LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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DISCOURSE IV.  

 

THE NEW COVENANT.

 

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people; 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 greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old.Hebrew 8:8-13.

 

“And to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant.”—Hebrews 12:24.

 

THE great difficulty, which a vast majority of Christians feel, in respect to holy living, is the want of the constant presence and influence of a filial, affectionate, confiding, and obedient spirit towards God,—a spirit which perpetually cries, Abba, Father, and consists in the spontaneous flow of the heart’s purest and best affections towards Christ. If the mind could always be in this state, how easy it would be to avoid all sin, and perfectly to obey all the Divine requisitions! This spirit Christians often resolve to cherish. They find their resolutions, however, wholly inefficient to move the heart. To remedy the difficulty, they resort to their Bibles and to prayer, and renew their resolutions with increasing earnestness. Still the heart remains comparatively unmoved; and whatever effect is produced by such means, very soon passes away, “like the morning cloud,” leaving in the heart the same “aching void” as before. Now, while the Christian is thus “resolving, and re-resolving,” and constantly sliding back to the cheerless state from which he started, while, in spite of his efforts, he is perpetually sinking deeper and deeper in the “mire and deep waters,” suppose the Divine Redeemer should pass along, and say to his weary and desponding disciple, If you will at once cease from all these vain efforts, and yield yourself up to my control, relying with implicit confidence in my ability and faithfulness, I will enter into a covenant with you, that I will, myself, shed abroad in your heart that “perfect love which casteth out all fear,”—that filial and affectionate spirit which you have vainly endeavoured to induce in your own mind. I will so present the truth to your apprehension, that your heart’s purest and best affections shall constantly and spontaneously flow out toward me. I will secure you in a state of perfect and perpetual obedience to every command of God, and in the full and constant fruition of his presence and love. All this I will do in perfect consistency with the full, and free, and uninterrupted exercise of your own voluntary agency. Such a message would be to the believer, “afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted,” as life from the dead. This, Christian, is precisely what the Lord Jesus Christ offers to do for you, as the Mediator of the new Covenant. With the Psalmist you can say, “I will run in the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Christ is now ready thus to enlarge your heart, that, under the spontaneous flow of pure and perfect love, you may do the whole will of God. Till your faith is fastened upon Christ, as the life and light of the soul, as the “quickening spirit,” who alone is able to breathe into your heart the breath of spiritual life, all your efforts after holiness will be vain.

My object, in the present discourse, is to present to your contemplation and faith this new covenant, and Christ as the Mediator of this covenant. In illustrating this subject, the attention of the reader is invited to a consideration of the following propositions:—

I. The nature of the new covenant, as distinguished from the first, or the old covenant.

II. The relation of these two covenants.

III. The object of Christ in the provisions of Divine grace.

IV. The conditions on which he will fulfil in us what he has promised as the Mediator of the new covenant.

I. The nature of the new covenant, as distinguished from the first or the old covenant.

The old covenant, as was shown in a preceding discourse, is the moral law, the covenant originally made with Adam, re-announced at Mount Sinai , and which now exists between God and all unfallen spirits.

The new covenant, on the other hand, is the covenant of grace, obscurely disclosed to our first parents, in the promise, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head,” more distinctly unfolded in the promise to Abraham, and brought out in all its fulness in the new dispensation. As the Mediator of this covenant, Christ, as shown in the text, and in a preceding discourse, promises to believers, on condition of their faith in him, the following blessings:—1. A confirmed state of pure and perfect holiness, such as is required by the moral law. 2. The full pardon of all sin, or entire justification. 3. The perpetual fruition of the Divine presence and favour. 4. The consequent universal prevalence of the Gospel. Such are the “riches of the glory of Christ’s inheritance in the saints.” Such is the “completeness of the saints in him,” as the Mediator of the new covenant. We will now,

II.[1] Consider the relation of these two covenants. This subject was alluded to in a preceding discourse. My object now is to present the whole subject with greater distinctness and fulness than I then could do for the want of space. I remark,—

1. As then observed, the same standard of character, perfect holiness, is common to each of these covenants.

2. In the first covenant, holiness is required of the creature. In the new covenant, the same thing is promised to the believer.

3. The condition on which the blessings promised under the first covenant are secured is, Do and live. “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man that doeth these things shall live by them.” The condition of the new covenant is, Believe and live. “Now, the just shall live by faith.” “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise: Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above;) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach. That, if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

4. The “surety” of the first covenant is the creature himself. The “surety” of the new covenant is Christ. In other words, the salvation of a creature under the former depends upon the faithfulness of the creature himself. The salvation of a creature under the latter depends upon the faithfulness of Christ. Hence Christ is said, Hebrews 5:22 , to have been “made a surety of a better testament” [covenant]. In Hebrews 8:6 , as the Mediator of the new covenant, Christ is also declared to be the “Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.”

5. The first covenant is adapted to the condition of creatures only who have never sinned. The new covenant is adapted, by infinite wisdom and love, to the condition of sinners involved in infinite guilt, and hopelessly lost, as far as any efforts of their own are concerned, under the power of sin.

6. The exclusive influence of the first covenant upon sinners is to increase their guilt and aggravate their depravity. The new covenant redeems these very sinners from the curse of the law, and “delivers them from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Hence the first covenant is said to “gender to bondage;” i.e., sinners under its influence are left in hopeless bondage, under the power of sin; while all who are under the full influence of the new covenant, are free, i.e., are delivered from the power of sin, and introduced into a state of purity and blessedness. Galatians 4:25 –26,—For these are the two covenants; the one from the Mount Sinai , which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem , which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all.”

7. The first covenant is a dispensation of justice. The new is a dispensation of mercy, under the influence of which the sinner is brought to the “blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel.” The former influences the subject by commands and prohibitions, rewards and penalties; the latter subdues and melts the heart of the rebel by the power of love.

8. Finally, whatever the old covenant, or the moral law, requires of the creature, the new covenant, as shown in a former discourse, promises to the believer. The first covenant, for example, requires of the creature perfect and perpetual holiness. The new covenant promises to the believer perfect and perpetual holiness. I will first cite a few of the passages quoted in that discourse, to sustain the above declaration, and will then offer some general remarks to show that the construction there put upon them is correct. Jeremiah 32:39 –40,—“And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them and of their children after them; and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me.” Ezekiel 34:25 ,—“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 the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. 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.” Deuteronomy 30:6 ,—“And the Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.” Jeremiah 1:20 ,—“In those days, and at that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none, and the sins of Judah , and they shall not be found.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 –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.” That Christ, as the Mediator of the new covenant, does, in these and kindred passages, promise to the believer all that the law requires of him, will appear perfectly evident from the following considerations:—

1. This sentiment is in accordance with the most direct and obvious import of the phraseology employed in such passages,—that meaning I refer to, which most naturally suggests itself to plain and unlettered men, reading the sacred text without note or comment, and with their judgments unbiassed by preconceived opinions. For such minds the Bible was written; and its import to them, in the state referred to, is in accordance with the “mind of the Spirit.”

2. This is the construction which would, by all mankind, be put upon the same language, if found in any other book but the Bible.

3. Let any minister, in any congregation in the land, use this identical language in the same full and unqualified manner in which the sacred writers use it, and their hearers will, with one voice, charge him with holding the doctrine of Christian Perfection, as maintained in these discourses; so obvious is the import of such phraseology, when presented without qualification.

4. All Christians admit that entire justification is promised in the new covenant, that the Bible teaches that heaven is a place of perfect holiness, and that Christ was free from all sin while on earth. Now, the same identical principles of interpretation, by which either of the above doctrines can be proved from the language of the Bible, demand the admission of the doctrine under consideration, in all its fulness. If the language employed in the above passages does not sustain this doctrine, neither of the above doctrines can be sustained by the language of inspiration. Every candid reader of the Bible, who will carefully study the sacred volume, with his eye upon the phraseology there employed, in reference to all these doctrines, will find the above affirmations fully sustained.

5. The principles of interpretation by which it can be shown that the phraseology of the passages before us does not sustain the doctrine under consideration, would be equally conclusive against any other phraseology which the sacred writers could have employed, when from such phraseology this doctrine should be inferred.

6. This is the very sentiment which is invariably impressed by the Spirit of God upon the young convert in the warmth of his early love. The language and sentiment of every such heart is—  

 

Lord, I make a full surrender;

Every thought and power be thine—

Thine entirely—

Through eternal ages thine.  

 

With the young convert, this is not a poetical hyperbole, but the real sentiment and conviction of the heart. Now, present to such a mind, in the unsophisticated warmth of its “first love,” the exceeding great and precious promises of the new covenant, and how would he interpret them? Who can doubt that he would understand them in conformity with the pure sentiments and convictions impressed upon his mind by the Spirit of God, in his conversion? Such are the promises of the new covenant, of which Christ is the Mediator. In looking to Christ for the fulfilment of these promises, would he not charge upon us the sin of unbelief, should we expect less from him than that he should “redeem us from all iniquity,” and render us “perfect and complete in all the will of God?” We come now to consider,—

III. The object of Christ in the provisions of Divine grace. It is, to lay the foundation and provide the means for the fulfilment, in believers, of all that is promised in the new covenant; to wit, the full and entire pardon of all their sins, their redemption from all iniquity, their perfection in holiness, and their perfect and perpetual blessedness, in an eternal fruition of the Divine presence and favour. 1 Peter 2:24 ,—“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” Ephesians 5:25–27,—“Even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Titus 2:14 ,—“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works:” John 3:16 –17,—“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through him might be saved.” Romans 8:3 ,—“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” 1 John 3:5 ,—“And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.”

Such is the design of Christ, in all the provisions of Divine grace. It is to lay a broad foundation for the fulfilment, on his part, as the Mediator of the new covenant, of all the blessings promised in that covenant. This was the work which Christ undertook to accomplish, as the incarnate, atoning Saviour; and, blessed be God, the work which he assumed in our behalf he finished. “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” “When Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”

Having finished this work, he now presents himself to us, as “able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us.” We are permitted, by faith, to “behold his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” “And of his fulness we may all receive, and grace for grace.” Listen, hearer, to the “gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth,” as our high priest and intercessor, as the “Mediator of the new covenant.” “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.” “Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” “I will give to him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” We will now consider,—

IV. The conditions on which Christ will fulfil in us what he has promised, as the Mediator of the new covenant. These conditions are distinctly stated in Ezekiel 46:37 ,—“Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet, for this, be inquired of by the house of Israel , to do it for them.” The things promised, permit me to remind the reader, are these:—the unlimited pardon of all sin—entire redemption from the power of sin—the perfect and perpetual subjection of all our powers to the “whole will of God”—and the full and eternal fruition of the Divine presence and favour. The condition, on which all this is promised, is, that God be “inquired of,” through Christ, as the Mediator of the new covenant, “to do it for us.” Now, inquiring of Christ for those blessings, implies,—

1. A consciousness of our need of Divine grace—of our infinite guilt and hopeless bondage under sin—of the absolute hopelessness of our securing either of these blessings, through any unaided efforts of our own.

2. Confidence unshaken in Christ’s ability and willingness to do all this for us. Suppose Christ should address you as he did one of old, in respect to another subject,—“Believest thou that I am able to do this?” “Do you believe that I am now standing at the door, and knocking, and that, if you will hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in and sup with you, and you with me,” and confer upon you this full and finished redemption? What would be your answer? Could your soul settle down immovably upon the affirmation, “Lord, I believe?”

3. A preference of these blessings above all objects in existence. Suppose God should call upon you to lift your heart to his throne, and ask of him what blessing you pleased. Would your mind fasten upon a heart perfectly pure, together with its consequences, as the “pearl of great price,” as the treasure in comparison with which all other objects are, in your estimation, “but loss?” If this is your state of mind, there is but one thing more to be done, which is this—

4. An actual reception of Christ, and reliance upon him for all these blessings, in all their fulness—a surrender of your whole being to him, that he may accomplish in you all the “exceeding great and precious promises” of the new covenant. When this is done—when there is that full and implicit reliance upon Christ, for the entire fulfilment of all that he has promised—he becomes directly responsible for our full and complete redemption. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” To us his word stands pledged to “put the laws of God in our minds, and write them in our hearts;” to “circumcise our heart and the heart of our seed, to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul;” to “sprinkle clean water upon us, so that we shall be clean;” to “give us one heart and one way, that we may fear God for ever; to make an everlasting covenant with us, that he will not turn away from us to do us good, but that he will put the fear of God in our hearts, that we may not depart from him; finally, to “sanctify us wholly, and preserve our whole spirit, and soul, and body, blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Reader, “Believest thou this?” Can you open your mouth thus wide? Dare you ask, or expect, from your Redeemer, less than this? Methinks I hear that Redeemer asking you the question, “Do you now believe?” “According to thy faith, be it unto thee.” Reader, let me ask you again, Do you desire to be imbued with a filial, confiding, and obedient spirit towards God, to be brought into such a state, that your heart’s purest and best affections shall spontaneously flow out towards Christ, and the “peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus?” Christ is now present in your heart, and ready to confer all this purity and blessedness upon you, if you can believe that he is able and willing to do it for you, and will cast your entire being upon his faithfulness. To you he says, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Come to the fountain, reader, and “wash your garments and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.” “Christ bore your sins in his own body on the tree, that you, being dead to sin, might live unto righteousness.” Why should you any longer bear the burden of those sins? especially when Christ, in view of the provisions of his grace, calls upon you to “reckon yourself dead, indeed, unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ your Lord.”  

 

REMARKS.  

 

I. We may now understand the reason why Christ himself prayed, and taught his Church to pray, and why the Holy Spirit constantly influences inspired men to pray, for this one specific blessing—entire perfection in holiness; also why this is required of us, as Christians, and such rewards are held before us to induce us thus to consecrate ourselves to Christ. Such prayers, commands, and motives, are all based upon the provisions and promises of Divine grace, which secure to the believer, on condition of his faith, this very blessing; and are designed to raise the Church to a comprehension of the “fulness that she has in Christ,” that she may take possession of her purchased and promised inheritance. We are taught to pray for this blessing, and such a state is required of us, because provision is made, in the Gospel, for God to answer such prayers, when we “ask in faith, nothing wavering,” and for us to attain to that state, by casting ourselves, in the exercise of simple faith, upon the power and faithfulness of Christ.

II. We learn how to understand and apply such declarations of Scripture as the following:—“Wash you, make you clean;” “Make to yourselves a new heart and a new spirit;” “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” &c. The common impression seems to be, that men are required to do all this, in the exercise of their own unaided powers; and because the sinner fails to comply, grace comes in, and supplies the condition in the case of Christians. Now, I suppose that all such commands are based upon the provisions of Divine grace. The sinner is not required to “make himself clean,” or to “make to himself a new heart,” in the exercise of his unaided powers, but by application to the blood of Christ, “which cleanseth from all sin.” The grace which purifieth the heart is provided; the fountain, whose waters cleanse from sin, is set open. To this fountain the creature is brought, and because he may descend into it, and there “wash his garments and make them white,” he is met with the command, “ Wash you, make you clean,” “make to yourself a new heart and a new spirit,” and “cleanse yourself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” The sinner is able to make to himself a “new heart and a new spirit,” because he can instantly avail himself of proffered grace. He does literally “make to himself a new heart and a new spirit,” when he yields himself up to the influence of that grace. The power to cleanse from sin lies in the blood and grace of Christ; and hence, when the sinner “purifies himself by obeying the truth through the spirit,” the glory of his salvation belongs, not to him, but to Christ.

Herein also lies the ability of the creature to obey the commands of God, addressed to us as redeemed sinners. “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.” “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” These declarations are literally and unqualifiedly true. We can “abide in Christ,” and thus bring forth the fruit required of us. If by unbelief we separate ourselves from Christ, we of necessity descend, under the weight of our own guilt and depravity, down the sides of the pit, into the eternal sepulchre.

III. In view of the provision of Divine grace for our full redemption, and of the promises of Christ, as the Mediator of the new covenant, to that effect, I would remark, that a state of entire sanctification is, and appears to be, the most natural and simple form of Christian experience—the form which we ought to expect to find most common in the Church. If Christ has made provision for our entire sanctification, and promised thus to sanctify us, on condition of faith in him on our part—that any sincere Christian, who is aware of his privileges, should ask for, or expect less from him, is the most unnatural form of Christian experience conceivable, and one whose occurrence, we should think, would be regarded as a strange anomaly among the disciples of such a Saviour. So I have no doubt it will be regarded, when Christians come to a full understanding of their “completeness” in Christ.

IV. We are now prepared to contemplate the relation between the views maintained in these discourses, and those very commonly held by Christians upon the same subject. In reference to the standard of moral obligation, there is a perfect agreement. The only existing difference respects the extent of the provisions and promises of Divine grace, in respect to Christians in this life.

V. We are also prepared to estimate the difficulties in which the common theory is involved. I will specify a few of them.

1. The advocates of the common theory maintain, that the sacred writers designed to teach the doctrine, that no individual ever attains to a state of entire sanctification in this life; while it was their object to teach the fact, that Christ was free from all sin, that all Christians are perfectly justified here, and will be perfectly sanctified in a future state, and that perfect holiness is required of us in this life. Now, if the above positions are true, how can we account for the strange fact, that the same identical principles of interpretation, by which either of the doctrines last mentioned can be proved from the phraseology of the sacred writers, demand, when applied to the phraseology which they employed in expressing the nature and extent of the provisions and promises of Divine grace, the admission of the principle, that entire holiness is attainable in this life?—a principle precisely opposite to the one which, it is maintained, they intended to teach. Again, how can we account for the fact, in consistency with the common theory, that the sacred writers employed a phraseology which, if found in any other book, or if now used by individuals in the same unqualified manner as used by them, would be universally understood to affirm the doctrine maintained in these discourses? Would the sacred writers have employed such a singular phraseology as this, had it been their object—as the advocates of the common theory affirm—to impress their readers with the conviction, that perfect holiness is, in this life, unattainable? Again, no phraseology conceivable is more perfectly adapted to convey the sentiment maintained in these discourses, than that employed by the sacred writers. To draw any other doctrine from it, it must be narrowed down, and regarded as altogether hyperbolical. Now, how can we account for the strange anomaly, that inspired men adopted a phraseology adapted to convey one sentiment, and that only when, as the common theory affirms, their definite object was, to convey precisely the opposite sentiment? These are some of the difficulties in which the common theory is inextricably involved, as far as the laws of interpretation are concerned.

2. That Christ prayed, and taught his Church to pray, and that the Holy Spirit inspired and influenced the apostles and primitive Christians to pray, continually and fervently, for this one specific object—the entire sanctification of believers in this life—all admit. According to the common theory, it was a prime object of the sacred writers to impress their readers and hearers with the conviction, that such prayers will never be answered by the bestowment of the blessing desired. How can we account for such prayers, in consistency with such an object? Above all, how shall we account for the fact, that Christ and inspired men prayed for one specific blessing—the entire sanctification of believers in this life—when their intention was, to impress us with the conviction, that such a blessing will not be conferred; while they did not pray for another blessing—the partial holiness of the Christian—when their design was to impress us with the conviction, that this blessing is agreeable to the will of God?

3. All admit that the richest blessings are promised to us on the specific condition of perfect holiness. According to the common theory, the sacred writers designed to impress their readers with the conviction that this is a condition with which they will never in this life comply. How, as asked in a former discourse, can such a fact be accounted for, in consistency with the sincerity and love of God?

4. According to the common theory, God requires as, in the most solemn manner conceivable, to be perfectly holy, and then, in a manner equally solemn, requires us to believe, that with such commands we shall not comply. How can such a fact be explained?

5. Certain maxims, which have been almost universally regarded as of fundamental importance to efficient action, not only in religion, but other subjects, present difficulties equally inexplicable in consistency with the common theory. For example, “What ought to be done, may be done,” i.e., we should expect to do. “God bestows upon every one as much holiness and peace as he sincerely desires and prays for.” Suppose, that with these maxims before me, I am met by the command,—“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Suppose, that in view of this command, I lift my heart in honest and fervent sincerity to God, for grace to keep that command. Now, under such circumstances, the advocates of the common theory must either give up the above maxims altogether, or admit the attainableness of entire sanctification in this life.

6. According to the common theory, we are required to aim at perfection in holiness, and, at the same time, as shown in a former discourse, to believe that such a state is unattainable—a belief which renders the formation of the intention required an impossibility.

7. The advocates of the common theory generally admit, that perfection in holiness is attainable in this life; but at the same time maintain, that it is never attained, and that it is a great error to suppose that it is attained. Now, what evidence can we have, that such state is unattainable, higher than this, that all Christians, in all past ages, have honestly and prayerfully aimed, and all will continue, to the end of time, thus to aim at this state—a fact which all admit—with the absolute certainty of not attaining to it? Should it be said, that such efforts are not made with sufficient vigour; the answer is, that, to put forth efforts with the adequate vigour, is the very thing at which all are aiming. On the supposition above referred to, how can the position be sustained, that the state under consideration is attainable?

The sinner, it is said, in illustration of the position that perfection in holiness is attainable, but never attained, is able to repent, in the absence of special grace, though he never will do it. To make the cases parallel, let us suppose, that all sinners, in the absence of such grace, are honestly and prayerfully striving after holiness; with the absolute certainty of not, in the circumstances supposed, attaining it. With what propriety, I ask, could it, then, be said, that holiness is practicable to the sinner, in the absence of special grace? What is here supposed of the sinner, is actually true of every sincere Christian. Paul, for example, for the space of thirty or forty years, aimed steadily and prayerfully at this one definite state, and that, according to the sentiment under consideration, with the absolute certainty of falling short of his object. The same experiment, and with the same result, every Christian has repeated, and every true Christian will continue to repeat, to the end of time. Yet, it is said, to attain to that state, is to every individual, at every moment, perfectly practicable. What conceivable meaning do such persons attach to the terms “attainable” and “practicable,” when so used? The advocates of the common theory are sacredly bound to take the ground, that the state under consideration is not attainable, in any appropriate sense of the term.

VI. We are now prepared to understand the nature and character of the Antinomian, legal, and evangelical spirit.

The Antinomian spirit relies upon Christ for justification, in the absence of personal holiness, or sanctification. It looks to him to be saved in and not from sin.

The legal spirit assumes two forms,—1. It expects justification and sanctification both through deeds of the law. This is the spirit of the ancient Pharisee and modern moralist. 2. It expects justification from Christ, and sanctification from personal effort. Under the influence of this spirit, an individual will be perpetually and vainly struggling, by dint of resolutions, against the resistless current of carnal propensities. In this hopeless bondage he cries out,—“Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

The evangelical spirit looks to Christ alike for justification and sanctification both, and, by implicit faith in him, obtains a blissful victory over “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” It is the “spirit of adoption” which cries, “Abba, Father,” and in that cry, seeks and obtains deliverance from the “bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” The Antinomian spirit is the stagnation of the moral powers in a state of spiritual death. The evangelical spirit is their full, and free, and perpetual action, in a state of life and peace. While the legal spirit, in its hopeless struggle with the flesh, cries out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” the evangelical spirit, in the triumph of faith, exclaims, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The legal spirit crying,  

 

Where is the blessedness I knew,

When first I saw the Lord?  

 

looks back to its first love, as the brightest spot in its whole experience, for it was then joined with another spirit than itself. The evangelical spirit, with its eye steadily fixed upon the “bright and morning star,” moves peacefully and perpetually onward, in a path which “shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.” The legal spirit, “vainly puffed up,” notwithstanding its perpetual short-comings, “with its fleshly mind,” in view of a few fancied attainments, made by dint of resolution, exclaims to the stander-by, “Stand by thyself; I am holier than thou.” The evangelical spirit, overwhelmed with a sense of the grace of God in its redemption, exclaims, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” “Not for works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, hath he saved us.”  

 

Infinite grace to vileness given,

The sons of earth, made heirs of heaven.  

 

In short, the Antinomian spirit is the spirit of spiritual death. The legal spirit is the “spirit of bondage.” The evangelical spirit is the “glorious liberty of the children of God.”

VII. We are now prepared for a distinct contemplation of the grand mistake, into which the great mass of Christians appear to have fallen, in respect to the Gospel of Christ. It is this: Expecting to obtain justification, and not, at the same time, and to the same extent, sanctification, by faith in Christ. Where is the Christian who can say from experience, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith?” When do we hear the convert, for example, directed to faith in Christ, as the certain means of subduing his temper, subjecting his appetites, crucifying his sinful propensities, overcoming the great enemy, “fulfilling the righteousness of the law,” and enjoying perpetual and perfect peace and blessedness in God? An almost entire new leaf will be turned over in Christian experience when the Church knows Christ as such a Saviour.

The consequence of the mistake under consideration, is what might be expected. The great mass of the Church are slumbering in Antinomian death; or struggling in legal bondage, with barely enough of the evangelical spirit to keep the pulse of spiritual life faintly beating. When will the Church arise from this state of gloom, and death, and barrenness, to an apprehension and enjoyment of her privileges in Christ, as the Mediator of the new covenant?

VIII. We are also prepared to account for a melancholy fact which characterises different stages of the experience of the great mass of Christians. From the evangelical simplicity of their first love, they pass into a state of legal bondage, and after a fruitless struggle of vain resolutions with the “world, the flesh, and the devil,” they appear to descend into a kind of Antinomian death. The reason why Christian experience takes such a course, I suppose to be this: The young convert, in the first instance, is turned away from Christ, to his own resolutions, &c., as the means of continuance in the path of life, and this with the assurance that his carnal propensities will never be fully crucified, till death shall release the captive. Thus, he is very soon conducted into the region of legalism, with the atmosphere around him already charged, to no small extent, with the cheerless, deadening vapours of Antinomianism. Here, after a vain struggle of longer or shorter continuance, with sin and sinful propensities, the spirit of Antinomian slumber prevails, and death, and not a present Christ, is looked for, as the great deliverer from bondage. This direction Christian experience will unchangeably take, till Christians fully understand the import of the question, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ?”

IX. We are now fully prepared to understand the design of Paul in the 7th and 8th chapters of Romans. The whole epistle is mainly directed against two fundamental errors of the Jews, to wit, that justification and sanctification are both to be obtained by deeds of law. The first error he explodes in the preceding chapters, showing the hopeless condemnation of all men under the law, and their entire justification through faith in Christ. In chapters seven and eight, he pursues a course in regard to sanctification, precisely similar to what he had done in the chapters preceding, in regard to justification. His object is, to contrast the hopeless bondage and fruitless struggle of the creature after holiness, under the old covenant, or moral law, with his perfect liberty, blessedness, and safety, under the new covenant. As the apostle had himself fully tested the influence of both covenants upon men as sinners, he gives us his own experience; first, as a Pharisee under the old; and secondly, as a Christian under the new, covenant. Under the former, he says, notwithstanding the law is good, and I delight in it “after the inward man,” and often resolve to keep its pure requisitions, still “I am carnal, sold under sin.” “The good that I would, I do not, but the evil that I would not, that I do.” Under the new covenant, on the other hand, I am “free from the law of sin and death,” breathe the “spirit of adoption,” am free from all condemnation, possess a hope sure and stedfast, and am an “heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.” In short, in chapter seven he gives us a view of the bondage of the legal spirit, in its fruitless struggle against the current of carnal propensities. In the eighth, he gives us the triumph and freedom of the evangelical spirit, through faith in Christ, as the “Mediator of the new covenant.”

X. We now see the reason why most professors of religion find their own experience portrayed in the seventh, instead of the eighth, chapter of Romans. One of two reasons must be assigned for this melancholy fact. Either they have never known any other than the legal spirit, or else, “having begun in the spirit,” they are engaged in a vain struggle to be “made perfect in the flesh.” In other words, they are now in legal bondage. To Christ, as a sanctifying Saviour, as the “Mediator of the new covenant,” they are, comparatively speaking, strangers. When they thus know Christ, they will find their experience portrayed in another and different chapter than the one now under consideration.

XI. Finally, we may now contemplate the reason why, to most Christians, the idea of arriving at a state of entire sanctification in this life, appears so chimerical[2]. With the views commonly entertained of the power of the Gospel, and of the means of holiness, the thought of arriving at such a state is one of the most chimerical ideas that ever entered the human mind. If there is no other means of coming into that state, but by forcing my way, by dint of personal effort, through the dead sea of my carnal propensities, I may as well give over the struggle first as last. Whatever my natural powers may be, a victory I shall never obtain in this manner. But if, on the other hand, I am permitted to hear the voice of Christ saying, Look to me, and I will enter into a covenant with you, that I will myself “circumcise thy heart to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,” that I will “redeem you from all iniquity,” and cause you to stand “perfect and complete in all the will of God,” then I find myself standing in an entirely different relation to the state under consideration. The condition on which this blessedness is promised I can perform. I can as easily look to Christ for perfect as for partial holiness; and when my faith hangs upon his for a fulfilment of all that he has promised, he has mercifully assumed the responsibility of doing for me according to the faith which his own spirit has induced me to exercise.

Christian, “you have not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of the trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken unto them any more. For they could not endure that which was commanded. And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart; and so terrible was the sight, that even Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake. But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born which are written in Heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spoke on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.” To this “blood of sprinkling,” let us come and “wash our garments, and make them white,” and then lift our hearts to heaven and exclaim, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”



[1] Most of the distinctions here made between the two covenants were suggested to my mind by my beloved associate, the Rev. C. G. Finney.

[2] Chimerical means unreal, imaginary. EDITOR