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down to our present character? This would surely get rid of the doctrine of sinful imperfection, not only from the church, but from the world
Mr. B. speaks of our doctrine as permitting christians to foster the evils of their heart, such as pride, &c. Is this a candid representation? Can he point to a place in my sermon on the imperfection of saints in this life, in which saints are encouraged to foster the evils of their heart? Do we make any excuse for the imperfection of believers? On the authority of the word of God, we state the fact; that believers are in this life imperfect, even sinfully imperfect. But as well might it be said, that we teach unregenerate sinners to foster the depravity of their bearts, because we tell them from the word of God, that they are depraved, even totally depraved.
It is well known that we believe God has power to produce a complete work of sanctification in the hearts of his people, while they live in this world; but that he has determined not to exert his power to effect this. It was thought therefore to be honorable to the divine character, to show that he might have wise designs to answer by such a constitution of things, as did not provide for the perfect sanctification of his people in this life. According to our doctrine, God has wise designs in having sin in the universo. We fully believe, that our unrighteousness will commend the righteousness of God; and still that God is not unrighteous who taketh vengeance; and that the truth of God will more abound through our lie unto his glory. See Rom. iii. 4-8. We believe that God has wise designs to answer, in never purging all sin out of the universe; and that he has wise reasons, for not purging it all away from his redeemed church while in its militant state. Some of these reasons were suggested in the Serinon; and they are reasons, which we still believe, will bear the light of scripture; and such as do not tarnish the glory of that Being, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil. Sin exists in the created system. This is a fact. If any think it most for the honor of God, to say, It exists because he could not prevent it-let them take that way to account for it: but it is not our way; neither do we think it is the way which the divine oracles take to account for it. Here is another fact; The people of
God are in this life sinfully imperfect. That some of them are so, our opponents concede. Why does not God make them all perfect in holiness, without delay? If any say, it is because he cannot; we do not take this way to account for it. To us it appears much more honorable to the character of the Almighty, and more conformable to scripture, to say; he has wise reasons for not making them perfect in holiness at once. not evidently to be understood concerning the pride of Hezekiah, which he manifested when the princes of Babylon sent ambassadors to inquire about the wonder done in the land; that it was in wisdom, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart? 2 Chron xxxii. 51. If this was consistent with the holiness of God, then there is nothing in the nature of things, to render it inconsistent, that he should leave all his children in a state of imperfection, as it respects their renovated character, until the whole of their probationary state shall be expired.
I think any one would suppose, from reading Mr. B's. strictures on the sermon under consideration, that the sermon had cautioned christians against having much holiness in this life. But no such idea ought to
* This remark will very justly apply to what Mr. Fletcher has written on the subject of christian perfection, in what he stiles, The Last Check to Antinomianism. He begins his third Section in this manner: "1 repeat it, if our pious opponents decry the doctrine of Christian Perfection, it is chiefly through misapprehension; it being as natural for pious men to recommend exalted piety, as for covetous persons to extol great riches." To this it may be replied that Mr. Fletcher misapprehends Mr. Hill, and his other opponents, if he thinks they decry sinless perfection, considered as a duty, and the mark towards which we are all to press. His opponents, with all their talents, recommend exalted piety: but they view the most exalted piety on earth, as falling far below the sinless perfection of the heavenly state. According to their understanding of the word of God, it is one symptom of the most exalted piety on earth, to lead the christian to cry out, Not as tho' I had already attained, either were already perfect; -O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
To convince the reader, that I have not misrepresented the strain of Mr. Fletcher's Last Check, I will refer him to a sen. tence in Section V. "If," says Mr. F." St. Peter, the first of Mr. Hill's witnesses, does not say a word to countenance Antinomianism, and to recommend Christian imperfection; let
be entertained. We inculcate sinless perfection, not only on saints, but also on sinners. Of this our author must have been convinced, by reading the 6th sermon in that volume, which drew forth his animadversions.
Do the members of our churches obtain the idea from their ministers, that it is matter of small consequence how they live? And are there none of those who believe in our doctrine, whose lives are exemplary, even equally exemplary with those, who not only hold the doctrine of sinless perfection, but who profess to have attained to that state? It will doubtless be acknowledged, that professors can be found of our sentiments, who are men of great integrity in their dealings, whose word can be relied upon, who are chargeable with no unchaste conduct, and who are temperate in their habits; whose conduct at home and abroad, is such as becometh the gospel; who are also apparently much engaged in the cause of religion, being often in their closets, and constant in their attention to family worship, and who bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; who keep holy the sabbath day, and seem greatly to delight in the habitation of the Lord's house and the place where his honor dwelleth. They pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and appear greatly to rejoice in the building up of Zion. No discourse is so pleasing to them as that which is of a religious nature, and they seem to prefer that religious discourse which pertains to the very vitals of true godliness. They appear most in their element, when their tongues and their hands are engaged in the things which relate to the kingdom of the Redeemer. They not only talk about religion, but they seem to have liberal souls, to devise liberal things. They give to the poor, and they continue to give. They cast not only mites; but some of them cast much into the Lord's treasury; and speak of it as a privilege, that they have opportunity to devote their carnal things, to advance
us see if St. James pleads for Baal in the heart, any more than for Baal in the life of perfect believers." What does this imply less than a charge against Mr. Hill and other Calvinists; that they recommend christian imperfection; and that they plead for Baal in the heart and life of believers!
the spiritual interests of their fellow men. this, they seem to have a deep acquaintance with experimental religion. They do not appear to be unacquainted with contrition for sin; nor with faith in the Redeemer. They speak of seasons when his glory appears very attractive to their souls. They talk of hidden joys in religion, of which they were once wholly ignorant. But in connexion with all this, they tell of a great warfare in their own breasts. They see not only some, but very much corruption in their hearts. The more they are enlarged with love to divine things, the greater discovery they seem to have of indwelling sin, of its evil nature, and deep rootedness in their hearts. They often have such an overwhelming sense, not only of their past follies, but of the remaining corruptions of their hearts, that they feel ashamed and confounded before a holy God. It is among us manifestly the case, that those who give evidence of the greatest degrees of sanctification, and devotedness to the cause of religion, appear to be the most affected, not only with past, but with present depravity.*
I have thought it would not be uninteresting to the reader, in this connexion, to see a few extracts from the Lives of some eminent christians of the Calvinistic school; which may serve as a specimen of their experiences on the subject of sinfal imperfection. The extracts which I propose to put into this Note, will be taken from such Lives as I have in my possession. The first will be taken from the Life of Mr. David Brainerd, who was a missionary among the Indians. The Life of Mr. Brainerd, as published by President Edwards, consists chiefly in extracts from his Diary, in which he noted down the daily exercises of his heart. If he actually had such exercises as he relates, it would seem, that no one could doubt of the genuiness of his religion; or forbear to acknowledge, that he feared God above many. And not only his heart, but also his life, appeared to be devoted to God. Mr. Brainerd was born 1718, and his new birth he dates from some time in the year 1739. Nearly three years after this, being April 1st, 1742, he thus writes: "I seem to be declining with respect to my life and warmth in divine things: Had not so free access to God in prayer as usual of late. Ŏ that God would humble me deeply in the dust before him. I deserve hell every day for not loving my Lord more, who has (I trust) loved me and given himself for me."
Lord's day, April 4th." In the evening God gave me faith in prayer, and made my soul melt in some measure, and gave
What shall we say to these things? Shall we say. that these professors are really as much more sinful than others, as they appear to themselves to be? But these same persons will tell you, that when they lived
me to taste a divine sweetness, O my blessed God! Let me climb up near to him, and love, and long, and plead, and wres-tle, and reach, and stretch after him, and for deliverance from the body of sin and death." Two days after, he writes;
Was suddenly struck with a damp, from the sense I had of my owa vileness. Then I cried to God to wash my soul and cleanse me from my exceeding filthiness, to give me repent. ance and pardon, and it began to be something sweet to pray." Lord's day, April 18th. At night, saw myself infinitely indebted to God, and had a view of my short comings: it seemed to me that I had done as it were nothing for God, and that I never had lived to him but a few hours of my life.” Lord's day, Oct. 17th,—“ This evening, in secret prayer, I felt exceeding solemn, and such longing desires of deliverance from sin, and after conformity to God, as melted my heart.
I longed to be delivered from this body of death! I felt inward pleasing pain that I could not be conformed to God enirely, fully and forever." Thus, Nov. 4th." O it is sweet ying in the dust but it is distressing, to feel in my soul that hell of corruption, which still remains in me."
Friday, April 8th, 1743,-" Was exceedingly pressed under a sense of my pride, selfishness, bitterness, and party spirit in times past, while I attempted to promote the cause of God.→ Of late I have thought much of having the kingdom of Christ advanced in the world; but now I saw I had enough to do within myself. The Lord be merciful to me a sinner, and wash my soul." Friday, April 22d.—“ Had a sense of barrenness. O, my leanness testifies against me! My very soul abhors itself for its unlikeness to God, its inactivity and sluggishness." Tuesday, May 10th," Was in the same state, as to my mind, that I have been in for some time, extremely pressed with a sense of guilt, pollution, blindness.——O! the pride, selfish. ness, hypocrisy, ignorance, bitterness, party zeal, and want of love, caudor, meekness and gentleness that have attended my attempts to promote religion and virtue; and this when I have reason to hope I had real assistance from above, and some sweet intercourse with heaven! But alas, what corrupt mixtures attend my best duties !" July 2d.-" Sometimes my soul has been in distress on feeling some particular corruptions rise and swell like a mighty torrent, with present violence; having at the same time ten thousand former sins and follies presented to view, in all their blackness and aggravations.
Lord's day, Jan. 1st. 1744.-" Saw myself so vile and unworthy, that I could not look my people in the face, when I mezza arness, folly, ignorance, and inward
came to :