Section TwoóBasic Doctrines of the
Chapter 25: Sanctification and Good Works
Syllabus for Lecture 56:
1. State the usages and meanings of original words rendered "sanctify," and the nature and extent of sanctification.
Shorter Cat., Qu. 35. Conf. of Faith, ch. 13, 16. Lexicons. Turrettin, Loc. XV2, ch. 1. Hodge, Theol., pt. 12, ch. 18, 1, 2 3. Dick, Lecture 74.
2. How is sanctification distinguished from, and how related to justification and regeneration?
Turrettin, Qu. 1, 9 to end. Dick as above. Hill, bk. 5, ch. 4, Knapp, 116, 126. Ridgley, Qu. 78.
3. Who is the Agent, and what the means of sanctification?
Dick, Lect. 75. Ridgley. Qu. 75
4. Is sanctification ever perfect in this life? Consider views of Pelagians, Socinians, Wesleyans and recent advocates of "Higher Life."
Turrettin as above, Qu. 2. Hodge, Theol. as above, 7, 8. Dick. Lecture 74.
Hill, bk. 5, ch. 4, 3. Ridgley, Qu. 78. Watsonís Theo. Inst., ch. 29.
5. What is the Subject of Sanctification, manís fallen Nature, or something else? And are Sanctification and mortification of sin progressive?
"Notes on Genesis," by C. H. M. of Dublin, p. 200, etc. "Waymarks in the Wilderness," by Jas. Inglis, Vol. I, p. 10; Vol. 12, pp. 75Ė332; Vol. 5, pp. 29, 37, etc:, Dr. John Owen, on Indwelling Sin.
6. What constitutes an Evangelical Good Work? Are any works of the natural man godly works?
Turrettin, Loc. XV2, Qu. 4. Dick, Lecture 76. Hill, bk. 5, ch. 4. Hodgeís Theol. pt. 12, ch. 8, 4.
7. Can man merit of God, by works? What the Doctrine of Rome concerning congruous and condign Merit?
Turrettin, Qu. 5. Hill, as above 2. Knapp, 108, 125. Hodge as above.
8. State and refute the Papal Doctrine of Concilia Perfectionist, and Supererogation.
Th. Aquinas, Pars Prima Secundae, Qu. 108. Suppl, Qu. 13. Turrettin, Loc. 11, Qu. 4. Knapp, 125. Hill as above. Hodge as above.
9. What the standard for our sanctification? Show the value and relation of Christís example thereto.
Dick. Lect. 75. Knapp, 117. Chalmerís Theol, Inst. Vol. 2, ch. 10.1. Definition of "Sanctify"
discussing this subject, we turn again to Scripture to settle the meaning of the word. In the Old Testament we find the word vd'q; used in the piel and hiphil, to express sanctification. In its lowest sense, it seems to mean simply separation to a particular purpose, and that purpose not sacred, (Jer. 22:7). More frequently it is used in the sense of consecrate, or dedicate as priests, utensils, the Sabbath day, where the idea is that of setting apart to a holy use. See (Ex. 28:41; Deut. 5:12). But in its proper sense, it means to cleanse away ceremonial, and, especially, moral pollution. (2 Sam. 11:4) (Num. 15:40). Kindred to this is the sense where God is said to sanctify Himself, or to be sanctified by His peopleói. e., , declaratively (Ezek. 38:23).
Use of Word In New Testament.
In the Greek Scriptures agiazw is used clearly in all the above senses, to separate, to consecrate, to purify morally, and to declare Godís holiness. There is a use of this verb, of which the clearest instances are seen in the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially (Heb. 2:11; 10;14; 13:12), compared with (Heb. 1:3). Dr. Sampson here renders the word popularly by "redeem." Sin carries two consequencesóguilt and pollutionó(nearly associated in the mind of a Hebrew). From the former, Christís blood cleanses, from the latter, His Spirit. When Christ is said to "sanctify" us by His blood, His sacrifice, etc., it is the former element, cleansing away of guilt, which is intended prominently. This is evident from the fact that the verb is used by the Septuagint as the rendering for rP, Żi, which is strengthened by the fact that the kindred word katarizw used for propitiation; e. g., (1 John 1:7). See Sampson on (Heb. 1:3; 2:11).
Sanctification Is of the Soul. Proofs.
Sanctification, in the gospel sense, means then, not only cleansing from guilt, though it presupposes this, nor only consecration, though it includes this, nor only reformation of morals and life, though it produces this; but, essentially, the moral purification of the soul. This is the great idea to which all the ceremonial sanctity of the typical dispensation pointed; (Ps. 51:6, 7; 25:4, etc.,) and it is yet more emphatically and prominently expressed in the New Testament word agiazw . In our discussions with Pelagians, we have already shown that their idea is erroneous, viz.: that holiness can only be acted by man. We have proved that there must be a previous spring in the principles of the soul, and the dispositions which dictate volitions; otherwise volitions formally right can have no true holiness. Outward reformation cannot, then, be sanctification; because the former can only be the consequence thereof; as is well stated in Turrettin, and is clearly implied by (Matt. 12:33, 34, etc.). This important practical truth may be farther supported by considering, (b) that holiness in man must be conceived as the counterpart of sin. (The Pelagian admits this). But sin is both original and actual. Sin of heart is the fountain of the sin of life. Hence, it is fair to infer, as our Savior does, in fact, in the places cited, that sanctification has its seat in the heart. (c) This appears also by the fact, which none will deny, that infants may be subjects of sanctification. They cannot act a sanctification. (d) Again, the synonymous phrases all speak of "a clean heart," of "circumcising the heart," etc. And last, the Scriptures are emphatic in their assertions. (1 Thess. 5:23); (Eph. 4:23, 24); (Gal. 5:24); (Titus 3:5); (Luke 17:21); (Rom. 14:17).
Sanctification Is of the Whole Person. In What Sense of Other Parts Than the Heart?
When we inquire after the extent of sanctification, or the parts of the human person affected by it, the Catechism answers, that we are renewed "in the whole man." In (1 Thess. 5:23), the Apostle expresses the same idea of completeness, by employing the three comprehensive terms of the Platonic psychology current in his day, (not meaning to endorse that scheme). Now, when we analyze that element of human character and of human action, in which moral quality resides, we are compelled to say that, strictly speaking, it is only in the state and actings of manís active powers. If there is neither emotional activity nor choice involved in any human act, that act has no moral character. Hence, in strictness of speech, the true seat of sanctification is the will: the human soul in that class of its actings expressed in Scripture by the word heart. But the Apostle is writing popularly, and not scientifically. The emotional and voluntary capacity of the soul is not a different member, or department of it, from the intellectual. It is the one indivisible unit, acting in different modes.
The Soul Has No Parts.
It is the soul which is sanctified, and not a faculty thereof. True, that sanctification is only a moral change of the soul, in its essence; but in its results, it modifies every acting of the soul, whether through intellect, appetite, or corporeal volition. Every one would consider that he was speaking with sufficient accuracy in using the words "a wicked thought." Now, in the same sense in which a thought can be wicked, in that sense the power of thinking can be sanctified. What is that sense? A thought is wicked, not because the faculty of thinking, or pure intellection, is the seat of moral quality, abstractly considered; but because the soul that thinks, gives to that thought, by the concurrence of its active or emotional, or voluntary power, a complex character, in which complex there is a wrong moral element. To sanctify the intellect, then, is to sanctify the soul in such a way that in its complex acts, the moral element shall be right instead of wrong. So we speak, with entire propriety, of a "wicked blow." The bones, skin, and muscles, which corporeally inflicted it, are the unreasoning and passive implement of the soul that emitted the volition to strike. But our members are sanctified, when the volitions which move them are holy; and when the impressions of sense and appetite, of which they are the inlets, become the occasions of no wrong feelings or volitions.
Sanctification of the Body Not Asceticism?
The sanctification of our bodies consists, therefore, not in the ascetic mortification of our nerves, muscles, glands, etc., but in the employment of the members as the implements of none but holy volitions, and in such management and regulations of the senses, that they shall be the inlets of no objective, or occasional causes of wrong feeling. This will imply, of course, strict temperance, continence, and avoidance of temptation to the sinful awakening of appetite, as well as the preservation of muscular vigour, and healthy activity, by self denial and bodily hardihood. (1 Cor. 9:27); (2 Pet. 2:14); (James 3:2). But the whole theory of asceticism is refuted by the simple fact, that the soul is the seat of holiness; and that the body is only indirectly holy or unholy, as it is the tool of the soul. The whole delusion, so far as it has sought a Scriptural support, rests on the mistake of the meaning of the word "flesh," "caro ," "sarx ," which the sacred writers use to mean depraved human nature; not the body. What those fleshly members are, which sanctification mortifies, may be seen in (Col. 3:5); (Gal. 5:19Ė21).
2. Relation of Sanctification To New Birth and Justification.
Sanctification only matures what regeneration began. The latter sprouted the seed of grace, the former continues its growth, until there appears first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. The agent and influences are therefore the same.
In the order of production, justification precedes sanctification; for one of the benefits received by the justified believer, in virtue of his acceptance, is sanctifying grace. While the two graces are practically inseparable, still their discrimination is of the highest importance; for it is by confounding the two that Rome has reĖintroduced her theory of justification, by selfĖrighteousness. Hence, let the student remember, that the results of the two graces are different. Justification removes the guilt of sin, sanctification its pollution. Justification changes only our legal relations, sanctification our actual moral condition. Justification is an act, sanctification is a process; the one is instantaneous and complete in all, the other is imperfect in its degree in all, unequal in different Christians, and is increased throughout life. Justification takes place in Godís court, sanctification in the sinnerís own breast.
Sanctification Essential To Salvation.
The necessary and uniform connection between the two has been argued substantially in the last lee lecture on Justification, and to that the student is referred. But the proposition is of such prime importance, that it will not be amiss, in closing this head, to state the points of our argument in somewhat different order.
(a.) The Covenant of Grace embraces both (Jer. 31:33); (Rom. 8:30).
(b.) The sanctity of the divine nature requires it (1 Pet. 1:15, 16).
(c.) The connection appears inevitable from the offices of Christ; for He is King, as well as Priest, to all His people (Rom. 8:29; 6:11); (Titus 2:14); (Rom. 8:1, 2).
(d.) The office of the Holy Spirit shows this connection; for His influences are a part of Christís purchase. But He is the Spirit of Holiness. (Rom. 8:9).
(e.) The sacraments symbolize cleansing from pollution as well as from guilt. (Col. 2:11, 12); (Titus 3:5).
(f.) Redemption would be a mockery without sanctification; for sin itself, and not the external wrath of God, is the cause of misery here, and eternal death hereafter. Hence, to deliver the fallen son of Adam from his guilt, and leave him under the power of corruption, would be no salvation.
Last: The chief ultimate end of redemption, which is Godís glory (Rom. 11:36); Isa. 56:3); (Eph. 1:6), would be utterly disappointed, were believers not required to depart from all sin. For Godís holiness, His consummate attribute, would be tarnished by taking to His favor polluted creatures. This point suggests, also, the second, where God points to His own perfect holiness as the reason for the purification of His people. No argument could be plainer. An unholy creature has no place in the favor and bosom of a holy God. As I have argued in another place, Godís holy law is as immutable as His nature; and no change of relation whatever, can abrogate it as a rule of right action.
Faith Embraces Christ In All His Offices.
To return a moment to the third point, I would add on it a remark which I omitted, in order to avoid interrupting the outline. The selfishness and guilty conscience of man prompt him powerfully to look to the Savior exclusively as a remedy for guilt, even when awakened by the Spirit. The first and most urgent want of the soul, convicted of its guilt and danger, is impunity. Hence, the undue prevalence, even in preaching, of that view of Christ which holds Him up as expiation only. We have seen that even an Owen could be guilty of what I regard as the dangerous statement, that the true believer, in embracing Christ, first receives Him only in His priestly office! The faith which does no more than this, is but partial, and can bear but spurious fruits. Is not this the explanation of much of that defective and spurious religion with which the Church is cursed? The man who is savingly wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, is made to feel that his bondage under corruption is an evil as inexorable and dreadful as the penal curse of the law. He needs and desires Christ in His prophetic and kingly offices, as much as in His priestly. His faith "receives Him as He is offered to us in the gospel;" that is, as a "Saviour of His people from their sins".
3. Agent of Sanctification In One Sense the Father, and the Son, But Specially the Spirit.
The Scriptures attribute sanctification so often to God, as in (1 Thess. 5:23), that it is hardly necessary to set about collecting proofs. The sense in which He is the Author of the grace has been indicated, when we said that sanctification is but the continuance of the process of which regeneration is the initiation. If regeneration is supernatural, and by a mysterious, but real and almighty operation, more than the moral suasion of the truth, then sanctification is the result of the same kind of agency. The proper and immediate Agent is the Holy Spirit, as appears from (Ps. 51:11); (John 16:8, 9) (2 Thess. 2:13). This work is also attributed to the Son, in (1 Cor. 1:30); and this not merely in the sense of the Epistle to the Hebrews, because His righteousness is there mentioned distinctly. Now, Christ is our Sanctifier, because He procures the benefit for us by His justifying righteousness; because He is now the God of Providence, and Dispenser of means to His people; and because, by His perpetual intercession, He procures and dispenses the influences of the Holy Spirit to us, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Father is also spoken of as our Sanctifier; e. g., (John 17:17), because He stands in the Covenant of Grace as the Representative of the whole Trinity, and is the Deviser of the whole gracious means, and the Sender of the Son and Holy Spirit.
The Means Three.
While the agency in sanctification is supernatural, and the inscrutable indwelling and operation of the Holy Spirit are required, not only to initiate, but to continue growth in grace, yet He operates through means usually. And these means may be said comprehensively to be Godís truth, His ordinances, and His providence. Such passages as (Ps. 19:1Ė14), plainly show that not only Godís revealed word, but His truth seen through the works of nature, may sanctify the believer. But there is no reason to suppose that these truths of Natural Theology have any sanctifying agency, where they are not confirmed and enlarged by revelation. While truth has no adequate efficiency to sanctify by itself; yet it has a natural adaptation to be the means of sanctification in the hand of the Holy Spirit. For it is religious truth which presents all the objective conditions of holy exercises and acts. That manís active powers may be holily exercised, an object of acting is needed, as well as a power of acting. Thus in natural vision. Now, religious truth presents that whole body of theological facts, of examples, of inducements, of external motives, by which the soul is incited to act. By the ordinances, we mean Godís worship and sacraments; for the preaching of the word comes more properly under the former head. Worship is a sanctifying means, because the petitions there offered are the appointed medium for receiving grace; and because all the parts of worship give expression and exercise, and thus growth, to holy principles. The sacraments are means whereby God symbolizes and seals to us the same truths expressed verbally in Revelation. They are, therefore, a kind of acted instead of spoken word, bringing to the soul, in a still more lively manner, those views of truth, which the Holy Spirit makes the occasion, or objective of holy exercises.
Last, Godís providences, both prosperous and adverse, are powerful means of sanctification, because they impress religious truth, and force it home, by operating with the word and Holy Spirit, on our natural emotions. See (Ps. 119:71); (Heb. 12:10); (Rom. 2:4). But it should be remarked, that two things must concur for the sanctifying effect of Providencesóthe light of the word on the Providences to interpret them and give them their meaning, and the agency of the Holy Spirit inclining the heart to embrace the truths they serve to impress. Mere suffering has no holiness in it.
But the Word Is the Means In the Other Instruments.
Looking back, we now see that there is a sense in which the Revealed Word is the uniform means of sanctification. It gives fullness and authority to Natural Theology. It guides, authorizes, and instructs our worship. It is symbolized in the sacraments. And it shines through the Providences, which do but illustrate it. So that the Word is the means, after all, in all other means, (John 17:17). Where the Word is not, there is no holiness.
Repentance and Faith MotherĖGraces.
Now, there are two graces, by whose intervention the efficacy of all these means of sanctification is always mediated to the soul. In other words, these two graces are the media through which all other means come in efficacious contact with the soul. They may, therefore, be called the mother graces of all the others. They are Repentance and Faith. It is only when an object is apprehended by a full and active belief, that it becomes the occasion of any act of the soul. A hundred illustrations are at hand, which show that this is universally true, and as true in manís carnal, as in his spiritual life. Belief is the instigator of action. But in order that belief may instigate action, the object believed must he so related to the affections of the mind, that there shall be appetency and repulsion. In the case of saving faith, that relation is repentanceói. e., , the active affections of the regenerate soul as to holiness and sin, and the means for attaining the one and shunning the other. The student may now understand why God gives these graces such prominence in practical religion. They are the media for the exercise of all others. It follows, obviously, that repentance and faith must be in perpetual exercise during the whole progress of sanctification.
4. Wesleyan Doctrine of Sinless Perfection.
It has been a question long mooted between Evangelical Christians, and Pelagians, Socinians, Jesuits, and Wesleyans, whether sanctification is ever perfect in this life. The Pelagians and Socinians had an interest to assert that it may be; because such an opinion is necessary to establish their doctrine of justification by works; the Jesuits in order to uphold the possibility of "merits of supererogation"; and the Wesleyans, to sustain their theory of freeĖwill and the type of religion which they foster. As we have, practically, most to do with Wesleyans, on this point, and they reproduce the arguments of the others, let us address ourselves to their views. They assert that it is scriptural to expect some cases of perfect sanctification in this life; because, 1. The means provided by God are confessedly adequate to this complete result, should He please to bless them; and that it seems derogatory to His holy character when He assures us that "this is the will of God, even our sanctification," to suppose He will not hear and answer prayers for a blessing on those means, to any extent to which the faith of His children may urge those prayers. And 2. He has actually commanded us to pray for entire sanctification.(Ps. 119:5, 6). Surely, He does not cause the seed of Jacob to seek Him in vain? 3. Not only has He thus encouraged, but commanded us to seek perfection. See (Matt. 5:48). Unless obedience were possible, the command would be unjust. And 4. Perfect sanctification is nowhere connected with the death of the body by explicit texts. Indeed, the opinion that it must be, savors of Gnosticism, by representing that the seat of ungodliness is in the corporeal part, whereas, we know that the body is but the passive tool of the responsible spirit. As to the involuntary imperfections which every man, not insanely vain, must acknowledge, they are not properly sin; for God does not hold man guilty for those infirmities which are the inevitable results of his feeble and limited nature. Here, the Wesleyan very manifestly implies a resort to the two Pelagian principles, that man is not responsible for his volitions unless they are free not only from coĖaction, but from certainty; and that moral quality resides only in acts of choice; so that a volition which is prevalently good is wholly good. Hence, those imperfections in saints, into which they fall through mere inattention, or sudden gust of temptation, contrary to their sincere bent and preference, incur no guilt whatever. Last: They claim actual cases in Scripture, as of Noah, (Gen. 6:9); (Ps. 37:37); (Job 1, 8); David, (Ps. 37:37); Zechariah, (Luke 1:6); (John 3:9).
No Bible Saint Perfect.
We reply: Perfection is only predicated of these saints, to show that they had Christian sincerity; that they had all the graces essential to the Christian character in actual exercise. As if to refute the idea of their sinless perfection, Scripture in every case records of them some fault, drunkenness of Noah, lying of Abraham, adultery and murder of David, unbelief of Zechariah, (Luke 1:20), while Job concludes by saying, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
The most objectionable trait about this theory of perfect sanctification, is its affinities to Jesuitism and Pelagianism. These are several ways manifest. We saw that the old Pelagians, admitting that a complete obedience is requisite for a justification by works, claimed that the obedience which is formally in strict accordance with the statute, and prevalently right in purpose, is perfectly right. We saw, also, how they defended this view in consistency with their false ethics. For they place the moral quality of acts in the volition, denying any certain efficiency to subjective (as to objective) motive. Now, volition is, of course, an entire and single act. The motives of a single volition may be complex; but the volition has a perfect unity. Hence, if the morality of the act is wholly in the volition, and not in those complex motives, if the purpose is right, it is wholly right. But say, with us, that the volition derives its moral quality from the subjective motives, (which is the doctrine of common sense and the Bible,) and it follows that a volition may have a complex moral character; it may be prevalently right, and yet not perfectly right. Now, while volition is single, motive is complex. I showed you, that the least complex motive must involve a judgment and an appetency, and that no objective theory is ever inducement to volition, until it stands, in the soulís view, in the category of the true and the good, (the natural good, at least). In the sense of this discussion, we should include in the "subjective motive" of a given volition, all the precedaneous states of judgment and appetency in the soul, which have causative influence in the rise of that volition. Then, many elements may enter into the subjective motive of a single volition; elements intellective, and elements conative. Every one of these elements which has a moral quality, i. e., which arises under the regulative power of subjective, moral disposition, may contribute of its moral character to the resultant volition. Now, then, it is the plainest thing in the world, that these elements may be, some unholy, and some holy. Hence, the volition, while possessed of an absolute singleness as a psychological function, may have mixed moral character, óbecause, simply, it has morally mixed subjective springs in the agentís soul. This solution is simple; and in several problems it is vital. Let it explain itself in an instance. A good Christian man is met in public by a destitute person, who asks alms. With deliberate consideration the relief is bestowed. The things which were present in the Christianís consciousness were these: The rush of instinctive or animal sympathy (morally negative while merely animal): a rational movement of agaph or love (morally good). Recollection of, and desire for Christís glory as displayed in the succor of His creature, (morally good). The thought of, and pleasure in, his own applause as a philanthropist (morally negative at least, and if inordinate, criminal). Selfish appetency to retain the money needed by the destitute person for his own gratification, (morally evil). And last, a judgment of conscience. Now, the nature of that Christianís process of soul, during the instant he stood deliberating, was an adjusting of these concurring and competing elements of motive. The result was, that the better ones preponderated over the selfish reluctance, and the alms were given voluntarily and deliberately. Let us credit the Christian with giving the preponderant weight to Christian love, zeal for Christís honour, and the conscientious judgment of obligation. Then these elements of motive have constituted the concrete act a prevalently godly one. But there ought to have been no selfish reluctance! Then the very fact, that this evil element was there and was felt, and even needed suppressing, was an element of moral defect. There again, was the personal craving for applause, which was enough felt, to cause at least a partial disregard of our Saviorís rule, (Matt. 6:3), at the time of giving the alms, or afterward. Then. this also detracts from the perfectness of the action. Yet it was a prevalently godly action. So, an act may be socially virtuous, while prevalently ungodly; or an act may be wholly godless and vicious. Only those, in whom concupiscence has been finally extinguished, perform perfectly godly acts. Such, we repeat, is the analysis of common sense, and of the Bible. But the Wesleyan, acknowledging remainders of concupiscence in his "complete" saint, and yet asserting that his prevalently godly acts are perfect acts, has unconsciously adopted the false Pelagian philosophy, in two points: that "concupiscence is not itself sinful"; and that the "moral quality resides exclusively in the act of soul." Again: when the Wesleyan says that an act, to which the good man is hurried by a gust of temptation so sudden and violent as to prevent deliberation; an act which is against his prevalent bent and purpose; and which is at once deplored, is an infirmity, but not a sin; he is pelagianizing. He has virtually made the distinction between mortal and venial sins, which Rome borrows from Pelagius, and he is founding on that hereticís false dogmas, that responsibility ends when the will is no longer in equilibrio . (In this case it is the sudden gust of temptation which suspends the equilibrium).
There is also a dangerous affinity between these principles, and those horrible deductions from Pelagianism, made by the Jesuits, under the name of the art of "directing the attention", and venial sins. The origin is in the same speculations of those early heretics. The student may see an account and refutation in the unrivaled "Provincial Letters" of Blaise Pascal. The general doctrine is: that if, in perpetrating a crime, the direction of the intention is to a right end, this makes the act right, because the act which is prevalently right is wholly right. The abominations to which this Pelagian dogma led, in Jesuitsí hands, were such, that they contributed to their suppression. It is not charged that Wesleyans countenance any of these immoral and loathsome conclusions; but their premises are dangerous, as appears from these results.
To proceed: it is true that the Bible does not say, in so many words, that the soulís connection with the present body is what makes sanctification necessarily incomplete. But it asserts the equivalent truth; as when it teaches us, that at death the saints are made perfect in holiness. It is no Gnosticism, but Scripture and common sense, to attribute some obstacles to entire sanctification to the continuance of the animal appetites in man. While Godís omnipotence could overcome those obstacles, yet it is according to His manner of working, that He has seen fit to connect the final completeness of His work of grace in the soul, with this last change. Hence, when the Scriptures show that this is His plan, we are prepared to believe it so.
Command Not the Measure of Ability.
God commands us, says the Wesleyan, to "be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect," whence its possibility must follow. I reply. True; God cannot require of us a physical impossibility. But our inability to keep Godís whole law perfectly is not physical. It began in manís sin. By that sin we lost none of those faculties which, when Adamís will was right, enabled him to keep Godís command without sin. Our impotency is an "inability of will." Hence, it ought not to alter the demands of Godís justice on His creatures. It is right in God to require perfection of us, and instruct us to seek it, because His own perfect nature can accept no less. Did God allow an inability of will to reduce His just claims on the creature, then the more sinful he became, the less guilt would attach to his shortcomings. A creature need only render himself utterly depraved to become completely irresponsible!
None Sinless. Proofs.
But we argue, affirmatively, that sanctification is never complete in this life. (a). Because the Scripture says expressly that remains of sin exist in all living men. See, for instance, (1 John 1:8); (James 3:2); (1 Kings 8:46); (Prov. 20:9). How can such assertions be evaded?
(b.) I argue it, also, from the perpetual warfare which the Scriptures say is going on between the flesh and the Spirit. See (Rom. 7:10 to end); (Gal. 5:17). This warfare, says the Bible, constitutes the Christian life. And it is of no avail for the Wesleyan to attempt evading this picture of Romans 7 as the language of Paul convicted but not yet converted; for other similar passages remain, as (Rom. 8:7); (Gal. 5:17); (Phil. 3:13); (1 Tim. 6:12), etc., etc. Now, as long as the contest lasts, there must be an enemy. (c). The impossibility of a perfect obedience by ransomed men is clearly asserted in Scripture. (Ps. 119:96); (Acts 15:10). It is true, that in the latter place the ceremonial law is more immediately in Peterís view; but the whole law is included, as is obvious from his scope; and if either could be perfectly kept, surely the ceremonial would be the easier. Last: The Lordís Prayer teaches all Christians to pray for the pardon of sin; a command which would not be universally appropriate if this doctrine were true. And if human experience can settle such a point, it is wholly on our side; for those who are obviously most advanced in sanctification, both among inspired and uninspired saints, are most emphatic in their confessions of shortcoming; while those who arrogantly claim perfect sanctification, usually discredit their pretensions sooner or later, by shameful falls. It is well that the Arminians have coupled the doctrine of falling from grace with this. Otherwise their own professors of complete sanctification would have refuted it with a regularity that would have been almost a fatality.
Now. the Almighty Spirit could subdue all sin, in a living saint, if He chose. Bible truths certainly present sufficient inducements to act as the angels, were our wills completely rectified. Why God does not choose, in any case, to work this complete result in this life, we cannot tell. "Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight."
Tendencies of Two Theories Compared.
The Wesleyans are accustomed to claim a more stimulating influence toward the pursuit of holiness, for their doctrine, and to reproach ours with paralyzing results. They say, that with a rational agent, hope is a necessary element in the incentives to exertion; and that it is unnatural and impossible a man should attempt, in good earnest, what he thinks impossible to be achieved. But tell him that success, though arduous is possible, and he will strain every nerve, and at least make greet progress. They say that Calvinists practically teach their converts not to aim high, and to make up their minds to low attainments in holiness. And hence the feeble and crippled character of the most of the religion exhibited in their churches. We reply, that this calculation misrepresents the facts, and leaves out one of the most important of them. We do not forbid hope. We teach our people to hope for constant advances in holiness, by which they approach perfection continually, without actually reaching it in this life. The essential fact left out of the estimate is the invincible opposition of the new nature to all sin. The man renewed by God is incapable of contenting himself with any degree of sin. Here is the safeguard against the cessation of the struggle under the discouraging belief that victory is only after death. If the indwelling enemy is thus as longĖlived as the body, and immortal as long as the body lives, yet truce is impossible because the hostility of the newĖborn soul to it is unquenchable. Does it follow from this view, that the life must be a lifeĖlong battle? I reply, even so; this is just what the Bible represents it to be.
We can retort on the Wesleyan, a more just objection to the working of his theory. By giving a false definition of what perfection is, it incurs a much greater risk of inciting false pride, and dragging the conscience into a tolerance of what it calls guiltless, or venial infirmities. The BibleĖChristian, the more he is conformed to God, advances just so much the more in tenderness and perspicacity of conscience. Sin grows more odious, just as holiness grows more attractive. Thus, when there is, in Godís view, less indwelling sin to extirpate in the heart, it is nerved by its contrition to a more determined war against what remains. Thus an ever progressive sanctification is provided for, conformably to the rational and free nature of man. But our question is: If the Christian be taught that what remains of indwelling sin, after a distinctive and decisive reign of grace begins in the soul, íis infirmity but not sin," do we not run a terrible risk of encouraging him to rest on the laurels of past attainments; do we not drug his conscience, and do we not thus prepare the way for just those backslidings, by which these high pretenders have so frequently signalized their scheme? Wesleyans sometimes say, that their doctrine of perfect sanctification, as defined by them, amounts to precisely the same with our statement concerning those better Christians, who, with Caleb and Joshua, (Num. 14:24), "followed the Lord fully," and who enjoy an assurance of their own grace and salvation. Our objection is, that a dangerous and deluding statement is thus made of a scriptural truth. All Christians should be urged to these higher spiritual attainments; but they should not be taught to call that "perfection," which is not really perfect, nor to depreciate their remaining sins into mere "infirmities."
A form of virtual perfectionism has become current recently, among Christians whose antecedents were not Arminian, but Reformed. They call themselves advocates of the "Higher Christian Life." This stage, they say, is reached by those who were before Christians, by a species of second conversion. The person gains his own full consent to undertake, in reliance on Christ, a life entirely above sin; a life which shall tolerate no form or grade of shortcoming. As soon as this full resolve is entertained, and is pleaded before God with an entire faith, the believer receives the corresponding grace and strength, in accordance with the promise; "Ask and ye shall receive." This attainment is often accompanied with a new "baptism of the Spirit," bestowing this full victory over sin, with a perfect assurance of acceptance; which baptism is immediately and infallibly recognized by the recipient, and in some cases, is even perceptible to bystanders, by infallible signs. Thencefoward, the recipient "walks in the light," enjoys perfect peace, and lives above all sin. It is pleaded by the advocates of this claim; that there is no limit to the gospel promises, nor to the merits of Christ, nor to the paternal grace of God; that the only reason we do not get fuller grace is, that we do not believingly ask it: and that no scriptural limit may be put upon this last proposition, this side of a perfect victory over sin. If, say they, men had a perfect faith to ask, they would receive of Christís fullness a perfect answer. They quote such promises as these; "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it," (Ps. 81:10). "Ask and ye shall receive," (Matt. 7:8). "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." (1 Thess. 4:3).That the promises of God in Christ hold out indefinite encouragement to believers, is a precious truth. That it is the duty of all to press forward to the mark, is indisputable. But when men say, that a perfect faith would receive a perfect answer, they are but uttering a valueless truism. The man who had a perfect faith would be a perfect man. He would need no more sanctification. Unfortunately for this theory, the indwelling sin which creates the need for farther sanctification, inevitably involves some imperfection and weakness of the faith. We shall always have to raise the disciplesí cry; "Lord increase our faithí" as long as we cry for increase of grace. So, if a believerís heart were finally, immutably, and perfectly united, through every moment, in the resolve to live, by Christís strength, absolutely above sin, he would doubtless meet with no rebuff in any petition for strength, at Christís throne of grace. But in order to have such a state of purpose, there must be no indwelling sin in that heart. This scheme, stripped of its robes, comes therefore to this truism: "Were a man absolutely perfect, he would be absolutely perfect?" The picture of the Christianís militant life, which we ever see portrayed in Scripture, is that of an imperfect, but progressive faith uniting him to his Savior, always finding Him faithful to His promises, and always deriving from Him measures of grace corresponding to the vigor of its exercise, yet always leaving room for farther advances. There is an exceedingly broad and conclusive argument against all forms of perfectionism in this fact: that the provisions of grace described in the Bible are all provisions for imperfect and sinning men. The gospel is a religion for sinners, not for glorified saints. This is the only conception of it which appears in any part of scripture.
Only a little experience and scriptural knowledge are necessary, to make us view the claims of the spiritual baptism advanced above, with suspicion. The immediate visitation of the Holy Spirit should attest itself by miraculous "signs," by "tongues," or "gifts of healings"; as it did in apostolic days. If these be lacking, we have no other test of its presence, than the fruits of holy living; and for these we should wait. The Christian who, instead of waiting for this attestation, presumes on an intuitive and infallible consciousness of the endowment, can never scripturally know but that the impulse he mistakes for the Spiritís baptism is natural fanaticism, or the temptation of him, who is able to transform himself into an angel of light.
Sanctification Is Progressive.
The relation between regeneration and sanctification has been stated: The first implants a life which the second nourishes and develops. It is the heart of man, or his soul, which is the seat of the first. It is, of course, the same heart, which is the seat of the second. The latter is defined in our Catechism (Qu. 35), as a "work of Godís free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness." See also Larger Catech., Qu. 75, and Conf. of Faith, ch. 13, 1. We regard sanctification then as advancing that renovation of manís heart, which regeneration begins. The process of sanctification and that of the mortification of sin are counterparts. The more we live unto righteousness, the more we die unto sin. Grace and indwelling sin are complementary quantities, if a material illustration may be borrowed, such that the increase of the one is the corresponding decrease of the other.
In opposition to this established view of the Reformed Churches, the Plymouth Brethrenís theology asserts that both the ideas of the mortification of the "old man" and of progressive sanctification are false. They ascribe the same completeness to sanctification from its inception, as to justification; if they do not quite combine them. Thus: ("Waymarks in the Wilderness," vol. 3, pp. 342, 343), regeneration is defined: "It is a new birth, the imparting of a new life, the implantation of a new nature, the formation of a new man. The old nature remains in all its distinctness; and the new nature is introduced in all its distinctness. This new nature has its own desires, its own habits, its own tendencies, its own affections. All these are spiritual, heavenly, divine. Its aspirations are all upward. It is ever breathing after the heavenly source from which it emanated. Regeneration is to the soul what the birth of Isaac was to the household of Abraham. Ishmael remained the same Ishmael, but Isaac was introduced." On p. 80th, "Be warned that the old nature is unchanged. The hope of transforming that into holiness is vain as the dream of a philosopherís stone, which was to change the dross of earth into gold." Ö "On the other hand, never be discouraged by new proof, that that which is born of the flesh is flesh. It is there; but it is condemned and crucified with its affections and lusts. Reckon it so, and that therefore you are no longer to serve it. It is just as true, that that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and remains uncontaminated by that with which it maintains a ceaseless conflict." So. vol. 5, p. 302. "Thus, two men there are in the Christian: so hath he evil; and so hath he not evil. If therefore he purge out the evil, it is his new man purging out his old man. Now these two men, within the control of the personality of the Christian, are real men, having each his own will, his own energy, and his own enjoyment."
The New Nature What?
In answer to this exaggerated view, we assert, first, that while the Apostle, (Rom. 7:23), speaks of "another law in his members, warring against the law of his mind," the Scriptures nowhere say that regeneration implants a "new nature; or that the Christian has in him" two natures; much less, two "real men." Shall I be reminded of (Gal. 5:17), where the "Spirit" and "flesh" lust against each other? The "Spirit" is the Holy Spirit. So judges Calvin; and so the scope of Paulís context, in verses 16th and 18th, decides. So, in that chapter, it is a violence to the Apostleís meaning, to represent the "works of the flesh," verse 19th, etc., and the "fruits of the Spirit," verse 23rd, as occupying the same man, in full force, contemporaneously. The 24th verse shows, that the latter extrude and succeed the former; and that this result is the evidence of a state of grace. Our popular language sometimes uses the word "nature" in the sense of moral Hatitus ; and we speak of grace as "changing the nature," or "producing a new nature." But in strictness, the language is neither philosophical, nor scriptural. A "nature" is the essentia , the aggregate of essential attributes with which the creature was natus . Were this changed, the personal identity would be gone, and the whole responsibility dissolved. The fall did not change manís essentia ; nor does the new creation; each changed the moral habitus of manís powers: the fall to depravity, the new creation back towards holiness. The notion of two personalities also, in one man, is preposterous. Here the appeal to consciousness is decisive. If there were either two "natures" or two "real men," every Christian must have a dual consciousness. But I need not dwell on the truth which every man knows, that, while there is a vital change, consciousness is as much one, as in the unrenewed state. The explanation given in the last lecture solves this whole confusion. While the will is one, motives are complex. Regeneration works a prevalent, but not absolute revolution, in the moral disposition regulative of the Christianís motives. Amidst the complex of subjective states which leads to any one volition, some elements may be spiritual and some carnal. As regeneration established a new and prevalent (though not exclusive) law of disposition, so sanctification confirms and extends that new law in introducing more and more of the right elements, and more and more extruding the wrong elements.
Let us, second, bring the matter to the test of Scripture. The thing which is renewed is the sinful soul. (Eph. 4:23; 2:1Ė5); (1 Cor. 6:2); (Col. 1:21, 22). Both the sanctification of the soul, and the mortification of sin are expressly declared to be progressive processes. Let the student consult the following references: (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5) (Acts 20:32); (2 Cor. 3:18); (Eph. 4:11Ė16); (Phil. 3:13Ė15); (1 Thess. 5:23); (2 Cor. 7:1); (Heb. 6:1); (1 Pet. 2:2); (2 Pet. 3:18); Rom. 8:13); (Col. 3:5). So, the Bible compares the saint to living and growing things; as the vine, the fruit tree, the plant of corn, the infant; all of which exhibit their lives in growth. Grace is also compared to the "morning light, waxing brighter and brighter to the perfect day"; and to the leaven, spreading through the whole vessel of meal: and to the mustardĖseed, the smallest sown by the Jewish husbandman, but gradually growing to the largest of herbs. Is not the rhetoric of the Word Just? Then we must suppose the analogy exists; and that spiritual life, like vegetable and animal, regularly displays its power by growth. These innovators borrow the Papal plea, that "the newĖcreation, being Godís work, must be perfect." I reply; The infant is also a work of Godís power and skill; but he is designed to grow to an adult.
All Principles Are Progressive.
We find this idea incompatible, in the third place, with the laws of a finite rational creature. These ordain, that every faculty, affection, and habit must grow by their exercise, or be enervated by their disuse and suppression. Depravity grows in sinners, (2 Tim. 3:13) as long as it is unchecked. So, holiness must grow by its exercise. Even the pagan Horace understood this, óCrescentem sequitur cura, pecuniam, majorumque fames . This being the law of manís mutable nature, it must follow, that, as exercise increases the principles of holiness, so the denial of self and flesh must enervate and diminish the principles of sin.
Tendencies of Dual Doctrine Antinomian.
I object, in the last place, to the antinomian tendencies which are, at least latently, involved in this scheme. If one believes that he has two "real men," or "two natures" in him, he will be tempted to argue that the new man is in no way responsible for the perversity of the old. Here is a perilous deduction. But the next is worse, as it is more obvious. If the new nature is complete at first; and the old nature never loses any of its strength until death; then the presence, and even the flagrancy of indwelling sin need suggest to the believer no doubts whatever, whether his faith is spurious. How can it be denied that there is here terrible danger of carnal security in sin? How different this from the Bible which says (James 2:18), "Show me thy faith without thy works; and I will show thee my faith by my works." If then any professed believer finds the "old man" in undiminished strength, this is proof that he has never "put on the new man". If the flesh is reviving, spiritual life is just to that extent receding; and just in degree as that recession proceeds, has he scriptural ground to suspect that his faith is (and always was) dead.
6. A Good Work, What?
There is a gospel sense, in which the Scriptures speak of the acts and affections of Christians as good works. By this, it is not meant that they are perfect, that they could stand the strictness of the divine judgment, or that they are such as would receive the reward of eternal life under the Covenant of Works. Yet they are essentially different in moral quality from the actions of the unrenewed; and they do express a new and holy nature, as the principle from which they spring. There is also a certain sense in which God approves and rewards them. How are these evangelical actions of the soul defined? We conceive that the Scripture characterizes them thus: 1. They must be the actions of a regenerate soul; because no other can have the dispositions to prompt such actions, and feel such motives as must concur. See (Matt. 12:33; 7:17, 18). 2. The action must be, in form, regulated by the revealed will of God; for He allows no other rule of right and wrong for the creature. No act of obedience to rules of mere human or ecclesiastical device can claim to be a good work; it is more probably an offense unto God. See (Deut. 4:2); (Isa. 1:12; 29:13); (Matt. 15:9). As Godís will is to us practically the fountain of authority and obligation, it is obviously unreasonable that the debtor should decide for the creditor, how much or what the former sees fit to pay. And moreover, such is the distance between God and man, and the darkness of the sinful mind of man, we are no suitable judges of what service is proper to render God. Manís duty is simply what God requires of him. Can we err in defining good works as the right performance of duty? 3. In order for that performance to be a good work, its prevalent motive or motives must be holy: and among these, especially, must be a respectful, righteous, and filial regard, either habitual or express, to the will of God commanding the act. (1 Cor. 10:31); (Rom. 11:26; 12:1 No principle of common sense is plainer, than that the quality of the act depends on the quality of the intention. An act not intended to please God is, of course, not pleasing in His sight, no matter how conformed in outward shape to His precepts.
A Work Not Perfectly Holy May Be Prevalently So.
Such works are not perfectly, but prevalently holy. I have more than once remarked, that the motive of most of our volitions is a complex of several appetencies. Now, this habitual, or present filial regard to Godís authority may be the prevalent motive of a given act; and yet it may be short of that fullness and strength which the perfect rectitude and goodness of the heavenly Father deserve. It may also be associated with other lower motives. Of these, some may be personal, and yet legitimate; as a reasonable subordinate regard to our own proper welfare. (The presence of such a motive in the complex would not make the volition sinful.) But other motives may, and nearly always do, mix with our regard for God, which are not only personal, but sinful: either because inordinate, or impure, as a craving for applause, or a desire to gratify a spiteful emulation. Remembering the views established in the last lecture, you will perceive that in such a case, the volition would be on the whole, right and pious, and still short of perfect rightness, or even involving, with its holiness, a taint of sin.
No True Good Works Done By Unconverted or Heathen.
But the best natural virtues of the heathen, and of all unconverted persons, come short of being gospel good works. See, for instance, (Gen. 6:5), and (Rom. 8:8). This truth recalls the assertion made of the total depravity of the race, and its grounds. It will be remembered that we did not deny the secular sincerity of the social virtues, which many pagans and unrenewed men possess. Nor did we represent that their virtues were equal to the vices of the wicked. But what we mean is, that while nearer right than the open vices, they are still short of right; because they lack the essential motive, regard to Godís revealed will and the claims of His love. "God is not in all their thoughts." Now, as our relation to God is the nearest and most supreme, an act which ignores this, however right it may be in other motives, still remains prevalently wrong in the sight of God. It does not reach the level of Bible holiness at all, though it may rise much nearer towards it than the sins of the reprobate. We do not, then, represent God as judging the amiable and decent transgressor equal to a monster of crime, nor condemning all secular virtues as spurious and worthless between man and man.
7. Merit, Romeís Distinction Into Congruous and Condign.
The proposition, that even the good works of believers do not earn eternal life by their intrinsic merit, has been found very repugnant to human pride. Rome consequently seeks to evade the omission of it, by her distinction of congruous and condign merit. (Meritum de congruo de condigno .) The former she makes only a qualified kind of merit. It is that favorable quality which attaches to the good works done by the unrenewed man before conversion, which properly moves God to bestow on him the help of His grace. The condign merit is that which attaches to evangelical good works done after conversion, by the help of grace, which, by its proper value and force, entitles the believer to eternal life. True, Bellarmine and the Council of Trent, with the most of Roman Catholics, say that eternal life comes to the obedient believer partly by the merit of his own works, and partly by virtue of Christís promise and purchase; so that. were there no Savior, human merit would come short of earning heaven. But they hold this essentially erroneous idea, that, in the gracious works of the justified man, there is a real and intrinsic merit of reward.
Merit, Strictly What?
To clear up this matter, let us observe that the word merit is used in two senses, the one strict or proper, the other loose. Strictly speaking, a meritorious work is that to which, on account of its own intrinsic value and dignity, the reward is justly due from commutative justice. But when men use the word loosely, they include works deserving of approval, and works to which a reward is anyhow attached as a consequence. Now, in these latter senses, no one denies that the works of the regenerate are meritorious. They are praiseworthy, in a sense. They are followed by a recompense. But in the strict sense, of righteously bringing God in the doerís debt, by their own intrinsic moral value, no human works are meritorious. The chief confusion of thought, then, which is to be cleared away, is that between the approvable and the meritorious. An act is not meritorious, only because it is morally approvable. Note further, that it is wholly another thing to do works which may fall within the terms of some covenant of promise, which God may have graciously bestowed. If the king is pleased, in his undeserved kindness, to promise the inheritance for the doing of some little service utterly inadequate to the reward, and if any creature complies with the terms exactly, then the king is, of course, bound to give what he has engaged. But he is bound by fidelity to himself, not by commutative justice to the service rendered; for that, intrinsically, is inadequate.
Strictly, No Creature Can Merit.
In the strict sense, then, no work of man brings God in the doerís debt, to reward him. The work which is worthy of this must have the following traits: It must be one which was not already owed to God (Luke 17:10). It must be done in the manís own strength; for if he only does it by the strength of Christ, he cannot take to himself the credit of it. "It is not he that liveth, but Christ that liveth in him." It must be perfectly and completely right; for if stained with defect, it cannot merit. Last, it must be of sufficient importance to bear some equitable ratio to the amount of reward. One would not expect a large sum of money as wages for the momentary act of handing a draught of water, however cheerfully done. Now, it is plain at the first glance, that no work of man to God can bring Him by its own intrinsic merit, under an obligation to reward. All our works are owed to God; if all were done, we should only "have done what was our duty to do." No right work is done in our own mere strength. None are perfect. There is no equality between the service of a fleeting life and an inheritance of eternal glory.
Natural Works Have No Merit of Congruity.
We may argue, farther, that the congruous merit of the Papist is imaginary, because nothing the unbeliever does can please God: "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." Every man is under condemnation, until he believes on Christ with living faith. But if the person is under condemnation, none of his acts can merit. Second: There is an irreconcilable contrast between grace and merit (Rom. 11:6). The two are mutually exclusive, and cannot be combined. Grace is undeserved bestowal; merit purchases by its desert. This being so, it is vain for the Papist to attempt to excuse his error of a congruous merit subordinated to, and dependent on, free grace, by any false analogies of first and second causes. The human affection or act springing out of grace, may have approvableness, but no sort of merit. The practical remark should be made here, that when the awakened sinner is thus encouraged to claim saving graces as due to the congruous merit of his strivings, tears, reformations, or sacraments, he is put in the greatest peril of mistaking the way of salvation, grieving the Spirit, and falling into a fatal selfĖrighteousness. What more insolent and deadly mistake can be made, than this telling of God, on the part of a miserable sinner, pensioner on His mere mercy, that the wretchís carnal, selfish strivings, or expedients, have brought the Almighty in his debt, in a sense, to bestow saving helps? Third; The whole Scripture holds forth the truth, that Christ bestows saving graces, not because of any form of merit, but in spite of utter demerit. We receive them "without money and without price." It was "when we were enemies, that we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son." Even the saint seeking grace always, in the Scripture seeks it purely of grace. Much more must the sinner. (Ps. 51:1Ė4); (Dan. 9:18); (1 Tim. 1:12Ė16. In conclusion of this point, it will be instructive to notice the close connection between this claim of "congruous merití" and the value attached by those Protestants who are synergists, to those expedients which they devise, to prepare the way for faith. Awakened sinners are encouraged to use them, and to look to them, not indeed as justifying; but as somehow leading on to more saving graces. Yet, there is a certain relationship of sequence, between the exercisings and strivings of carnal conviction and saving conversion. "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that be sick." The pangs of the sick man have a certain instrumentality in prompting him to send for the physician who cures him. In this sense they may be viewed as useful. But, per se , they are not in the least degree curative; they are but parts of the disease, whose only tendency is death.
No Condign Merit In Works of Regenerate.
That no merit of condignity attaches even to the good works of saints, is clear from the conditions we have shown to be requisite. The most conclusive passages are such as these: (Luke 17:9.10); (Rom. 6:23; 5:15Ė18); Eph. 2:8Ė10); (2 Tim. 1:9); (Titus 3:5), and such like. The first gives an argument by analogy, founded on the Judean husbandmanís relation to his bondsman (his doulo" not his hireling). The master had legitimate property in his labor and industryónot in his moral personality, which belonged inalienably to God. Hence, when the bondsman rendered that service, the master did not for a moment think that he was thereby pecuniarily indebted to him for a labor which was already his own property. However he might regard the docility and fidelity of the bondsman highly approvable, he never dreamed that he owed him wages therefor. So we are Godís property. He has, at the outset of our transacting with Him, ownership in all our service. Hence, if we even served Him perfectly, (which we never do,) we could not claim that we had paid God any overplus of our dues, or brought Him into our debt. He might approve our fidelity, but He would owe us no wages. In (Rom. 6:23), the Apostle actually breaks the symmetry of his antithesis, in order to teach that we merit nothing of Godís commutative justice. Death is the wages which sin earns; but eternal life is the gift of God, and not wages earned by the Christian. The remaining passages teach the same.
Turrettin sustains this view farther, by showing that the gracious acts, for which Roman Catholics claim merit of condignity, and the eternal life attached to them, are always spoken of as the Fatherís gifts; that they are always spoken of as the Redeemerís purchase; that the Christians who do them are represented in the Bible as acknowledging themselves "unprofitable servants;" and that they always confess the unworthiness of their best works, especially in view of the everlasting reward. The Scriptures which might be collected under these heads would present an overwhelming array of proof.
It Does Not Follow That Because Sin Merits, Our Works Do.
But carnal men strongly resent this conclusion; and urge, as though it were a selfĖevident refutation, that as sin and good works are in antithesis, we cannot hold that manís sin carries a true and essential desert of punishment, and deny that his good work carries an equal desert of reward. To affix the one and refuse the other, they exclaim, would be a flagrant injustice. I reply: Between human rulers and ruled, it would. But they forget here the prime fact, that God is the Maker and sovereign Proprietor of men. The property may be delinquent towards its sovereign Owner, but it cannot make the Owner delinquent to it. If it fails in due service, it injures the rights of its Owner: if it renders the service, it only satisfies those rights; nothing more. But here a certain concession should be made. While a creatureís perfect obedience is not meritorious of any claim of reward upon his Lord, in the strict sense, there is a relation of moral propriety between such obedience and reward. We saw that it appeared unreasonable to claim everlasting reward for temporal service. But does not a perfect temporal service deserve of God temporal reward? I would say, in a certain sense, Yes; supposing the creature in a state of innocency and harmony with his Lord. That is, it would be inconsistent with Godís rectitude and benevolence, to begin to visit on this innocent creature the evils due to sin, before he transgressed. God would not infringe, by any suffering or wrath, that natural blessedness, with which His own holiness and goodness always leads Him to endow the state of innocency. But here the obligation is to Godís own perfections, rather than to the creatureís merit.
Did Adam and Elect Angels Merit Under Covenant of Works?
Some have supposed these views to be inconsistent with the terms of the Covenant of Works between God and the elect angels, and God and Adam. They say that Paul, (Rom. 4:4, 5; 11:6), in drawing the contrast already cited between works and grace, assigns condign merit to a perfect service done under a Covenant of Works. "To him that worketh is the reward reckoned not of grace, but of debt." I reply: this of courser is true of works done under a covenant of works. But to overthrow the Reformed argument, they must show that it would be true also of works done under the natural relation to God, as Lord before any covenant of promise. When once God has gratuitously condescended to promise, a claim of right for the perfect service rendered does emerge; of course. It emerges out of Godís fidelity, not out of commutative justice. And when the creature, as Gabriel for instance, complies with the covenanted terms perfectly, and in his own strength, he gets his reward on different terms from those of the pardoned sinner. There is, in a sense, an earning under compact, such as the sinner can never boast; and this, we presume, is all the Apostle ever meant.
In What Sense Are Believerís Works Rewarded?
It only remains, on this head, to explain the relation between the good works of the justified believer and his heavenly reward. It is explained by the distinction between an intrinsic and original merit of reward, and the hypothetical merit granted by promise. If the slave fulfills his masterís orders, he does not bring the latter in his debt. "He is an unprofitable servant; he has only done what was his duty to do." But if the master chooses, in mere generosity, to promise freedom and an inheritance of a thousand talents for some slight service, cheerfully performed, then the service must be followed by the reward. The master owes it not to the intrinsic value of the slaveís acts, (the actual pecuniary addition made thereby to the masterís wealth may be little or nothing,) but to his own word. Now, in this sense, the blessings of heaven bear the relation of a "free reward" to the believerís service. It contributes nothing essential to earning the inheritance; in that point of view it is as wholly gratuitous to the believer, as though he had been all the time asleep. The essential merit that earned it is Christís. Yet it is related to the loving obedience of the believer, as appointed consequence. Thus it appears how all the defects in his evangelical obedience (defects which, were he under a legal covenant, would procure the curse, and not blessing,) are covered by the Saviorís righteousness; so that, through Him, the inadequate works receive a recompense. Moreover, it is clearly taught that God has seen fit, in apportioning degrees of blessedness to different justified persons, to measure them by the amount of their good works. See (Matt. 16:27); (1 Cor. 3:8), or which Turrettin remarks, that the reward is "according to," but not "on account of" the works. See also, (2 Cor. 9:6); (Luke 19:17, 18). Not only the sovereignty, but the wisdom and righteousness of a gracious God are seen in this arrangement. Thus a rational motive is applied to educe diligent obedience. Thus it is evinced that the gospel is not a ministration of indolence or disobedience; and Godís verdicts in Christ not inconsistent with natural justice. It is thus, because the grace given on earth is a preparation of the soul for more grace in heaven. And last, good works are the only practical and valid test of the genuineness of that faith, by which believers receive the perfect merits of Christ. This last fact, especially, makes it proper that the "free reward" shall be bestowed "according to their works;" and explains a multitude of passages, which Papists suppose make the reward depend on the works.
8. Works of Supererogation, Source of Heresy.
It may be said that the Roman Catholic Church is indebted to the age of Thomas Aquinas, and most probably to him, for the final theory of "works of supererogation." He found among the Fathers, the distinction between Christís praecepta and concilia . This distinction pretending to find its grounds in certain texts of the New Testament, more probably had its origin in a desire to imitate the exoteric and the esoteric, higher and lower, morals of the New Platonists. The instances of Concilia usually quoted are those of (Matt. 19:12, 21); (1 Cor. 7:38Ė40); (Acts 21:23, 23), and they are usually grouped by them under the three virtues of voluntary poverty, perpetual chastity, and regular obedience. The Church had long held, that while every one must strive to obey all the precepts of Christ, on pain of damnation, he is not expressly bound to comply with the "councils of perfection." If he sees fit to omit them, he incurs no wrath. They are but recommendations. Yet; if his devoted spirit impels him to keep them for the glory of God, he thereby earns supererogatory merit, superfluous to his own justification. Aquinas now proceeds to build on this foundation thus: One man can work a righteousness, either penal or supererogatory, so that its imputation to his brother may take place. What else, he argues, is the meaning of (Gal. 6:2); "Bear ye one anotherís burdens," etc.? And among men, one manís generous efforts are permitted in a thousand ways to avail for another, as in suretyships. "But with God, love avails for more than with men." Yea, a less penance is a satisfaction for a brotherís guilt than would be requisite for oneís own, in the case of an equal sin. Because the purer disinterestedness, displayed in atoning for the penitential guilt of a brother, renders it more amiable in the sight of God, and so, more expiatory. If a sinning believer hits himself twenty blows with his whip on his bare shoulders, it may be that a selfish fear of purgatory is a large part of his motive; and God will subtract from the merit of the act accordingly. But when he does it for his brotherís sin, it is pure disinterested love and zeal for Godís honor, the twenty blows will count for more.
Imputation of Supererogatory Merit, and Indulgence Thereby of Penitential Guilt.
The philosopher then resorts to the doctrine of the unity of the Church, and the communion of saints in each otherís graces and sufferings, to show that the merit of these supererogatory services and sufferings is imputed to others. There is, in the holy Catholic Church then, a treasury to which all this spare merit flows. As the priesthood hold the power of the keys, they of course are the proper persons to dispense and apply it. But as the unity of the Church is especially represented in its earthly head, the Pope, he especially is the proper person to have charge of the treasury. And this is the way indulgentia is procured; the Pope imputes some of this supererogatory merit of works and penance out of the Church treasure; whence the remission to the culprit of the penitential and purgatorial satisfaction due from him for sin. But his confession, absolution, and contrition are necessary; otherwise indulgence does no good, because without these exercises the manís own personal penance would have done no good. Last, this indulgence may properly be given by the Church, in return for money, provided it be directed to a holy use, as repairing churches, building monasteries, etc. (He forgot our Saviorís words: "Freely ye have received, freely give.")
Distinctions of Counsels of Perfection Refuted.
The overthrow of all this artificial structure is very easy for the Protestant. We utterly deny the distinction of the pretended "counsels of perfection," from the precepts, as wicked and senseless. It is impossible that it can hold: because we are told that the precepts go to this extent, viz: requiring us to love God with all the soul and heart and mind, and strength. If, then, any Christian has indeed found out that his circumstances are such the refraining from a given act, before and elsewhere indifferent, has become necessary to Christís highest glory; then for him it is obligatory, and no longer optional. "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Romeís own instance refutes her. In (Matt. 19:23, 24,), the rich ruler incurs, by rejecting our Saviors counsel, not the loss of supererogatory merit, but the loss of heaven! Again: how can he have superfluity who lacks enough for himself? But all lack righteousness for their own justification; for "in many things we offend all." So, the Scriptures utterly repudiate the notion that the righteousness of one man is imputable to another. Christian fellowship carries no such result. It was necessary (for reasons unfolded in the discussion of the Mediator), that God should effectuate the miracle of the hypostatic union, in order to make a Person, whose merit was imputable. "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him." Nor does the Protestant recognize the existence of that penitential guilt, which is professed to be remitted by the indulgence.
8. Standard of Sanctification, Law, and Jesusí Example.
The standard set for the believerís sanctification is the character of God as expressed in His preceptive law. This rule is perfect, and should be sufficient for our guidance. But God, in condescension to our weak and corporeal nature, has also given us an example in the life of the Redeemer. And this was a subsidiary, yet important object of His mission (1 Pet. 2:21). (We recognize in its proper place, this prophetic function of the Mediator, which the Socinian makes the sole one.) The advantage of having the holy law teaching by example is obvious. Man is notoriously an imitative creature. God would choose to avail Himself of this powerful lever of education for his moral culture. Example is also superior in perspicuity and interest, possessing all the advantage over precept, which illustration has over abstract statement. If we inspect the example of Christ, we shall find that it has been adjusted to its purpose with a skill and wisdom only inferior to that displayed in His atoning offices. Examining first the conditions of an effective example, we find that they all concur in Christ. It is desirable that our exemplar be human; for though holiness in God and in angels is, in principle, identical with manís, yet in detail it is too different to be a guide. Yet while it is so desirable that the example be human, it must be perfect; for fallible man would be too sure to imitate defects, on an exaggerated scale. Man is naturally out of harmony with holiness, too far to be allured by its example; he would rather be alienated and angered by it. Hence, the exemplar must begin by putting forth a regenerating and reconciling agency. Last: it is exceedingly desirous that the exemplar should also be an object of warm affection, because we notice that the imitative instinct always acts far most strongly towards one beloved. But Christ is made by His work the prime object of the believerís love.
Value of Christís Example.
The value of Christís example may be also illustrated in the following particulars: It verifies for us the conception of holiness, as generally displayed in God. That conception must lack definiteness, until we see it embodied in this "Image of the invisible God," who is "the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person." See Lecture VII: end. Next, Christ has illustrated the duties of all ages and stations; for the divine wisdom collected into His brief life all grades, making Him show us a perfect child, youth, man, son, friend, teacher, subject, ruler, king, hero, and sufferer. Again, Christ teaches us how common duties are exalted when performed from an elevated motive; for He was earning for His Church infinite blessedness, and for His Father eternal glory, when fulfilling the humble tasks of a peasant and mechanic. And last, in His death especially, He illustrated those duties which are at once hardest and most essential, because attaching to the most critical emergencies of our being, the duties of forgiveness under wrong, patience and fortitude under anguish, and faith and courage in the hour of death (Rom. 15:3); (Phil. 2:5); (Heb. 7:2, 3); (1 John 3:16); (Eph. 4:13); (John 13:15) (1 Cor. 11:1).
Some have endeavored to object, that we must not imitate even an incarnate Christ, because He is God and man, and His mediatorial sphere of action above ours. I reply: of course we do not presume to imitate His divine acts. But was He not made under our law? One end of this was that He might show us a human perfection, adapted for our imitation.