« AnteriorContinua »
condemnation; not, indeed, the condemnation of the entire unbeliever, but the condemnation of an offending child. Such a condemnation, the result of spiritual weakness, endangers apostasy; and the warning of God then, is : “ Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain and are ready to die, for I have not found thy works perfect before God." Rev. iii. 2. If, now, through the Holy Spirit granted under the atonement, the soul of the earnest Christian be so spiritually enlightened and strengthened, that it may return by repentance to the gracious guiltlessness of its first justification, and be enabled to retain the fulness of the divine acceptance, his "works” may be found “perfect before God :" - perfect, not according to the Adamic Law, but perfect by the standard of his ever justifying acceptance, the law of faith. Our views may, perhaps, appear, then, in the following formula:
Through a maturity of Christian experience and the fulness of the spirit imparted, the spiritual powers of the faithful Christian may be so strengthened, that he may, and often does, maintain, through grace, for a longer or shorter period, a permanent state of the undiminished fulness of his acceptance with God, and under no more actual condemnation than at the moment of his justification.
Every thing which has attained the normal completeness of its own class or kind is rightly called perfect. Not after an ideal, but a normal standard, we speak of a perfect egg, a perfect chicken, a perfect full-grown fowl. There may be a perfect child or a perfect man. And everything which is wanting in none of the normal complement of qualities, in normal degree, is perfect in its class. Now the Christian who has attained to the description of our formula, is at the normal standard of a perfect man in Christ.
We use an abundantly scriptural term, in calling this a state of Christian perfection. It is a state in which all the normal qualities of the Christian are permanently, or with more or less continuity, possessed in the proper completeness. And as this spiritual strength and power over and against sin, derived from the Holy Spirit, is sanctification, so in the
completeness which we have described, it is not improperly, perhaps, by us called entire sanctification.
Of this state of sanctification, the actual divine acceptance, in its uncondernning fulness, is, according to our present statement, the actual standard. With how much short-coming from the perfect law this is in any case possible, the Spirit is itself in every case judge. It may, therefore, not be possible to answer this question by antecedent words, especially to a metaphysician, demanding absolute exactness; and in this fact, perhaps, consists the basis of the complaint often made by theologians, that they cannot understand the thing we attempt to describe.
The evangelic law requires love with all our present feeble powers to God, and to our neighbor as ourselves. As we are unable to love God with full Adamic powers, the perfect law even then condemns us. Moral weaknesses contracted by past sinful habits, moral ignorances resulting from our own past fault, prejudices of which we are more or less unconscious, nervous irritabilities and physical idiosyncrasies, may produce condemnation from censorious man, where there is still acceptance from him who "knoweth our frame.” So far as the will is concerned, Mr. Wesley excluded from the sanctified state all “ voluntary transgressions ;” but it is questionable whether under the term " involuntary” he did not really include countless numbers of minuter volitions, inevitably escaping from our moral weakness, in spite of our most vigorous tone of spiritual purpose and spiritual activity. With how much of all these “infirmities” the uninterrupted fulness of the divine approbation can consist, it is, as we before remarked, impossible in human words exactly to define, even if we could exactly conceive. Thus much, at any rate, is fully certain, that Leighton correctly describes it as an “imperfect perfection.” Ample work, doubtless, is found from these shortcomings for a permanent exercise of the most perfect repentance; as well as the most perfect faith in the blood of Christ. Ample reasons will be found for praying “ Forgive us our trespasses." Ample verge there is for all those texts
of scripture which affirm that there is none that “ sinneth not;" that is, in the wider sense of the word "sin." Nor is there any difficulty in understanding how the most exalted of our Christian saints, in the light of the pure and perfect law, looking at themselves with the eye of a sanctified conscience, can scarce find words sufficient to express their deep humiliation, not only for the depths of the fall of their own nature, but for their own short-coinings and for their sins against infinite purity.
But the law is our schoolmaster to drive us to Christ. And yet when in Christ, it is not our duty to keep our shuddering eyes perpetually fixed upon the schoolmaster. Greater spiritual power, as well as higher spiritual joy, can be derived from dwelling in Christ, and holding up before ourselves the measure of Christian holiness we can attain through him. A goal is thus set up for our holy ambition ; a positive standard for which we may labor. Thence a inore cheerful piety arises in him who contemplates what he may gain through Christ, than in him who is ever trembling under the lash of the law, and who is ever exclaiming: “I am all sin, and nothing but sin.” Hence, as the doctrine of apostasy constitutes a real warning against backsliding and sin, so the doctrine of Christian perfection is a living incitement to progressive holiness.
PERPETUITY OF Man's FREE AGENCY. By substance and by conformation of bis spiritual nature, man is intrinsically a free agent, and such he doubtless is through all the stages of his existence. That free agency may be externally restricted by the absence of alternatives of choice, or by external circumscription from given courses, or to some one particular course. By the depravation of the fall, without changing his intrinsic nature as a free agent, the way of righteousness, and the possibility of pleasing God, were placed beyond his reach. Neither the motive nor the object were to him a possibility. So the sinner who, by perseverance in sin, destroys his moral sensibilities, diminishes, and ultimately destroys, the ave
nues to a course of righteousness. The damned, enclosed in hell, are surrounded by objective, insuperable obstacles, to even choosing true repentance and return to holiness. The freedom of the will is, in all these cases, objectively obstructed, not intrinsically destroyed. Nevertheless, as in these last two cases, the suppression of the action of the will is self superinduced, it furnishes no excuse. The free agency still continues, and no bar to penal responsibility can arise from these self-imposed restrictions.
So, also, the holy being in heaven is still intrinsically a free agent. The radical nature of his being, in this respect, is not changed. But the conditions of the possible choice of siu are removed from around his will. His glorified body can be neither stimulant nor instrument of sin; the sphere of heaven is no possible place of sin ; the holy atmosphere of heaven, the inbreathed Spirit of God, exclude all possible motive for sin. Sin is therefore objectively impossible. Yet, inasmuch as by achieving his probationary mission, the glorified soul has, through grace, attained to glory, God does recognize in his holy service of praise all the rewardable merit of his most free performance during the period of his probation.
CONCLUSION. Upon the whole, the writer of this Article has doubtless failed in his task, if he has not made it conceivable to a candid examiner from the other side, that our Arminianism is a well-defined, symmetrical system, which a mind possessed of the broadest logical consistency may reasonably be imagined to accept as the best approximation to a satisfactory solution of the facts of the divine government. It is an attempt to show the reconcileability of the divine sovereignty in the plenitude of its holiness with the freedom and responsibility of man, by a method securing the divine honor, and affording the most powerful motives for human piety. It may further appear, that as both systems evidently aim at these great objects, though by methods subordinately different, a respectful consideration of each
others method may be beneficial to both sides. If this Article shall exert any favorable influence toward that result, it will be greatly due, as we take pleasure here and elsewhere in recording, to the truly Christian courtesy, both in matter and manner, with which the present writer has repeatedly been editorially invited to furnish it for these pages. We are happy to acknowledge the eminent style of piety often attained under the teachings of Calvinism. We place very high in the calendar of true Christian saintship the names of a Calvin, a Baxter, an Edwards, and a Payson. Candid Calvinists will place in the same rank the names of Arminius, Henry More, Fletcher of Madely, and Francis Asbury.
ENGLISH ETYMOLOGY, AS ADAPTED TO POPULAR USE:
ITS LEADING FACTS AND PRINCIPLES.
WITH A BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF ILLUSTRATIVE EXAMPLES.
BY BENJAMIN W. DWIGHT, LL.D., CLINTON, N.Y.
There is a great neglected science of etymology, awaiting the day of thorough exploration; when, under the skilful hands of those who shall gather together its blocks of quarried marble, from out of the rubbish amid which they now lie confused, it shall rise as if by magic into a grand structure of columnar and turreted beauty, to be the joy of every eye that shall gaze upon it. English, as now used, is, in the comprehension of even our educated men generally, but a mass of opaque arbitrary conventionalisms; utterly destitute of any of those pictorial elements, which belong to language in its own true living forms. Modern words accordingly which once were in themselves veritable thought-pictures, are now without coloring to most eyes, and are but mere skeleton-drawings, instead of being lifelike sketches of the things which they represent.