection] as I cannot away with; and therefore grant that thy love, and a moderate share of the love of the world, [or of indwelling sin,] may both reign [or at least continue] in my heart at once. I ask it for Jesus Christ's sake, Amen.'" Mr. Hill justly adds, "Now, dear madam, if you are shocked at such a petition, consider that it is the exact language of your own heart while you can plead for what you call the middle way of religion." And I beg leave to take up his own argument, and to add, with equal propriety, "Now, dear sirs, if you are shocked at such a petition, consider that it is the exact language of your own heart while ye can plead for what ye call indwelling sin, or the remains of sin."
Nor can I see what ye get by such a conduct. The excruciating thorn of indwelling sin sticks in your hearts; we assert that Christ can and will extract it, if ye plead his promise of "sanctifying you wholly in soul, body, and spirit." But ye say, "This cannot be; the thorn must stay in till death extract it; and the leprosy shall cleave to the walls till the house is demolished." Just as if Christ, by radically cleansing the lepers in the days of his flesh, had not given repeated proofs of the absurdity of your argument! Just as if part of the Gospel were not, "The lepers are cleansed," and, "if the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed!"
If ye get nothing in pleading for Christian imperfection, permit me to tell you what you lose by it, and what ye might get by steadily going on to perfection.
1. If ye earnestly tamed at Christian perfection, ye would have a bright testimony in your own souls that you are sincere, and that ye walk agreeably to your baptismal engagements. I have already observed, that some of the most pious Calvinists doubt if those who do not pursue Christian perfection are Christians at all. Hence it follows, that the more earnestly you pursue it, the stronger will be your confidence that you are upright Christians; and when ye shall be perfected in love, ye shall have that evidence of your sincerity which will perfectly "cast out servile fear, which hath torment," and nourish the filial fear which has safety and delight. It is hard to conceive how we can constantly enjoy the full assurance of faith, out of the state of Christian perfection. For so long as a Christian inwardly breaks Christ's evangelical law, he is justly condemned in his own conscience. If his heart do not condemn him for it, it is merely because he is asleep in the lap of Antinomianism. On the other hand, says St. John, "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things" that make for our condemnation. But if we "love in deed and in truth," which none but the perfect do at all times, "hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him," 1 John iii, 19, 20.
2. The perfect Christian, who has left all to follow Christ, is peculiarly near and dear to God. He is, if I may use the expression, one of God's favourites; and his prayers are remarkably answered. This will appear to you indubitable, if ye can receive the testimony of those who are perfected in obedient love. "Behold," say they, "whatsoever we ask, we receive of him; because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight;" that is, because we are perfected in obedient love, 1 John iii, 22. This peculiar blessing ye lose by despising Christian perfection. Nay, so great is the union which subsists between God and the perfect members of his Son, that it is compared to dwelling in God, and having God dwelling in us, in such a manner that the Father, the Son, and the Comforter, are said to make their abode with us. "At that day [when ye shall be perfected in one] ye shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him; and we will come to him, and make our abode with him," John xiv, 20, 23. Again: "He that keepeth God's commandments dwelleth in God, and God in him," 1 John iii, 24. "Ye are my [dearest] friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you," [i.e. if ye attain the perfection of your dispensation,] John xv, 14. Once more:"Keep my commandments; and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever," John xiv, 15, 16. From these scriptures it appears that, under every dispensation, the perfect, or they who keep the commandments, have unspeakable advantages, from which the lovers of imperfection debar themselves.
3. Ye bring far less glory to God in the state of indwelling sin than ye would do if ye were perfected in love; for perfect Christians (other things being equal) glorify God more than those who remain full of inbred iniquity. Hence it is, that in the very chapter where our Lord so strongly presses Christian perfection upon his disciples, he says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven," Matt. v, 16. For, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit," John xv, 8. It is true that the fruit of the perfect is not always relished by men, who judge only according to appearances; but God, who judges righteous judgment, finds it rich and precious; and therefore the two mites which the poor widow gave with a cheerful and perfect heart, were more precious in his account, and brought him more glory, than all the money which the imperfect worshippers cast into the treasury, though some of them cast in much. Hence also our Lord commanded that the work of perfect love which Mary wrought when she anointed his feet for burial, "should be told for a memorial of her, wherever this [the Christian] Gospel should be preached in the whole world." Such is the honour which the Lord puts upon the branches in him that bear fruit to perfection!
4. The perfect Christian (other things being equal) is a more useful member of society than the imperfect. Never will ye be such humble men, such good parents, such dutiful children, such loving brothers, such loyal subjects, such kind neighbours, such indulgent husbands, and such faithful friends, as when ye shall have obtained the perfect sincerity of obedience. Ye will then, in your degree, have the simplicity of the gentle dove, the patience of the laborious ox, the courage of the magnanimous lion, and the wisdom of the wary serpent, without any of its poison. In your little sphere of action ye will abound in "the work of faith, the patience of hope, and the labour of love," far more than ye did before: for a field properly weeded, and cleared from briers, is naturally more fruitful than one which is shaded by spreading brambles, or filled with indwelling roots of noxious weeds; it being a capital mistake of the spiritual husbandmen who till the Lord's field in mystical Geneva, to suppose that the plant of humility thrives best when the roots of indwelling sin are twisted round its root.
5. None but "just men made perfect are meet to be made partakers of the inheritance among the saints in light;" an inheritance this, which no man is fit for, till he has "purified himself from the filthiness of the flesh and spirit." If modern divines, therefore, assure you that a believer, full of indwelling sin, has a full title to heaven, believe them not: for the Holy Ghost has said, that the believer who "breaks the law of liberty in one point, is guilty of all," and that no defilement shall enter into heaven: and our Lord himself has assured us, that "the pure in heart shall see God," and that they who are ready for that sight, "went in with the bridegroom to the marriage feast of the Lamb." And who is ready? Undoubtedly the believer whose lamp is trimmed and burning. But is a spiritual lamp trimmed, when its flame is darkened by the black fungus of indwelling sin? Again: who shall be saved into glory, but the man whose "heart was washed from iniquity?" But is that heart washed, which continues full of indwelling corruption? Wo, therefore, be to the heathens, Jews, and Christians, who trifle away "the accepted time," and die without being in a state of heathen, Jewish, or Christian perfection! They have no chance of going to heaven, but through the purgatory preached by the heathens, the Papists, and the Calvinists. And should the notions of these purgatories be groundless, it unavoidably follows, that unpurged or imperfect souls must, at death, rank with the unready souls whom our Lord calls "foolish virgins," and against whom the door of heaven will be shut. How awful is this consideration, my dear brethren! How should it make us stretch every nerve till we have attained the perfection of our dispensation! I would not encourage tormenting fears in an unscriptural manner; but I should rejoice if all who call Jesus LORD, would mind his solemn declarations, "I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, &c; but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear Him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, fear him," who will burn in the fire of wrath those who harbour the indwelling man of sin, lest he should be utterly consumed by the fire of love.
Should ye cry out against this doctrine, and ask if all imperfect Christians are in a damnable state? We reply, that so long as a Christian believer sincerely presses after Christian perfection, he is safe; because he is in the way of duty: and were he to die at midnight, before midnight God would certainly bring him to Christian perfection, or bring Christian perfection to him; for we "are confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in them, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, because they work out their salvation with fear and trembling." But if a believer fall, loiter, and rest upon former experiences; depending upon a self-made, Pharisaical perfection, our chief message to him is that of St. Paul, "Awake, thou that sleepest! Awake to righteousness, and sin not, for thou hast not the heart-purifying knowledge of God, which is eternal life. Arise from the dead;" call for oil; "and Christ will give thee light." Otherwise thou shalt share the dreadful fate of the lukewarm Laodiceans, and of the foolish virgins, "whose lamps went out," instead of "shining more and more to the perfect day."
6. This is not all: as ye will be fit for judgment, and a glorious heaven, when ye shall be perfected in love; so you will actually enjoy a gracious heaven in your own souls. You will possess "within you the kingdom of God," which consists in settled "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." But so long as ye neglect Christian perfection, and continue sold under indwelling sin, ye not only risk the loss of the heaven of heavens, but ye lose a little heaven upon earth; for perfect Christians are so full of peace and love, that they "triumph in Christ, with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, and rejoice in tribulation with a patience which has its perfect work." Yea, they "count it all joy when they fall into divers trials;" and such is their deadness to the world, that they "are exceeding glad when men say all manner of evil of them falsely for Christ's sake." How desirable is such a state! And who, but the blessed above, can enjoy a happiness superior to him who can say, "I am ready to be offered up. The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but, O death, where is thy sting?" Not in my heart, since "the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Not in my mind, "for to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Now this peculiar happiness ye lose, so long as ye continue imperfect Christians.
7. But supposing a Christian, who dies in a state of Christian imperfection, can escape damnation, and make shift to get to heaven; it is certain that he cannot go into the glorious mansion of perfect Christians, nor shine among the stars of the first magnitude. The wish of my soul is, that, if God's wisdom has so ordered it, imperfect Christians may one day rank among perfect Jews, or perfect heathens. But even upon this supposition, what will they do with their indwelling sin? For a perfect Gentile, and a perfect Jew, are "without guile" according to their light, as well as a perfect Christian. Lean not then to the doctrine of the continuance of indwelling sin till death. A doctrine this, on which a Socrates, or a Melchisedec, would be afraid to mention his heathen perfection, and eternal salvation. On the contrary, by Christian perfection ye may rise to the brightest crowns of righteousness, and "shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father." O for a noble ambition to obtain one of the first seats in glory! O for a constant, evangelical striving to have the most "abundant entrance ministered unto you into the kingdom of God!" O for a throne among these peculiarly redeemed saints, who "sing the new song, which none can learn" but themselves. It is not Christ's to give those exalted thrones out of mere distinguishing grace: no, they may be forfeited; for they shall be given to those for whom they are prepared; and they are prepared for them who, evangelically speaking, are worthy: "They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy," says Christ: and they shall "sit at my right hand, and at my left in my kingdom," who shall be worthy of that honour: "For them that honour me;" says the Lord, "I will honour. Behold I come quickly: my reward is with me, and I will render to every man according to his works." And what reward, think ye, will Christ give you, O my dear, mistaken brethren, if he find you still passing jests upon the doctrine of Christian perfection, which he so strongly recommends? Still pleading for the continuance of indwelling sin, which he so greatly abhors?
8. Your whole system of indwelling sin and imputed perfection stands upon two of the most dangerous and false maxims which were ever advanced. The first, which begets Antinomian presumption, runs thus: "Sin cannot destroy us either in this world or in the world to come." And the second, which is productive of Antinomian despair, is, "Sin cannot be destroyed in this world." O how hard is it for those who worship where these syren songs pass for sweet songs of Zion, not to be drawn into one of these fatal conclusions! "What need is there of attacking sin with so much eagerness, since, even in the name of the Lord, I cannot destroy it? And why should I resist it with so much watchfulness, since my eternal life and salvation are absolutely secured, and the most poisonous cup of iniquity cannot destroy me, though I should drink of it every day for months or years?" If ye fondly think that ye can neither go backward into a sinful, cursed Egypt, nor yet go forward into a sinless, holy Canaan; how natural will it be for you to say, "Soul, take thine ease," and rest awhile in this wilderness on the pillow of self-imputed perfection? O! how many are surprised by the midnight cry in this Laodicean rest! What numbers meet death with a Solifidian "Lord! Lord!" in their mouths, and with indwelling sin in their hearts! And how inexpressible will be our horror, if we perceive our want of holiness and Christian perfection, only when it will be too late to attain them! To conclude:
9. Indwelling sin is not only "the sting of death," but the very hell of hells, if I may use the expression: for a sinless saint in a local hell would dwell in a holy, loving God; and, of consequence, in a spiritual heaven: like Shadrach in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace, he might have devouting flames curling about him; but, within him, he would still have the flame of Divine love, and the joy of a good conscience. But so much of indwelling sin as we carry about us, so much of indwelling hell; so much of the sting which pierces the damned; so much of the spiritual fire which will burn up the wicked; so much of the never-dying worm which will prey upon them; so much of the dreadful instrument which will rack them; so much of Satan's image which will frighten them; so much of the characteristic by which, the devil's children shall be distinguished from the children of God; so much of the black mark whereby the goats shall be separated from the sheep. To plead therefore for the continuance of indwelling sin, is no better than to plead for keeping in your hearts one of the sharpest stings of death, and one of the hottest coals in hell-fire. On the other hand, to attain Christian perfection is to have the last feature of Belial's image erased from your loving souls, the last bit of the sting of death extracted from your composed breasts, and the last spark of hell-fire extinguished in your peaceful bosoms. It is to enter into the spiritual rest which remains on earth for the people of God; a delightful rest this, where your soul will enjoy a calm in the midst of outward storm; and where your spirit will no longer be tossed by the billows of swelling pride, dissatisfied avarice, pining envy, disappointed hopes, fruitless cares, dubious anxiety, turbulent anger, fretting impatience, and racking unbelief. It is to enjoy that even state of mind in which all things will work together for your good. There your love will bear its excellent fruits during the sharpest winter of affliction, as well as in the finest summer of prosperity. There you will be more and more settled in peaceful humility. There you will continually grow in a holy familiarity with the Friend of penitent sinners, and your prospect of eternal felicity will brighten every day. 15
Innumerable are the advantages which established, perfect Christians have over carnal, unsettled believers, who continue sold under indwelling sin. And will ye despise those blessings to your dying day, O ye prejudiced imperfectionists? Will ye secure to yourselves the contrary curses? Nay, will ye entail them upon the generations which are yet unborn, by continuing to print, preach, or argue for the continuance of indwelling sin, the capital wo belonging to the devil and his angels? God forbid! We hope better things from you; not doubting but the error of several of you lies chiefly in your judgment, and springs from a misunderstanding of the question, rather than from a malicious opposition to that "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." With pleasure we remember and follow St. Jude's loving direction: "Of some [the simple hearted, who are seduced into Antinomianism] have compassion, making a difference; and others [the bigots and obstinate seducers, who wilfully shut their eyes against the truth] save with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh:" although they will not be ashamed to plead for the continuance of a defiling fountain of carnality in the very hearts of all God's people. We are fully persuaded, my dear brethren, that we should wrong you, if we did not acknowledge that many of you have a sincere desire to be saved by Christ into all purity of heart and life; and with regard to such imperfectionists, our chief complaint is, that their desire is "not according to knowledge."
If others of you, of a different stamp, should laugh at these pages, and (still producing banter instead of argument) should continue to say, "Where are your perfect Christians? Show us but one and we will believe your doctrine of perfection;" I shall just put them in mind of St. Peter's awful prophecy: "Know this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers walking after their own [indwelling] lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his spiritual coming [to make an end of sin, thoroughly to purge his floor, and to burn the chaff with unquenchable fire?] For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning:" all believers are still carnal and sold under sin as well as father Paul. And if such mockers continue to display their prejudice by such taunts, I shall take the liberty to show them their own picture, by pointing at those prejudiced professors of old, who said concerning the most perfect of all the perfect, "What sign showest thou, that we may receive thy doctrine? Come down from the cross, and we will believe." O the folly and danger of such scoffs! "Blessed is he that sitteth not in the seat of the scornful," and maketh much of them "that fear the Lord." Yea, he is blessed next to them "that are undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord, keep his testimonies, and seek him with their whole heart," Psa. cxix; 1, 2.
Should ye ask, "To what purpose do you make all this ado about Christian perfection? Do those who maintain this doctrine live more holy and useful lives than other believers?" I answer:
1. Every thing being equal, they undoubtedly do, if they hold not the truth in unrighteousness; for the best principles, when they are cordially embraced, will always produce the best practices. But alas! too many merely contend for Christian perfection in a speculative, systematical manner. They recommend it to others with their lips, as a point of doctrine which makes a part of their religious system; instead of following after it with their hearts, as a blessing which they must attain, if they will not be found as unprepared for judgment as the foolish virgins. These perfectionists are, so far, hypocrites; nor should their fatal inconsistency make us to despise the truth which they contend for, any more than the conduct of thousands, who contend for the truth of the Scriptures, while they live in full opposition to the Scriptures, ought to make us despise the Bible.
2. On the other hand, some gracious persons, (like the pious and inconsistent Antinomians, whom I have described in the preceding Checks,) speak against Christian perfection with their lips, but cannot help following hard after it with their hearts; and while they do so, they sometimes attain the thing, although they continue to quarrel with the name. These perfect imperfectionists undoubtedly adorn the Gospel of Christ far more than the imperfect, hypocritical perfectionists whom I have just described; and God, who looks at the simplicity of the heart more than at the consistency of the judgment, pities their mistakes and accepts their works.
But, (3.)Some there are, who both maintain doctrinally and practically the necessity of a perfect devotedness of ourselves to God. They hold the truth, and they hold it in wisdom and righteousness; their tempers and conduct enforce it, as well as their words and profession. And, on this account, they have a great advantage over the two preceding classes of professors. Reason and revelation jointly crown the orthodoxy and faithfulness of these perfect perfectionists, who neither strengthen the hands of the wicked, nor excite the wonder of the judicious, by absurdly pleading for indwelling sin with their lips, while they strive to work righteousness with their hands and hearts. If ye candidly weigh this threefold distinction, I doubt not but ye will blame the irrational inconsistency of holy imperfectionists, condemn the immoral inconsistency of unholy perfectionists, and agree with me, that the most excellent Christian is a consistent, holy perfectionist.
And now, my dear, mistaken brethren, take in good part these plain solutions, expostulations, and reproofs; and give glory to God, by believing that he can and will yet save you to the uttermost from your evil tempers, if ye humbly come to him by Christ. Day and night ask of him the new heart, which "keeps the commandments;" and when ye shall have received it, if you keep it with all diligence, sin shall no more pollute it, than it polluted our Lord's soul, when he said, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." Burn, in the meantime, the unhallowed pens, and bridle the rash tongues, with which ye have pleaded for the continuance of sin till death. Honour us with the right hand of fellowship; and like reconciled brethren let us at every opportunity lovingly fall upon our knees together, to implore the help of Him, who "can do far exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Nor let us give him any rest, till he has perfected all our souls in "the charity which rejoiceth in the truth" without prejudice, in the obedience which keeps the commandments without reserve, and in the perseverance which finds that "in keeping of them there is great reward."
Nothing but such a conduct as this can remove the stumbling blocks, which the contentions ye breed have laid in the way of a Deistical world. When the men, whom your mistakes have hardened, shall see that you listen to Scripture and reason, who knows but their prejudices may subside, and some of them may yet say, "See the good which arises from friendly controversy! See how these Christians desire to be perfected in one! They now understand one another. Babylonish confusion is at an end; evangelical truth prevails; and love, the most delicious fruit of truth, visibly grows to Christian perfection." God grant that, through the concurrence of your candour, this may soon be the language of all those whom the bigotry of professors has confirmed in their prejudices against Christianity.
Should this plain address so far influence you, my dear brethren, as to abate the force of your aversion to the doctrine of pure love, or to stagger your unaccountable faith in a death purgatory; and should you seriously ask which is the way to Christian perfection, I entreat you to pass on to the next section, where, I hope, you will find a Scriptural answer to some important questions, which, I trust, a few of you are by this time ready to propose.