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ward conduct. 4. It was attempted to be established by a few plain unequivocal passages of scripture.
In speaking of the consistency of this constitution of things, to wit, that the saints in this life should remain sinfully imperfect, it was shown, that this plan was calculated to make the saints eternally more penitent, humble, thankful, and every way meet for their heavenly inheritance; and also, that it was calculated to display the whole of the Redeemer's character to better advantage, and thus to make him more precious to them who believe.
Mr. B. complains in the beginning of this Letter, that I have misrepresented their sentiments on the subject of Perfection. If I have done it, I can say, with a good conscience, I did not design to do it. If they do not hold to a sinless perfection in this life, I would ask ; What did Mr. Bangs dispute about, on the 4th question in the public Debate? In my sermon on the sinful imperfection of the saints in this life, I have this Note in the 103d page: "It has been doubted by some, whether the Methodists really hold to a sinless perfection in this life. But the matter is put beyond doubt, that they do hold to such a perfection in this life, by the argument, which they use in their book of Discipline, against the power of death to sanctify. By this argument, the words of which are not recollected, it appears, they do hold that saints in this life are as sinless as they will be in heaven." Mr. B. says, there is no such thing in the book to which I refer. The book to which I meant to refer now lies before me, and is entitled, "The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America." I have just been looking over all which it contains on the subject of Christian Perfection, and am led to think, that it must have been some other book in which I found the argument referred to in the Note; for it is pretty fresh in my recollection, that the argument was managed in this way;
That we cannot go to heaven without perfect sanctification; but that as death is no sanctifier, we must be sanctified before death; and if it may be a minute before death, it may be an hour, a day, a year, or any other period. And tho' I do not find this argument thus extended, in the book now before me; yet the ar
gument is most evidently implied. In p. 109, Eighth Philadelphia Edition, the question is put; "What is the point where we divide? Ans. It is this: Should we expect to be saved from all sin before the article of death?" On the next page, it is asked; " But how does it appear, that this is to be done before the article of death?" It then proceeds to give reasons to induce us to believe, that the ve of God will fill all the heart, so that there can be no sin there, before the article of death-that is, while the saints live here in this world. Now I would ask, If the Methodists do not mean to teach, that the saints do in this life arrive at the same sinless perfection as in heaven, why do they state, that the point which divides them from their brethren is this: "Should we expect to be saved from all sin before the article of death?" Does not this most obviously imply, that they hold to the same perfection before death, which their brethren hold to after death? Where then is the misrepresentation of which I have been guilty? There are a number of questions in the 126th page, which show, that I have not misrepresented their sentiments, their book being judge. "Does the soul's going out of the body effect its purification from indwelling sin?" This question must mean; Is not the soul as much freed from indwelling sin, before it leaves the body, as afterwards?-i. e. Are not saints living in this world as free from indwelling sin, as they will be when they live in heaven? If it does not mean this, it has no meaning at all which affects the controversy between us; for they cannot suppose, that we hold that death has any power to sanctify. They must know that it is our belief, that it is the Holy Spirit who begins, carries on, and perfects the work of sanctification. The question is, when the Holy Spirit perfects this good work, so that all indwelling sin is removed. There is nothing absurd in saying, that God has fixed upon the article of death, as the time to finish this work, any more than to suppose any other period fixed upon. The Methodists say, that sanctification becomes complete in this life. Would it be candid for me to assert, That the Methodists hold, that this life is a great sanctifier? But it would be as proper, as it is for them to represent our doctrine as making "death act as a purifier; and
so to represent it, as tho' we hold to a "death purgatory."
As soon as the author of the Letters had exclaimed ; "O sir, is it fair, is it consistent with that charity which hopeth all things, thus to misrepresent a body of people!" and had also introduced a part of my Note already referred to, he adds; "And pray sir, do you be lieve in the power of death to sanctify? It would seem so by this observation of yours, as also from what you say about Paul's desiring to die, because death would put an end to that body of sin under which he groaned: ' p. 158. Now, I would ask, whether we need go any further for proof, that Methodists do hold, that there are saints who in this life are as perfect, as they will be in heaven? Does not Mr. Bangs' objection just brought, evidently imply, that in his opinion death would make no difference in Paul's state, as sin was respected : for if he believed that Paul became more sinless when he left this world, than while he continued in it, what objection could he have to my representation of the cause of his desiring death? I know that the Methodists hold, that the saints are not, in every sense, perfect in this life, as they will be in heaven. They state in their book, that "they are not perfect in knowledge. They are not free from ignorance, no, nor from mistake," &c. Discipl. p. 101. However much of this kind of imperfection belongs to the saints, it did not concern my subject. It was only the sinful imperfection of the saints, of which my text led me to treat.
I know that Mr. Wesley, in the book of Doctrine and Discipline referred to, and as quoted by Mr. B. Bays: "Therefore sinless perfection is a phrase I never use, lest I should seem to contradict myself." Doct. and Discip. p. 114. If Mr. Wesley did not use the phrase, inless perfection, it is evident that he held to the doctrine. Among other proofs of this, take these two; the first is, p. 104: "Now it is evident, the apostle, here speaks of a deliverance wrought in this world. For he saith not, The blood of Christ will cleanse (at the hour of death, or in the day of judgment) but it cleanseth at the time present, us living christians, from all sin. And it is equally evident that if any sin remain, we are not cleansed from all sin. If any unrighteousness remain
in the soul, it is not cleansed from all unrighteousness.” The other proof is in the 112th page. "What is Christian Perfection? Ans. The loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. This implies, that no wrong temper, none contrary to love remains in the soul," &c.
If Mr. B. does not hold to a sinless perfection in this life, why has he written me a Letter in opposition to my sermon on the sinful imperfection of the saints in this life? Commenting on Isa. vi. 7, he says, "Does not this text undeniably prove the doctrine of a deliverance from sin? Equally in point are the words of the Psalm ist, Psal. ciii. 12. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Observe that this is not spoken in anticipation of what shall be done at death; but it asserts what had already been accomplished." p. 184. Mr. B. knows it is our belief, that the dominion of sin is put down in the hearts of believers, and that all their sins are forgiven them for Christ's sake; when therefore he demands, "Does not this text undeniably prove the doctrine of a deliverance from sin?" He must undoubtedly intend a full and complete deliverance from sin. If he did not intend this, it would be nothing more than he knows we also believe. Mr. B. calls our doctrine an "unholy doctrine" and a doctrine" in favor of sin." See pp. 211, 261. But the only reason for calling it so, is because we believe, that while the people of God live on the earth, they are not free from sinful imperfection. If Mr. B. views this an unholy doctrine, then it follows, that he does not himself believe in it, but in the contrary doctrine of a sinless perfection in this life. This is all, which at present, we wish to prove. Viewing this difference of sentiment as actually existing between us, I shall proceed to confirm the doctrine, laid down in the sermon, viz. That good men, while they remain on earth, are never free from sinful imperfection.
Let us first look at the proofs of the doctrine which were exhibited in the sermon, and see whether they are fairly taken out of our hands. Mr. B. seeks to get rid of the force of the text which was thought to furnish the above doctrine, by saying, that Solomon either meant, that "there were none but that sinned against
the Adamic law;" or "he meant those involuntary transgressions which, under the ceremonial law, required an atonement." p. 158. I know of no law which requires a less degree of holiness, than was required of Adam This matter we may have occasion to notice in another place. As to involuntary sin, I believe there is no such thing. There are sins of ignorance; such was Saul's making havoc of the church. He says, “But I did it ignorantly in unbelief;" but sins of ignorance` are voluntary. Saul was voluntary in persecuting the church, for he was exceedingly mad against it. Sinning, in the text, is evidently contrasted with doing good. "There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not." If doing good is descriptive of the holiness of this character, then his sinning, must mean something of a directly opposite nature. We might as well say, that the doing good, was only a ceremonial, or involuntary goodness, as to say this about the sinning. Does not the text most naturally, without any forced construction, convey the idea of a sinful imperfection in every good man on earth?
Mr. B. labors exceedingly to prevent our doctrine from receiving any support by the experiences of St. Paul. Yet all which he has said, does by no means convince us, but that in the 7th chapter of Romans the apostle gives us a christian experience, in giving us his own. I cannot express my views of this experience more concisely, or more to my satisfaction, than they were expressed in the Sermon. "Here the apostle speaks of sin dwelling in him—of his finding a law that when he would do good, evil was present with him— and of a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members. This led him to make that feeling exclamation, with which every christian is acquainted, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death! If this is the experience of Paul after his conversion, then he was a just man who -did not live without sin. That this was his experience after his conversion is manifest, 1st. Because he had previously in the 9th verse, spoken of being slain by the law, which is always connected with being made alive anto God and 2dly. Because these descriptions of in