||delphia > Lectures on SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY by Charles G. Finney (page 8 of 11)
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
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LECTURE LXVIII. -- Sanctification.
LECTURE LXIX. -- Sanctification.
Tendency of the denial that Christians have valid grounds of hope that they should
obtain a victory over sin in this life
LECTURE LXX. -- Sanctification.
LECTURE LXXI. -- Sanctification.
LECTURE LXXII. -- Sanctification.
LECTURE LXXIII. -- Sanctification.
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXVIII. Back to Top
VII. OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
To the doctrine we have been advocating it is objected, that the real practical question
1. Whether this state is attainable on the ground of natural ability; for this is
2. It is not whether it is rational to hope to make this attainment, provided we
set our hearts upon making it, and persevere in aiming to attain it; for this is
3. It is not whether this state is a rational object of pursuit, provided any are
disposed to pursue it. But,
4. Is it rational for Christians to hope that they shall pursue it, and shall perseveringly
set their hearts upon it? Is it rational for Christians to hope, that they shall
so endeavour to attain it, as to fulfil the conditions of the promises wherein it
To this I reply, that it makes a new issue. It yields the formerly contested ground,
and proposes an entirely new question. Hitherto the question has been, Is this state
an object of rational pursuit, provided any are disposed to pursue it? May Christians
aim at this attainment with the rational hope of making it? This point is now yielded,
if I understand the objection, and one entirely distinct is substituted, namely,
Is it rational for Christians to hope, that they shall pursue after this attainment,
or that they shall aim at and set themselves to make this attainment? This, I say,
is quite another question, different from the one heretofore argued. It is however
an important one, and I am quite willing to discuss it, but with this distinct understanding,
that it is not the question upon which issue has been heretofore taken. This question,
as we shall see, calls up a distinct inquiry. In this discussion I shall pursue the
1. What constitutes hope?
2. What is implied in a rational hope?
3. The grounds of rational hope may vary indefinitely in degree.
4. Wrong views may inspire an irrational hope.
5. Wrong views may prevent a rational hope.
6. Hope is a condition of the attainment in question.
7. What the objection under consideration admits.
8. What I understand it to deny.
9. What it amounts to.
10. What it must assume in reference to the provisions of grace.
11. What these provisions are not.
12. What they are.
13. What real grounds of hope there are in respect to the question under consideration.
14. Consider the tendency of denying that there are valid grounds of hope in this
- 1. I am to show what hope is.
- Hope, in common parlance, and as I shall use the term in this discussion, is
not a phenomenon of will, nor is it a voluntary state of mind. It includes a phenomenon
both of the intellect and the sensibility. It is a state of mind compounded of desire
and expectation. Desire alone is not hope. A man may desire an event ever so strongly,
yet, if he has no degree of expectation that the desired event will occur, he cannot
justly be said to hope for it. Expectation is not hope, for one may expect an event
ever so confidently, yet if he does not at all desire it, he cannot be truly said
to hope for it. Hope comprehends both desire and expectation. There must be some
degree of both of these to compose hope.
- 2. What is implied in a rational hope?
- (1.) The desire must be reasonable; that is, in accordance with reason. The thing
desired must be such as reason sanctions or approves. If the desire is an unreasonable
one, the fact, that there is good ground for expecting the desired end, will not
make the hope rational. The expectation might in this case be rational, in the sense
that there is valid reason for the expectation. But expectation alone is not hope.
A rational hope must include a rational desire, or a desire in accordance with reason,
and a rational expectation, that is, an expectation in accordance with reason.
(2.) The expectation to be rational must have for its foundation at least some degree
of evidence. Hope may be, and often is, indulged barely on the ground that the desired
event is possible, in the absence of all evidence that it is likely to occur. Thus
we say of one who is at the point of death, and whose life is despaired of by all
but his nearest friends, "where there is life there is hope." When events
are so greatly desired men are wont to indulge the hope that the event will occur,
even in the absence of all evidence that it will occur, and in the face of the highest
evidence, that it will not occur. But such hope can hardly be said to be rational.
Hope to be rational must have for its support, not a bare possibility that the desired
event may occur, but at least some degree of evidence that it will occur. This is
true of hope in general. When an event is conditioned upon the exercise of our own
agency, and upon an agency which we are able, either in our own strength or through
grace to exert, it may be more or less rational to expect the occurrence of the event
in proportion as we more or less desire it. Hope includes desire: there can be no
hope without desire. There may be a good ground of hope, when there is in fact no
hope. There may be a reason and a good reason for desire, where there is no desire.
There may be and is good reason for sinners to desire to be Christians, when they
have no such desire. Again, there may be good reason for both desire and expectation,
when in fact there is neither. The thing which it is reasonable to desire may not
be desired, and there may be good reason for expecting that an event will occur,
when no such expectation is indulged. For example, a child may neither desire nor
expect to comply with the wishes of a parent, in a given instance. Yet it may be
very reasonable for him to desire to comply, in this instance, with parental authority;
and the circumstances may be such as to afford evidence, that he will be brought
to compliance, and yet there may be in this case no hope exercised by the child that
he shall comply. There may be then a rational ground for hope when there is no hope.
A thing may be strongly desired, and yet the evidence that it will occur may not
be apprehended; and therefore, although such evidence may exist, it may not be perceived
by the mind, or the mind may be so occupied with contemplating opposing evidence,
or with looking at discouraging circumstances, as not to apprehend the evidence upon
which a rational hope may be, or might be grounded.
Again, when the event in question consists in the action of the will, in conformity
with the law of the reason, the probability that it will thus act depends upon the
states of the sensibility, or upon the desires. It may therefore be more or less
rational to expect this conformity of the will to the law of the intelligence, in
proportion as this state of the will is more or less strongly desired. I merely make
this remark in this place; we shall see its application hereafter. I also add in
this place, that a man may more or less rationally expect to make the attainment
under consideration, that is, to obtain in this life a complete victory over sin,
in proportion as he more or less ardently desires it. This we shall see hereafter.
The indulgence of hope implies existing desire, and as I said, the hope to be rational
must have some degree of evidence, that the thing hoped for will occur.
- 3. The grounds of rational hope may vary indefinitely in degree.
- I have said, that there may be rational grounds of hope when there is no hope.
A sinner under terrible conviction of sin, and in present despair, may have grounds
and strong grounds of hope, while he has no hope.
Again, the grounds of hope may be more or less strong, in proportion as hope
is more or less strong. For example, an event which is dependent upon the exercise
of our own agency, may be more or less likely to occur, in proportion to the strength
or weakness of our hope that it will occur. Hope is compounded, as we have said,
of desire and expectation. An event dependent upon our agency may be more or less
likely to occur, in proportion as we desire its occurrence, and entertain the confident
expectation that it will occur. In such a case, although the evidence may be really
but slight upon which the expectation is at first founded, yet the very fact, that
the mind has become confident that a strongly desired event will take place, which
event depends upon the energetic and persevering exercise of our own agency; I say,
the strength of the confidence, as well as the strength of the desire, may render
the event all the more probable, and thus the grounds of hope may be increased by
the increase of hope. For it should be remembered, that hope is possible and common
when there are no good grounds for it, and the very fact, that a hope at present
with slight grounds does exist, may increase the grounds of rational hope. Suppose,
for example, that an Indian in our western forests, who had never heard the gospel,
should come in some way to have the idea, and the desire, and expectation, of finding
out a way of salvation. Now, before he had this hope, there could not be said to
have been more than slight rational ground for it. But since he has the idea, the
desire, and the expectation, he may from these facts have a rational ground of hope,
that he shall discover a way of salvation. The desire and the expectation may render
it highly probable, that he will in some manner discover the right way.
Again: the rational ground of hope, in respect to at least a certain class
of events, may be greatly increased by the fact, that there is a present willingness
that the desired and expected event should occur, and an endeavour to secure it.
Hope does not necessarily imply a willingness. For example, a sinner may desire to
be converted, and he may expect that he shall be, and yet not at present be willing
to be; that is, he may conceive rightly of what constitutes conversion or turning
to God, and he may, for the sake of his own salvation, desire to turn, that is, to
turn as a condition of his own salvation, and he may expect that he shall in future
turn; and yet he is not by the supposition as yet willing to turn; for willing is
turning, and if he is willing he has turned already. If the event hoped for consists
in, or is dependent upon, future acts of our own will, the grounds of hope that the
event will occur, may be indefinitely strengthened by the fact, that we have the
present consciousness of not only hoping for its occurrence, but also, that our will
or heart is at present set upon it.
Myriads of circumstances may be taken into the account, in balancing and weighing
the evidence for or against the occurrence of a given event. The event may depend
in a great measure upon our desires, and when it really does depend under God upon
our desires, present willingness and efforts, the grounds of confidence or of hope
must vary, as our hopes and endeavours vary. There may be, as I have said, ground
for hope when there is no hope, and the ground of hope may be indefinitely increased
by the existence of hope. There may be a strong hope and a weak hope; strong grounds
or reasons for hope, or weak grounds of hope. When there is any degree of present
evidence that an event will occur, there is some ground of rational hope.
- 4. Wrong views may inspire an irrational hope.
- This follows from the nature of hope. A thing may be desired--wrong views may
inspire confidence or beget expectation, when there is not the slightest ground for
expectation. The hope of the Universalist is a striking instance of this. The same
is true of false professors of religion. They desire to be saved. False views inspire
confidence that they are Christians, and that they shall be saved.
- 5. Wrong views may prevent a rational hope.
- This is also common, as every one knows. A thing may be desired, and there may
be the best grounds for confidence or expectation, which is an element of hope. But
false views may forbid the expectation to be entertained. In this case, one element
of hope exists, that is, desire, but the other, to wit, expectation, is rendered
impossible by erroneous views.
Again: expectation may exist, yet false views may prevent desire. For example,
I may expect to see a certain individual whom, from false impressions respecting
him, I have no desire to see. It is indispensable to hope, that the views be such
as to beget both desire and expectation.
- 6. Hope is a condition of the attainment in question.
- (1.) The attainment implies and consists in the right future exercise of our
(2.) The right future exercise of our own agency, in respect to the state in question,
depends under God, or is conditioned upon, the previous use of means to secure that
(3.) Those means will never be used unless there is hope; that is, unless there is
both desire and expectation. If therefore any false instruction shall forbid the
expectation of attaining the state in question, the attainment will not be sought,
it will not be aimed at. There may be ever so good grounds or reasons to expect to
make this attainment, yet if these grounds are not discovered, and the expectation
is not intelligent, the attainment will be delayed. There must be hope indulged in
this case, as a condition of making this attainment.
- 7. What I understand the objection to admit.
- (1.) That the state in question is a possible state, or a possible attainment,
both on the ground of natural ability and through grace.
(2.) That this attainment is provided for in the promises of the gospel; that is,
that the promises of the gospel proffer grace to every believer sufficient to secure
him against sin in all the future, on condition that he will believe and appropriate
(3.) That all the necessary means are provided and brought within the Christian's
reach to secure this attainment, and that there is no insurmountable difficulty in
the way of this attainment, provided he is willing, and will use these necessary
means in the required manner.
(4.) There is rational ground for hoping to make this attainment, if any will set
their heart to make it.
(5.) Consequently, that this attainment is a rational object of pursuit; that it
is rational to hope to make it, provided we are disposed to make it, or to aim to
- 8. What I understand the objection to deny.
- That it is rational for any Christian to hope, so to use the means as to secure
the attainment in question; that is, that no Christian can rationally hope to exercise
such faith, and so to use the means of grace, and so to avail himself of the proffered
grace of the gospel, and so to fulfil the conditions of the promises, as to receive
their fulfilment, and make the attainment in question in this life. The objection,
as I understand it, denies that we can rationally hope, by present faith and the
present use of our powers, to render it probable, that we shall in future use them
aright; or, in other words, the objection denies that we can, by any thing whatever
that we can at present do, gain any evidence, or lay a foundation for any rational
hope that in future we shall obey God; or it denies that our present desire, or will,
or faith, or efforts, have through grace any such connexion with our future state
in this life, as to render it in any degree probable, that we shall receive the fulfilment
of such promises as the following: 1 Thes. v. 23, 24: "And the very God of peace
sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved
blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you,
who also will do it." It denies, that it is rational for us to hope, by the
improvement of present grace, to secure future grace; that it is rational for us
to expect, by a present laying hold on such promises as the one just quoted, to secure
its present and its future fulfilment to us; it denies that it is rational for us
to lay hold of such promises as that just quoted, with the expectation that they
will be fulfilled to us; that is, we cannot at present do anything whatever, however
much we may will and desire it, that shall render it in the least degree probable,
that these promises will ever be fulfilled to us in this life. The objection must
proceed upon denying this, for it is certain, that Christians do desire this attainment,
and will it too; that is, they will at least that it might be so. If all Christians
do not hope for it, it is because they regard it as not attainable.
- 9. What the objection really amounts to.
- (1.) That, although the promise just quoted is undeniably a promise of the very
state in question in this life, yet it is irrational to hope, by anything that we
can at present do, however much we may at present will and desire it, to secure to
ourselves either its present or its future fulfilment in this life.
(2.) It amounts to a denial, that at any future time during this life it will be
rational for us to hope, by anything that we can at that time do, to secure either
at that or any other time, the fulfilment of the promise to us.
(3.) It amounts to a denial, that we can rationally hope, at any time in this life,
to believe or do anything that will render it in the least degree probable, that
this promise will be fulfilled to us; that, however much we may at present desire
and will to secure the thing promised, we can at present or at any future time, rationally
hope to secure the thing promised.
(4.) It amounts to a denial, that it is rational to expect under any circumstances,
that this class of promises will ever be fulfilled to the saints.
(5.) The principles assumed and lying at the foundation of this objection must, if
sound, prove the gospel a delusion. If it is true, that by no present act of faith
we can secure to us the present or the future fulfilment of the promise of entire
sanctification, I see not why this is not equally true in respect to all the promises.
If there is no such connexion between our present and future faith and obedience,
as to render it even in the least degree probable, that the promises of persevering
grace shall be vouchsafed to us, then what is the gospel but a delusion? Where is
the ground of a rational hope of salvation? But suppose it should be replied to this,
that in respect to other promises, and especially in respect to promises of salvation
and of sufficient grace to secure our salvation, there is such a connexion between
present faith and future faith and salvation, as to render the latter at least probable,
and as therefore to afford a rational ground of hope of perseverance, in such a sense
as to secure salvation; but that this is not the case with the promises of entire
sanctification. Should this be alleged, I call for proof. Observe, I admit the connexion
contended for as just stated between present faith and obedience, and future perseverance,
and final salvation, that the former renders the latter at least probable; but I
also contend, that the same is true in respect to the promises of entire sanctification.
Let the contrary be shown, if it can be. Let the principle be produced, if it can
be, either from scripture or reason, that will settle and recognize the difference
contended for, to wit, that present faith and obedience do lay a rational foundation
of hope that we shall persevere to the end of life, in such a sense as that we shall
be saved; and yet that present faith in the promises of entire sanctification does
not render it in the least degree probable, that we shall ever receive the fulfilment
of those promises. Let it be shown, if it can be, that the present belief of certain
promises renders it certain or probable that they will be fulfilled to us, but that
no such connexion obtains in respect to other promises. Let it be shown, if it can
be, that present faith in the promises of perseverance and salvation renders it either
certain or probable, that these promises will be fulfilled to us, while present faith
in the promise of entire sanctification in this life, renders it neither certain,
nor in the least degree probable, that these promises will ever, in this life, be
fulfilled to us.
Suppose a Calvinist should allege, that the first act of faith renders it certain
that the new believer will be saved, and therefore it renders it certain that he
will persevere to the end of life, but that the same is not true of promises of entire
sanctification in this life. I ask for his proof of the truth of this assertion;
that is, I ask him to prove, that faith in the latter promises does not sustain as
real and as certain a relation to the reception of the thing promised as does faith
in the former promises. Suppose him to answer, that God has revealed his design to
save all Christians, and from hence we know, that if they once believe they shall
certainly persevere and be saved. But in answer to this I ask, is it not as expressly
revealed as possible, that God will wholly sanctify all Christians, spirit, soul,
and body, and preserve them blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? The
language in 1 Thes. v. 23, 24, may be regarded either as an express promise, or as
an express declaration: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and
I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the
coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do
it." Here observe, Paul expressly affirms that God will do it. Now where in
the bible is there a more express promise, or a more express revelation of the will
and design of God than this? Nowhere. But suppose it should be replied to this, that,
if we take this view of the subject, it follows, that all saints have been wholly
sanctified in this life. I answer, they no doubt have been, for there is not a word
in the Bible of their being sanctified in any other life than this; and if they have
gone to heaven, they were no doubt sanctified wholly in this life.
But, secondly, it would not follow, that they have all been wholly sanctified until
at or near the close of life, because many of them have probably never understood
and appropriated this and similar promises by faith, and consequently have failed
to realize in their own experience their fulfilment, for any considerable length
of time before their death. The exact question here is: If the soul at present apprehends,
and lays hold on the promises of entire sanctification in this life, is there not
as real and as certain a connexion between present faith and the future fulfilment
of the promise, as there is between present faith in any other promises and the future
fulfilment of those promises. If this is not so, let the contrary be shown, if it
can be. The burden of proof lies on the objector. If to this any one should reply,
that present faith in any promise does not sustain any such relation to the fulfilment
of the promise, as to render it rational to hope for its fulfilment, I answer, that
if this is so, then the gospel is a mere nullity and sheer nonsense. Nay, it is infinitely
worse than nonsense.
I will not at present contend that present faith in any promise of future good sustains
such a relation to its fulfilment, that its fulfilment to us is absolutely certain;
but upon this I do insist, that present faith in any promise of God does render it
at least in some degree probable, that the promise will be fulfilled to us; and that
therefore we have ground of rational hope, when we are conscious of desiring a promised
blessing, and of laying hold by faith upon the promise of it, and of setting our
hearts upon obtaining it;--I say, when we are conscious of this state of mind in
regard to any promised blessing, we have rational ground of hope that we shall receive
the thing promised. And it matters not at all what the blessing promised is. If God
has promised it, he is able to give it; and we have no right to say, that the nature
of the thing promised forbids the rational expectation that we shall receive it.
It is plain that the principle on which this objection is based amounts to a real
denial of the gospel, and makes all the promises a mere nullity.
- 10. What this objection must assume in reference to the provisions of grace:--
- That grace has made no provisions for securing the fulfilment of the conditions
of the promises. This must certainly be assumed in relation to the promises of entire
sanctification in this life; that grace has made no such provisions as to render
the fulfilment of the conditions of this class of promises in any degree probable;
that the grace of God in Jesus Christ does not even afford the least degree of evidence,
that real saints will ever in this life so believe those promises as to secure the
blessing promised; that therefore it is irrational for the saints to hope, through
any provisions of grace, to fulfil the conditions and secure the blessing promised;
the grace of God is not sufficient for the saints, in the sense, that it is rational
for them to hope so to believe the promises of entire sanctification, as to secure
the thing promised. The gospel and the grace of God then are a complete failure,
so far as the hope of living in this life without rebellion against God is concerned.
His name is called Jesus in vain, so far as it respects salvation from sin in this
life. There is then no rational ground of hope, that by anything we can possibly
do while in the present exercise of faith, and love, and zeal, we can render it,
through grace, in the least degree probable, that we shall persevere in seeking this
blessing until we have fulfilled the condition of the promise, and secured the blessing.
Nothing that we can now do, while in faith and love, will render it through grace
in the least degree probable, that we shall at any future time believe or do anything
that will secure to us the promised blessing. Christians do at present desire this
attainment, and have a heart or will to it. This objection must assume that grace
has made no such provision as to render the hope rational, that this will and desire
will exist in future, do what we may at present to secure it.
- 11. What the provisions of grace are not.
- (1.) Grace has made no provision to save any one without entire holiness of heart.
(2.) It has made no provision to secure holiness without the right exercise of our
own will or agency, for all holiness consists in this.
(3.) It has made no provision to save any one who will not fulfil the conditions
(4.) It has made no provision for the bestowment of irresistible grace, for the very
terms imply a contradiction. A moral agent cannot be forced or necessitated to act
in any given manner, and still remain a moral agent. That is, he cannot be a moral
agent in any case in which he acts from necessity.
(5.) Grace has made no provision to render salvation possible without hope; that
is, without desire and expectation.
- 12. What these provisions are.
- In this place, I can only state what I understand them to be; and to avoid much
repetition, I must request the reader to consult foregoing and subsequent lectures,
where these different points are developed and discussed at length.
(1.) God foresaw that all mankind would fall into a state of total alienation from
him and his government.
(2.) He also foresaw that by the wisest arrangement, he could secure the return and
salvation of a part of mankind.
(3.) He resolved to do so, and "chose them to eternal salvation, through sanctification
of the Spirit and belief of the truth."
(4.) He has instituted a system of means to effect this end; that is, with design
to effect it.
(5.) These means are:--
(i.) The revelation of the law.
(ii.) The atonement and mediatorial work of Christ.
(iii.) The publication of the gospel, and the institution of all the means
(iv.) The administration of providential and moral governments.
(v.) The gift and agency of the Holy Spirit to excite in them desire, and
to work in them to will and to do, in so far as to secure in them the fulfilment
of the conditions, and to them the fulfilment of the promises.
(6.) Grace has made sufficient provisions to render the salvation of all possible,
and such as will actually secure the salvation of a portion of mankind.
(7.) Grace has brought salvation so within the reach of all who hear the gospel,
as to leave them wholly without excuse, if they are not saved.
(8.) Grace has made the salvation of every human being secure, who can be persuaded,
by all the influences that God can wisely bring to bear upon him, to accept the offers
(9.) Grace has provided such means and instrumentalities as will actually secure
the conviction, conversion, perseverance, entire sanctification, and final salvation
of a part of mankind.
(10.) Grace has not only provided the motives of moral government, but the influences
necessary to secure the saving effect of this government over all the elect.
(11.) Grace has not only made promises to be fulfilled upon certain conditions, but
it has provided an influence which will, in every case of the elect secure in them
the fulfilment of the conditions of these promises unto salvation.
(12.) Grace has not only given commands, but has provided the requisite influence
to secure obedience to them, in such a sense, as to secure the perseverance, sanctification,
and full salvation of all the elect unto salvation.
This I understand to be a summary statement of the doctrine of grace, as it is taught
in the Bible.
- 13. What are the real grounds of hope in respect to the question now under consideration?
- Here it is necessary to state again distinctly, what is not, and what is, the
real question to be decided.
It is not what Christians have hoped upon this subject, for they may have entertained
groundless expectations and irrational hopes; or they may have had no hope or expectation,
when there have been good grounds of hope. Let it be distinctly understood then,
that the true point of inquiry is, have Christians a right to expect to obtain in
this life a complete victory over sin? Not, do they expect it? but, have they a right
to indulge such a hope? Provided they have such a hope, is it irrational? Or, provided
they have not such a hope, have they good and sufficient ground for such hope revealed
in the Bible? This brings us to inquire what are not, and what are, the grounds of
(1.) They are not in the mere natural ability of man, for the Bible abundantly reveals
the fact, that if man is left to himself, he will never so exert his agency as to
comply with the conditions of salvation. This is equally true of all men.
(2.) They are not in the gospel, or in the means of grace, aside from the agency
of the Holy Spirit, for the Bible reveals the fact, that no one will ever be sanctified
by these means, without the agency of the Holy Spirit.
In prosecuting inquiry upon this subject, I remark:
(i.) That the inquiry now before us respects real Christians. It might be
interesting and useful to look into the subject in its bearings upon the impenitent
world, but this would occupy too much time and space in this place. It might be useful
to inquire, what ground of rational hope any sinner may have, that he shall actually
be converted and saved, when the gospel is addressed to him. It certainly cannot
be denied, with any show of reason, that every sinner to whom the gospel call is
addressed, has some reason to hope that God has designs of mercy toward him, and
that he shall be converted, and kept, and sanctified, and saved. He must have some
ground to hope for this result, upon the bare presentation to him of the offers of
mercy. He has all the evidence he can ask or desire, that God is ready and willing
to save him, provided that he is willing to accept of mercy, and comply with the
conditions of salvation. So that, if he is disposed to accept it, he need not raise
any question about the grounds of hope. There is nothing in his way but his own indisposition;
if this is removed, he may surely hope to be saved. But the offers of mercy also
afford some ground of hope, that the Holy Spirit will strive with him and overcome
his reluctance, so that he may rationally hope to be converted.
The ground of this hope may be more or less strong in the case of individual sinners,
as they find the providence and Spirit of God working together for the accomplishment
of this result. If, for example, the sinner finds, in addition to the offers of salvation
by the word of the gospel, that the Holy Spirit is striving with him, convincing
him of sin, and trying to induce him to turn and live, he has of course increased
grounds for the hope that he shall be saved.
But, as I said, the inquiry now before us respects the grounds of hope in Christians.
(ii.) I remark, that Christians, of course, from the very nature of their
religion, have come strongly to desire a complete and lasting victory over sin. I
need not in this place attempt to prove this.
(iii.) Christians not only desire this, but in fact so far as they are Christians,
they will to obtain this victory. That is, when they have the heart of a child of
God, and are in a state of acceptance with him, they will to render to God a present,
full, universal, and endless obedience. This is implied in the very nature of true
(iv.) The inquiry before us respects future acts of will. The state under
consideration consists in an abiding consecration to God. The Christian is at present
in this state, and the inquiry respects his grounds of hope, that he shall ever attain
to a state in this life, in which he shall abide steadily and uniformly in this state,
and go no more into voluntary rebellion against God. Has grace made no such provisions
as to render the hope rational, that we shall in this life ever cease to sin? Or
has it pleased God to make no such provisions, and are we to expect to sin as long
as we live in this world? Has the Christian any rational ground for a hope, that
he shall be sanctified in this life? that is, that he shall obtain a complete and
final victory over sin in this life? The question here is, not whether Christians
do hope for this, but, may they rationally hope for this? Have they good reason for
such a hope, did they apprehend or understand this ground? They have desire, which
is an element of hope--have they grounds for a rational expectation? I do not here
inquire, whether they do expect it, but whether they have good and valid reason for
such an expectation? Is the difficulty owing to a want in the provisions of grace,
or in a misconception of these provisions? Some Christians do hope for this attainment.
Are they mad and irrational, or have they good reason for this hope?
In replying to these inquiries, I remark, that the Holy Spirit is given to the saints
for the express purpose revealed in such passages as the following. 1 Thes. v. 23,
24. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole
spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." With this, and
similar promises, and express declarations in his hands, is it rational or irrational
in him, to expect to receive the fulfilment of such promises? If it be answered,
that these promises are conditioned upon his faith, and it is irrational for him
to hope to fulfil the condition; I reply, that the Holy Spirit is given to him, and
abides in him, to draw him into a fulfilment of the conditions of the promises. It
is nowhere so much as hinted in the Bible, that the Holy Spirit will not do this
until the close of life. Observe, that this is the very office-work of the Spirit,
to work in us to fulfil the conditions of the promises of entire sanctification,
and thus to secure this end. His business with and in us, is to procure our entire
sanctification; and, as I said, there is not so much as a hint in the Bible, that
he does not desire or design to secure this before death. Now, suppose we lay aside
all knowledge of facts, in relation to the past experience of the church, and look
into the Bible. From reading this, would any man get the idea, that God did not expect,
desire, and intend, that saints should obtain an entire victory over sin in this
life? When we read such promises and declarations as abound in the Bible, should
we not see rational ground for hope, that we shall obtain a complete victory over
sin in this life?
But here it may be said, that the past history of the church shows what are the real
promises of grace; that grace has not in fact secured this attainment, at least to
a great part of the church until at or near the close of life; and therefore grace
in fact made no provision for this attainment in their case.
But if this objection has any weight, it proves equally, that grace has made in no
case any provision for any one's being any better than he really is, and has been,
and that it had been irrational in any one to have expected to be any better than
in fact he has turned out to be. If he had at any time expected to be any better
at any future time, than he turned out to be, this, upon the principle of the objection
in question, would prove that he had no rational ground for the expectation: that
grace in fact had made no such provision as to render any such hope rational. If
this be true, we shall all see when we get into the eternal world, that in no case
could we have indulged a rational hope of being any better than we have been, and
that when we did indulge any such hope, we had no ground for it.
But again, if what the church has been settles the question of what it is
rational for her to hope in time to be, why then we must dismiss the hope of any
improvement. This objection proves too much, therefore it proves nothing.
But again, since the Holy Spirit is given to and abides in Christians, for
the very purpose of securing their entire and permanent sanctification, and since
there is no intimation in the Bible that this work is to be delayed until death,
but, on the contrary, express declarations and promises, that as fully and expressly
as possible teach the contrary, it is perfectly rational to hope for this, and downright
unbelief not to expect it. What can be more express to this point than the promises
and declarations that have been already quoted upon this subject?
Now the question is, not whether these promises and declarations have inspired hope,
but might they not reasonably have done so? The question is, not whether these promises
have been understood and relied upon, but might they not reasonably have inspired
confidence, that we should, or that they should gain a complete and lasting victory
over sin in this life? Do not let us be again diverted by the objection, that the
provisions of grace, and what it is rational to hope for, is settled by what has
been accomplished. We have seen that this objection is not valid.
Desire has existed, why has not expectation also existed? We shall see in its place.
I said, that the Bible represents the design of God to be, to sanctify Christians
wholly in this life, and nowhere so much as intimates, that this work is not to be
complete in this life. Let such passages as the following be consulted upon this
question. Titus ii. 11-14. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath
appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we
should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that
blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto
himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." This passage teaches that
this state is to be expected; it also teaches that it is to be expected before death,
(ver. 12.); that Christ gave himself to secure this result, (ver. 14.) The chapter
concludes with this direction to Titus, "These things speak, and exhort, and
rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee." Now suppose Titus to have
taught, as some now teach, that it is dangerous error to hope to live in this life
according to the teaching of this passage;--suppose he had told them, that although
Christ had given himself expressly to secure this result, yet there was no rational
ground of hope, that they would ever do this in this present evil world; would he
have complied with the spirit of the apostle's injunction in verse fifteen?
Again: the thing spoken of in this passage is no doubt a state of entire sanctification,
in the sense, that it implies a complete victory over sin in this present evil world.
Again, 2. Cor. vi. 17, 18: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be
ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive
you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith
the Lord Almighty." Now in view of these promises, the apostle immediately adds
the following injunction. 2 Cor. vii. 1: "Having therefore these promises, dearly
beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting
holiness in the fear of God." Did the apostle think it irrational to expect
or hope to make this attainment in this life? Suppose he had added to the injunction
just quoted, that it was dangerous for them to expect to make the attainment which
he exhorted them to make. Suppose he had said, you have no right to infer from the
promises I have just quoted, that it is rational in you to hope to make this attainment
in this life. But suppose the Corinthians to have inquired, Do not these promises
relate to this life? Yes, says the apostle. And does not your injunction to perfect
holiness in the fear of God, relate to this life? Yes. Did you not utter this injunction
seeing that we have the promises? Yes. Is it not rational, seeing we have these promises,
to hope to avail ourselves of them, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God in
this life? Now suppose that to this last question the apostle had answered, No. Would
not this have placed the apostle and the promises and his injunction in a most ridiculous
light? To be sure it would. Would not any honest mind feel shocked at such an absurdity.
Again, 1. Thes. v. 23, 24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;
and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto
the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will
do it." Now suppose that, immediately upon making this declaration, the apostle
had added, you cannot rationally hope that God will do what I have just expressly
affirmed that he will do. Suppose he had said, the declaration in the 24th verse
is only a promise, and made upon a condition with which you cannot rationally hope
to comply, and therefore as a matter of fact, you cannot rationally hope to be sanctified
wholly and preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. How shocking
and ridiculous would such a prayer, with such a promise, accompanied with such a
Again, a Christian is supposed not only to desire to make this attainment,
but also to be at present willing to make it, and at present to have his heart set
upon obedience to God, and upon attaining to such a degree of communion with God
as to abide in Christ, and sin no more. A Christian is supposed at present to be
disposed to make this attainment; not only to desire it, but also to will it. Now,
may he rationally aim at it, and rationally intend or hope to make this attainment?
Or must he calculate to sin so long as he lives; and is it irrational for him to
expect or hope to have done with rebelling against God, and with unbelief, and accusing
him of lying, as long as he lives? If he is at present desirous and willing to have
done with sin, is it rational for him to hope, by any means within his reach and
which he is at present disposed to use, to attain a state in which he shall have
a permanent victory over sin, in which he shall abide in Christ, in such a sense
as to have done with rebellion against God? By present willingness, desire and effort,
is it rational for him to hope to secure a future desire and willingness, and an
abiding state of heart-conformity to God? Are there any means within his reach, and
which he can at present, while he has the will and desire, rationally hope so to
use as to secure to him either at present, or at some future time in this life, a
complete and lasting victory over sin? May he hope through present faith to secure
future faith? through present love, and faith, and effort, to secure future faith,
and love, and successful effort? For it is not contended by me, that the Christian
will or can ever stand fast in the will of God without effort. This I have sufficiently
insisted on. The question is exactly this: May a Christian, who is conscious of being
at present willing to attain, and desirous of attaining, a state of abiding consecration
to God in this life, rationally hope to make such an attainment? Has the grace of
God made any such provision as to render such a hope rational? Not, can he rationally
hope to make it without desire and effort; but with both present desire and effort?
Not whether he could rationally hope to make such an attainment, if he is at present
neither willing nor desirous to make it; but whether, provided he at present has
both the will and desire, he may rationally hope to secure so rich an anointing of
the Holy Spirit, and to be so thoroughly baptized into the death of Christ, as to
remain henceforth in a state of abiding consecration to God?
I care not to speculate upon abstractions, and upon the grounds of hope where there
is neither desire nor will; that is, where there is no religion. But I have been
amazingly anxious myself to have the question here put answered in relation to myself;
and I know that many others are intensely anxious to have this question answered.
Must I always expect to be overcome by temptation? May I not rationally hope to obtain
a permanent victory over sin in this life? Must I carry with me the expectation of
going more or less frequently into rebellion against God so long as I live? Is there
no hope in the case? Has grace made no such provision, that it is rational for me,
in this state of intense interest and anxiety, to hope for complete deliverance from
the overcoming power of sin in this life? Is there no foundation anywhere upon which
I can build a rational hope, that I shall make this attainment? Are all the commands,
and exhortations, and promises, and declarations in the Bible touching this subject,
a delusion? Are they no warrant for the expectation in question? May I never rationally
expect to be more than a conqueror in this life? Must I expect to succumb to Satan
ever and anon, so long as I live, and is every other expectation irrational?
The Holy Spirit is given to Christians, to abide with and in them, for the express
purpose of procuring entire sanctification in this life. It is said, Rom. viii. 26,
27: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what
we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us
with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth
what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according
to the will of God." Now it is a fact that the Holy Spirit often stirs up, in
the souls of all Christians, intense desire for this attainment. He as manifestly
begets within them a longing for this attainment, as he does for ultimate salvation.
Now, why is it not as rational to expect the one as the other? Their ultimate salvation
they do expect, and receive the drawings of the Spirit after the grace of perseverance,
as an earnest or evidence, that God intends to secure their perseverance and salvation.
They regard it as rational to indulge this desire, excited by the Holy Spirit, and
to hope for the thing which they desire. The thing is promised, and they feel stirred
up to take hold on these promises. Surely then it is perfectly rational to hope for
the fulfilment of them.
And is not the same true of the promises of entire sanctification in this life? These
are among the most full and express promises in the Bible. The Holy Spirit excites
in all Christians the most earnest desire for the thing promised. Why is it not rational
to hope for the thing which we desire? I do not here say that all do hope for it.
All Christians do desire it; this is one element of hope: but why do not all entertain
the expectation of making this attainment, and thus hope for it? Is it because there
is no rational ground of hope? But what ground is wanting? It is expressly promised.
God has nowhere intimated, that it is not his design to fulfil this class of promises.
The Spirit leads us to pray for it. Now would it be rational to believe that these
promises will be fulfilled to us? Why not? The difficulty, and the only difficulty
that can exist in this case, is that human speculation and false teaching have forbidden
confidence or expectation; so that while there is intense desire, there is no real
hope indulged of receiving the blessing. The blessing is delayed because there is
no hope. There is ground of hope, but false teaching has forbidden hope to be indulged.
The church are told by men in high places, that such a hope is irrational. Thus the
Holy Spirit is resisted, and grieved, and quenched, when he is striving to inspire
hope that this blessing will be obtained. This is just as the devil would have it.
The fact is, there are precisely as good ground for the hope of obtaining a complete
victory over sin in this life, as there are for the hope of perseverance and salvation.
But in one case these grounds are recognized and acknowledged, and in the other they
are denied. In one case the hope is encouraged by teachers, and in the other it is
discouraged. But there is not, that I can see, the least ground for this distinction.
If there is ground for the one hope, so is there for the other. Suppose the ground
for hope in both cases were denied, as it is in one, what would be the result?
But again: Has grace established any such connection between the present belief
of the promises and their fulfilment, as to render it certain, or in any degree probable,
that they will be fulfilled to us?
I have already said, that the objection we are considering must proceed upon the
assumption that there is no such connection. But let us look at this.
Suppose that God had expressly promised any blessing whatever, upon condition that
I believe the promise. I am led by the Holy Spirit to a present laying hold by faith
upon that promise. Now, does not this render it rational in me to hope that I shall
receive the thing promised? If not, why not? Is it replied, that a further condition
of the promise is, that I persevere in faith, and in the use of the appropriate means,
and I have no ground for rational hope that I shall continue to believe and to use
the means? Then the fact that the Holy Spirit at present stirs me up to present faith,
affords no degree of evidence that he will continue to do so; and the fact, that
I at present lay hold of the promise, does not afford the least reason for the hope,
that I shall keep hold and use the means, in any such sense as to secure the blessing
promised. Well, if this were so, the Bible were the greatest deception that was ever
palmed upon mankind. The fact is, there must be at least a connection of high probability,
if not of certainty, between the present actual belief of the promises, and the future
fulfilment of them to us, or the Bible and the whole gospel are nonsense.
But again: I say that this is as true of the promises of entire sanctification
in this life, as of any other promises whatever. If it is not, I say again, let the
contrary be shown, if it can be.
But again: when Christians are stirred up by the Holy Spirit to lay hold upon
any class of promises in prayer, and faith, they have good ground for the hope, that
it is the design of God to grant the blessing promised them. Now, it is plainly in
accordance with the revealed will of God, that Christians should be wholly sanctified
and kept from sin. And suppose the Holy Spirit stirs up the soul to great longings
and wrestlings for complete deliverance from sin, and to plead and believe such promises
as the following:--
1 Thes. vi. 23: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God
your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of
our Lord Jesus Christ. 24. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
Jer. xxxi. 31: "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new
covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; 32. Not according
to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the
hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, (which my covenant they brake, although
I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord;) 33. But this shall be the covenant that
I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put
my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God,
and they shall be my people. 34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour,
and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord, for they shall all know me from
the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their
iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Jer. xxxii. 40: "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will
not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts,
that they shall not depart from me."
Ezek. xxxvi. 25: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be
clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new
heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take
away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. 27.
And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye
shall keep my judgments, and do them."
Rom. v. 12: "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign
through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord."
Rom. vi. 11: "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin,
but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 14. For sin shall not have dominion
over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
1 Thes. iv. 3.--"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification."
If the Holy Spirit perform his work in the soul according to Rom. viii. 26, 27--"Likewise
the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for
as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which
cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the
Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God;"
I say, if the Holy Spirit leads Christians to pray for the fulfilment of such promises
as those just quoted, and to believe those promises, have they no reasonable ground
for the hope that the blessing will be granted? Indeed, they have the best of reasons
for such an expectation.
Suppose it be objected, that many Christians have been led thus to pray, who have
not received the blessing sought. I answer, that it remains to be proved that they
were led by the Holy Spirit to plead any promise in faith, where they have not received,
or will not receive an answer according to the true spirit and meaning of the promise
which they plead and believed. Suppose they may have thought at some time, or that
they have often thought, that they had become so established that they should sin
no more, and that the event has proved that they were mistaken; this does not prove
that it is irrational for them to expect that their prayers shall yet be fully answered.
Suppose a parent is led by the Holy Spirit to pray in faith for the conversion of
a child, and that this child appears, if you please, from time to time to be converted,
but that the event shows that he was mistaken; that is, that he was not truly converted;
this is no reason for his despairing of his conversion. He is still warranted to
hope, and is bound, if he is conscious of having prayed in faith for his conversion,
still to expect his conversion, and to use the appropriate means to secure this result.
Just so, if a Christian has been led to plead the promises of deliverance from all
sin: for example, such an one as 1 Thes. v. 23, 24.--"And the very God of peace
sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved
blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you,
who also will do it." I say, if any saint on earth is conscious of being, or
having been, led to pray in faith for the fulfilment of this promise, he is warranted
to expect its fulfilment to him, according to its true spirit and meaning; and this
he is bound to expect, although he may have supposed that he had entered upon this
state, and found himself mistaken a hundred times. The fact, that he has not yet
received the fulfilment of the promise in extenso, no more proves that he will not,
than the delay in the case of the promise that Abraham should have a son, proved
that it was irrational in him to expect the promise to be fulfilled to him. It has
been objected, that it was irrational to expect to attain to a state in this life
in which we should sin no more, because many have supposed they had made the attainment,
and found at length that they were mistaken. But there is no force in this objection.
Suppose this is granted, what then? Does this prove that the prayer of faith will
not be answered? Suppose many such mistakes have been made; does this disprove the
word of God? In no wise. God will still fulfil his promises, and "is not slack
concerning them as some men count slackness." If such a promise has been pleaded
in faith, heaven and earth shall pass away before the answer shall fail. But suppose
it should be alleged, that evidence is wanting that any ever did or will plead those
promises in faith. To this I answer, that the soul may be as conscious of exercising
faith in these promises, as it is of its own existence; and although one might think
he believed when he did not, still it would be true, that when one actually did believe
he would know and be sure of it.
Many Christians can as confidently affirm that they plead these promises in faith,
as that they are Christians. Now, is it irrational for them to expect the fulfilment
of them? No indeed, any more than it is irrational to expect to be saved. If the
one expectation is irrational, so is the other.
Will it be replied, that the one is less probable than the other? I ask, what have
probabilities to human view to do with rendering it irrational to believe God, and
expect him to fulfil his word? Suppose it is less likely to human view, that we shall
ever in this life arrive at a point in Christian attainment, beyond which we shall
sin no more, than it is that we shall ultimately be saved: I say, suppose this to
be granted, what then? Cannot God as truly, and so far as we know, as easily secure
the one as the other? It may be, that God foresees that the final salvation of some
or of many souls turns altogether upon the fact, that such a work be accomplished
upon them as shall settle and confirm them in obedience, before certain trials overtake
But suppose, again, it be said that few or none have given evidence of this attainment
before death, and yet many have been saved; there is therefore little or no reason
to believe that the elect are entirely sanctified in this life. I answer, that it
is certain from the Bible, that the saints are sanctified wholly in this life; that
is, at some period in this life.
I have no doubt, though I do not expect this to have weight with an objector, that
great multitudes have been sanctified and preserved, agreeably to 1 Thess. v. 23,
24. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole
spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
But again, I say, that the past experience and observation of the church,
whatever it may be in respect to the subject under consideration, is not the test
of what it is reasonable to expect in future. If it is, it is unreasonable to expect
any improvement in the state of the church and the world. If past experience is to
settle the question of what it is rational to expect in future, then at no period
of the church's past history was it rational to expect any improvement in her condition.
It is not to past experience, but to the promises and the revealed design of God,
and to the Holy Spirit, that we are to look for a ground of rational hope in regard
to the future.
I suppose that it will not be denied by any one, that most Christians might rationally
hope to be indefinitely better than they are; that is, to be much more stable than
they are. But if they might rationally hope to be much better than they are, on what
ground can they rationally hope for this? The ground of this hope must be the indwelling
and influence of the Holy Spirit; that "exceeding great and precious promises
are given to us, whereby we may be made partakers of the divine nature, and escape
the corruptions which are in the world through lust;" that the Holy Spirit is
struggling within us to secure in us the fulfilment of the conditions of those promises,
and therefore we may reasonably hope to make indefinitely higher attainments in this
life than we have yet made:--I say, I suppose that no Christian will deny this. But
some of these promises expressly pledge the state of entire sanctification in this
life. This is not only true in fact, but is plainly implied in the saying of Peter
just quoted. Observe, Peter says, 2 Pet. i. 4: "Whereby are given unto us exceeding
great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." This plainly
implies, that those promises cover the whole ground of entire sanctification. Now
with such promises in our hands, why should it be thought unreasonable to hope for
entire and permanent victory over sin in this world, any more than it is irrational
to hope for indefinite improvement in this life. Will it be said, that it is easier
to keep us from sin generally than uniformly. But who can know, that God cannot as
easily give us a complete victory, as to suffer us to sin, and then recover us again?
At any rate, the promises of entire sanctification are made, and it is just as rational,
that is, just as truly rational to expect them to be fulfilled to us, and to expect
that we shall be led to fulfil the conditions of them, as that we shall fulfil the
conditions of the promises of perseverance. If there be not the same degree of reason
to hope for one as for the other, still there is real ground of rational hope in
both cases. This cannot reasonably be denied. It is therefore rational to hope for
Now the fact is, that Christians find themselves disposed to attain this state. If
they are disposed to aim at it, and to pray and struggle for such a victory, is it
rational for them to expect or hope to obtain such a victory? The question is not
really, whether it is rational to hope that Christians will be disposed to attain
this state. The fact of their being Christians implies that they are thus disposed;
and the inquiry is, being thus disposed, is it rational for them to expect to make
the attainment? I answer,--yes. It is perfectly rational for any and every Christian,
who finds himself disposed to aim at and struggle after this state, to expect to
obtain the blessing which he seeks; and every Christian is drawn by the Holy Spirit
to desire this attainment. He has, in the very fact of his being led to desire and
pray after it, and to pray and struggle after a complete and lasting victory over
sin, the best of evidence that he may rationally expect to make the attainment. It
is just as rational to expect this, under such circumstances, as it is to expect
to persevere to the end of life in grace; or as rational as it is to expect to make
indefinitely higher advances in holiness. If it is rational to hope to make indefinitely
higher attainments than we have made, because of, or upon the conditions of the promises,
and of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to stir us up to fulfil the conditions
of the promises, it is just as rational to hope for a permanent victory over sin,
upon the same conditions. If the Holy Spirit leads on to indefinitely higher attainments,
it is rational to expect to make them. If he leads on to the fulfilment of the conditions
of the promises of complete and permanent victory over sin, it is just as rational
to expect to attain this state, as it is to expect to make indefinite advances toward
How can this be denied? I cannot see why one expectation should be irrational, if
the other is not so.
Now observe, the question respects acts of will. Religion, as we have seen, consists
in the consecration of the will or heart to God. A Christian is supposed to have
consecrated his heart and himself to God. The will is influenced either by light
in the intelligence, or by the impulses of the sensibility. Selfishness, or sin,
consists in the will's being governed by the desires, appetites, passions, or propensities
of the sensibility. Temptation finds its way to, and exerts its influence upon, the
will through the sensibility. Now, can a Christian expect or rationally hope, by
aiming to do so, to attain to such a state of mind, that he shall be no more overcome
by temptation, and led into sin?
We have seen, that the end upon which benevolence fixes, is the highest good of being
in general. This is the Christian's ultimate end or intention. We have also seen
that the elements of this intention are--
(1.) Entireness; that is, the whole will or heart is devoted to this end.
(2.) Present time; that is, the soul enters now upon, and at present makes,
(3.) The consecration is designed to be entire, and everlasting; that is,
the consecrated soul does not enlist as an experiment, nor for a limited time; but
true consecration or devotion to God is comprehensive, so far as present intention
goes, of all the future. This consecration to be real is comprehensive of all future
duration, and of all space; that is, the soul in the act of true consecration, enlists
in the service of God for life, to be wholly God's servant in all places, at all
times, and to all eternity. These are the true elements of all acceptable consecration
to God. The soul in the act of consecration makes no reserves of time, or place,
or powers; all are surrendered to God. It does not intend nor expect to sin at the
moment of consecration. It fully intends to be, and remain wholly the Lord's. It
chooses the great end upon which benevolence fixes, and designs to relinquish it
no more for ever. But experience teaches the Christian his own weakness, and that,
if left to himself, he is easily overcome by temptation. His sensibility has been
so little developed in its relations to eternal realities; his will has so long been
in the habit of being led by the feelings and desires of the sensibility, that when
the propensities are strongly excited, he finds to his confusion and unspeakable
grief, that he is weak; and that if left to himself, he invariably yields to temptation;
or that he is at least very liable to do so, and that he frequently sins. Now, the
question is, Is there no ground of rational hope that he may attain such an established
state as uniformly to have the victory over temptation? Is there no ground of rational
hope in this respect, until after this life? Has grace made no such provision, as
to render it rational in the true saints, to expect or hope to gain so complete a
victory that Rom. v. 21, shall be realized in their own experience: "That as
sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto
eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord;" Also, vi. 14: "For sin shall not
have dominion over you, for ye are not under law, but under grace." Also, Thess.
v. 23, 24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your
whole soul, &c., faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
Also, Jeremiah xxxii. 40: "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them,
that I will not turn away from them, to do them good, but I will put my fear in their
hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Also, Col. iv. 12: "That you
may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." I say, the true question
is, Is there no hope for the Christian, that these and such-like passages shall be
fulfilled to him, and realized in his own experience in this life? Can he not rationally
hope, that the developements of his sensibility may be so corrected, that he may
be thoroughly and constantly enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and enjoy so constant
and so deep an anointing, may be so baptized into Christ, and made so thoroughly
acquainted with him, in his various offices and relations, as to break effectually
and permanently the power of temptation; and so confirm the soul in its consecration
as that, through the indwelling of Christ by his Spirit, he shall be more than conqueror
in every conflict with the world, the flesh, and Satan? Is there no hope? This is
the agonizing inquiry of every soul who has felt the galling and fascinating power
of temptation. Observe, in the case supposed, the soul is at present willing, and
deeply solicitous to avoid all sin in future. Thus far grace has prevailed; the soul
has committed itself to God. Is there no hope that it can abide in this state of
committal? Is it irrational for it, in the midst of its anxieties, to stand fast
for ever; to hope that it shall ever in this life find itself practically able to
do so? If not, what do the scriptures mean? If I may not rationally hope to stand
in every hour of temptation, what can this passage mean? 1 Cor. x. 13: "There
hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who
will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation
also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Does this only mean,
that we shall have the natural ability to bear temptation? Does it not mean, that
such Divine help shall be vouchsafed, as that we may rationally hope and expect to
stand in the hour of trial? Indeed it does.
There certainly is not in the philosophy of mind anything to forbid the entertaining
of a rational hope of making the attainment in question; but, on the contrary, everything
both in the Bible and in the philosophy of mind to warrant such an expectation. The
mind only needs to be brought into such a state of developement, and to be so constantly
under the influence of Divine illumination, as to set the Lord always before it;
and so to have the sensibility developed in its relations to divine things, as to
secure the uniform action of the will, in conformity with the law of God.
The great difficulty with all classes of unsanctified persons is, that their desires
are too strong for their reason. That is, their sensibility is so developed, that
their excited propensities control their will, in opposition to the law of God, as
it is revealed in the reason. Now, if a counter developement can be effected that
shall favour, instead of oppose, the right action of the will, it will break the
power of temptation, and let the soul go free. If desires to please God, if desires
after spiritual objects, shall be developed, if the sensibility shall be quickened
and drawn to God, and to all spiritual truths and realities, these desires, instead
of tending to draw the will away from God, will tend to confirm the will in its consecration
to God. In this case, the desires going in the same direction with the reason, the
power of temptation is broken. The sensibility, in this case, rather favours the
right action of the will. That such a developement of the sensibility is needed and
possible, every Christian knows.
That the Holy Spirit, by enlightening the mind, often creates the most intense desires
after God and universal and unalterable holiness, is a matter of common experience.
It is a matter of common experience, that while those desires continue, the soul
walks in unbroken consecration to, and communion with, God. It is when counter desires
are awakened, and the feelings and emotions toward God and divine things are quenched
and suppressed, that the will is seduced from its allegiance. Now there is, there
can be, nothing in the philosophy of mind, to forbid the hope of attaining to such
a state of developement of the sensibility, that it shall become, as it were, dead
to every object that tends to draw the heart from God, and so alive to God as to
respond instantly to truth and light, and as to be mellow and tender towards God
and Christ and divine things, as the apple of the eye. When this is effected, it
is perfectly philosophical to look for permanent consecration of will to God, in
obedience not to the sensibility, but in obedience to the reason. The feelings are
then such, that the reason demands their indulgence, and that the objects upon which
they fasten shall be sought. The whole mind is then going forth in one direction.
Observe, I do not say that it is impossible for the will to abide steadfast in opposition
to the feelings, desires, and emotions; but I do say, and all experience proves,
that until the sensibility is developed in its relations to God and divine realities,
the steady and undeviating action of the will in its devotion to God cannot be depended
upon. Now the great work of the Holy Spirit in the soul consists, at least very much,
in so enlightening the mind, in respect to God and Christ and divine realities, as
to render the soul dead to things of time and sense, and alive to God and eternal
things; to crucify the old man; and to develope a new class of desires and emotions
that will favour, instead of oppose, the right action of the will.
Now observe, when the Spirit begets this hungering and thirsting after the universal
and complete conformity of the whole being to God; when he stirs up the soul to an
intense effort, and to a tearful agony and travail for deliverance from the power
of temptation; is it irrational for the soul to make these efforts? Does reason or
revelation forbid the expectation, that the blessing sought should be obtained? Is
the soul mad, and irrationally aiming at an impossibility, or is it irrationally
engaged in striving to get loose, and to rise permanently above the power of temptation?
If it is irrational to expect to make the attainment in question, it is irrational
to aim at it. Nay, it is impossible truly to aim at it, except it be regarded as
possible. The soul must think it reasonable to expect to make this attainment, or
it cannot think it reasonable to try to make it. But is it deceived in thinking this
attainment practicable? If so, but convince it that the expectation is irrational,
and it will aim at making it no longer. It must, by a law of its own nature, give
up the pursuit, in despair of ever living without being, at least frequently, overcome
by temptation while it abides in the flesh. But does the Bible encourage this despair?
Does not the Bible denounce this state of mind as unbelief and sin? What are the
promises--what is the gospel--and what are the provisions of grace, if after all
there is practically no remedy for the agonized Christian in such circumstances?
Is there no rational ground of hope or help for him in God? Then surely the gospel
is a vain boast and a deception.
Observe, the question before us is, whether the Christian, who is actually willing,
and most earnestly desirous of rising permanently above the power of sin and temptation,
and who is stirred up to lay hold on the promises of complete deliverance, and to
plead them in faith before God, can rationally hope to make the attainment in this
life at which he is aiming? Is such a soul mad and deluded, or is it rationally employed?
and are its expectations in accordance with reason and revelation? Undoubtedly they
are in accordance with both.
But before I dismiss this objection, I must not fail to glance at the future prospects
of the church. It is, and long has been, the belief of the great body of orthodox
Christians, that the church is destined, at a future period of her earthly history,
to rise to a state answerable to the representations of the prophets and apostles,--a
state in which she shall come forth "clear as the sun, fair as the moon, and
terrible as an army with banners." In proof of the fact of a future millennium
on earth, let such passages as the following be consulted:--
Gen. xxii. 18: "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,
because thou hast obeyed my voice."
Ps. xxii. 27: "All the ends of the world shall remember, and turn unto the Lord;
and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee."
Ps. xxxvii. 11: "But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves
in the abundance of peace."
Ps. lxxii. 6: "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers
that water the earth. 7. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance
of peace so long as the moon endureth. 11. Yea, all kings shall fall down before
him; all nations shall serve him. 17. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall
be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall
call him blessed."
Ps. lxxxvi. 9: "All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before
thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name."
Isa. ii. 2: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of
the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted
above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 4. And he shall judge among
the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into
plowshares; and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against
nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 17. And the loftiness of man shall
be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall
be exalted in that day. 20. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and
his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles,
and to the bats."
Isa. xxv. 6: "And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people
a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow,
of wines on the lees well refined. 7. And he will destroy in this mountain the face
of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.
8. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord will wipe away tears from off
all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall be taken away from off all the earth:
for the Lord hath spoken it."
Isa. xxii. 13: "Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briars,
yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city. 15. Until the Spirit be poured
upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field
be counted for a forest. 16. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness
remain in the fruitful field. 17. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and
the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever. 18. And my people
shall dwell in a peaceful habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places."
Isa. xlv. 22: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for
I am God, and there is none else. 23. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out
of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall
bow, every tongue shall swear."
Isa. xlix. 6: "And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also
give thee for a light to the gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the
end of the earth."
Isa. lix. 19: "So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his
glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the
Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. 20. And the Redeemer shall
come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord."
Isa. lx. 18: "Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction
within thy borders: but thou shalt call thy walls salvation, and thy gates praise.
21. Thy people shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the
branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified."
Isa. lxvi. 23: "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another,
and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith
Dan. vii. 27: "And the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom
under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High,
whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him."
Mic. iv. 1: "But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of
the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall
be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. 2. And many nations shall
come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house
of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths;
for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
Hab. ii. 14: "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory
of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
Mal. i. 11: "For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the
same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles: and in every place incense shall
be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the
heathen, saith the Lord of hosts."
John xii. 31: "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this
world be cast out. 32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men
Rom. xi. 25: "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this
mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits,) that blindness in part is
happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26. And so all
Israel shall be saved; as it is written, there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer,
and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 27. For this is my covenant unto them,
when I shall take away their sins."
Rev. xi. 15: "And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in
heaven saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and
of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."
Rev. xx. 2: "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the
devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. 3. And cast him into the bottomless
pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations
no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed
a little season."
These things are said of the extension and state of the church undeniably at some
period of its history in this world. That is, they are said of the church, not in
a glorified state, but of her in her state of earthly prosperity. At least, this
is and has long been held by the great mass of Christians.
The following things are said of her holiness at the time specified.
Isa. lx. 21: "Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the
land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified."
Jer. xxxi. 33: "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house
of Israel; After those days saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts,
and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother,
saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the
greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember
their sin no more."
Ezek. xxxvi. 25: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be
clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will
take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
27. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and
ye shall keep my judgments and do them. 28. And ye shall dwell in the land that I
gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29. I will
also save you from all your uncleannesses; and I will call for the corn, and will
increase it, and lay no famine upon you."
Ez. xxxvii. 23: "Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols,
nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions, but I will
save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse
them; so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. 24. And David my servant
shall be kind over them; and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk
in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them."
Zeph. iii. 13: "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies;
neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed and
lie down, and none shall make them afraid."
Zech. xiv. 20: "In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS
UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the
Rom. xi. 25: "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this
mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceit,) that blindness in part is
happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26. And so all
Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer,
and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. 27. For this is my covenant unto them,
when I shall take away their sins."
These things are said of the holiness of the church at that time.
The following, among other passages, represent the spirit of peace and unanimity
that shall prevail at that time.
Ps. xxix. 11: "The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless
his people with peace."
Ps. xxxvii. 11: "But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves
in the abundance of peace."
Ps. lxxii. 3: "The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little
hills, by righteousness. 7. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance
of peace so long as the moon endureth."
Isa. lii. 8: "Thy watchman shall lift up the voice; with the voice together
shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion."
Isa. lx. 17: "For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver,
and for wood brass, and for stones iron; I will also make thy officers peace, and
thine exactors righteousness. 18. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting
nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and
thy gates Praise."
Isa. lxvi. 12: "For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her
like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream; then shall ye
suck, ye shall be born upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees."
Micah iv. 3: "And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations
afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into
pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they
learn war any more. 4. But they shall sit every man under his vine, and under his
fig-tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath
The following passages speak of the great intelligence of the church at that period:
Isa. xi. 9: "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain for the
earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
Isa. xxix. 18; "And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and
the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. 24. They also
that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn
Isa. xxxiii. 6: "And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times,
and strength of salvation; the fear of the Lord is his treasurer."
Jer. i. 15: "And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall
feed you with knowledge and understanding."
Heb. viii. 11: "And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every
man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to
The following passages describe the temporal prosperity of the church at that time,
and show clearly, that the state of which mention is made, belongs to a temporal,
and not to a glorified state, as I understand them.
Ps. lxxii. 7: "In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace
so long as the moon endureth. 16. There shall be a handful of corn in the earth on
the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon, and they of
the city shall flourish like grass of the earth."
Isa. lx. 5. "Then thou shalt see and flow together, and thine heart shall fear,
and be enlarged, because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the
forces of the gentiles shall come unto thee. 6. The multitude of camels shall cover
thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall
bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord. 7. All
the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall
minister unto thee; they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will
glorify the house of my glory. 13. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the
fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary;
and I will make the place of my feet glorious."
Joel ii. 21. "Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will do great
things. 22. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness
do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig-tree and the vine do yield their
strength. 23. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he hath given you the former rain, moderately, and he will cause to come down
for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. 24. And
the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.
25. And I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten, the canker-worm,
and the caterpillar, and the palmer worm, my great army which I sent among you. 26.
And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your
God, that hath dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be ashamed."
Joel iii. 18. "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall
drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah
shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord,
and shall water the valley of Shittim."
Isa. xxv. 6. "And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people
a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow,
of wines on the lees well refined."
Isa. xxxv. 1. "The wilderness and the solitary place, shall be glad for them;
and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. 2. It shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it,
the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the
excellency of our God. 3. Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
4. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God
will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.
5. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be
unstopped. 6. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb
sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. 7.
And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water;
in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass, with reeds and rushes.
8. And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called, The way of holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those; the wayfaring men,
though fools, shall not err therein. 9. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous
beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk
there. 10. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs
and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow
and sighing shall flee away."
Isa. xli. 18. "I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst
of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs
Again: the church at that period shall have great enjoyment:
Isa. xxv. 8. "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe
away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from
off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it."
Isa. xxxv. 10; "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion
with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
Isa. lii. 9; "Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem:
for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem."
Isa. lxv. 18; "But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for,
behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. 19. And I will rejoice
in Jerusalem and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard
in her, nor the voice of crying."
Zeph. iii. 14; "Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice
with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. 15. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments,
he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst
of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. 16. In that day shall it be said to Jerusalem,
Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thy hands be slack. 17. The Lord thy God in the
midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will
rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."
Let the following passages be viewed in contrast with the past history of the church:--
Isaiah xi. 6.--"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie
down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and
a little child shall lead them. 7. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young
ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8. And the
sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his
hand on the cockatrice's den."
Isa. xl. 4. "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall
be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.
5. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
Isa. xli. 18. "I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst
of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs
of water. 19. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah-tree, and the
myrtle, and the oil-tree; I will set in the desert the fir-tree, and the pine, and
the box-tree together. 20. That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand
together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath
Isa. lv. 13. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of
the briar shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
These passages are, as every reader of the Bible knows, specimens of the manner in
which the Bible represents the state of the church in future. I have quoted thus
copiously to lay before the reader the general tenor of scripture upon this subject.
It is also a matter of common knowledge, that nearly all orthodox Christians are
expecting the church to enter upon this state soon. But how is this state to be attained,
if it is irrational for Christians to hope to be entirely sanctified in this life?
If the above passages do not describe a state of complete and continued holiness,
what language could describe such a state? These promises and prophecies will be
fulfilled at some time. They are, as it respects individuals, and respects the whole
church, conditioned upon faith. But this faith will actually be exercised. The church
will enter into this state. Now, is it unreasonable for the church, and for any and
every Christian, to hope at this age of the world to enter upon this state? Would
it be irrational for the church to arise, and aim at making these attainments in
holiness during the present century? How is it possible for the church as a body
to arrive at this state, while it is regarded as unreasonable, and as dangerous error
for Christians to hope or expect to get into a state of abiding consecration to God
in this life?
It must be, I think, evident to every one, that if the objection under consideration
has any weight, the prophecies can never be fulfilled; and that, while the theological
schools insist, and ministers insist, that the expectation of making the attainment
in question is irrational and dangerous, the prophecies and promises will not be
fulfilled to the church. While such a sentiment is insisted on, the seminaries and
the ministry are in the way of the onward movement of the ark of holiness and of
The objection, that it is irrational to expect to make such attainments in this life,
as to get a complete victory over temptation and sin, must be groundless, or both
the Bible and the Holy Spirit are found false witnesses: but this cannot be; the
thought of it is blasphemy.
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXIX. Back to Top
- 14. I come now to the consideration of the tendency of a denial, that Christians
have valid grounds of hope, that they shall obtain a victory over sin in this life.
- (1.) We have seen that true religion consists in benevolence, or in heart obedience
to God. It consists essentially in the will's being yielded to the will of God, in
embracing the same end that he embraces, and yielding implicit obedience to him in
all our lives, or in our efforts to secure that end. This constitutes the essence
of all true religion. The feelings or affections, or the involuntary emotions, are
rather a consequence, than strictly a part of true religion. Since religion consists
essentially in yielding the will to God in implicit obedience, it follows that faith
or implicit confidence is a condition, or rather an essential element, of true religion.
(2.) We have in former lectures also seen what faith is; that it consists in committing
the soul to God, in trust, or confidence. It is not an involuntary, but a voluntary
state of mind. We have also seen, that intellectual conviction is an indispensable
condition of faith; that this conviction is not evangelical faith, but is only a
condition of it. Faith essentially consists in the will's embracing the truths perceived
by the intellect; and this intellectual perception is, of course, indispensable to
faith. We have seen, that faith cannot exist any further than truth is apprehended,
understood, and intellectually believed. This intellectual apprehension, understanding,
and belief, I say again, is not itself saving or evangelical faith, but only a condition
of it. When truth is apprehended, understood and intellectually embraced or believed,
then and so far, true faith is possible, and no further. Then, and not till then,
can the will embrace and commit itself to truth.
(3.) Of course, as we have heretofore seen, faith is a condition of all heart obedience
to the will of God. The will cannot consistently yield, and ought not to be yielded,
to any being in whose wisdom and goodness we have not the best perceived and understood
grounds of confidence. The intellect must apprehend the grounds of confidence, before
we have a right to trust in, or commit our will to, the direction of any being. We
ought to have the fullest intellectual conviction of the wisdom and uprightness of
a being, before we can innocently yield up to him the direction of our powers, and
commit ourselves to him in implicit and universal obedience.
(4.) Again, faith is also a condition of prevailing prayer. Without faith
it is impossible to please God in anything. It is, as every reader of the Bible knows,
the everywhere expressed or implied condition of the fulfilment of the promises of
God; and we are expressly assured, that he who wavers, and does not implicitly believe
or trust in God, must not expect to receive anything in answer to prayer.
(5.) Implicit confidence or faith is also a condition of sanctification, as we have
fully seen. Indeed faith is indispensable to any progress in religion. Not a step
is taken from first to last in the real and true service of God, without faith or
heart-confidence in him. The very nature of religion forbids the expectation, and
the possibility of progress in religion without faith.
(6.) Implicit confidence or faith is, of course, and as every one knows, a condition
of salvation. Without faith a preparation for heaven is naturally impossible, and
of course without faith salvation is naturally impossible.
(7.) We have also seen what hope is; that it is compounded of desire and expectation;
that it includes a feeling, and some degree of expectation. As we have seen, both
these elements are essential to hope. That which is not desired, cannot be hoped
for, although it may be expected. So, that which is desired cannot be hoped for,
unless it is also expected. Both expectation and desire are always essential to hope.
It has also been seen, that a thing may be truly desirable, which is not desired.
A thing may be ever so excellent and desirable in itself, yet, from false views of
its nature, it may not be desired; so also a thing may be desired which is not expected;
and there may be good reason to expect an event which is desired, and yet expectation
may be prevented, for want of a knowledge of the reason, or grounds of expectation.
There may be never so good and substantial evidence that an event will occur, and
yet we may not expect it, for want of an apprehension of it. Since desire and expectation
are both essential elements of hope, it follows, that whatever tends to inspire desire
and expectation, tends to produce hope. And so, on the other hand, whatever tends
to prevent desire and expectation, tends to prevent hope.
(8.) From what has been said, it is plain, that hope is a condition of the beginning
of religion, and of all progress in it. Desire and expectation must both exist, as
a condition of true religion. If there be no desire, there will of course be no attention
to the subject, and no effort. But if there be desire, and no expectation or intellectual
conviction, there can be no faith. Both desire and expectation are conditions of
all religion, and of all salvation. Hope is a condition of all effort on almost every
subject. Without both desire and expectation, the very sinews of effort are wanting.
Whatever therefore tends to prevent hope, tends to prevent religion. There is, as
every one must see, a difference between a hope of eternal life, founded upon a consciousness
of being a christian, and a hope founded upon the mere offer of salvation. The difference
however does not consist in the nature of hope, but only in the evidence upon which
expectation is based. The offer of salvation, as has been said, lays a good foundation
for a rational hope, that we shall be converted and saved. But finding ourselves
in the way of obedience, and drawn by the Holy Spirit, we have a higher evidence
upon which to base expectation. Both desire and expectation are greatly increased
in the latter case, but they may justly exist in a lower degree, in the former case.
The foregoing remarks prepare the way for saying,
(9.) That there are two effectual ways of opposing religion.
(i.) By so misrepresenting it as to prevent desire.
When God and his government and service are so represented as to prevent desire,
this is one of the most effectual ways of opposing religion. If such representations
are accredited, this is an effectual bar to religion in every case. This is a common
way in which Satan and his emissaries oppose the religion of the Bible. They misrepresent
God and religion, and hold it up to contempt, or so misrepresent it in multitudes
of ways, as to cause the human mind necessarily to regard it as undesirable, as rather
injurious than beneficial to the world, and to individuals. They represent religion,
either as unnecessary, or as something that cannot be desired upon any other principle,
than as the less of two evils--as something to be submitted to, rather than to go
to hell, but as being far from anything desirable and lovely in itself. This, I say
again, is one of the most common, and most fatal methods of opposing religion. Many
men who think they are promoting religion, are among the most efficient agents of
Satan in preventing it, by the false representations they make of it. They, by their
spirit and manner, throw around and over it a fanatical, or a melancholic, or a superstitious
cant, whining, and grimace, or a severity and a hatefulness that necessarily disgust,
rather than attract the enlightened mind. Thus the soul is repelled instead of attracted;
disgust is awakened, instead of desire. Such representations are among Satan's most
efficient instrumentalities for opposing God and ruining souls.
(ii.) Another frequent and most successful method of opposing God and his
government is, by discouraging expectation. This was the devil's first successful
experiment with mankind. He succeeded in undermining confidence in God; this he did,
by suggesting that God is selfish in his requisitions and prohibitions. Ever since
the fall of our first parents, unbelief has been the easily besetting sin of our
race. God has therefore taken, and is taking, all possible pains to restore confidence
in himself and in his government, as a condition of saving the souls of fallen men.
We have seen, and Satan and his emissaries know, that intellectual expectation or
conviction is a condition of faith, and that faith is a condition of all holiness
and of salvation. It has therefore always been, and still is, one of the principal
objects of Satan to prevent faith. To do this, he must destroy hope or expectation,
and desire. Men are exceedingly prone to discredit the Divine testimony and character;
and it would seem, that unbelief is the most common, as well as the most unreasonable,
abomination in the world. It is remarkable with what readiness, and with what credulity,
a hint or an insinuation against the testimony of God will be received. It would
seem, that the human mind is in such an attitude towards God, that his most solemn
declarations and his oath can be discredited, upon the bare denial of man, and even
of the devil. Man seems to be more prone to unbelief, than to almost any other form
of sin. Whatever, therefore, tends to beget distrust, or to prevent expectation in
regard to the promises and truth of God, tends of course in the most direct and efficient
manner to oppose God and religion. Now suppose ministers should set themselves so
to caricature and misrepresent religion, as to render it undesirable, and even odious
to the human mind; so that, as the human mind is constituted, it would be impossible
to desire it. Who cannot see that such a ministry were infinitely worse than none;
and would be the most successful and efficient instrumentality that Satan could devise
to oppose God, and build up the influence of hell? If those who are supposed to know
by experience, and who are the leaders in, and teachers of religion, represent it
as undesirable, in just so far as they have influence, they are the most successful
opposers of it. The result would be the same, whether they did this through misapprehension
or design. If they mistook the nature of religion, and without designing to misrepresent
it, did nevertheless actually do so, the consequence must be just as fatal to the
interests of religion as if they were its real, but disguised enemies. This, as I
have said, is no uncommon thing for ministers, through misapprehension to misrepresent
the gospel so grossly as to repel, rather than attract, the human mind. In so doing
they of course render hope impossible, by preventing the possibility of one of its
essential elements, desire. There is then no effort made on the part of the hearers
of the ministers, to obtain what they are prevented from desiring. Such ministers
preach on, and ascribe to the sovereignty of God their want of success, not considering
that the fault is in their grossly misrepresenting God and his claims, and the nature
of his religion. It were perfectly easy, were this the place to do so, to show that
the representations of God, and of his claims, and of religion, which are sometimes
made in the pulpit, and through the press, are calculated, in a high degree, to repel
and disgust, rather than attract the human mind. When such misrepresentations are
complained of, we are told, that the carnal mind will of course repel true representations
of the character of God and of religion; and the fact, that disgust is produced,
is regarded as evidence that the truth is held forth to the people.
I know it is true, that the carnal or selfish mind is enmity against God. But what
does this mean? Why it means, that the carnal heart is selfishness, that the will
is committed to self-gratification, which is a state of heart, or an attitude of
the will directly opposite to that which God requires. It is also true, that this
selfish state of will does often beget emotions of opposition to God, when God is
contemplated as opposed to the sinner, on account of his selfishness. But it is also
true, that the human intelligence cannot but approve the character and government
of God, when they are rightly apprehended; and further, when the true character of
God, of his government and religion is properly represented to, and apprehended by
the human mind, from a law of necessity, the mind pronounces the character of God
to be lovely, and his government and religion infinitely desirable. Such being the
nature of the human mind, the Holy Spirit, by thoroughly enlightening the intellect,
arouses the desires, and developes the feelings in their relations to God. The desires
thus come into harmony with the law of God, and favour the consecration of the will,
and the whole man is renewed in the image and favour of God. Men are susceptible
of conversion by the truth as presented by the Holy Spirit, upon condition of their
nature being such, that a true representation of God rather attracts than repels
them. But since I have dwelt so much at large upon this particular, in lectures on
depravity and regeneration, I must not enlarge upon it in this place.
It is very plain that when, through mistake or design, God, his government, and religion
are so represented as naturally to repel, rather than attract men, this is the most
efficient method of opposing the progress of religion, since it prevents desire,
which is an essential element of hope, and hope is indispensable to successful effort.
But suppose, that the teachers of religion set themselves to prevent the expectation
of becoming religious, or of making progress in religion. Suppose they represent
to sinners, that there is no rational ground of hope in their case--that men cannot
rationally expect to be saved, or to be converted, however much they may desire it.
What must be the effect of such teaching? Every body knows, that in just so far as
such teachers had any influence, hell could not desire a more efficient instrumentality
to dishonour God and ruin souls. This would be just what the devil would himself
inculcate. It would prevent hope, and of course prevent faith, and render salvation
impossible, and damnation certain, unless the lie could be contradicted, and the
spell of error broken.
Suppose also, that religious teachers should instruct the church that they have no
rational ground for the expectation that their prayers will be answered. Suppose
they should tell them that present faith has no connexion whatever with future faith,
or no such connexion as to render future faith probable; that present faith in any
promise is so far from having any certain connexion with its fulfilment, that it
affords no ground whatever for rational hope that the promises at present believed
will ever be fulfilled. Suppose they are told that prayer for the grace of perseverance,
and a present desire and determination to persevere, had no such connexion with the
desired end as to afford the least ground of rational hope that they should persevere.
Suppose that ministers should take this course to render expectation, and of course
hope and faith impossible, what must be the result? Every one can see. Take any class
of promises you please, and let the ministry in general represent it as a dangerous
error for Christians to expect or hope to realize their fulfilment, and what must
the consequence be? Why, in so far as they had influence, they would exert the very
worst influence possible. Apply this principle to the promises of the world's conversion,
and what would be done for missions? Apply it to parents in relation to their children,
and what would become of family religion?
Now take the class of promises that pledge a victory over sin in this life. Let,
for example, ministers explain away 1 Thess. v. 23, 24: "And the very God of
peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body,
be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that
calleth you, you also will do it:" and this whole class of promises; or let
them teach, as some of them do, that it is a dangerous error to expect that these
promises will be fulfilled to Christians, and what must the result be? This would
be just as the devil would have it. "Ha, hath God said, he will sanctify you
wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and preserve you blameless unto the coming of the
Lord Jesus Christ? Ye shall not surely be so sanctified and kept, and the Lord doth
know this, and it is dangerous to trust him."
This surely is the devil's teaching; and when he can get the ministers of Christ
to take this course, what more can be done? Suppose the ministers admit, as many
of them do, that the blessing we have been considering is fully promised in the Bible;
but, at the same time, inculcate that it is promised upon a condition with which
it is irrational for us to hope to comply. What must result from such teaching as
this? It represents God and his gospel in a most revolting and ridiculous light.
The provision, say such teachers, is adequate, and proffered upon conditions with
which you might comply, but with which you cannot rationally hope to comply. Well,
then, what remains but to regard the gospel as a failure? The fact is, every man
and every soul may rationally hope to comply with the conditions of salvation, and
with the conditions of the promises, or what are they?
But the point we are now considering is, the tendency of such teaching; the tendency
of teaching the church that it is irrational for them to expect to fulfil the conditions
of the promises. I care not what class, any class. God has written them, and holds
them out to inspire desire and expectation--to beget hope, and faith, and effort,
and thus to secure their fulfilment to his people. Now, what an employment for the
leaders and instructors of the people, to be engaged in teaching them not to expect
the fulfilment of these promises to them, that such an expectation or hope is a dangerous
error, that it is irrational for them to hope so to fulfil the conditions of these
promises, as to secure the blessings promised, however much they may at present desire
to do so. I say again, the devil himself could not do worse than this. Hell itself
could not wish for a more efficient opposition to God and religion than this. This
is indeed a most sublime employment for the ministers of God, to be zealous in their
private and public, in their individual, and in their associated capacities, in season
and out of season, in persuading the people, that the grace of God is sufficient
for them if they would believe the promises, and appropriate this proffered grace
to themselves; but that it is "dangerous error" for them to expect, even
by grace divine, so to fulfil the conditions of the promises as to avail themselves
of this proffered grace, however willing and desirous they now are to do so. They
might be saved, but it is dangerous to expect to be saved. They might obtain answers
to prayer, but it is dangerous error to expect them. They might obtain a victory
over sin in this world, but it is "dangerous error" to expect to do so,
however much they may desire it. This is indeed sublime religious instruction; or
rather, it is a most gross contradiction and denial of the grace and truth of God.
I will not of course say, nor do I think, that it is intentional, but I must expose
its true nature, and its tendency.
Such instruction is, in its very nature, a libel upon the glorious gospel of the
blessed God; and it tends as directly and as efficiently as possible to infidelity,
and to the ruin of the church of God. Why, in just so far as such teaching is believed,
it renders hope and faith impossible.
There are good and sufficient grounds of hope, in the case under consideration, but
these grounds are strenuously denied by multitudes of ministers; and pains are taken,
in every way, to discourage faith in the class of promises that pledge deliverance
from the bondage of sin in this life. Those who plead for God and his promises, and
inculcate expectation, and faith, and effort, are branded as heretics, and proscribed
and treated as the enemies of religion. Oh, tell it not in Gath! I would on no account
say this, were it not already a matter of common knowledge.
Why may not a man as well caricature God and religion, and so represent both, as
to render them odious, and thus render desire impossible, as to exclaim against there
being any ground of rational hope, that the promises will be fulfilled to us? Why
may not a man as well be employed in preventing desire, as in preventing expectation?
One certainly is equally as fatal to the interests of religion, and to souls, as
the other. I do not complain of designed misrepresentation, in regard to the truth
we have been considering; but Oh, what a mistake! What an infinitely ruinous misapprehension
of the gospel, and of the grounds of hope! God has endeavoured by every means to
inspire desire and expectation, to secure confidence and effort, but alas! alas!
how many ministers have fallen into the infinite mistake of laying a stumbling-block
before the church! How many are crying, There is no reason to hope; no ground for
rational expectation, that you shall so fulfil the conditions of the promises, as
to secure their fulfilment. You must expect to live in sin as long as you are in
this world; it is dangerous to entertain any other expectation.
Who does not know, that faith is a sine quà non of all progress in religion?
Nothing can be more fatal to the progress of the gospel, and to its influence over
individuals, and over masses of men, than to destroy expectation, and thus render
faith impossible. Observe, hope is composed of desire and expectation. The very nature
of hope shows beyond controversy its relation to effort and to faith. Expectation
is itself intellectual faith, or belief. It is capable of indefinite degrees. In
many instances hope, in relation to a desired event, is very weak; we greatly desire
it, but our expectation is very slight, so that we can hardly say that we hope, and
yet we are aware that we do hope. Now, in this case, hope will increase as expectation
increases. If expectation is slight, it is difficult to believe with the heart, that
is, to rest confidently in, or confidently to look for the occurrence of the event.
It is difficult, when intellectual faith or expectation is but slight, to commit
the will, and trust calmly, that the desired object will be obtained. It is a common
experience, in regard to objects of desire, to find ourselves unable to rest or trust
with the heart, in the confidence that the event will be as we desire. Now, the thing
needed in this case is, to have expectation or intellectual faith increased. The
mind needs to be more thoroughly convinced; it wants more evidence, or to apprehend
more clearly the reasons for rational expectation. Now, if the occurrence of the
event depends in any measure upon our hope or faith, as all events do that are dependent
upon our diligent attention and use of appropriate effort and instrumentalities,
who does not see, that we need encouragement and evidence, instead of discouragement?
Discouragement, in such a case, is ruinous to what slight hope we have.
God has made to us exceeding great and precious promises, and held them out to our
faith, and said, "All things are possible to him that believeth." "If
thou canst believe, thou shalt see the glory of God." "Be it unto thee
according to thy faith." "If ye will not believe, ye shall not be established."
But why should I quote passages; every reader of the Bible knows that everywhere
the greatest stress is laid upon faith, and that nothing is too hard for God to do,
when his people will believe. What must be the influence of a religious teacher who
discourages faith? Suppose he explains away the promises to parents in reference
to their children. Who has not observed the influence of a teacher that is himself
stumbling through unbelief, in regard to that class of promises. You will universally
find, that so far as his influence extends, it is death to the expectation, and of
course to the faith of parents, in regard to the conversion of their children. Of
course their children grow up in sin, and the families of the members of his church
are filled with impenitent children. The same will be true in reference to revivals
of religion. Let the pastor be himself unbelieving; let him have little or no hope
of having religion revived; let him cast the stumbling-block of his own iniquity
or unbelief before the church, and the influence is death. It were much better that
a church had no minister, than for them to have one who has so much unbelief as to
preach unbelief, instead of faith, to the people; who is for ever throwing out discouraging
suggestions in regard to the efficacy of prayer and faith in the promises of God.
What would be the influence of a minister, who should from year to year hold out
to his people the doctrine, that the promises are made upon conditions which they
had no rational hope of fulfilling? that they might have a revival, if they would
use the appropriate means in the appropriate manner; but it was dangerous error for
them to expect to do so? That the children of the members of his church might be
converted, if the parents would appropriate to themselves, and rest in, and plead
the promises made to parents; but, that these promises were made upon conditions
that they had no rational ground for hope that they should fulfil; and that therefore
it was a dangerous error to expect to fulfil them, and to have their children converted?
Who does not see what the influence of such a pastor must be? It must be death and
ruin. He preaches unbelief, instead of faith, to the people.
Precisely the same is true in respect to the doctrine of holiness in this life. Suppose
a pastor to read to his congregation such passages as the following:--
2 Cor. vi. 16: "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye
are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk
in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17. Wherefore come
out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will
receive you. 18. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters,
saith the Lord Almighty."
2 Cor. vii. 1: "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse
ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the
fear of God."
1 Thess. v. 23: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God
your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of
our Lord Jesus Christ. 24. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
Now, suppose that he explains away, or suggests that these passages are interpolations;
or that they are not correctly translated; or affirms that, at any rate, they have
no rational ground of hope that these promises will be fulfilled to them; that they
might be fulfilled to them if they would believe them, but that they have no reason
to expect that they shall believe them; that very few, if any, have in fact believed
them; and that many who have thought they believed them, and that they had received
the fulfilment of them, have found themselves mistaken; that it is very difficult
to get a permanent victory over sin in this world; that they might fall into fanaticism,
if they should expect these promises to be fulfilled to them and that such an expectation
were dangerous error.
Now I ask, how could a minister more directly serve the devil, than by such teaching
as this? He could hardly be more injuriously employed. The fact is, that an unbelieving
minister is the greatest of all stumbling-blocks to the church. I have had occasion
to witness enough of this to make any man's heart sick. It matters not at all, in
what particular form his unbelief developes itself; in that direction all will be
ruin. Suppose he loses, or never had any confidence in revivals of religion, and
is always letting out his unbelief upon his church. He is the greatest stumbling-block
that could be laid before them. Suppose he neither understands nor believes the promises
of God made to parents respecting their children, and that in this respect he lets
out his ignorance and unbelief, he is the ruin of their children. Suppose he is in
the dark, and filled with error or unbelief, in respect to everything where faith
and energetic action are concerned, and throws doubt and discouragement in the way:
his influence is death.
What! a leader in the host of God's elect disheartening the church of God by his
unbelief! It is in vain to say that entire sanctification in this life is not promised;
for it really and plainly is, and nothing is more expressly promised in the word
of God. These promises, like all others, are conditioned upon faith, and it is as
rational to hope to believe them, and to expect them to be fulfilled to us, as it
is to hope to believe any other class of promises, and to have them fulfilled to
us. We have the same Spirit to help our infirmities, and to make intercession for
us in one case as in the other; but the ruin is, that false teaching has forbidden
expectation and crippled faith, and therefore the blessing is delayed. It would be
just so in regard to everything else whatever. Now suppose that this course should
be taken in regard to family religion, and to revivals of religion, until centuries
should pass without revivals, and without the faithfulness of God being manifested
to parents in the conversion of their children; and then suppose, that the fact,
that there had been so few or no revivals, or so few children converted in answer
to the parents' prayers, should be urged, as proving that parents had no rational
ground for the hope that their children would be converted; or that the church had
any rational ground for the hope that religion would be revived; what would be the
effect of all this?
The fact is, that nothing can be more disastrous and death-dealing, than for religious
teachers to throw discouragements in the way of Christians taking hold of and appropriating
the promises. It is ruin and death. God presents promises, and calls the church to
believe them at once, and without hesitation to cast themselves upon them, to appropriate
them and make them their own, and to lay hold on the blessings promised. But what
an employment for a minister to stand before the people and cry out, "It is
dangerous error for you to expect these promises to be fulfilled to you." Surely
this is the devil's work.
Let facts be searched out, and it will be found to be true, that the influence of
a minister is as his confidence in God and in his promises, is. Let search be made,
and it will be found, that those ministers who by precept and example encourage the
faith of their churches, are producing a healthful influence in proportion as they
do so. But on the contrary, when by example and precept they discourage the faith
of their churches, the influence is disastrous in proportion as they do so.
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXX. Back to Top
FURTHER OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
- Objection. 1. It is objected to the foregoing argument, that the passages
adduced to prove Paul's entire sanctification do not sustain the position that he
had attained a state of entire, in the sense of permanent, sanctification. To this
objection I reply,--
(1.) That an examination of all the passages will, if I mistake not, show that he
speaks of his holiness or sanctification as a state, and as an abiding state, as
distinguished from a temporary obedience. To me it is quite manifest, that Paul intended
that his converts to whom he addressed his epistles, should understand him as professing
to have experienced what he enjoined upon them. How could an inspired apostle write
the following passage in his letter to the Thessalonians, if he did not know by experience
what the state was of which he was speaking, and the truth of the promise or declaration
which he appended to his prayers?--1 Thess. v. 23, 24:--"And the very God of
peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body,
be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that
calleth you, who also will do it." How could he write, believing it himself,
without knowing what he said, by having experienced Christ's preserving grace.
(2.) I was aware when I wrote of the sanctification of Paul, and am now, that the
evidence of his permanent sanctification is not such as to render it perfectly certain
that he in no instance committed sin of heart or life. Being aware of this, I said
then, and I here repeat the remark, that the question of his being entirely, in the
sense of permanently sanctified, is not the great question at issue, nor is it essential
to the argument in support of the practical attainability of this state. It is only
one of the arguments in its support; but in my apprehension, the argument is complete
(3.) The testimony in Paul's case appears to me to be satisfactory, in the absence
of all counter evidence.
(i.) It covers at least a large part, if not the whole of his apostolic life.
(ii.) He had frequent occasion to speak of his own attainments by way of encouragement
to those to whom he wrote, to prompt them to aspire after the attainments which he
recommended to them; and also as an illustration of the provision and meaning of
the gospel which he preached.
(iii.) In no instance does he speak as if he were guilty of sin during the
period of his apostleship. He publishes in the face of saints and sinners, of friends
and enemies, those unqualified assertions and professions which I have quoted, and
more than all, he appeals to God for the truth of what he says, and in no instance
(iv.) His language in several instances, as we have seen, seems clearly to
imply, that his holiness was permanent or continual, and not intermittent.
(v.) The evidence is such as plainly to throw the burden of proof upon the
objector. Such language as plainly implies, that his holiness was continual, and
was rather a permanent state than an act or a temporary series of acts, must manifestly
change the onus, and throw it upon the objector to prove the contrary, or to show,
that no such thing is fairly inferable from his language. It is not pretended, that
the permanency of his sanctification is demonstrated by the passages that have been
quoted. Nor is demonstration to be expected in a case of this kind. It were to be
sure very marvellous, if so humble and so simple-hearted a man as Paul the apostle
should make so many unqualified professions of entire holiness of heart and life,
without intimating that he at any time had sinned during this period, if he in fact
knew that he had done so at least in some instances. One can hardly avoid the conviction,
in view of his repeated professions, that if, at any time, he had fallen into sin,
candour would have required him to confess it.
(vi.) The rules of evidence and proof when applied to this case, will clearly
show where the burden of proof rests. These rules are more rigid in criminal cases
than in civil. When a man is accused of a crime, his innocence is assumed until he
is proved to be guilty. It is however admitted, that in the case under consideration,
the assumption is reversed, and that, since all men are known to be sinners unless
they have been sanctified by grace, the assumption is, that every man is a sinner
unless he is proved to be otherwise. He therefore who asserts, that any human being
is sinless, must prove it, and the burden of proof is upon him. But here it is important
to remark, that in making out his proof, he is not held to making out the same kind
and degree of proof, as would be required if he had asserted, that a man was guilty
of a crime against a human government. He is not in this case arraying a commonwealth
against an individual, and leaving it for the commonwealth, by certain individuals
of their number, to sit in judgment, in a case in which they are, in a sense, a party.
When a man is arrayed before a court and jury of his country, and accused of a crime
against the commonwealth, the commonwealth is a party on the record, and the judge
and jury are a part of that commonwealth. In this case the rules of proof are properly
rigid and inflexible; the commonwealth must fully establish, by the most convincing
testimony, the very crime of which they complain. But even in this case, and when
the charge is of a capital crime, and one punishable with death, the complainant
is not held to make out a demonstration, but only to present such a kind and degree
of evidence, as will leave no ground for reasonable doubt, in regard to the guilt
of the accused. The kind and degree of evidence are demanded that might be reasonably
expected in case the accused is guilty, and nothing more. This throws the burden
of proof upon the accused. The case is made out unless the accused can impeach, or
explain, or contradict the evidence on the other side. He is called upon to reply
to the evidence against him, and in case he fails to meet, and in some way to shake
its credibility, he stands convicted.
I know it is said, that this case of Paul is one where a universal proposition is
affirmed; and that therefore the case is not made out until it is proved, that he
arrived at a point in his religious experience after which he did not sin at all.
It is admitted, that in a sense this proposition is universal; but the inquiry is,
when is this so proved as to change the onus? Must it be shown by direct and positive
evidence, and such as can have no other possible construction, that he arrived at
this state? or is it sufficient to change the burden of proof, to show, that the
most fair and natural interpretation of the evidence conducts to the conclusion,
in support of which the evidence is produced? The latter is undoubtedly the correct
rule. If the former were the rule, it were useless to talk or think of a defence,
or of making good a charge in one case out of many. If the affirmant must absolutely
demonstrate his position, before the onus is in any case changed, why then defence
or reply is out of the question; and farther, it is in no case of any use to bring
a charge, except where the evidence amounts to a demonstration. If the proof amounts
to a demonstration, it is impossible that the demonstrated proposition should not
be true, and therefore all answer is out of the question. Therefore in almost no
case do courts of law and equity demand this kind and degree of evidence; but, on
the contrary, even in cases of the highest importance, they require no more than
sufficient evidence in kind and degree, to warrant the reasonable conclusion, that
the alleged proposition is true; and then they hold the onus to be changed, and call
for the defence. When the evidence is such as to produce, or as should produce conviction,
in the absence of counter evidence, they hold the case to be made out, and throw
the onus upon the respondent.
Numerous examples might be cited from theological writers, to show what are regarded
as correct rules of evidence, and of proof upon theological subjects. For example,
in the controversy upon the subject of baptism, the immersing baptists lay down the
universal proposition, that baptizo means only to immerse. In support of this proposition,
they attempt to show from classic usage and from various sources, that immersion
is its primary signification, and that it properly means immersion.
This is allowed by theological writers to be sufficient to change the onus, and to
call upon the pædo-baptists to rebut this testimony, by showing that immersion
is not the only sense, at least, in which the inspired writers use the term baptizo.
The whole course of this controversy shows, that theological writers never pretended
to hold the immersing baptists to a proving of their universal proposition in extenso;
for if they had, this controversy must long since have terminated. Indeed, it were
impossible for them to prove positively their proposition, because it would amount
to proving a negative. It would require them to prove that baptizo never means anything
else than immersion, to make out which, they must bring forward every instance of
its use, and show that it means nothing else in any instance. Instead of this, it
is at least practically held to be sufficient for them to prove, that the word is
used to signify immersion by numerous writers. This sufficiently establishes their
position in the absence of counter evidence. Pædo-baptists are then called
upon to reply, and show that immersion is not its universal and only signification.
This case and the one under consideration, are parallel in the material point. They
are both cases where the à priori assumption is against them. The assumption
is, that all words have more than one signification. But it is held sufficient for
the baptists to make out a general signification, in proof of the assertion of a
universal signification. Their making out that baptizo generally means immerse, is
held to be sufficient, in the absence of counter testimony. The burden of proof is
then changed, and the respondent is called upon to produce examples, or an example
of contrary usage.
So, in the case under consideration, it is sufficient to prove that Paul lived, at,
least habitually, without sin. That is, that in general terms he is said to have
lived without sin. This changes the onus, and the assumption then is, that he lived
altogether without sin, unless the contrary be shown. Or more strictly, it is sufficient
to show, that Paul lived a considerable period, during the latter part of his life,
without sin. This throws the burden of proof upon him who would deny that he continued
in this state until death.
However, I have repeatedly said, I care not to contend for the sanctification of
Paul, or of any other man, in support of the practical attainability of this state.
If such cases had been frequent in the early ages of Christianity, they would not
in all probability have been recorded, unless it was done after their death. It is
the doctrine of practical attainability, and not the fact of actual attainment, for
which I contend.
Objection. 2. Another objection to the doctrine we have been considering has
been stated as follows:--
The promises of entire sanctification are conditioned upon faith. We have no right
to expect the fulfilment of the promises to us until we believe them. To believe
and appropriate them is to believe that they will be fulfilled to us. But of this
we have no evidence, until after we have believed that they will be fulfilled to
us, which is the condition of their fulfilment. Therefore, we have no reason to expect
their fulfilment to us. To this objection I reply,
(1.) That it applies equally to all the promises made to the saints; and if this
objection is good, and a bar to rational hope in respect to the promises of entire
sanctification, it is equally so in respect to all the promises.
(2.) The objection represents the gospel and its promises as a mere farce. If this
objection has any weight, the matter stands thus: God has promised us certain things,
upon condition, that we will believe that he will give them to us. But the condition
of the promise is such as to render it impossible for us to fulfil it. We really,
in this case, have no promise, until after we have believed that we shall receive
the thing promised. We must believe that he will give the thing promised to us. But
of this we can have no evidence until we have believed this, since this belief is
the condition of the promise. This reduces us to the necessity of believing without
a promise, that God will give us the promised blessing; for this belief is the condition
of the promises in which the blessing is pledged. We must first believe that we shall
receive the thing promised, before we have a right to expect to receive, or before
we can rationally believe that we shall receive it. Thus the promises are all made
upon a condition, that renders them all a mere nullity in the estimation of this
This objection was once stated to me by a celebrated minister of New England, as
applicable to the prayer of faith. It has probably occurred to many minds, and deserves
a moment's attention. In further remarking upon it, I would say:--
(3.) That the objection is based upon a misapprehension of the condition of the promises.
The objection assumes, that the promises are conditioned, not upon confidence in
the veracity of God, but upon our believing that he will give to us the thing which
he has promised. But he has promised this blessing, upon condition that we believe
that he will give it to us; of which we have no promise, until after we have believed
that we shall receive it. The objection assumes that God's veracity is not pledged
to grant the thing promised in any case, until we have believed that we shall have
the thing promised; and so we must believe that God will do what his veracity is
not pledged to do, and what we have no evidence that he will do until we truly believe
that he will. But we have no right to claim the thing promised, until we have believed
that we shall have it, for it is promised only upon this condition. Thus we have
no foundation for faith. God's veracity is not pledged to give the blessing, until
after we have believed without evidence that he will give it to us. So that we are
shut up to believe that he will give it to us, before his veracity is pledged to
do so. We must first believe without a promise, as a condition of having a promise,
or any rational ground of confidence that we shall receive the thing promised. This
view of the subject would render the gospel and its promises a ridiculous tantalizing
of the hopes and solicitudes of the people of God. This objection supposes that we
have no evidence upon which to rest, but the promises; and the promise affords no
evidence that we shall receive the thing promised, until we believe that we shall
receive it, for upon this condition the promise is made. I say again, that the objection
misapprehends the condition of the promises. The fact is, the promises are all made
upon condition that we believe in, or trust in the veracity of God. Of this we have
other evidence than that contained in the promises. We can trust in the promise of
no being, any further than we have confidence in his veracity. We can have ground
for confidence in the promises no further than we have ground for confidence in his
veracity. Now, if we had no ground for confidence in the veracity of God, except
what we have in the promises themselves, and were they conditioned upon our belief
of them, they must all be to us a mere nullity. But the truth is, we have infinitely
good reason for confidence in the veracity of God, and consequently, for believing
his promises, and for expecting them to be fulfilled to us. We have in the intuitive
affirmations of our own reason, in the revelations which God has made of himself,
in his works and word, and by his Holy Spirit, the highest evidence of the veracity
of God. When we confide in his veracity, we cannot but confide in his promises, so
far as we understand them. Confidence in the veracity of God is both the condition
of the promises, and a condition of confiding in them, and of expecting to receive
the things pledged in them. Confidence in God's universal truthfulness and faithfulness
is a condition of our expecting to receive the fulfilment of his promises. We could
not rationally expect to receive the things promised, had we no reason for confiding
in the universal truthfulness of God. Hence the Holy Spirit is given, to inspire
confidence in the veracity of God, and thus enable us to lay hold upon, and appropriate
the promises to ourselves. Now if, as the objection we are considering assumes, the
promises were made only upon condition that we believe that we shall receive the
thing promised, that is, if the thing is promised only upon condition that we first
believe that we receive it, then surely the promises were vain; for this would suspend
the fulfilment of the promise upon an impossible condition. But, if the promises
are conditioned upon our confiding in the veracity of God, then they are made to
a certain class of persons, and as soon as we are conscious of exercising this confidence
in him, we cannot but expect him to fulfil all his promises. Thus a confidence in
his veracity at once fulfills the conditions of the promises, and renders the expectation
that we shall receive the things promised, rational and necessary.
We may appropriate the promises and expect their fulfilment, when we are conscious
of confidence in the veracity of God; for upon this condition they were made, and
upon no other condition is confidence in their fulfilment to us possible. That is,
we cannot expect God to fulfil his promises to us, except upon the condition, that
we confide in his universal truthfulness. For this confidence we have the best of
all reasons, and to secure this confidence the Holy Spirit is given. God requires
us to expect to receive the things promised, simply because he has promised to bestow
them upon condition of faith in his veracity, and because faith in his veracity implies,
and includes, the expectation of receiving the things which we know he has promised,
upon condition of this faith. If we have good reason for confidence in the veracity
of God, we have good reason for the expectation that he will fulfil to us all his
promises; for confidence in his veracity is the condition of them. Confidence in
his veracity must imply confidence in his promises, so far as they are known.
God requires faith in his promises only because he requires faith in his universal
veracity, and when he conditionates his promises upon our confidence in them, it
is only because he conditionates them upon our confidence in his veracity; and because
confidence in his veracity implies confidence in his promises, and confidence in
his promises implies confidence in his veracity. When therefore he conditionates
his promises upon our believing them, and that we shall receive the things promised
in them, the spirit and meaning of the condition is, that we confide in his truthfulness,
which confidence is implied in the expectation of receiving the things promised.
It should be distinctly understood then, that faith in the promises implies faith
in the divine veracity, and faith in the divine veracity implies faith in all the
known promises. In the order of nature, confidence in the divine veracity precedes
confidence in a specific divine promise. But where the latter is there the former
must always be. The general condition of all the promises is, confidence in the character
and truthfulness of God. This also implies confidence in his promises, and hence
the expressed condition is faith in the promise, because faith in his veracity implies
confidence in his promises, and confidence in his promises implies confidence in
But here it may be asked, does not this reasoning prove too much, and will it not
follow from this, that all the promises must be, and are really due and fulfilled
to all true saints; for all true saints have true confidence in the veracity of God?
If faith in the veracity of God is the true condition of all the promises, it follows,
that every true believer has fulfilled the conditions of all the promises; then the
veracity of God is pledged for the fulfilment of all of them to every true believer.
To this I answer, that the promises are made to believers in Christ, or in other
words, to all true saints. Their being true saints is the condition of their right
to appropriate them, and claim the fulfilment of them to themselves. True confidence
in God is the condition of the promises, in the sense, not that they will all be
fulfilled to us, of course, upon the bare condition that we confide in the general
and universal veracity of God, without either pleading, appropriating, or using means
to secure the fulfilment of certain specific promises to us. But confidence in the
veracity of God is the condition of our having a right to appropriate the promises
to ourselves, and to expect their fulfilment to ourselves. A consciousness that we
confide in the veracity of God gives us the right to consider every promise as made
to us which is applicable to our circumstances and wants, and to lay hold upon, and
plead it, and expect it to be fulfilled to us. Observe, the promises are not merely
conditioned upon confidence in the veracity of God, but also upon our pleading them
with entire confidence in the veracity of God, and in the fact that he will fulfil
them to us, and also upon the diligent use of means to secure the promised blessing.
God says, "I will be enquired of by the house of Israel to do these things for
them." By trusting the veracity of God, we become personally and individually
interested in the promises, and have a title to the things promised, in such a sense
as to have a right, through grace, to claim the fulfilment to us of specific promises,
upon the further condition of our pleading them with faith in the veracity of God,
and using the necessary means to secure their fulfilment to us. Most, not to say
all, of the promises of specific blessings have several conditions. An implicit faith
or confidence in God as a hearer and answerer of prayer, and as a God of universal
sincerity and veracity, as true and faithful to all his word, is the general condition
of all the promises.
The promises are made to this class of persons. The promises of particular things
are addressed to this class, for their individual use and benefit, as circumstances
shall develop their necessities. By the exercise of implicit confidence in God, they
have fulfilled the conditions of the promises, in such a sense, as to entitle them
to appropriate any specific promise, and claim through grace its fulfilment to them,
as their circumstances demand. This laying hold of, and appropriating the promises
of specific blessings, and using the means to secure the thing promised, are also
conditions of receiving the promised blessing.
The Holy Spirit is given to all who have confidence in the veracity of God, to lead
them to a right use and appropriation of the specific promises, and when we are drawn
to wrestle for the fulfilment to us of any particular promise, we have the best of
reasons to expect its fulfilment to us. What Christian does not know this? And what
Christian has not had frequent examples and instances of this in his own experience?
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXXI. Back to Top
FURTHER OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
- Objection. 3. I will next consider those passages of scripture which are
by some supposed to contradict the doctrine we have been considering.
1 Kings viii. 46: "If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth
not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry
them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near," &c. On this
passage, I remark,--
(1.) That this sentiment in nearly the same language, is repeated in 2 Chron. vi.
26, and in Eccl. vii. 20, where the same original word in the same form is used.
(2.) These are the strongest passages I know of in the Old Testament, and the same
remarks are applicable to the three.
(3.) I will quote, for the satisfaction of the reader, the note of Dr. Adam Clarke
upon this passage, and also that of Barclay, the celebrated and highly spiritual
author of "An Apology for the True Christian Divinity." And let me say,
that they appear to me to be satisfactory answers to the objection founded upon these
CLARKE: "'If they sin against thee.'--This must refer to some general
defection from truth; to some species of false worship, idolatry, or corruption of
the truth and ordinances of the Most High; as for it, they are here stated to be
delivered into the hands of their enemies, and carried away captive, which was the
general punishment of idolatry; and what is called, [verse 47,] acting perversely
and committing wickedness.
"'If they sin against thee, for there is no man that sinneth not.' The second
clause, as it is here translated, renders the supposition in the first clause, entirely
nugatory; for, if there be no man that sinneth not, it is useless to say, if they
sin; but this contradiction is taken away, by reference to the original ki yechetau
lak, which should be translated, if they shall sin against thee; or should they sin
against thee, ki ein adam asher lo yecheta; 'for there is no man that may not sin;'
that is, there is no man impeccable, none infallible; none that is not liable to
transgress. This is the true meaning of the phrase in various parts of the Bible,
and so our translators have understood the original, for even in the thirty-first
verse of this chapter, they have translated yecheta, if a man trespass; which certainly
implies he might or might not do it; and in this way they have translated the same
word, if a soul sin, in Lev. v. 1, and vi. 2; 1 Sam. ii. 25; 2 Chron. iv. 22; and
in several other places. The truth is, the Hebrew has no mood to express words in
the permissive or optative way, but to express this sense it uses the future tense
of the conjugation kal.
"This text has been a wonderful strong-hold for all who believe that there is
no redemption from sin in this life; that no man can live without committing sin;
and that we cannot be entirely freed from it till we die.
"(i.) The text speaks no such doctrine; it only speaks of the possibility
of every man's sinning; and this must be true of a state of probation.
"(ii.) There is not another text in the divine records that is more to
the purpose than this.
"(iii.) The doctrine is flatly in opposition to the design of the gospel;
for Jesus came to save his people from their sins, and to destroy the works of the
"(iv.) It is a dangerous and destructive doctrine, and should be blotted
out of every Christian's creed. There are too many who are seeking to excuse their
crimes by all means in their power; and we need not embody their excuses in a creed,
to complete their deception, by stating that their sins are unavoidable."
BARCLAY: "Secondly,--Another objection is from two passages of scripture,
much of one signification. The one is 1 Kings viii. 46: 'For there is no man that
sinneth not.' The other is Eccl. vii. 20: 'For there is not a just man upon earth,
that doeth good and sinneth not.'
"(i.) These affirm nothing of a daily and continual sinning, so as never
to be redeemed from it; but only that all have sinned, that there is none that doth
not sin, though not always so as never to cease to sin; and in this lies the question.
Yea, in that place of the Kings he speaks within two verses of the returning of such
with all their souls and hearts, which implies a possibility of leaving off sin.
"(ii.) There is a respect to be had to the seasons and dispensations;
for if it should be granted that in Solomon's time there were none that sinned not,
it will not follow that there are none such now, or that it is a thing not now attainable
by the grace of God under the gospel.
"(iii.) And lastly, this whole objection hangs upon a false interpretation;
for the original Hebrew word may be read in the potential mood, thus,--There is no
man who may not sin, as well as in the indicative; so both the old Latin, Junius,
and Tremellius, and Vatablus have it, and the same word is so used, Ps. cxix. 11:
'Thy word have I bid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee'--in the potential
mood, and not in the indicative; which being more answerable to the universal scope
of the scriptures, the testimony of the truth, and the sense of almost all interpreters,
doubtless ought to be so understood, and the other interpretation rejected as spurious."
(iv.) Whatever may be thought of the views of these authors, to me it is a
plain and satisfactory answer to the objection founded upon these passages, that
the objection might be strictly true under the Old Testament dispensation, and prove
nothing in regard to the attainability of a state of entire sanctification under
the New. What! does the New Testament dispensation differ nothing from the Old in
its advantages for the acquisition of holiness? If it be true, that no one under
the comparatively dark dispensation of Judaism, attained a state of permanent sanctification,
does that prove such a state is not attainable under the gospel? It is expressly
stated in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that "the old covenant made nothing perfect,
but the bringing in of a better hope did." Under the old covenant, God expressly
promised that he would make a new one with the house of Israel, in "writing
the law in their hearts," and in "engraving it in their inward parts."
And this new covenant was to be made with the house of Israel, under the Christian
dispensation. What then do all such passages in the Old Testament prove, in relation
to the privileges and holiness of Christians under the new dispensation?
(v.) Whether any of the Old Testament saints did so far receive the new Covenant
by way of anticipation, as to enter upon a state of permanent sanctification, it
is not my present purpose to inquire. Nor will I inquire, whether, admitting that
Solomon said in his day, that "there was not a just man upon the earth that
liveth and sinneth not," the same could with equal truth have been asserted
of every generation under the Jewish dispensation?
(vi.) It is expressly asserted of Abraham, and multitudes of the Old Testament
saints, that they "died in faith, not having received the promises." Now
what can this mean? It cannot be, that they did not know the promises; for to them
the promises were made. It cannot mean, that they did not receive Christ, for the
Bible expressly asserts that they did--that "Abraham rejoiced to see Christ's
day"--that Moses, and indeed all the Old Testament saints, had so much knowledge
of Christ as a Saviour to be revealed, as to bring them into a state of salvation.
But still they did not receive the promise of the Spirit, as it is poured out under
the Christian dispensation. This was the great thing all along promised, first to
Abraham, or to his seed, which is Christ. Gal. iii. 14, 16: "That the blessing
of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive
the promise of the Spirit through faith." "Now to Abraham and his seed
were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and
to thy seed, which is Christ;" and afterwards to the Christian church, by all
the prophets. Acts ii. 16-21: "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet
Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, (saith God,) I will pour out of
my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your
young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my servants,
and on my handmaidens, I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall
prophesy; and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath;
blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness, and
the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come; and it shall
come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Acts ii. 38, 39: "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one
of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive
the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and
to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Acts
iii. 24, 26: "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after,
as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days." "Unto you
first, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away
every one of you from his iniquities;" and lastly, by Christ himself, which
he expressly styles "the promise" of the Father. Acts i. 4, 5: "And
being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from
Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith he, ye have heard
of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy
Ghost not many days hence." They did not receive the light and the glory of
the Christian dispensation, nor the fulness of the Holy Spirit. And it is asserted
in the Bible, that "they without us," that is, without our privileges,
"could not be made perfect."
Objection. 4. The next objection is founded upon the Lord's Prayer. In this
Christ has taught us to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those
who trespass against us." Here it is objected, that if a person should become
entirely sanctified, he could no longer use this clause of this prayer, which, it
is said, was manifestly designed to be used by the church to the end of time. Upon
this prayer I remark:--
(1.) Christ has taught us to pray for entire, in the sense of perpetual sanctification.
"Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven."
(2.) He designed, that we should expect this prayer to be answered, or that we should
mock him by asking what we do not believe is agreeable to his will, and that too
which we know could not consistently be granted; and that we are to repeat this insult
to God as often as we pray.
(3.) The petition for forgiveness of our trespasses, it is plain, must apply to past
sins, and not to sins we are committing at the time we make the prayer; for it would
be absurd and abominable to pray for the forgiveness of a sin which we are then in
the act of committing.
(4.) This prayer cannot properly be made in respect to any sin of which we have not
repented; for it would be highly abominable in the sight of God, to pray for the
forgiveness of a sin of which we did not repent.
(5.) If there be any hour or day in which a man has committed no actual sin, he could
not consistently make this prayer in reference to that hour or that day.
(6.) But at the very time, it would be highly proper for him to make this prayer
in relation to all his past sins, and that too, although he may have repented of,
and confessed them, and prayed for their forgiveness, a thousand times before. This
does not imply a doubt whether God has forgiven the sins of which we have repented;
but it is only a renewal of our grief and humiliation for our sins, and a fresh acknowledgment
of, and casting ourselves upon, his mercy. God may forgive when we repent before
we ask him, and while we abhor ourselves so much as to have no heart to ask for forgiveness;
but his having forgiven us does not render the petition improper.
(7.) And although his sins may be forgiven, he ought still to confess them, to repent
of them, both in this world and in the world to come. And it is perfectly suitable,
so long as he lives in the world, to say the least, to continue to repent, and repeat
the request for forgiveness. For myself, I am unable to see why this passage should
be made a stumbling-block; for if it be improper to pray for the forgiveness of sins
of which we have repented, then it is improper to pray for forgiveness at all. And
if this prayer cannot be used with propriety in reference to past sins of which we
have already repented, it cannot properly be used at all, except upon the absurd
supposition, that we are to pray for the forgiveness of sins which we are now committing,
and of which we have not repented. And if it be improper to use this form of prayer
in reference to all past sins of which we have repented, it is just as improper to
use it in reference to sins committed to-day or yesterday, of which we have repented.
Objection. 5. Another objection is founded on James iii. 1, 2: "My brethren,
be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For
in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect
man, and able also to bridle the whole body." Upon this passage I remark:
(1.) The term rendered masters here, may be rendered teachers, critics, or censors,
and be understood either in a good or bad sense. The Apostle exhorts the brethren
not to be many masters, because if they are so, they will incur the greater condemnation;
"for," says he, "in many things we offend all." The fact that
we all offend is here urged as a reason why we should not be many masters; which
shows that the term masters is here used in a bad sense. "Be not many masters,"
for if we are masters, "we shall receive the greater condemnation," because
we are all great offenders. Now I understand this to be the simple meaning of this
passage; do not many [or any] of you become censors, or critics, and set yourselves
up to judge and condemn others. For inasmuch as you have all sinned yourselves, and
we are all great offenders, we shall receive the greater condemnation, if we set
ourselves up as censors. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged,
and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
(2.) It does not appear to me that the apostle designs to affirm anything at all
of the present character of himself, or of those to whom he wrote; nor to have had
the remotest allusion to the doctrine of entire sanctification, but simply to affirm
a well-established truth in its application to a particular sin; that if they became
censors, and injuriously condemned others, inasmuch as they had all committed many
sins, they should receive the greater condemnation.
(3.) That the apostle did not design to deny the doctrine of Christian perfection
or entire sanctification, as maintained in these lectures, seems evident from the
fact, that he immediately subjoins, "If any man offend not in word, the same
is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."
Objection. 6. Another objection is founded upon 1 John 1. 8: "If we say
we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Upon this
(1.) Those who make this passage an objection to the doctrine of entire sanctification
in this life, assume that the apostle is here speaking of sanctification instead
of justification; whereas an honest examination of the passage, if I mistake not,
will render it evident that the apostle makes no allusion here to sanctification,
but is speaking solely of justification. A little attention to the connexion in which
this verse stands will, I think, render this evident. But before I proceed to state
what I understand to be the meaning of this passage, let us consider it in the connexion
in which it stands, in the sense in which they understand it who quote it for the
purpose of opposing the sentiment advocated in these lectures.
They understand the apostle as affirming, that, if we say we are in a state of entire
sanctification and do not sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Now if this were the apostle's meaning, he involves himself in this connexion in
two flat contradictions.
(2.) This verse is immediately preceded by the assertion that the "blood of
Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." Now it would be very remarkable, if
immediately after this assertion the apostle should mean to say, (as they suppose
he did,) that it does not cleanse us from all sin, and if we say it does, we deceive
ourselves; for he had just asserted, that the blood of Jesus Christ does cleanse
us from all sin. If this were his meaning, it involves him in as palpable a contradiction
as could be expressed.
(3.) This view of the subject then represents the apostle in the conclusion of the
seventh verse, as saying, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all
sin; and in the eighth verse, as saying, that if we suppose ourselves to be cleansed
from all sin, we deceive ourselves, thus flatly contradicting what he had just said.
And in the ninth verse he goes on to say, that "He is faithful and just to forgive
us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;" that is, the blood
of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin; but if we say it does, we deceive ourselves.
"But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Now, all unrighteousness is sin.
If we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, we are cleansed from sin. And now suppose
a man should confess his sin, and God should in faithfulness and justice forgive
his sin, and cleanse him from all unrighteousness, and then he should confess and
profess that God had done this; are we to understand, that the apostle would then
affirm that he deceives himself, in supposing that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth
from all sin? But, as I have already said, I do not understand the apostle as affirming
anything in respect to the present moral character of any one, but as speaking of
the doctrine of justification.
This then appears to me to be the meaning of the whole passage. If we say that we
are not sinners, that is, have no sin to need the blood of Christ; that we have never
sinned, and consequently need no Saviour, we deceive ourselves. For we have sinned,
and nothing but the blood of Christ cleanseth from sin, or procures our pardon and
justification. And now, if we will not deny, but confess that we have sinned, "He
is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
"But if we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and his word is not in
Objection. 7. It has been objected to the view I have given of Jer. xxxi.
31-34, that if that passage is to be considered as a promise of entire sanctification,
it proves too much, inasmuch as it is said, "they shall all know the Lord from
the least to the greatest;" therefore, says the objector, it would prove that
all the Church has been in a state of entire sanctification ever since the commencement
of the New Testament dispensation. To this objection I answer:--
(1.) I have already, I trust, shown that this promise is conditioned upon faith,
and that the blessing cannot possibly be received but by faith.
(2.) It is doubtless true, that many may have received this covenant in its fulness.
(3.) A promise may be unconditional or absolute, and certain of a fulfilment in relation
to the whole church as a body, in some period of its history, which is nevertheless
conditional, in relation to its application to any particular individual, or generation
(4.) I think it is in entire keeping with the prophecies, to understand this passage
as expressly promising to the Church a day, when all her members shall be sanctified,
and "Holiness to the Lord shall be written upon the bells of the horses."
Indeed, it appears to be abundantly foretold, that the church as a body shall in
this world enter into a state of entire sanctification in some period of her history,
and that this will be the carrying out of the promises of the New Covenant of which
we are speaking. But it is by no means an objection to this view of the subject,
that all the church have not yet entered into this state.
It has been maintained, that this promise in Jeremiah has been fulfilled already.
This has been argued:--
(i.) From the fact that the promise has no condition, expressed or implied,
and the responsibility therefore rests with God.
(ii.) That the apostle, in his epistle to the Hebrews, quotes it as to be
fulfilled at the advent of Christ. Now to this I answer:--It might as well be argued,
that all the rest of the promises and prophecies relating to the gospel-day were
fulfilled, because the time had come when the promise is due. Suppose it were denied,
that the world would ever be converted, or that there ever would be any more piety
in the world than there has been and is at present; and when the promises and prophecies
respecting the latter-day glory and the conversion of the world should be adduced
in proof that the world is to be converted, it should be replied, that these promises
had already been fulfilled, that they were unconditional, and that the advent of
the Messiah was the time when they became due. But suppose, that in answer to this,
it should be urged, that nothing has ever yet occurred in the history of this world
that seems at all to have come up to the meaning of these promises and prophecies,
that the world has never been in the state which seems to be plainly described in
these promises and prophecies--and that it cannot be, that anything the world has
yet experienced is what is meant by such language as is used in the Bible, in relation
to the future state of the world. Now suppose to this it should be replied, that
the event has shown what the promises and prophecies really meant; that we are to
interpret the language by the fact; that as the promises and prophecies were unconditional,
and the gospel day has really come when they were to be fulfilled, we certainly know,
whatever their language may be, that they meant nothing more than what the world
has already realized? This would be precisely like the reasoning of some persons
in relation to Jer. xxxi. 31-34. They say:--
(a.) The promises are without condition.
(b.) The time has come for their fulfilment. Therefore, the world has realized their
fulfilment, and all that was intended by them: that the facts in the case settle
the question of construction and interpretation; and we know that they never intended
to promise a state of entire sanctification, because, as a matter of fact, no such
state has been realized by the church. Indeed! Then the Bible is the most hyperbolical,
not to say ridiculous, book in the universe. If what the world has seen in regard
to the extension and universal prevalence of the Redeemer's kingdom, is all that
the promises relating to these events really mean, then the Bible of all books in
the world is the most calculated to deceive mankind. But who, after all, in the exercise
of his sober senses, will admit any such reasoning as this? Who does not know, or
may not know, if he will use his common sense, that although these promises and prophecies
are unconditionally expressed, yet that they are, as a matter of fact, really conditioned
upon a right exercise of human agency, and that a time is to come when the world
shall be converted; and that the conversion of the world implies in itself a vastly
higher state of religious action in the church, than has for centuries, or perhaps
ever been witnessed--and that the promise of the New Covenant is still to be fulfilled
in a higher sense than it ever has been? If any man doubts this, I must believe that
he does not understand his Bible. Faith, then, is an indispensable condition of the
fulfilment of all promises of spiritual blessings, the reception of which involves
the exercise of our own agency.
Again: it is not a little curious, that those who give this interpretation
to these promises, imagine that they see a very close connexion, if not an absolute
identity of our views with those of modern Antinomian Perfectionists. Now, it is
of importance to remark, that this is one of the leading peculiarities of that sect.
They (the Antinomian Perfectionists) insist that these are promises without condition,
and that consequently their own watchfulness, prayers, exertions, and the right exercise
of their own agency, are not at all to be taken into the account in the matter of
their perseverance in holiness--that the responsibility is thrown entirely upon Christ,
inasmuch as his promises are without condition. The thing he has promised, say they,
is, that without any condition, he will keep them in a state of entire sanctification,
that therefore for them to confess sin is to accuse Christ of breaking his promises.
For them to make any efforts at perseverance in holiness, is to set aside the gospel,
and go back to the law. For them even to fear that they shall sin, is to fear that
Christ will tell a lie. These sayings are not found in their Confession of Faith,
but they are held at least by many of them, as every one knows who is at all familiar
with their views.
The fact is, that this, and their setting aside the moral law, are the two great
errors of their whole system. It would be easy to show, that the adoption of this
sentiment, that these promises are without condition, expressed or implied, has led
to some of their most fanatical and absurd opinions and practices. They take the
ground, that no condition is expressed, and that therefore none is implied; overlooking
the fact, that the very nature of the thing promised implies that faith is the condition
upon which its fulfilment must depend. It is hoped, therefore, that our brethren
who charge us with perfectionism, will be led to see that to themselves, and not
to us, does this charge belong.
These are the principal passages that occur to my mind, and those I believe upon
which the principal stress has been laid, by the opposers of this doctrine. And as
I do not wish to protract the discussion, I shall omit the examination of other passages.
There are many objections to the doctrine of entire sanctification, besides those
derived from the passages of scripture which I have considered. Some of these objections
are doubtless honestly felt, and deserve to be considered. I will therefore proceed
to notice such of them as now occur to my mind.
Objection. 8. It is objected, that the doctrine of entire and permanent sanctification
in this life, tends to the errors of modern perfectionism. This objection has been
urged by some good men, and I doubt not, honestly urged. But still I cannot believe
that they have duly considered the matter. It seems to me, that one fact will set
aside this objection. It is well known that the Wesleyan Methodists have, as a denomination,
from the earliest period of their history, maintained this doctrine in all its length
and breadth. Now if such is the tendency of the doctrine, it is passing strange that
this tendency has never developed itself in that denomination. So far as I can learn,
the Methodists have been in a great measure, if not entirely, exempt from the errors
held by modern perfectionists. Perfectionists, as a body, and I believe with very
few exceptions, have arisen out of those denominations that deny the doctrine of
entire sanctification in this life.
Now the reason of this is obvious to my mind. When professors of religion, who have
been all their life subject to bondage, begin to inquire earnestly for deliverance
from their sins, they have found neither sympathy nor instruction, in regard to the
prospect of getting rid of them in this life. Then they have gone to the Bible, and
there found, in almost every part of it, Christ presented as a Saviour from their
sins. But when they proclaim this truth, they are at once treated as heretics and
fanatics by their brethren, until, being overcome of evil, they fall into censoriousness;
and finding the church so decidedly and utterly wrong, in her opposition to this
one great important truth, they lose confidence in their ministers and the church,
and being influenced by a wrong spirit, Satan takes the advantage of them, and drives
them to the extreme of error and delusion. This I believe to be the true history
of many of the most pious members of the Calvinistic churches. On the contrary, the
Methodists are very much secured against these errors. They are taught that Jesus
Christ is a Saviour from all sin in this world. And when they inquire for deliverance
they are pointed to Jesus Christ as a present and all-sufficient Redeemer. Finding
sympathy and instruction on this great and agonizing point, their confidence in their
ministers and their brethren remains, and they walk quietly with them.
It seems to me impossible that the tendency of this doctrine should be to the peculiar
errors of the modern perfectionists, and yet not an instance occur among all the
Methodist ministers, or the thousands of their members, for one hundred years.
And here let me say, it is my full conviction, that there are but two ways in which
ministers of the present day can prevent members of their churches from becoming
perfectionists. One is, to suffer them to live so far from God, that they will not
inquire after holiness of heart; and the other is, most fully to inculcate the glorious
doctrine of entire consecration; and that it is the high privilege as well as the
duty of Christians, to live in a state of entire consecration to God. I have many
additional things to say upon the tendency of this doctrine, but at present this
By some it is said to be identical with perfectionism; and attempts are made to show
in what particulars antinomian perfectionism and our views are the same. On this
(1.) It seems to have been a favourite policy of certain controversial writers for
a long time, instead of meeting a proposition in the open field of fair and Christian
argument, to give it a bad name, and attempt to put it down, not by force of argument,
but by showing that it is identical with, or sustains a near relation to Pelagianism,
Antinomianism, Calvinism, or some other ism, against which certain classes of minds
are deeply prejudiced. In the recent controversy between what are called old and
new school divines, who has not witnessed with pain the frequent attempts that have
been made to put down the new school divinity, as it is called, by calling it Pelagianism,
and quoting certain passages from Pelagius and other writers, to show the identity
of sentiment that exists between them.
This is a very unsatisfactory method of attacking or defending any doctrine. There
are no doubt, many points of agreement between Pelagius and all truly orthodox divines,
and so there are many points of disagreement between them. There are also many points
of agreement between modern perfectionists and all evangelical Christians, and so
there are many points of disagreement between them and the Christian church in general.
That there are some points of agreement between their views and my own, is no doubt
true. And that we totally disagree in regard to those points that constitute their
great peculiarities is, if I understand them, also true.
But did I really agree in all points with Augustine, or Edwards, or Pelagius, or
the modern perfectionists, neither the good nor the ill name of any of these would
prove my sentiments to be either right or wrong. It would remain, after all, to show
that those with whom I agreed were either right or wrong, in order, on the one hand,
to establish that for which I contend, or on the other, to overthrow that which I
maintain. It is often more convenient to give a doctrine or an argument a bad name,
than it is soberly and satisfactorily to reply to it.
(2.) It is not a little curious, that we should be charged with holding the same
sentiments with the perfectionists; while yet they seem to be more violently opposed
to our views, since they have come to understand them, than almost any other persons
whatever. I have been informed by one of their leaders, that he regards me as one
of the master-builders of Babylon. And I also understand, that they manifest greater
hostility to the Oberlin Evangelist than almost any other class of persons.
(3.) I will not take time, nor is it needful, to go into an investigation or a denial,
even of the supposed or alleged points of agreement between us and the perfectionists.
But, for the present, it must be sufficient to read and examine for yourselves. You
have, at the commencement of these lectures upon this subject, their confession of
faith drawn up with care, by their leader, in compliance with a particular request;
let a comparison of that with what is here taught, settle the question of our agreement
or disagreement with that sect.
With respect to the modern perfectionists, those who have been acquainted with their
writings, know that some of them have gone much farther from the truth than others.
Some of their leading men, who commenced with them, and adopted their name, stopped
far short of adopting some of their most abominable errors; still maintaining the
authority and perpetual obligation of the moral law; and thus have been saved from
going into many of the most objectionable and destructive notions of the sect. There
are many more points of agreement between that class of perfectionists and the orthodox
church, than between the church and any other class of them. And there are still
a number of important points of difference, as every one knows who is possessed of
correct information upon this subject.
I abhor the practice of denouncing whole classes of men for the errors of some of
that name. I am well aware, that there are many of those who are termed perfectionists,
who as truly abhor the extremes of error into which many of that name have fallen,
as perhaps do any persons living.
Objection. 9. Another objection is, that persons could not live in this world,
if they were entirely sanctified. Strange! Does holiness injure a man? Does perfect
conformity to all the laws of life and health, both physical and moral, render it
impossible for a man to live? If a man break off from rebellion against God, will
it kill him? Does there appear to have been anything in Christ's holiness inconsistent
with life and health? The fact is, that this objection is founded in a gross mistake,
in regard to what constitutes entire sanctification. It is supposed by those who
hold this objection, that this state implies a continual and most intense degree
of excitement, and many things which are not at all implied in it. I have thought,
that it is rather a glorified than a sanctified state, that most men have before
their minds, whenever they consider this subject. When Christ was upon earth, he
was in a sanctified but not in a glorified state. "It is enough for the disciple
that he be as his Master." Now, what is there in the moral character of Jesus
Christ, as represented in his history, that may not and ought not to be fully copied
into the life of every Christian? I speak not of his knowledge, but of his spirit
and temper. Ponder well every circumstance of his life that has come down to us,
and say, beloved, what is there in it that may not, by the grace of God, be copied
into your own? And think you, that a full imitation of him, in all that relates to
his moral character, would render it impossible for you to live in the world?
Objection. 10. Again, it is objected that should we become entirely in the
sense of permanently sanctified, we could not know it, and should not be able intelligently
to profess it.
I answer: All that a sanctified soul needs to know or profess is, that the grace
of God in Christ Jesus is sufficient for him, so that he finds it to be true, as
Paul did, that he can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth him, and that
he does not expect to sin, but that on the contrary, he is enabled through grace
"to reckon himself dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ
our Lord." A saint may not know that he shall never sin again; he may expect
to sin no more, because of his confidence, not in his own resolutions, or strength,
or attainments, but simply in the infinite grace and faithfulness of Christ. He may
come to look upon, to regard, account, reckon himself, as being dead in deed and
in fact unto sin, and as having done with it, and as being alive unto God, and to
expect henceforth to live wholly to God, as much as he expects to live at all; and
it may be true that he will thus live, without his being able to say that he knows
that he is entirely, in the sense of permanently, sanctified. This he need not know,
but this he may believe upon the strength of such promises as 1 Thess. v. 23, 24:
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit,
and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." It is also true, that
a Christian may attain a state in which he will really fall no more into sin, as
a matter of fact, while, at the same time, he may not be able to express even a thorough
persuasion that he shall never fall again. All he may be able intelligently to say
is: "God knoweth I hope to sin no more, but the event will show. May the Lord
keep me; I trust that he will."
Objection. 11. Another objection is, that the doctrine tends to spiritual
pride. And is it true, indeed, that to become perfectly humble tends to pride? But
entire humility is implied in entire sanctification. Is it true, that you must remain
in sin, and of course cherish pride in order to avoid pride? Is your humility more
safe in your own hands, and are you more secure against spiritual pride, in refusing
to receive Christ as your helper, than you would be in at once embracing him as a
I have seen several remarks in the papers of late, and have heard several suggestions
from various quarters, which have but increased the fear which I have for some time
entertained, that multitudes of Christians, and indeed many ministers, have radically
defective views of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. To the doctrine of entire
sanctification in this life, as believed and taught by some of us, it has been frequently
of late objected, that prayers offered in accordance with this belief, and by a sanctified
soul, would savour strongly of spiritual pride and self-righteousness. I have seen
this objection stated in its full force of late, in a religious periodical, in the
form of a supposed prayer of a sanctified soul--the object of which was manifestly
to expose the shocking absurdity, self-righteousness, and spiritual pride of a prayer,
or rather thanksgiving, made in accordance with a belief that one is entirely sanctified.
Now, I must confess, that that prayer, together with objections and remarks which
suggest the same idea, have created in my mind no small degree of alarm. I fear much
that many of our divines, in contending for the doctrines of grace, have entirely
lost sight of the meaning of the language they use, and have in reality but very
little practical understanding of what is intended by salvation by grace, in opposition
to salvation by works. If this is not the case, I know not how to account for their
feeling, and for their stating such an objection as this to the doctrine of entire
Now, if I understand the doctrine of salvation by grace, both sanctification and
justification are wrought by the grace of God, and not by any works or merits of
our own, irrespective of the grace of Christ through faith. If this is the real doctrine
of the Bible, what earthly objection can there be to our confessing, professing,
and thanking God for our sanctification, any more than for our justification. It
is true, indeed, that in our justification our own agency is not concerned, while
in our sanctification it is. Yet I understand the doctrine of the Bible to be, that
both are brought about by grace through faith, and that we should no sooner be sanctified
without the grace of Christ, than we should be justified without it. Now, who pretends
to deny this? And yet if it is true, of what weight is that class of objections to
which I have alluded? These objections manifestly turn upon the idea, no doubt latent
and deep seated in the mind, that the real holiness of Christians, in whatever degree
it exists, is, in some way, to be ascribed to some goodness originating in themselves,
and not in the grace of Christ. But do let me ask, how is it possible that men who
entertain, really and practically, right views upon this subject, can by any possibility
feel, as if it must be proof conclusive of self-righteousness and Pharisaism, to
profess and thank God for sanctification? Is it not understood on all hands, that
sanctification is by grace, and that the gospel has made abundant provision for the
sanctification of all men? This certainly is admitted by those who have stated this
objection. Now, if this is so, which is the most honourable to God, to confess and
complain that our sins triumph and gain dominion over us, or to be able truly and
honestly to thank Him for having given us the victory over our sins? God has said,
"Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under
Now, in view of this and multitudes of kindred promises, suppose we come to God,
and say: "O Lord, thou hast made these great and precious promises, but, as
a matter of fact, they do not accord with our own experience. For sin does continually
have dominion over us. Thy grace is not sufficient for us. We are continually overcome
by temptation, notwithstanding thy promise, that in every temptation thou wilt make
a way for us to escape. Thou hast said, the truth shall make us free, but we are
not free. We are still the slaves of our appetites and lusts."
Now, which, I inquire, is the most honourable to God, to go on with a string of confessions
and self-accusations, that are in flat contradiction to the promises of God, and
almost, to say the least, a burlesque upon the grace of the gospel, or to be able,
through grace, to confess that we have found it true in our own experience, that
his grace is sufficient for us--that as our day is so our strength is, and that sin
does not have dominion over us, because we are not under the law, but under grace?
To this I know it will be answered, that in this confessing of our sins we do not
impeach the grace or faithfulness of God, inasmuch as all these promises are conditioned
upon faith, and consequently, that the reason of our remaining in sin is to be ascribed
to our unbelief, and is therefore no disparagement to the grace of Christ. But I
beg, that it may be duly considered, that faith itself is of the operation of God--is
itself produced by grace; and therefore the fact of our being obliged to confess
our unbelief is a dishonour to the grace of Christ. Is it honourable or dishonourable
to God, that we should be able to confess that even our unbelief is overcome, and
that we are able to testify from our own experience, that the grace of the gospel
is sufficient for our present salvation and sanctification? There is no doubt a vast
amount of self-righteousness in the church, which, while it talks of grace, really
means nothing by it. For a man to go any farther than to hope that he is converted,
seems to many minds to savour of self-righteousness. Now, why is this, unless they
themselves entertain self-righteous notions in regard to conversion? Many persons
would feel shocked to hear a man in prayer unqualifiedly thank God that he had been
converted and justified. And they might just as well feel shocked at this, and upon
precisely the same principle, as to feel shocked, if he should unqualifiedly thank
God that he had been sanctified by his grace.
But again, I say, that the very fact that a man feels shocked to hear a converted
or a sanctified soul unqualifiedly thank God for the grace received, shows that down
deep in his heart lies concealed a self-righteous view of the way of salvation, and
that in his mind all holiness in Christians is a ground of boasting; and that, if
persons have become truly and fully sanctified, they really have a ground of boasting
before God. I know not how else to account for this wonderful prejudice. For my own
part, I do not conceive it to be the least evidence of self-righteousness, when I
hear a man sincerely and heartily thank God for converting and justifying him by
his grace. Nor should I feel either shocked, horrified, or disgusted, to hear a man
thank God, that he had sanctified him wholly by his grace. If in either or both cases
I had the corroborative evidence of an apparently holy life, I should bless God,
take courage, and feel like, calling on all around to glorify God for such an instance
of his glorious and excellent grace.
The feeling seems to be very general, that such a prayer or thanksgiving is similar,
in fact, and in the principle upon which it rests, with that of the Pharisee noticed
by our Saviour. But what reason is there for this assumption? We are expressly informed,
that that was the prayer of a Pharisee. But the Pharisees were self-righteous, and
expressly and openly rejected the grace of Christ. The Pharisee then boasted of his
own righteousness, originating in, and consummated by, his own goodness, and not
in the grace of Christ. Hence he did not thank God, that the grace of Christ has
made him unlike other men. Now, this prayer was designed to teach us the abominable
folly of any man's putting in a claim to righteousness and true holiness, irrespective
of the grace of God by Jesus Christ. But certainly this is an infinitely different
thing from the thanksgiving of a soul, who fully recognizes the grace of Christ,
and attributes his sanctification entirely to that grace. And I cannot see how a
man, who has entirely divested himself of Pharisaical notions in respect to the doctrine
of sanctification, can suppose these two prayers to be analogous in their principle
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXXII. Back to Top
FURTHER OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
- Objection. 12. Again it is objected, that many who have embraced this
doctrine, really are spiritually proud. To this I answer:
(1.) So have many who believed the doctrine of regeneration been deceived, and amazingly
puffed up with the idea that they have been regenerated, when they have not been.
But is this a good reason for abandoning the doctrine of regeneration, or any reason
why the doctrine should not be preached?
(2.) Let me inquire, whether a simple declaration of what God has done for their
souls, has not been assumed as of itself sufficient evidence of spiritual pride,
on the part of those who embrace this doctrine, while there was in reality no spiritual
pride at all? It seems next to impossible, with the present views of the church,
that an individual should really attain this state, and profess to live without known
sin in a manner so humble as not, of course, to be suspected of enormous spiritual
pride. This consideration has been a snare to some, who have hesitated and even neglected
to declare what God had done for their souls, lest they should be accused of spiritual
pride. And this has been a serious injury to their piety.
Objection. 13. But again it is objected, that this doctrine tends to censoriousness.
To this I reply:
(1.) It is not denied, that some who have professed to believe this doctrine have
become censorious. But this no more condemns this doctrine than it condemns that
of regeneration. And that it tends to censoriousness, might just as well be urged
against every acknowledged doctrine of the Bible, as against this doctrine.
(2.) Let any Christian do his whole duty to the church and the world in their present
state, let him speak to them and of them as they really are, and he would of course
incur the charge of censoriousness. It is therefore the most unreasonable thing in
the world, to suppose that the church in its present state, would not accuse any
perfect Christian of censoriousness. Entire sanctification implies the doing of all
our duty. But to do all our duty, we must rebuke sin in high places and in low places.
Can this be done with all needed severity, without in many cases giving offence,
and incurring the charge of censoriousness? No, it is impossible; and to maintain
the contrary, would be to impeach the wisdom and holiness of Jesus Christ himself.
Objection. 14. It is objected, that the believers in this doctrine lower the
standard of holiness to a level with their own experience. To this I reply, that
it has been common to set up a false standard, and to overlook the true spirit and
meaning of the law, and to represent it as requiring something else than what it
does require; but this notion is not confined to those who believe in this doctrine.
The moral law requires one and the same thing of all moral agents, namely, that they
shall be universally and disinterestedly benevolent; in other words, that they shall
love the Lord their God with all their heart, and their neighbour as themselves.
This is all that it does require of any. Whoever has understood the law as requiring
less or more than this, has misunderstood it. Love is the fulfilling of the law.
But I must refer the reader to what I have said upon this subject when treating of
The law, as we have seen on a former occasion, levels its claims to us as we are,
and a just exposition of it, as I have already said, must take into consideration
all the present circumstances of our being. This is indispensable to a right apprehension
of what constitutes entire sanctification. There may be, as facts show, danger of
misapprehension in regard to the true spirit and meaning of the law, in the sense
that, by theorizing and adopting a false philosophy, one may lose sight of the deepest
affirmations of his reason in regard to the true spirit and meaning of the law; and
I would humbly inquire, whether the error has not been in giving such an interpretation
of the law, as naturally to beget the idea so prevalent, that, if a man should become
holy, he could not live in this world? In a letter lately received from a beloved,
and useful, and venerated minister of the gospel, while the writer expressed the
greatest attachment to the doctrine of entire consecration to God, and said that
he preached the same doctrine which we hold to his people every Sabbath, but by another
name, still he added, that it was revolting to his feelings to hear any mere man
set up the claim of obedience to the law of God. Now let me inquire, why should this
be revolting to the feelings of piety? Must it not be because the law of God is supposed
to require something of human beings in our state, which it does not and cannot require?
Why should such a claim be thought extravagant, unless the claims of the living God
be thought extravagant? If the law of God really requires no more of men than what
is reasonable and possible, why should it be revolting to any mind to hear an individual
profess to have attained to entire obedience? I know that the brother to whom I allude,
would be almost the last man to deliberately and knowingly give any strained interpretation
to the law of God; and yet, I cannot but feel that much of the difficulty that good
men have upon this subject, has arisen out of a comparison of the lives of saints
with a standard entirely above that which the law of God does or can demand of persons
in all respects in our circumstances, or indeed of any moral agent whatever.
Objection. 15. Another objection is, that, as a matter of fact, the grace
of God is not sufficient to secure the entire sanctification of saints in this life.
It is maintained, that the question of the attainability of entire sanctification
in this life, resolves itself after all into the question, whether Christians are
sanctified in this life? The objectors say, that nothing is sufficient grace that
does not, as a matter of fact, secure the faith, and obedience, and perfection of
the saints; and therefore that the provisions of the gospel are to be measured by
the results; and that the experience of the church decides both the meaning of the
promises, and the extent of the provisions of grace. Now to this I answer:--If this
objection be good for anything in regard to entire sanctification, it is equally
true in regard to the spiritual state of every person in the world. If the fact that
men are not perfect, proves that no provision is made for their perfection, their
being no better than they are proves, that there is no provision for their being
any better than they are, or that they might not have aimed at being any better,
with any rational hope of success. But who, except a fatalist, will admit any such
conclusion as this? And yet I do not see but this conclusion is inevitable from such
premises. As well might an impenitent sinner urge, that the grace of the gospel is
not, as a matter of fact, sufficient for him, because it does not convert him: as
well might he resolve everything into the sovereignty of God, and say, the sovereignty
of God must convert me, or I shall not be converted: and since I am not converted,
it is because the grace of God has not proved itself sufficient to convert me. But
who will excuse the sinner, and admit his plea, that the grace and provisions of
the gospel are not sufficient for him?
Let ministers urge upon both saints and sinners the claims of God. Let them insist
that sinners may, and can, and ought, immediately to become Christians, and that
Christians can, and may, and ought to live wholly to God. Let them urge Christians
to live without sin, and hold out the same urgency of command, and the same encouragement
that the new school holds out to sinners; and we shall soon find that Christians
are entering into the liberty of perfect love, as sinners have found pardon and acceptance.
Let ministers hold forth the same gospel to all, and insist that the grace of the
gospel is as sufficient to save from all sin as from a part of it; and we shall soon
see whether the difficulty has not been, that the gospel has been hid and denied,
until the churches have been kept weak through unbelief. The church has been taught
not to expect the fulfilment of the promises to them; that it is dangerous error
to expect the fulfilment to them, for example, of the promise in 1 Thess. v. 23,
24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole
spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." When God says
he will sanctify us wholly, and preserve us blameless unto the coming of the Lord,
masters in Israel tell us that to expect this is dangerous error.
Objection. 16. Another objection to this doctrine is, that it is contrary
to the views of some of the greatest and best men in the church: that such men as
Augustine, Calvin, Doddridge, Edwards, &c., were of a different opinion. To this
(1.) Suppose they were;--we are to call no man father, in such a sense as to yield
up to him the determination of our views of Christian doctrine.
(2.) This objection comes with a very ill grace from those who wholly reject the
opinions of these divines on some of the most important points of Christian doctrine.
(3.) Those men all held the doctrine of physical moral depravity, which was manifestly
the ground of their rejecting the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life.
Maintaining, as they seem to have done, that the constitutional susceptibilities
of body and mind were sinfully depraved, consistency of course led them to reject
the idea, that persons could be entirely sanctified while in the body. Now, I would
ask, what consistency is there in quoting them as rejecting the doctrine of entire
sanctification in this life, while the reason of this rejection in their minds, was
founded in the doctrine of physical moral depravity, which notion is entirely denied
by those who quote their authority?
Objection. 17. But again: it is objected, that, if we should attain
this state of continual consecration or sanctification, we could not know it until
the day of judgment; and that to maintain its attainability is vain, inasmuch as
no one can know whether he has attained it or not. To this I reply:
(1.) A man's consciousness is the highest and best evidence of the present state
of his own mind. I understand consciousness to be the mind's recognition of its own
existence and exercises, and that it is the highest possible evidence to our own
minds of what passes within us. Consciousness can of course testify only to our present
(2.) With the law of God before us as our standard, the testimony of consciousness,
in regard to whether the mind is conformed to that standard or not, is the highest
evidence which the mind can have of a present state of conformity to that rule.
(3.) It is a testimony which we cannot doubt, any more than we can doubt our existence.
How do we know that we exist? I answer: by our consciousness. How do I know that
I breathe, or love, or hate, or sit, or stand, or lie down, or rise up, that I am
joyful or sorrowful? In short, that I exercise any emotion, or violation, or affection
of mind? How do I know that I sin, or repent, or believe? I answer: by my own consciousness.
No testimony can be "so direct and convincing as this."
Now, in order to know that my repentance is genuine, I must know what genuine repentance
is. So if I would know whether my love to God and man, or obedience to the law is
genuine, I must have clearly before my mind the real spirit, and meaning, and bearing
of the law of God. Having the rule before my mind, my own consciousness affords "the
most direct and convincing evidence possible," whether my present state of mind
is conformed to the rule. The Spirit of God is never employed in testifying to what
my consciousness teaches, but in setting in a strong light before my mind the rule
to which I am to conform my life. It is his province to make me understand, to induce
me to love and obey the truth; and it is the province of consciousness to testify
to my own mind whether I do or do not obey the truth, when I apprehend it. When God
so presents the truth, as to give the mind assurance, that it understands his mind
and will upon any subject, the mind's consciousness of its own state in view of that
truth, is "the highest and most direct possible" evidence of whether it
obeys or disobeys.
(4.) If a man cannot be conscious of the character of his own supreme or ultimate
choice, in which choice his moral character consists, how can he know when, and of
what, he is to repent? If he has committed sin of which he is not conscious, how
is he to repent of it? And if he has a holiness of which he is not conscious, how
could he feel that he has peace with God?
But it is said, that a man may violate the law, not knowing it, and consequently
have no consciousness that he sinned, but that, afterwards, a knowledge of the law
may convict him of sin. To this I reply, that if there was absolutely no knowledge
that the thing in question was wrong, the doing of that thing was not sin, inasmuch
as some degree of knowledge of what is right or wrong is indispensable to the moral
character of any act. In such a case, there may be a sinful ignorance, which may
involve all the guilt of those actions that were done in consequence of it; but that
blame-worthiness lies in that state of heart that has induced this, and not at all
in the violation of the rule of which the mind was, at the time, entirely ignorant.
(5.) The Bible everywhere assumes, that we are able to know, and unqualifiedly requires
us to know, what the moral state of our mind is. It commands us to examine ourselves,
to know and to prove our ourselves. Now, how can this be done, but by bringing our
hearts into the light of the law of God, and then taking the testimony of our own
consciousness, whether we are, or are not, in a state of conformity to the law? But
if we are not to receive the testimony of our own consciousness, in regard to our
present sanctification, are we to receive it in respect to our repentance, or any
other exercise of our mind whatever? The fact is, that we may deceive ourselves,
by neglecting to compare ourselves with the right standard. But when our views of
the standard are right, and our consciousness bears witness of a felt, decided, unequivocal
state of mind, we cannot be deceived any more than we can be deceived in regard to
our own existence.
(6.) But it is said, our consciousness does not teach us what the power and
capacities of our minds are, and that therefore if consciousness could teach us in
respect to the kind of our exercises, it cannot teach us in regard to their degree,
whether they are equal to the present capacity of our mind. To this I reply:--
(i.) Consciousness does as unequivocally testify whether we do or do not love
God with all our heart, as it does whether we love him at all. How does a man know
that he lifts as much as he can, or runs, or walks as fast as he is able? I answer:
By his own consciousness. How does he know that he repents or loves with all his
heart? I answer: By his own consciousness. This is the only possible way in which
he can know it.
(ii.) The objection implies that God has put within our reach no possible
means of knowing whether we obey him or not. The Bible does not directly reveal the
fact to any man, whether he obeys God or not. It reveals his duty, but does not reveal
the fact whether he obeys. It refers for this testimony to his own consciousness.
The Spirit of God sets our duty before us, but does not directly reveal to us whether
we do it or not; for this would imply that every man is under constant inspiration.
But it is said, the Bible directs our attention to the fact, whether we outwardly
obey or disobey, as evidence whether we are in a right state of mind or not. But
I would inquire, How do we know whether we obey or disobey? How do we know anything
of our conduct but by our consciousness? Our conduct, as observed by others, is to
them evidence of the state of our hearts. But, I repeat it, our consciousness of
obedience to God is to us the highest, and indeed the only, evidence of our true
(iii.) If a man's own consciousness is not to be a witness, either for or
against him, other testimony can never satisfy him of the propriety of God's dealing
with him in the final judgment. There are cases of common occurrence, where the witnesses
testify to the guilt or innocence of a man, contrary to the testimony of his own
consciousness. In all such cases, from the very laws of his being, he rejects all
other testimony: and let me add, that he would reject the testimony of God, and from
the very laws of his being must reject it, if it contradicted his own consciousness.
When God convicts a man of sin, it is not by contradicting his consciousness; but
by placing the consciousness which he had at the time, in the clear strong light
of his memory, causing him to discover clearly, and to remember distinctly what light
he had, what thoughts, what convictions, what intention or design; in other words,
what consciousness he had at the time. And this, let me add, is the way, and the
only way, in which the Spirit of God can convict a man of sin, thus bringing him
to condemn himself. Now, suppose that God should bear testimony against a man, that
at such a time he did such a thing, that such and such were all the circumstances
of the case; and suppose that at the same time the individual's consciousness unequivocally
contradicts him. The testimony of God in this case could not satisfy the man's mind,
nor lead him into a state of self-condemnation. The only possible way in which this
state of mind could be induced, would be to annihilate his opposing consciousness,
and to convict him simply upon the testimony of God.
(7.) Men may overlook what consciousness is. They may mistake the rule of duty, they
may confound consciousness with a mere negative state of mind, or that in which a
man is not conscious of a state of opposition to the truth. Yet it must for ever
remain true that, to our own minds, "consciousness must be the highest possible
evidence" of what passes within us. And if a man does not by his own consciousness
know whether he does the best that he can, under the circumstance--whether he has
a single eye to the glory of God--and whether he is in a state of entire consecration
to God--he cannot know it in any way whatever. And no testimony whatever, either
of God or man, could, according to the laws of his being, satisfy him either as to
conviction of guilt on the one hand, or self-approbation on the other.
(8.) Let me ask, how those who make this objection know that they are not in a sanctified
state? Has God revealed it to them? Has he revealed it in the Bible? Does the Bible
say to A. B., by name, You are not in a sanctified state? Or does it lay down a rule,
in the light of which his own consciousness bears this testimony against him? Has
God revealed directly by his Spirit, that he is not in a sanctified state, or does
he hold the rule of duty strongly before the mind, and thus awaken the testimony
of consciousness that he is not in this state? Now just in the same way consciousness
testifies of those that are sanctified, that they are in this state. Neither the
Bible nor the Spirit of God makes any new or particular revelation to them by name.
But the Spirit of God bears witness to their spirits by setting the rule in a strong
light before them. He induces that state of mind which conscience pronounces to be
conformity to the rule. This is as far as possible from setting aside the judgment
of God in the case; for conscience, under these circumstances, is the testimony of
God, and the way in which he convinces of sin on the one hand, and of entire consecration
on the other; and the decision of conscience is given to us in consciousness.
By some it is still objected, that consciousness alone is not evidence even to ourselves
of our being, or not being in a state of entire sanctification, that the judgment
of the mind is also employed in deciding the true intent and meaning of the law,
and is therefore as absolutely a witness in the case as consciousness is. "Consciousness,"
it is said, "gives us the exercises of our own mind, and the judgment decides
whether these exercises are in accordance with the law of God." So then it is
the judgment rather than the consciousness, that decides whether we are, or are not,
in a state of entire sanctification; and therefore if, in our judgment of the law,
we happen to be mistaken, than which nothing is more common, in such case we are
utterly deceived if we think ourselves in a state of entire sanctification. To this
(i.) It is indeed our judgment that decides upon the intent and meaning of
(ii.) We may be mistaken in regard to its true application in certain cases,
as it respects outward conduct, but let it be remembered, that neither sin nor holiness
is to be found in the outward act. They both belong only to the ultimate intention.
No man, as was formerly shown, can mistake his real duty. Every one knows, and cannot
but know, that disinterested benevolence is his duty. This is, and nothing else is
his duty. This he can know, and about this he need not mistake. And sure it is, that
if man can be certain of anything, he can be certain in respect to the end for which
he lives, or in respect to his supreme ultimate intention.
(iii.) I deny that it is the judgment which is to us the witness, in respect
to the state of our own minds. There are several powers of the mind called into exercise,
in deciding upon the meaning of, and in obeying, the law of God; but it is consciousness
alone that gives us these exercises. Nothing but consciousness can possibly give
us any exercise of our own minds; that is, we have no knowledge of any exercise but
by our own consciousness. Suppose then the judgment is exercised, the will is exercised,
and all the involuntary powers are exercised. These exercises are revealed to us
only and simply by consciousness; so that it remains an invariable truth, that consciousness
is to us the only possible witness of what our exercises are, and consequently of
the state of our own minds. When, therefore, I say, that by consciousness a man may
know whether he is in a state of sanctification, I mean, that consciousness is the
real and only evidence that we can have of being in this state.
Again: the objection that consciousness cannot decide in regard to the strength
of our powers, and whether we really serve God with all our strength, seems to be
based upon the false supposition, that the law of God requires every power of body
and mind to be excited at every moment, in its full strength; and that, too, without
any regard to the nature of the subject, about which our powers, for the time being,
are employed. On a former occasion I endeavoured to show, and trust I did show, that
perfect obedience to the law of God requires no such thing. Sanctification is consecration.
Entire consecration is obedience to the law of God; and all that the law requires
is, that our whole being be consecrated to God; and the amount of strength to be
expended in his service at any one moment of time, must depend upon the nature of
the subject about which the powers are for the time being employed. And nothing is
farther from the truth than that, obedience to the law of God requires every power
of body and mind to be constantly on the strain, and in the highest possible degree
of excitement and activity. Such an interpretation of the law of God as this, would
be utterly inconsistent with life and health, and would write MENE TEKEL upon the
life and conduct of Jesus Christ himself; for his whole history shows, that he was
not in a state of constant excitement, to the full extent of his powers.
This objection is based upon a misapprehension of that which constitutes entire or
continued sanctification. It consists, as has been shown, in abiding consecration
to God, and not as the objection assumes, in involuntary affections and feelings.
When it is considered, that entire sanctification consists in an abiding good will
to God and to being in general, in living to one end, what real impossibility can
there be in knowing whether we are supremely devoted to this end, or supremely devoted
to our own interest?
Objection. 18. Again: it is objected, that if this state were attained in
this life, it would be the end of our probation. To this I reply, that probation
since the fall of Adam, or those points on which we are in a state of probation or
(1.) Whether we will repent and believe the gospel.
(2.) Whether we will persevere in holiness to the end of life.
Some suppose, that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints sets aside the
idea of being at all in a state of probation after conversion. They reason thus:
If it is certain that the saints will persevere, then their probation is ended; because
the question is already settled, not only that they are converted, but that they
will persevere to the end; and the contingency, in regard to the event, is indispensable
to the idea of probation. To this I reply: That a thing may be contingent with man
that is not at all so with God. With God, there is not, and never was any contingency,
in the sense of uncertainty, with regard to the final destiny of any being. But with
men almost all things are contingent. God knows with absolute certainty whether a
man will be converted, and whether he will persevere. A man may know that he is converted,
and may believe that by the grace of God he shall persevere. He may have an assurance
of this in proportion to the strength of his faith. But the knowledge of this fact
is not at all inconsistent with his idea of his continuance in a state of trial till
the day of his death, inasmuch as his perseverance depends upon the exercise of his
own voluntary agency; and also, because his perseverance is the condition of his
In the same way some say, that if we have attained a state of entire or permanent
sanctification, we can no longer be in a state of probation. I answer, that perseverance
in this depends upon the promises and grace of God, just as the final perseverance
of the saints does. In neither case can we have any other assurance of our perseverance,
than that of faith in the promise and grace of God: nor any other knowledge that
we shall continue in this state, than that which arises out of a belief in the testimony
of God, that he will preserve us blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If this be inconsistent with our probation, I see not why the doctrine of the saint's
perseverance is not equally inconsistent with it. If any one is disposed to maintain,
that for us to have any judgment or belief grounded on the promises of God, in regard
to our final perseverance, is inconsistent with a state of probation, all I can say
is, that his views of probation are very different from my own, and so far as I understand,
from those of the church of God.
Again: there is a very high and important sense in which every moral being
will remain on probation to all eternity. While under the moral government of God,
obedience must for ever remain a condition of the favour of God. And continued obedience
will for ever depend on the faithfulness and grace of God; and the only confidence
we can ever have, either in heaven or on earth, that we shall continue to obey, must
be founded upon the faithfulness and truth of God.
Again: if it were true, that entering upon a state of permanent sanctification
in this life, were, in some sense, an end of our probation, that would be no objection
to the doctrine; for there is a sense in which probation often ends long before the
termination of this life. Where, for example, for any cause God has left sinners
to fill up the measure of their iniquity, withdrawing for ever his Holy Spirit from
them, and sealing them over to eternal death; this, in a very important sense, is
the end of their probation, and they are as sure of hell as if they were already
there. So on the other hand, when a person has received, after believing, the sealing
of the Spirit unto the day of redemption, as an earnest of his inheritance, he may
regard, and is bound to regard this as a solemn pledge on the part of God, of his
final perseverance and salvation, and as no longer leaving the final question of
his destiny in doubt.
Now it should be remembered, that in both these cases the result depends upon the
exercise of the agency of the creature. In the case of the sinner given up of God,
it is certain that he will not repent, though his impenitence is voluntary, and by
no means a thing naturally necessary. So, on the other hand, the perseverance of
the saints is certain, though not necessary. If in either case there should be a
radical change of character, the result would differ accordingly.
Objection. 19. Again: while it is admitted by some, that entire sanctification
in this life is attainable, yet it is denied, that there is any certainty that it
will be attained by any one before death; for, it is said, that as all the promises
of entire sanctification are conditioned upon faith, they therefore secure the entire
sanctification of no one. To this I reply: That all the promises of salvation in
the Bible are conditioned upon faith and repentance; and therefore it does not follow
on this principle, that any person ever will be saved. What does all this arguing
prove? The fact is, that while the promises of both salvation and sanctification,
are conditioned upon faith, yet the promises that God will convert and sanctify the
elect, spirit, soul and body, and preserve and save them, must be fulfilled, and
will be fulfilled, by free grace drawing and securing the concurrence of free-will.
With respect to the salvation of sinners, it is promised that Christ shall have a
seed to serve him, and the Bible abounds with promises to Christ that secure the
salvation of great multitudes of sinners. So the promises, that the church, as a
body, at some period of her earthly history, shall be entirely sanctified, are, as
it regards the church, unconditional, in the sense that they will assuredly be accomplished.
But, as I have already shown, as it respects individuals, the fulfilment of these
promises must depend upon the exercise of faith. Both in respect to the salvation
of sinners and the sanctification of Christians, God is abundantly pledged to bring
about the salvation of the one and the sanctification of the other, to the extent
of his promise to Christ.
Objection. 20. It is also objected, that the sanctification of the saints
depends upon the sovereignty of God. To this I reply, that both the sanctification
of the saints and the conversion of sinners is, in some sense, dependent upon the
sovereign grace of God. But who except an antinomian would, for this reason, hesitate
to urge it upon sinners to repent immediately and believe the gospel? Would any one
think of objecting to the doctrine or the fact of repentance, that repentance and
the conversion of sinners were dependent upon the sovereignty of God?
And yet, if the sovereignty of God can be justly urged as a bar to the doctrine of
entire sanctification, it may, for ought I see, with equal propriety be urged as
a bar to the doctrine and fact of repentance. We have no controversy with any one
upon the subject of entire sanctification, who will as fully and as firmly hold out
the duty and the possibility, and the practical attainability, of entire sanctification,
as of repentance and salvation. Let them both be put where the Bible puts them, upon
the same ground, so far as the duty and the practicability of both are concerned.
Suppose any one should assert, that it were irrational and dangerous for sinners
to hope or expect to be converted, and sanctified, and saved, because all this depends
upon the sovereignty of God, and they do not know what God will do. Who would say
this? But why not as well say it, as make the objection to sanctification which we
are now considering?
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXXIII. Back to Top
- 1. THERE is an importance to be attached to the sanctification of the body, of
which very few persons appear to be aware. Indeed, unless the bodily appetites and
powers be consecrated to the service of God--unless we learn to eat, and drink, and
sleep, and wake, and labour, and rest, for the glory of God, permanent sanctification
as a practical thing is out of the question. It is plain, that very few persons are
aware of the great influence which their bodies have over their minds, and of the
indispensable necessity of bringing their bodies under, and keeping them in subjection.
- Few people seem to keep the fact steadily in view, that unless their bodies be
rightly managed, they will be so fierce and over-powering a source of temptation
to the mind, as inevitably to lead it into sin. If they indulge themselves in a stimulating
diet, and in the use of those condiments that irritate and rasp the nervous system,
their bodies will be, of course and of necessity, the source of powerful and incessant
temptation to evil tempers and vile affections. If persons were aware of the great
influence which the body has over the mind, they would realize, that they cannot
be too careful to preserve the nervous system from the influence of every improper
article of food or drink, and preserve that system as they would the apple of their
eye, from every influence that could impair its functions.
No one who has opportunity to acquire information in regard to the laws of life and
health, and the best means of sanctifying the whole spirit, soul, and body, can be
guiltless if he neglects these means of knowledge. Every man is bound to make the
structure and laws of both body and mind the subject of as thorough investigation
as his circumstances will permit, to inform himself in regard to what are the true
principles of perfect temperance, and in what way the most can be made of all his
powers of body and mind for the glory of God.
- 2. From what has been said in these lectures, the reason why the church has not
been entirely sanctified is very obvious. As a body the church has not believed that
such a state was attainable until near the close of life. And this is a sufficient
reason, and indeed the most weighty of all reasons, for her not having attained it.
- 3. From what has been said, it is easy to see, that the true question in regard
to entire sanctification in this life is: Is it attainable as a matter of fact? Some
have thought the proper question to be: Are Christians entirely sanctified in this
life? Now certainly this is not the question that needs to be discussed. Suppose
it to be fully granted that they are not; this fact is sufficiently accounted for,
by the consideration that they do not know or believe it to be attainable until the
close of life. If they believed it to be attainable, it might no longer be true that
they do not attain it. But if provision really is made for this attainment, it amounts
to nothing, unless it be recognized and believed. The thing needed then is, to bring
the church to see and believe, that this is her high privilege and her duty. It is
not enough, as has been shown, to say that it is attainable, simply on the ground
of natural ability. This is as true of the devil, and the lost in hell, as of men
in this world. But unless grace has put this attainment so within our reach, as that
it may be aimed at with the reasonable prospect of success, there is, as a matter
of fact, no more provision for our entire sanctification in this life, than for the
devil's. As has been said, it seems to be trifling with mankind, merely to maintain
the attainability of this state, on the ground of natural ability only, and at the
same time to tell them, that they certainly never will exercise this ability unless
disposed to do so by the grace of God; and furthermore, that it is a dangerous error
for us to expect to receive grace from God to secure this result; that we might by
natural possibility make this attainment, but it is irrational and dangerous error
to expect or hope to make it, or hope to receive sufficient grace to secure it.
- The real question is, Has grace brought this attainment so within our reach,
that we may reasonably expect, by aiming at it, to experience it in this life? It
is admitted, that on the ground of natural ability, both wicked men and devils have
the power to be entirely holy. But it is also admitted that their indisposition to
use this power aright is so complete, that as a matter of fact, they never will,
unless influenced to do so by the grace of God. I insist therefore that the real
question is, whether the provisions of the gospel are such, that did the church fully
understand and lay hold upon the proffered grace, she might attain this state? Are
we so fully authorized to offer this grace to Christians, as we are the grace of
repentance and pardon to the sinners? May we as consistently urge Christians to lay
hold on sanctifying grace sufficient to keep them from all sin, as to urge sinners
to lay hold of Christ for justification? May we insist upon the one as really and
as honestly as the other?
- 4. We see how irrelevant and absurd the objection is, that as a matter of fact
the church has not attained this state, and therefore it is not attainable. Why,
if they have not understood it to be attainable, it no more disproves its attainableness,
than the fact that the heathen have not embraced the gospel, proves that they will
not when they know it. Within my memory it was thought to be dangerous to call sinners
to repent and believe the gospel; and on the contrary, they were told by Calvinists,
that they could not repent, that they must wait God's time; and it was regarded as
a dangerous error for a sinner to think that he could repent. But who does not know,
that the thorough inculcation of an opposite doctrine has brought scores of thousands
to repentance? Now the same course needs to be pursued with Christians. Instead of
being told, that it is dangerous to expect to be entirely sanctified in this life,
they ought to be taught to believe at once, and take hold on the promises of perfect
love and faith.
- 5. You see the necessity of fully preaching and insisting upon this doctrine,
and of calling it by its true scriptural name. It is astonishing to see to what an
extent there is a tendency among men to avoid the use of scriptural language, and
to cleave to the language of such men as Edwards, and other great and good divines.
They object to the terms perfection and entire sanctification, and prefer to use
the terms entire consecration, and such other terms as have been common in the church.
- Now, I would by no means contend about the use of words; but still it does appear
to me to be of great importance, that we use scripture language, and insist upon
men being "perfect as their Father in Heaven is perfect," and being "sanctified
wholly, body, soul and spirit." This appears to me to be the more important
for this reason, that if we use the language to which the church has been accustomed
upon this subject, she will, as she has done, misunderstand us, and will not get
before her mind that which we really mean. That this is so, is manifest from the
fact, that the great mass of the church will express alarm at the use of the terms
perfection and entire sanctification, who will neither express nor feel any such
alarm, if we speak of entire consecration. This demonstrates, that they do not by
any means understand these terms as meaning the same thing. And although I understand
them as meaning precisely the same thing, yet I find myself obliged to use the terms
perfection and entire sanctification to possess their minds of their real meaning.
This is Bible language. It is unobjectionable language. And inasmuch as the church
understands entire consecration to mean something less than entire sanctification
or Christian perfection, it does seem to me of great importance, that ministers should
use a phraseology which will call the attention of the church to the real doctrine
of the Bible upon this subject. With great humility, I would submit the question
to my beloved brethren in the ministry, whether they are not aware, that Christians
have entirely too low an idea of what is implied in entire consecration, and whether
it is not useful and best to adopt a phraseology in addressing them, that shall call
their attention to the real meaning of the words which they use?
- 6. Young converts have not been allowed so much as to indulge the thought that
they could live even for a day wholly without sin. They have as a general thing no
more been taught to expect to live even for a day without sin, than they have been
taught to expect immediate translation, soul and body, to heaven. Of course, they
have not known that there was any other way than to go on in sin; and however shocking
and distressing the necessity has appeared to them, in the ardour of their first
love, still they have looked upon it as an unalterable fact, that to be in a great
measure in bondage to sin is a thing of course while they live in this world. Now,
with such an orthodoxy as this, with the conviction in the church and ministry so
ripe, settled and universal, that the utmost that the grace of God can do for men
in this world is to bring them to repentance, and to leave them to live and die in
a state of sinning and repenting, is it at all wonderful, that the state of religion
should be as it really has been?
- In looking over the results to Christians, of preaching the doctrine in question,
I feel compelled to say, that so far as all observation can go, I have the same evidence
that it is truth, and as such is owned and blessed of God to the elevation of the
holiness of Christians, as I have, that those are truths which I have so often preached
to sinners, and which have been blessed of God to their conversion. This doctrine
seems as naturally calculated to elevate the piety of Christians, and as actually
to result in the elevation of their piety, under the blessing of God, as those truths
that I have preached to sinners were to their conversion.
- 7. Christ has been in a great measure lost sight of in some of his most important
relations to mankind. He has been known and preached as a pardoning and justifying
Saviour; but as an actually indwelling and reigning Saviour in the heart, he has
been but little known. I was struck with a remark a few years since, of a brother
whom I have from that time greatly loved, who had been for a time in a desponding
state of mind, borne down with a great sense of his own vileness, but seeing no way
of escape. At an evening meeting the Lord so revealed himself to him, as entirely
to overcome the strength of his body, and his brethren were obliged to carry him
home. The next time I saw him, he exclaimed to me with a pathos I shall never forget,
"Brother Finney, the church have buried the Saviour." Now it is no doubt
true, that the church have become awfully alienated from Christ--have in a great
measure lost a knowledge of what he is, and ought to be, to her, and a great many
of her members, I have good reason to know, in different parts of the country, are
saying with deep and overpowering emotion, "They have taken away my Lord, and
I know not where they have laid him."
- 8. With all her orthodoxy, the church has been for a long time much nearer to
unitarianism than she has imagined. This remark may shock some of my readers, and
you may think it savours of censoriousness. But, beloved, I am sure it is said in
no such spirit. These are "the words of truth and soberness." So little
has been known of Christ, that, if I am not entirely mistaken, there are multitudes
in the orthodox churches, who do not know Christ, and who at heart are Unitarians,
while in theory they are orthodox. They have never known Christ, in the sense of
which I have spoken of him in these lectures.
- I have been, for some years deeply impressed with the fact, that so many professors
of religion are coming to the ripe conviction that they have never known Christ.
There have been in this place almost continual developements of this fact; and I
doubt, whether there is a minister in the land who will present Christ as the gospel
presents him, in all the fulness of his official relations to mankind, who will not
be struck and agonized with developements that will assure him, that the great mass
of professors of religion do not know the Saviour. It has been to my mind a painful
and a serious question, what I ought to think of the spiritual state of those who
know so little of the blessed Jesus. That none of them have been converted, I dare
not say. And yet, that they have been converted, I am afraid to say. I would not
for the world "quench the smoking flax, or break the bruised reed," or
say anything to stumble, or weaken the feeblest lamb of Christ; and yet my heart
is sore pained, my soul is sick; my bowels of compassion yearn over the church of
the blessed God. O, the dear church of Christ! What does she in her present state
know of gospel rest, of that "great and perfect peace" which they have
whose minds are stayed on God? The church in this place is composed, to a great extent,
of professors of religion from different parts of the world, who have come hither
for educational purposes, and from religious considerations. And as I said, I have
sometimes been appalled at the disclosures which the Spirit of God has made of the
real spiritual state of many who have come here, and were considered by others before
they came, and by themselves, as truly converted to God.
- 9. If I am not mistaken, there is an extensive feeling among Christians and ministers,
that much that ought to be known and may be known of the Saviour, is not known. Many
are beginning to find that the Saviour is to them "as a root out of a dry ground,
having neither form nor comeliness;" that the gospel which they preach or hear
is not to them "the power of God unto salvation" from sin; that it is not
to them "glad tidings of great joy;" that it is not to them a peace-giving
gospel; and many are feeling that if Christ has done for them all that his grace
is able to do in this life, the plan of salvation is sadly defective; that Christ
is not after all a Saviour suited to their necessities; that the religion which they
have is not suited to the world in which they live; that it does not, cannot make
them free, but leaves them in a state of perpetual bondage. Their souls are agonized,
and tossed to and fro without a resting-place. Multitudes also are beginning to see,
that there are many passages, both in the Old and New Testament, which they do not
understand; that the promises seem to mean much more than they have ever realized;
and that the gospel and the plan of salvation, as a whole, must be something very
different from that which they have as yet apprehended. There are, if I mistake not,
great multitudes all over the country, who are inquiring more earnestly than ever
before, after a knowledge of that Jesus who is to save his people from their sins.
- A fact was related in my hearing, some time since, that illustrates in an affecting
manner the agonizing state of mind in which many Christians are, in regard to the
present state of many of the ministers of Christ. I had the statement from the brother
himself, who was the subject of his narrative. A sister in the church to which he
preached became so sensible that he did not know Christ as he ought to know him,
that she was full of unutterable agony; and on one occasion, after he had been preaching,
fell down at his feet with tears and strong beseechings that he would exercise faith
in Christ. At another time, she was so impressed with a sense of his deficiency in
this respect as a minister, that she addressed him in the deepest anguish of her
soul, crying out, "O, I shall die, I shall certainly die, unless you will receive
Christ as a full Saviour:" and attempting to approach him, she sunk down helpless,
overcome with agony and travail of soul, at his feet.
There is manifestly a great struggle in the minds of multitudes, that the Saviour
may be more fully revealed to the church, that the present ministry especially may
know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings,
and be made conformable to his death.
- 10. If the doctrine of these lectures is true, you see the immense importance
of preaching it clearly and fully, in revivals of religion. When the hearts of converts
are warm with their first love, then is the time to make them fully acquainted with
their Saviour, to hold him up in all his offices and relations, so as to break the
power of every sin--to lead them to break off for ever from all self-dependence,
and to receive Christ as a present, perfect, everlasting Saviour, so far as this
can possibly be done with their limited experience.
- 11. Unless this course be taken, their backsliding is inevitable. You might as
well expect to roll back the waters of Niagara with your hand, as to stay the tide
of their former habitudes of mind, surrounded as they are with temptation, without
a deep, and thorough, and experimental acquaintance with the Saviour. And if they
are thrown upon their own watchfulness and resources, for strength against temptation,
instead of being directed to the Saviour, they are certain to become discouraged,
and fall into dismal bondage.
- 12. But, before I conclude these remarks, I must not omit to notice the indispensable
necessity of a willingness to do the will of God, in order rightly to understand
this doctrine. If a man is unwilling to give up his sins, to deny himself all ungodliness
and every worldly lust, if he is unwilling to be set apart wholly and forever to
the service of the Lord, he will either reject this doctrine altogether, or only
intellectually admit it, without receiving it into his heart. It is an eminently
dangerous state of mind to assent to this, or any other doctrine of the gospel, and
not reduce it to practice.
- 13. Much evil has been done by those who have professedly embraced this doctrine
in theory; and rejected it in practice. Their spirit and temper have been such as
to lead those who saw them to infer, that the tendency of the doctrine itself was
bad. And it is not to be doubted, that some who have professed to have experienced
the power of this doctrine in their hearts, have greatly disgraced religion, by exhibiting
a very different spirit from that of an entirely sanctified one. But why in a Christian
land should this be a stumbling block? When the heathen see persons from Christian
nations who professedly adopt the Christian system, exhibit on their shores, and
in their countries, the spirit which many of them do, they infer that this is the
tendency of the Christian religion. To this our missionaries reply, that they are
only nominal Christians, only speculative, not real believers. Should thousands of
our church members go among them, they would have the same reason to complain; and
might reply to the missionaries, these are not only nominal believers, but profess
to have experienced the Christian religion in their own hearts. Now what would the
missionaries reply? Why, to be sure, that they were professors of religion; but that
they really did not know Christ, that they were deceiving themselves with a name
to live, while in fact they were dead in trespasses and sins.
- It has often been a matter of astonishment to me, that in a Christian land, it
should be a stumbling block to any, that some, or if you please, a majority of those
who profess to receive and to have experienced the truth of this doctrine, should
exhibit an unchristian spirit. What if the same objection should be brought against
the Christian religion; against any and every doctrine of the gospel, that the great
majority of all the professed believers and receivers of those doctrines were proud,
worldly, selfish, and exhibited anything but a right spirit? This objection might
be made with truth to the professed Christian church. But would the conclusiveness
of such an objection be admitted in Christian lands? Who does not know the ready
answer to all such objections as these, that the doctrines of Christianity do not
sanction such conduct, and that it is not the real belief of them that begets any
such spirit or conduct; that the Christian religion abhors all these objectionable
things. And now suppose it should be replied to this, that a tree is known by its
fruits, and that so great a majority of the professors of religion could not exhibit
such a spirit, unless it were the tendency of Christianity itself to beget it. Who
would not reply to this, that this state of mind and course of conduct of which they
complain, is the natural state of man uninfluenced by the gospel of Christ; that,
in these instances, on account of unbelief, the gospel has failed to correct what
was already wrong, and that it needed not the influence of any corrupt doctrine to
produce that state of mind? It appears to me, that these objectors against this doctrine,
on account of the fact that some and perhaps many who have professed to receive it,
have exhibited a wrong spirit, take it for granted that the doctrine itself produces
this spirit, instead of considering that a wrong spirit is natural to men, and that
the difficulty is that, through unbelief, the gospel has failed to correct what was
before wrong. They reason as if they supposed the human heart needed something to
beget within it a bad spirit, and as if they supposed, that a belief in this doctrine
had made men wicked; instead of recognizing the fact, that they were before wicked,
and that through unbelief, the gospel has failed to make them holy.
- 14. But let it not be understood, that I suppose or admit, that the great mass
who have professed to have received this doctrine into their hearts, have exhibited
a bad spirit. I must say, that it has been eminently otherwise, so far as my own
observation extends. And I am fully convinced, that if I have ever seen Christianity
and the spirit of Christ in the world, it has been exhibited by those, as a general
thing, who have professed to receive this doctrine into their hearts.
- 15. How amazingly important it is, that the ministry and the church should come
fully to a right understanding and embracing of this doctrine. O, it will be like
life from the dead! The proclamation of it is now regarded by multitudes as "good
tidings of great joy." From every quarter, we get the gladsome intelligence,
that souls are entering into the deep rest and peace of the gospel, that they are
awaking to a life of faith and love--and that instead of sinking down into antinomianism,
they are eminently more benevolent, active, holy, and useful than ever before; that
they are eminently more prayerful, watchful, diligent, meek, sober-minded, and heavenly
in all their lives. This is the character of those, to a very great extent at least,
with whom I have been acquainted, who have embraced this doctrine, and professed
to have experienced its power. I say this for no other reason, than to relieve the
anxieties of those who have heard very strange reports, and whose honest fears have
been awakened in regard to the tendency of this doctrine.
- 16. Much pains have been taken to demonstrate, that our views of this subject
are wrong. But in all the arguing to this end hitherto, there has been one grand
defect. None of the opponents of this doctrine have yet showed us "a more excellent
way, and told us what is right." It is certainly impossible to ascertain what
is wrong, on any moral subject, unless we have before us the standard of right. The
mind must certainly be acquainted with the rule of right, before it can reasonably
pronounce anything wrong; "for by the law is the knowledge of sin." It
is therefore certainly absurd, for the opponents of the doctrine of entire sanctification
in this life, to pronounce this doctrine wrong without being able to show us what
is right. To what purpose, then, I pray, do they argue, who insist upon this view
of the subject as wrong, while they do not so much as attempt to tell us what is
right? It cannot be pretended, that the scriptures teach nothing upon this subject.
And the question is, what do they teach? We therefore call upon the denouncers of
this doctrine, and we think the demand reasonable, to inform us definitely, how holy
Christians may be, and are expected to be in this life. And it should be distinctly
understood, that until they bring forward the rule laid down in the scripture upon
this subject, it is but arrogance to pronounce anything wrong; just as if they should
pronounce anything to be sin without comparing it with the standard of right. Until
they inform us what the scriptures do teach, we must beg leave to be excused from
supposing ourselves obliged to believe, that what is taught in these lectures is
wrong, or contrary to the language and spirit of inspiration. This is certainly a
question that ought not to be thrown loosely aside, without being settled. The thing
at which we aim is, to establish a definite rule, or to explain what we suppose to
be the real and explicit teachings of the Bible upon this point. And we do think
it absurd, that the opponents of this view should attempt to convince us of error,
without so much as attempting to show what the truth upon this subject is. As if
we could easily enough decide what is contrary to right, without possessing any knowledge
of right. We therefore beseech our brethren, in discussing this subject, to show
us what is right. And if this is not the truth, to show us a more excellent way,
and convince us that we are wrong, by showing us what is right. For we have no hope
of ever seeing that we are wrong, until we can see that something else than what
is advocated in this discussion, is right.
- 17. But before I close my remarks upon this subject, I must not fail to state
what I regard as the present duty of Christians. It is to hold their will in a state
of consecration to God, and to lay hold on the promises for the blessing promised
in such passages as 1 Thess. v. 23, 24:--"And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; faithful is he that calleth you, who also
will do it." This is present duty. Let them wait on the Lord in faith, for that
cleansing of the whole being which they need, to confirm, strengthen, settle them.
All they can do, and all that God requires them to do, is to obey him from moment
to moment, and to lay hold of him for the blessing of which we have been speaking;
and to be assured, that God will bring forth the answer in the best time and in the
best manner. If you believe, the anointing that abideth will surely be secured in
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXXIV. Back to Top
In discussing this subject,
I. I SHALL NOTICE SOME POINTS IN WHICH THERE IS A GENERAL AGREEMENT AMONG ALL
DENOMINATIONS OF CHRISTIANS RESPECTING THE NATURAL AND MORAL ATTRIBUTES OF GOD.
II. WHAT THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION IS NOT.
III. WHAT IT IS.
IV. I SHALL PROVE THE DOCTRINE TO BE TRUE.
V. SHOW WHAT COULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE REASONS FOR ELECTION.
VI. WHAT MUST HAVE BEEN THE REASON.
VII. WHEN THE ELECTION WAS MADE.
VIII. ELECTION DOES NOT RENDER MEANS FOR THE SALVATION OF THE ELECT UNNECESSARY.
IX. ELECTION IS THE ONLY GROUND OF HOPE IN THE SUCCESS OF MEANS TO SAVE THE SOULS
X. ELECTION DOES NOT OPPOSE ANY OBSTACLE TO THE SALVATION OF THE NON-ELECT.
XI. THERE IS NO INJUSTICE IN ELECTION.
XII. THIS IS THE BEST THAT COULD BE DONE FOR THE INHABITANTS OF THIS WORLD.
XIII. HOW WE MAY ASCERTAIN OUR OWN ELECTION.
I. I shall notice some points in which there is a general agreement among all
denominations of Christians respecting the natural and moral attributes of God.
- 1. It is agreed that eternity is a natural attribute of God in the sense that
he grows no older. He was just as old before the world or universe was made, as he
is now, or as he will be at the day of judgment.
- 2. It is agreed that omniscience is an attribute of God, in the sense that he
knows from a necessity of his infinite nature all things that are objects of knowledge.
- 3. That he has necessarily and eternally possessed this knowledge, so that he
never has, and never can have, any accession to his knowledge. Every possible thing
that ever was, or will be, or can be an object of knowledge, has been necessarily
and eternally known to God. If this were not true, God would be neither infinite
- 4. It is agreed also that God exercises an universal providence, embracing all
events that ever did or ever will occur in all worlds. Some of these events he secures
by his own agency, and others occur under his providence, in the sense that he permits
or suffers them to occur rather than interpose to prevent them. They may be truly
said to occur under his providence, because his plan of government in some sense
embraces them all. He made provision to secure those that are good, that is, the
holy intentions of moral agents, and to overrule for good those that are evil, that
is, the selfish intentions of moral agents. These intentions are events, and may
be said to occur under Divine Providence, because all events that do, or ever will,
occur, are and must be foreseen results of God's own agency, or of the work of creation.
- 5. It is agreed that infinite benevolence is the sum of the moral attributes
- 6. That God is both naturally and morally immutable; that in his natural attributes
he is necessarily so, and in his moral attributes he is certainly so.
- 7. It is agreed that all who are converted, sanctified and saved, are converted,
sanctified, and saved by God's own agency; that is, God saves them by securing, by
his own agency, their personal and individual holiness.
II. What the Bible doctrine of election is not.
- 1. Not, as Huntington maintained, that all men are chosen to salvation through
the atonement of Christ. This gentleman, who was a congregational minister of New
England, left a treatise for publication after his death, (which was accordingly
published,) in which he maintained the usual orthodox creed, with the exception of
extending the doctrine of election to the whole human race. He took the old school
view of the atonement, that it was the literal payment of the debt of the elect;
that Christ suffered what and as much as they deserved to suffer, and thus literally
purchased their salvation. Assuming that such was the nature of the atonement, he
sets himself to inquire into the extent of the atonement, or for whom it was made.
Finding that Christ tasted death for every man, that he died for the world, he came
to the conclusion that all were elected to salvation, and that all will therefore
be saved. I have never seen the work of which I speak, but such is the account I
have had of it from those who know. But this is not the Bible doctrine of election,
as we shall see.
- 2. The Bible doctrine of election is not that any are chosen to salvation, in
such a sense, that they will or can be saved without repentance, faith, and sanctification.
- 3. Nor is it that some are chosen to salvation, in such a sense, that they will
be saved irrespective of their being regenerated, and persevering in holiness to
the end of life. The Bible most plainly teaches, that these are naturally indispensable
conditions of salvation, and of course election cannot dispense with them.
- 4. Nor is it that any are chosen to salvation for, or on account of their own
foreseen merits, or good works. 2 Tim. i. 9: "Who hath saved us, and called
us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose
and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." The foreseen
fact, that by the wisest governmental arrangement God could convert and sanctify
and fit them for heaven, must have been a condition in the sense of a sine quà
non, of their election to salvation, but could not have been the fundamental reason
for it, as we shall see. God did not elect them to salvation for, or on account of
their foreseen good works, but upon condition of their foreseen repentance, faith
- 5. The Bible doctrine of election is not that God elected some to salvation,
upon such conditions that it is really uncertain whether they will comply with those
conditions, and be finally saved. The Bible does not leave the question of the final
salvation of the elect as a matter of real uncertainty. This we shall see in its
place. The elect were chosen to salvation, upon condition that God foresaw that he
could secure their repentance, faith, and final perseverance.
III. What the Bible doctrine of election is.
It is, that all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved, were from eternity
chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification of their hearts by
faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation by means of sanctification.
Their salvation is the end--their sanctification is a means. Both the end and the
means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really as the end, and for the
sake of the end. The election of some individuals and nations to certain privileges,
and to do certain things, is not the kind of election of which I treat at this time;
but I am to consider the doctrine of election as it respects election unto salvation,
as just explained.
IV. I am to prove the doctrine as I have stated it to be true.
- 1. It is plainly implied in the teaching of the Bible: the Bible everywhere assumes
and implies the truth of this doctrine, just as might be expected, since it so irresistibly
follows from the known and admitted attributes of God. Instead of formally revealing
it as a truth unknown to, or unknowable by, the human reason, the scriptures in a
great variety of ways speak of the elect, of election, &c., as a truth known
by irresistible inference from his known attributes. To deny it involves a denial
of the attributes of God. I have been surprised at the laboured and learned efforts
to show that this doctrine is not expressly taught in the Bible. Suppose it were
not, what then? Other truths are taught, and reason irresistibly affirms truths,
from which the doctrine of election, as I have stated it, must follow. It is common
for the inspired writers to treat truths of this class in the same manner in which
this is, for the most part, treated. Suppose it were possible so to explain every
passage of scripture as that no one of them should unequivocally assert the doctrine
in question, this would be to no purpose; the doctrine would still be irresistibly
inferrible from the attributes of God. It would still be true, that the Bible assumes
the truth of the doctrine, and incidentally speaks of it, and introduces it as a
truth of reason, and as following of course from the attributes of God. It is thus
treated throughout the entire scriptures. The Bible as really assumes the truth of
this doctrine, as it does the existence of God. It asserts it just as it does the
attributes of God. The learned and laboured efforts to show that this doctrine is
not expressly asserted in the Bible, are of no value, since it would follow as a
certain truth from the attributes of God, and from the revealed facts that some will
be saved, and that God will save them, even had the Bible been silent on the subject.
- I shall therefore only introduce a few passages for the purpose of showing that
the inspired writers repeatedly recognize the truth of this doctrine, and thus preserve
their own consistency. But I shall not attempt by laboured criticism to prove it
from scripture, for reasons just mentioned.
Matt. xx. 16: "So the last shall be first, and the first last, for many be called,
but few chosen."
Matt. xxiv. 22: "And except those days should be shortened, there should no
flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."
John xiii. 18: "I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen."
John xv. 16: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you,
that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that
whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 19. If ye were
of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world,
but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
Acts xiii. 48: "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified
the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
Rom. viii. 28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that
love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29. For whom he did
foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that
he might be the first-born among many brethren."
Rom. ix. 10: "And not only this, but when Rebecca had conceived by one, even
by our father Isaac; 11. (For the children being not yet born, neither having done
any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not
of works, but of him that calleth,) 12. It was said unto her, The elder shall serve
the younger. 13. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14.
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15. For he
saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion
on whom I will have compassion."
Rom. xi. 5: "Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according
to the election of grace. 7. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh
for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded."
Eph. i. 4: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the
world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. 11. In whom also
we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of
him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
1 Thess. i. 4: "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."
1 Thess. v. 9: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation
by our Lord Jesus Christ."
2 Thess. ii. 13: "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren
beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation
through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth."
1 Pet. i. 2: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through
sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus
Rev. xvii. 8: "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend
out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth
shall wonder, (whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation
of the world,) when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is."
This doctrine is expressly asserted, or indirectly assumed and implied in every part
of the Bible, and in ways and instances too numerous to be quoted in these lectures.
The above are only specimens of the scripture treatment of this subject.
- 2. It is plainly the doctrine of reason.
- (1.) It is admitted that God by his own agency secures the conversion, sanctification,
and salvation of all that ever were or will be saved.
(2.) Whatever volitions or actions God puts forth to convert and save men, he puts
forth designing to secure that end; that is, he does it in accordance with a previous
design to do as and what he does.
(3.) He does it with the certain knowledge, that he shall succeed in accomplishing
the end at which he aims.
(4.) He does it for the purpose of securing this end.
(5.) This must be an universal truth, to wit, that whatever God does for the salvation
of men, he does with the design to secure the salvation of all who ever will be saved,
or of all whose salvation he foresees that he can secure, and with the certain knowledge
that he shall secure their salvation. He also does much for the non-elect, in the
sense of using such means with them as might secure, and ought to secure, their salvation.
But as he knows he shall not succeed in securing their salvation, on account of their
voluntary and persevering wickedness, it cannot be truly said, that he uses these
means with design to save them, but for other, and good, and wise reasons. Although
he foresees, that he cannot secure their salvation, because of their wilful and persevering
unbelief, yet he sees it important under his government to manifest a readiness to
save them, and to use such means as he wisely can to save them, and such as will
ultimately be seen to leave them wholly without excuse.
But with respect to those whom he foresees that he can and shall save, it must be
true, since he is a good being, that he uses means for their salvation with the design
to save them. And since, as we have seen, he is an omniscient being, he must use
these means, not only with a design to save them, but also with the certainty that
he shall save them. With respect to them, he uses these means for the sake of this
end; that is, for the sake of their salvation. But with respect to the non-elect,
he does not use means for the sake of, or expecting to accomplish, their salvation,
but for other purposes, such as to leave them without excuse, &c.
(6.) But if God ever chooses to save any human beings, he must always have chosen
to do so, or else he has changed. If he now has, or ever will have, any design about
it, he must always have had this design; for he never has, and never can have, any
new design. If he ever does, or will, elect any human being to salvation, he must
always have chosen or elected him, or he has, or will, form some new purpose, which
is inconsistent with his moral immutability.
(7.) If he will ever know who will be saved, he must always have known it, or he
will obtain some new knowledge, which is contrary to his omniscience.
(8.) We are told by Christ, that at the day of judgment he will say to the righteous,
"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world;" that is, from eternity.
Now, has the judge at that time any new knowledge or design respecting those individuals?
(9.) Since God of necessity eternally knew all about the elect that will ever be
true, he must of necessity have chosen something in respect to them; for it is naturally
impossible, that he should have had no choice about, or in respect to, them and their
(10.) Since God must of necessity from eternity have had some choice in respect to
their salvation, it follows, that he must have chosen that they should be saved,
or that he would not use such means as he foresaw would save them. If he chose not
to use those means that he foresaw would save them, but afterwards saves them, he
has changed, which is contrary to his immutability. If he always chose that they
should be saved, this is the very thing for which we are contending.
(11.) It must therefore be true, that all whom God will ever save were from eternity
chosen to salvation by him; and since he saves them by means of sanctification, and
does this designedly, it must be that this also was eternally designed or intended
To deny the doctrine of election, therefore, involves a denial of the attributes
(12.) It must also be true, that God foreknew all that ever will be true of the non-elect,
and must have eternally had some design respecting their final destiny. And also
that he has from eternity had the same, and the only design that he ever will have
in respect to them. But this will come up for consideration in its place.
V. What could not have been the reasons for election.
- 1. It is admitted that God is infinitely benevolent and wise. It must follow
that election is founded in some reason or reasons; and that these reasons are good
and sufficient; reasons that rendered it obligatory upon God to choose just as he
did, in election. Assuming, as we must, that God is wise and good, we are safe in
affirming that he could have had none but benevolent reasons for his election of
some to eternal life, in preference to others. Hence we are bound to affirm, that
election was not based upon, nor does it imply partiality in God, in any bad sense
of that term. Partiality in any being, consists in preferring one to another without
any good or sufficient reason, or in opposition to good and sufficient reasons. It
being admitted that God is infinitely wise and good, it follows, that he cannot be
partial; that he cannot have elected some to eternal salvation and passed others
by, without some good and sufficient reason. That is, he cannot have done it arbitrarily.
The great objection that is felt and urged by opposers of this doctrine is, that
it implies partiality in God, and represents him as deciding the eternal destiny
of moral agents by an arbitrary sovereignty. But this objection is a sheer and altogether
unwarrantable assumption. It assumes, that God could have had no good and sufficient
reasons for the election. It has been settled, that good is the end upon which God
set his heart; that is, the highest well being of himself and the universe of creatures.
This end must be accomplished by means. If God is infinitely wise and good, he must
have chosen the best practicable means. But he has chosen the best means for that
end, and there can be no partiality in that.
- In support of the assumption, that election implies partiality, and the exercise
of an arbitrary sovereignty in God, it has been affirmed, that there might have been
divers systems of means for securing the same end in every respect equal to each
other; that is, that no reason existed for preferring any one, to many others; that
therefore in choosing the present, God must have been partial, or must have exercised
an arbitrary sovereignty. To this I answer:
(1.) There is no ground for the assumption, that there are or can be divers systems
of means of precisely equal value in all respects, in such a sense, that there could
have been no good reason for preferring one to the other.
(2.) I reply, that if there were divers such systems, choosing the one, and not any
other, would not imply preference. Choice of any one in such case must have proceeded
upon the following ground; to wit, the value of the end demanded, that one should
be chosen. There being no difference between the various systems of means, God chooses
one without reference to the other, and makes no choice respecting it, any more than
if it did not exist. He must choose one, he has no reason for preference, and consequently
he cannot prefer one to the other. His benevolence leads him to choose one because
the end demands it. He therefore takes any one of many exact equals, indifferently,
without preferring it to any of the others. This implies no partiality in God in
any bad sense of the term. For upon the supposition, he was shut up to the necessity
of choosing one among many exact equals. If he is partial in choosing the one he
does, he would have been equally so had he chosen any other. If this is partiality,
it is a partiality arising out of the necessity of the case, and cannot imply anything
objectionable in God.
That there is no preference in this case is plain, because there is no ground or
reason for preference whatever, according to the supposition. But there can be no
choice or preference, when there is absolutely no reason for the choice or preference.
We have seen on a former occasion, that the reason that determines choice, or the
reason in view of which, or in obedience to which, or for the sake of which, the
mind chooses, and the object or end chosen, are identical. When there is absolutely
no reason for a choice, there is absolutely no object of choice, nothing to choose,
and of course there will be no choice. Choice must have an object; that is, choice
must terminate upon something. If choice exists, something must be chosen. If there
are divers systems of means, between which there is no possible ground of preference,
there can absolutely be no such thing as preferring one to the other, for this would
be the same as to choose without any object of choice, or without choosing anything,
which is a contradiction.
If it be said, that there may be absolutely no difference in the system of means,
so far as the accomplishment of the end is concerned, but that one may be preferred
or preferable to another, on some other account, I ask on what other account? According
to the supposition, it is only valued or regarded as an object of choice at all,
because of its relation to the end. God can absolutely choose it only as a means,
a condition, or an end; for all choice must respect these. The inquiry now respects
means. Now, if as a means, there is absolutely no difference between diverse systems
in their relation to the end, and the value of the end is the sole reason for choosing
them, it follows, that to prefer one to another is a natural impossibility. But one
must be chosen for the sake of the end, it matters not which; any one is taken indifferently
so far as others are concerned. This is no partiality, and no exercise of arbitrary
sovereignty in any objectionable sense.
But as I said, there is no ground for the assumption, that there are various systems
of means for accomplishing the great end of benevolence in all respects equal. There
must have been a best way, a best system, and if God is infinitely wise and good,
he must have chosen that for that reason; and this is as far as possible from partiality.
Neither we, nor any other creature may be able now to discover any good reasons for
preferring the present to any other system, or for electing those who are elected,
in preference to any other. Nevertheless, such reasons must have been apparent to
the Divine mind, or no such election could have taken place.
- 2. Election was not an exercise of arbitrary sovereignty. By arbitrary sovereignty
is intended the choosing and acting from mere will, without consulting moral obligation
or the public good. It is admitted that God is infinitely wise and good. It is therefore
impossible that he should choose or act arbitrarily in any case whatever. He must
have good and sufficient reasons for every choice and every act.
- Some seem to have represented God, in the purpose or act of election, as electing
some and not others, merely because he could or would, or in other words, to exhibit
his own sovereignty, without any other reason than because so he would have it.
But it is impossible for God to act arbitrarily, or from any but a good and sufficient
reason; that is, it is impossible for him to do so, and continue to be benevolent.
We have said that God has one, and but one end in view; that is, he does, and says,
and suffers all for one and the same reason, namely, to promote the highest good
of being. He has but one ultimate end, and all his volitions are only efforts to
secure that end. The highest well being of the universe, including his own, is the
end on which his supreme and ultimate choice terminates. All his volitions are designed
to secure this end, and in all things he is and must be directed by his infinite
intelligence, in respect not only to his ultimate end, but also in the choice and
use of the means of accomplishing this end. It is impossible that this should not
be true, if he is good. In election then he cannot possibly have exercised any arbitrary
sovereignty, but must have had the best of reasons for the election. His intelligence
must have had good reasons for the choice of some and not of others to salvation,
and have affirmed his obligation in view of those reasons to elect just as and whom
he did. So good must the reasons have been, that to have done otherwise, would have
been sin in him; that is, to have done otherwise would not have been wise and good.
- 3. Election was not based on a foreseen difference in the moral character of
the elect and the non-elect, previous to regeneration. The Bible everywhere affirms,
that, previous to regeneration, all men have precisely the same character, and possess
one common heart or disposition, that this character is that of total moral depravity.
God did not choose some to salvation because he foresaw that they would be less depraved
and guilty previous to regeneration, than the non-elect. Paul was one of the elect,
yet he affirms himself to have been the chief of sinners. We often see, and this
has been common in every age, the most outwardly abandoned and profligate converted
- The reason of election is not found in the fact, that God foresaw that some would
be more readily converted than others. We often see those who are converted hold
out for a long time in great obstinacy and rebellion, while God brings to bear upon
them a great variety of means and influences, and takes much more apparent pains
to convert them than he does to convert many others who are, as well as those who
are not, converted. There is reason to believe, that if the same means were used
with those who are not converted that are used with those who are, many who are not
converted would be. It may not be wise in God to use the same means for the non-elect
that he does for the elect, and if he should, they might, or might not be saved by
them. God often uses means that to us seem more powerful to convert the non-elect
than are used to convert many of the elect. This is fully implied in Matt. xi. 20-24.
The fact is, he must have some reason aside from their characters for stubbornness
or otherwise, for electing them to salvation.
VI. What must have been the reasons for election.
- 1. We have seen that God is infinitely wise and good. It follows that he must
have had some reason, for to choose without a reason is impossible, as in that case
there would be, as we have just seen, no object of choice.
- 2. From the wisdom and goodness of God, it follows, that he must have chosen
some good end, and must have had some plan, or system of means, to secure it. The
end we know, is the good of being. The means we know, from reason and revelation,
include election in the sense explained. It follows, that the fundamental reason
for election was the highest good of the universe. That is, the best system of means
for securing the great end of benevolence, included the election of just those who
were elected, and no others. This has been done by the wisdom and benevolence of
God. It follows, that the highest good demanded it. All choice must respect ends,
or conditions and means. God has, and can have, but one ultimate end. All other choices
or volitions must respect means. The choice or election of certain persons to eternal
salvation, &c., must have been founded in the reason, that the great end of benevolence
- 3. It is very easy to see, that under a moral government, it might be impossible
so to administer law, as to secure the perpetual and universal obedience of all.
- It is also easy to see, that under a remedial system, or system of grace, it
might be impossible to secure the repentance and salvation of all. God must have
foreseen all possible and actual results. He must have foreseen how many, and whom,
he could save by the wisest and best possible arrangement, all things considered.
The perfect wisdom and benevolence of God being granted, it follows, that we are
bound to regard the present system of means as the best, all things considered, that
he could adopt for the promotion of the great end of his government, or the great
end of benevolence. The fact, that the wisest and best system of government would
secure the salvation of those who are elected, must have been a condition of their
being elected. As God does everything for the same ultimate reason, it follows, that
the intrinsic value of their salvation was his ultimate end, and that their salvation
in particular must have been of greater relative value in promoting the highest good
of the universe at large, and the glory of God, than would have been that of others;
so that the intrinsic value of the salvation of those elected in particular, the
fact that by the wisest arrangement he could save them in particular, and the paramount
good to be promoted by it, must have been the reasons for election.
VII. When the election was made.
- 1. Not when the elect are converted. It is admitted, that God is omniscient,
and has known all things from eternity as really and as perfectly as he ever will.
It is also admitted, God is unchangeable, and consequently has no new plans, designs,
or choices. He must have had all the reasons he ever will have for election, from
eternity, because he always has had all the knowledge of all events that he ever
will have; consequently he always or from eternity chose in respect to all events
just as he always will. There never can be any reason for change in the divine mind,
for he never will have any new views of any subject. The choice which constitutes
election, then, must be an eternal choice.
- 2. Thus the scriptures represent it.
- Eph. i. 4. "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation
of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."
Eph. ii. 10. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good
works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
2 Tim. i. 9. "Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according
to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ
Jesus before the world began."
Rev. xvii. 8. "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend
out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth
shall wonder, (whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation
of the world,) when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is."
This language means from eternity, beyond question.
- 3. But the question will arise, was election in the order of nature subsequent
to, or did it precede the Divine foreknowledge? The answer to this plainly is, that
in the order of nature what could be wisely done must have been foreseen before it
was determined what should be done. And what should be done must, in the order of
nature, have preceded the knowledge of what would be done. So that in the order of
nature, foreknowledge of what could be wisely done preceded election, and foreknowledge
of what would be done, followed or was subsequent to election.* In other words, God
must have known whom he could wisely save, prior, in the order of nature, to his
determination to save them. But his knowing who would be saved must have been, in
the order of nature, subsequent to his election or determination to save them, and
dependent upon that determination.
- *I say, in the order of nature. With God all duration or time is present. In
the order of time, therefore, all the divine ideas and purposes are contemporaneous.
But the divine ideas must sustain to each other a logical relation. In the above
paragraph I have stated what must have been the logical order of the Divine ideas
in regard to election. By the order of nature, is intended that connection and relation
of ideas that must result from the nature of intellect.
VIII. Election does not render means for the salvation of the elect unnecessary.
We have seen that the elect are chosen to salvation through the use of means. Since
they are chosen to be saved by means, they cannot be saved in any other way or without
IX. Election is the only ground of hope in the success of means.
- 1. No means are of any avail unless God gives them efficiency.
- 2. If God gives them efficiency in any case, it is, and will be, in accordance
with, and in execution of, his election.
- 3. It follows that election is the only ground of rational hope in the use of
means to effect the salvation of any.
X. Election does not pose any obstacle to the salvation of the non-elect.
- 1. God has taken care to bring salvation within the reach of all, and to make
it possible to all.
- 2. He sincerely offers to save all, and does all to save all that he wisely can.
- 3. His saving some is no discouragement to others, but should rather encourage
them to lay hold on eternal life.
- 4. The election of some is no bar to the salvation of others.
- 5. Those who are not elected may be saved, if they will but comply with the conditions,
which they are able to do.
- 6. God sincerely calls, and ministers may sincerely call on the non-elect to
lay hold on salvation.
- 7. There is no injury or injustice done to the non-elect by the election of others.
Has not God "a right to do what he will with his own?" If he offers salvation
to all upon terms the most reasonable, and if he does all he wisely can for the salvation
of all, shall some complain if God in doing for all what he wisely can, secures the
salvation of some and not of others?
XI. There is no injustice in election.
God was under obligation to no one--he might in perfect justice have sent all mankind
to hell. The doctrine of election will damn no one: by treating the non-elect according
to their deserts, he does them no injustice; and surely his exercising grace in,
the salvation of the elect, is no act of injustice to the non-elect; and especially
will this appear to be true, if we take into consideration the fact, that the only
reason why the non-elect will not be saved is, because they pertinaciously refuse
salvation. He offers mercy to all. The atonement is sufficient for all. All may come,
and are under an obligation to be saved. He strongly desires their salvation, and
does all that he wisely can to save them. Why then should the doctrine of election
be thought unjust?*
*To this paragraph it has been objected as follows:--"Can it be said, that the
only reason why the non-elect are not saved is their rejection of salvation, &c.?
Is there not a reason back of this? God does not give that gracious influence in
their case, which he does in the case of the elect. If the only reason why the non-elect
are not saved is their pertinacious refusal, then it would follow that the only reason
why the elect are saved, is their acceptance of salvation. If these two points are
so, then why all this discussion about election to salvation, and the means to that
end, and God's reason for electing? The whole matter would resolve itself into free
will, and God would stand quite independent of the issue in every case. Then would
there be no such thing as election."
The objection contains a non sequitur.
I say, the only reason why the non-elect are not saved, is because they pertinaciously
refuse salvation. But if this is true, he says, "it will follow that the only
reason why the elect are saved, is their acceptance of salvation." But this
does not follow. The non-elect fail of salvation only because they resist all the
grace that God can wisely bestow upon them. This grace they resist, and fail of salvation.
It is no more reasonable to say, that God's not giving them more divine influence
to convert them "is a reason back of this," than it would be to say that
his not having by a gracious influence, restrained them from sin altogether, is "a
reason back of" their pertinacious resistance of grace. If the non-elect are
lost, or fail of salvation only because they resist all the grace that God can wisely
bestow, it would not follow that the only reason why the elect are saved, is because
they accept, or yield to the same measure of gracious influence as that bestowed
upon the non-elect, for it may be, and in many cases the fact is, that God does bestow
more gracious influence on the elect, than on the non-elect, because he can wisely
do so. Here then is a plain non sequitur. Observe, I am writing in the paragraph
in question upon the justice of the divine proceeding. I say, that so far as this
is concerned, he fails of salvation, not because God withholds the grace that he
could wisely bestow, but only because he rejects the grace proffered, and all that
can be wisely proffered.
If I understand this objector, there is another non sequitur in his objection. I
understand him to say, that upon the supposition that the elect and the non-elect
have the same measure of gracious influence, and that the reason why the elect are
saved, and the non-elect not saved is, that the elect yield to, and the non-elect
resist this influence: the whole question resolves into free will, and there is no
election about it. If this is his meaning, as I think it must be, it is a plain non
sequitur. Suppose God foresaw that this would be so, and in view of this foreseen
fact elected those who he foresaw would yield both to the privileges and gracious
influence to which he foresaw they would yield, and to salvation as a consequence
of this influence and yielding. And suppose he foresaw that the non-elect, although
ordained or elected to enjoy the same measure of gracious influence, would resist
and reject salvation, and for this cause rejected or reprobated them in his eternal
purpose. Would not this be election? To be sure, in this case the different results
would turn upon the fact that the elect yielded, and the non-elect did not yield,
to the same measure of gracious influence. But there would be an election of the
one to eternal life, and a rejection of the other. I cannot see how this objector
can say, that in this case there could be no election, unless in his idea of election
there is the exercise of an arbitrary sovereignty. I suppose that God bestows on
men unequal measures of gracious influence, but that in this there is nothing arbitrary;
that, on the contrary, he sees the wisest and best reasons for this; that being in
justice under obligation to none, he exercises his own benevolent discretion, in
bestowing on all as much gracious influence as he sees to be upon the whole wise
and good, and enough to throw the entire responsibility of their damnation upon them
if they are lost. But upon some he foresaw that he could wisely bestow a sufficient
measure of gracious influence to secure their voluntary yielding, and upon others
he could not bestow enough in fact to secure this result. In accordance with this
foreknowledge, he chose the elect to both the gracious influence and its results,
eternal life. In all this there was nothing arbitrary or unjust. He does all for
all that he wisely can. He does enough for all to leave them without excuse. If the
non-elect would yield to that measure of gracious influence which he can and does
bestow upon them, which is the best he can do without acting unwisely, and of course
wickedly, they would be saved. To this they might yield. To this they ought to yield.
God has no right to do more than he does for them, all things considered; and there
is no reason of which they can justly complain why they are not saved. They can with
no more reason complain of his not giving them more gracious influence than that
he created them, or that he made them free agents, or that he did not restrain them
from sin altogether, or do anything else which it had been unwise, and therefore
wrong to have done. Nor is the fact that God does not bestow on them sufficient grace
to secure their yielding and salvation, a "reason back of their obstinacy to
which their not being saved is to be ascribed," any more than any one of the
above-named things is such a reason.
This objection proceeds upon the assumption, that election must be unconditional
to be election at all. That election must be so defined, as to be the cause of the
difference in the eternal state of the elect and non-elect. But I see not why election
may not be conditionated upon the foreseen fact, that the wisest possible administration
of moral government would secure the free concurrence of some, and not of others.
What could be wisely done being foreseen, the purpose that so it should be done would
be election. No man has a right to define the terms election and reprobation in such
a sense, as to exclude all conditions, and then insist that conditional election
is no election at all.
XII. This is the best that could be done for the inhabitants of this world.
It is reasonable to infer from the infinite benevolence of God, that his present
government will secure a greater amount of good than could have been secured under
any other mode of administration. This is as certain as that infinite benevolence
must prefer a greater to a less good. To suppose that God would prefer a mode of
administration that would secure a less good than could have been secured under some
other mode, would manifestly be to accuse him of a want of benevolence. It is doubtless
true that he could so vary the course of events as to save other individuals than
those he does; to convert more in one particular neighbourhood, or family, or nation,
or at one particular time; or it may be a greater number upon the whole than he does.
It would not follow that he does not secure the greater good upon the whole.
Suppose there is a man in this town, who has so strongly intrenched himself in error,
that there is but one man in all the land who is so acquainted with his refuge of
lies as to be able to answer has objections, and drive him from his hiding-places.
Now, it is possible, that if this individual could be brought in contact with him,
he might be converted; yet if he is employed in some distant part of the vineyard,
his removal from that field of labour to this town, might not, upon the whole, be
most for the glory of God's kingdom; and more might fail of salvation through his
removal here, than would be converted by such removal. God has in view the good of
his whole kingdom. He works upon a vast and comprehensive scale. He has no partialities
for individuals, but moves forward in the administration of his government with his
eye upon the general good, designing to secure the greatest amount of happiness within
his kingdom, that can be secured by the wisest possible arrangement, and administration
of his government.
XIII. How we may ascertain our own election.
Those of the elect that are already converted, are known by their character and conduct.
They have evidence of their election in their obedience to God. Those that are unconverted
may settle the question each one for himself, whether he is elected or not, so as
to have the most satisfactory evidence whether he is of that happy number. If you
will now submit yourselves to God, you may have evidence that you are elected. But
every hour you put off submission, increases the evidence, that you are not elected.
Every sinner under the gospel has it within his power to accept or reject salvation.
The elect can know their election only by accepting the offered gift. The non-elect
can know their non-election only by the consciousness of a voluntary rejection of
offered life. If any one fears that he is one of the non-elect, let him at once renounce
his unbelief, and cease to reject salvation, and the ground of fear and complaint
instantly falls away.
I quote some remarks from a former discourse upon this subject.
INFERENCES AND REMARKS.
- 1. Foreknowledge and election are not inconsistent with free agency. The elect
were chosen to eternal life, upon condition that God foresaw that in the perfect
exercise of their freedom, they could be induced to repent and embrace the gospel.*
- *An objector has said, "You say that the elect were chosen upon condition
that God foresaw," &c.; this is certainly inconsistent with your previous
statement, that election includes all the means to secure its end; that is, it is
independent of any conditions foreseen, because it includes efficient grace to gain
What does this objection mean? What if election does include efficient grace to gain
its end, does it follow that the elect would have been chosen, if it had been foreseen
that these means would not have secured the consent of their free will? Why, these
means could not have been efficient but upon condition of their consent. I say, in
the above paragraph, that the elect were chosen upon condition that God foresaw that,
by certain means, he could secure the consent of their free will. The objector says,
that this was electing them without reference to their consent, or that their foreseen
consent was no condition of their election, because the means, as well as the result,
were included in election. But I can see no possible force or pertinency in this
objection: it is a plain non sequitur.
- 2. You see why many persons are opposed to the doctrine of election, and try
to explain it away; 1st., they misunderstand it, and 2nd. they deduce unwarrantable
inferences from it. They suppose it to mean, that the elect will be saved at all
events, whatever their conduct may be; and again, they infer from the doctrine that
there is no possibility of the salvation of the non-elect. The doctrine, as they
understand it, would be an encouragement to the elect to persevere in sin, knowing
that their salvation was sure, and their inference would drive the non-elect to desperation,
on the ground that for them to make efforts to be saved would be of no avail. But
both the doctrine, as they understand it, and the inference, are false. For election
does not secure the salvation of the elect irrespective of their character and conduct;
nor, as we have seen, does it throw any obstacle in the way of the salvation of the
- 3. This view of the subject affords no ground for presumption on the one hand,
nor for despair upon the other. No one can justly say, if I am to be saved I shall
be saved, do what I will. Nor can any one say, if I am to be damned I shall be damned,
do what I will. But the question is left, so far as they are concerned, as a matter
of entire contingency. Sinners, your salvation or damnation is as absolutely suspended
upon your own choice, as if God neither knew nor designed anything about it.
- 4. This doctrine lays no foundation for a controversy with God. But on the other
hand, it does lay a broad foundation for gratitude, both on the part of the elect
and non-elect. The elect certainly have great reason for thankfulness, that they
are thus distinguished. Oh, what a thought, to have your name written in the book
of life, to be chosen of God an heir of eternal salvation, to be adopted into his
family, to be destined to enjoy his presence, and to bathe your soul in the boundless
ocean of his love for ever and ever. Nor are the non-elect without obligations of
thankfulness. You ought to be grateful, if any of your brethren of the human family
are saved. If all were lost, God would be just. And if any of this dying world receive
the gift of eternal life, you ought to be grateful, and render everlasting thanks
- 5. The non-elect often enjoy as great or greater privileges than the elect. Many
men have lived and died under the sound of the gospel, have enjoyed all the means
of salvation during a long life, and have at last died in their sins, while others
have been converted upon their first hearing the gospel of God. Nor is this difference
owing to the fact, that the elect always have more of the strivings of the Spirit
than the non-elect. Many who die in their sins, appear to have had conviction for
a great part of their lives; have often been deeply impressed with a strong sense
of their sins and the value of their souls, but have strongly intrenched themselves
under refuges of lies, have loved the world and hated God, and fought their way through
all the obstacles that were thrown around them to hedge up their way to death, and
have literally forced their passage to the gates of hell. Sin was their voluntary
- 6. Why should the doctrine of election be made a stumbling-block in the way of
sinners? In nothing else do they make the same use of the purposes and designs of
God, as they do on the subject of religion; and yet in everything else, God's purposes
and designs are as much settled, and have as absolute an influence. God has as certainly
designed the day and circumstances of your death, as whether your soul shall be saved.
It is not only expressly declared in the Bible, but is plainly the doctrine of reason.
What would you say if you should be called in to see a neighbour who was sick; and,
on inquiry, you should find he would neither eat nor drink, and that he was verily
starving himself to death. On expostulating with him upon his conduct, suppose he
should calmly reply, that he believed in the sovereignty of God, in foreknowledge,
election, and decrees; that his days were numbered, that the time and circumstances
of his death were settled, that he could not die before his time, and that all efforts
he could make would not enable him to live a moment beyond his time. If you attempted
to remonstrate against his inference, and such an abuse and perversion of the doctrine
of degrees, he should accuse you of being a heretic, of not believing in divine sovereignty.
Now, should you see a man on worldly subjects reasoning and acting thus, you would
pronounce him insane. Should farmers, mechanics, and merchants, reason in this way
in regard to their worldly business, they would be considered fit subjects for bedlam.
- 7. How forcibly the perversion and abuse of this doctrine illustrates the madness
of the human heart, and its utter opposition to the terms of salvation. The fact
that God foreknows, and has designs in regard to every other event, is not made an
excuse for remaining idle, or worse than idle, on these subjects. But where men's
duty to God is concerned, and here alone, they seize these scriptures, and wrest
them to their own destruction. How impressively does this fact bring out the demonstration,
that sinners want an excuse for disobeying God; that they desire an apology for living
in sin; that they seek an occasion for making war upon their Maker.
- 8. I have said, that the question is as much open for your decision, that you
are left as perfectly to the exercise of your freedom, as if God neither knew nor
designed anything in regard to your salvation. Suppose there was a great famine in
New York city, and that John Jacob Astor alone had provisions in great abundance;
that he was a benevolent and liberal-minded man, and willing to supply the whole
city with provisions, free of expense; and suppose there existed a universal and
most unreasonable prejudice against him, insomuch that when he advertised in the
daily papers that his store-houses were open, that whosoever would, might come and
receive provisions, without money and without price, they all, with one accord, began
to make excuse, and obstinately refused to accept the offers. Now, suppose that he
should employ all the cartmen to carry provisions around the city, and stop at every
door. But still they strengthened each other's hands, and would rather die than be
indebted to him for food. Many had said so much against him, that they were utterly
ashamed to feel and acknowledge their dependence upon him. Others were so much under
their influence as to be unwilling to offend them; and so strong was the tide of
public sentiment, that no one had the moral courage to break loose from the multitude
and accept of life. Now, suppose that Mr. Astor knew beforehand the state of the
public mind, and that all the citizens hated him, and had rather die than be indebted
to him for food. Suppose he also knew, from the beginning, that there were certain
arguments that he could bring to bear upon certain individuals, that would change
their minds, and that he should proceed to press them with these considerations,
until they had given up their opposition, had most thankfully accepted his provisions,
and were saved from death. Suppose he used all the arguments and means that he wisely
could to persuade the rest, but that, notwithstanding all his benevolent efforts,
they adhered to the resolution, and preferred death to submission to his proposals.
Suppose, further, he had perfect knowledge from the beginning, of the issue of this
whole matter, would not the question of life and death be as entirely open for the
decision of every individual as if he knew nothing about it?
- 9. Some may ask, Why does God use means with the non-elect, which he is certain
they will not accept? I answer, because he designs that they shall be without excuse.
He will demonstrate his willingness and their obstinacy, before the universe. He
will stop their mouths effectually in judgment by a full offer of salvation; and
although he knows that their rejection of the offer will only enhance their guilt,
and aggravate their deep damnation, still he will make the offer, as there is no
other way in which to illustrate his infinite willingness to save them, and their
perverse, rejection of his grace.
- 10. Lastly, God requires you to give all diligence to make your calling and election
sure. In choosing his elect, you must understand that he has thrown the responsibility
of their being saved upon them; that the whole is suspended upon their consent to
the terms; you are all perfectly able to give your consent, and this moment to lay
hold on eternal life. Irrespective of your own choice, no election could save you,
and no reprobation can damn you. The "Spirit and the Bride say, Come: let him
that heareth say, Come; let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him
take the water of life freely." The responsibility is yours. God does all that
he wisely can, and challenges you to show what more he could do that he has not done.
If you go to hell, you must go stained with your own blood. God is clear, angels
are clear. To your own Master you stand or fall; mercy waits; the Spirit strives;
Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Do not then pervert this doctrine, and make
it an occasion of stumbling, till you are in the depths of hell.
Introduction ---New Window
LECTURES 1-7 of page 1
LECTURES 8-16 of page 2 ---New Window
LECTURES 17-30 of page 3 ---New Window
LECTURES 31-38 of page 4 ---New Window
LECTURES 39-47 of page 5 ---New Window
LECTURES 48-57 of page 6 ---New Window
LECTURES 58-67 of page 7 ---New Window
LECTURES 68-74 of page 8 (this page)
LECTURES 75-80 of page 9 ---New Window
LECTURES 81-83 of page 10 ---New Window
APPENDIX on page 11 ---New Window
RELATED STUDY AIDS:
Section Sub-Index for Finney: Voices