Answer: We cannot infallibly know one that is thus saved no, nor even one that is justified unless it should please God to endow us with the miraculous discernment of spirits. But we apprehended that these would be sufficient proofs to any reasonable man, and such as would leave little room to doubt either the truth or the depth of the work—. Now, if I have nothing to oppose to this plain testimony, I ought in reason to believe it. For instance: Even one that is perfected in love may mistake with regard to another person, and may think him, in a particular case, to be more or less faulty than he really is; and hence he may speak to him with more or less severity than the truth requires.
And in this sense though that be not the primary meaning of St.
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This therefore is no proof at all that the person so speaking is not perfect. Question: But is it not a proof, if he is surprised or fluttered by a noise, a fall, or some sudden danger?
Answer: It is not; for one may start, tremble, change colour, or be otherwise disordered in body, while the soul is calmly stayed on God, and remains in perfect peace. Nay, the mind itself may be deeply distressed, may be exceeding sorrowful, may be perplexed and pressed down by heaviness and anguish, even to agony, while the heart cleaves to God by perfect love, and the will is wholly resigned to Him.
Was it not so with the Son of God Himself?
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Does any child of man endure the distress, the anguish, the agony, which He sustained? And yet He knew no sin [Hebrews ]. Question: But can anyone who has a pure heart prefer pleasing to unpleasing food, or use any pleasure of sense which is not strictly necessary? If so, how do they differ from others? Answer: The difference between these and others in taking pleasant food is—.
This being premised, we answer directly—Such a one may use pleasing food without the danger which attends those who are not saved from sin. On the same principle, he may smell a flower, or eat a bunch of grapes, or take any other pleasure which does not lessen but increase his delight in God.
Therefore, neither can we say that one perfected in love would be incapable of marriage, and of worldly business—if he were called thereto, he would be more capable than ever; as being able to do all things without hurry or carefulness, without any distraction of spirit. Question: But if two perfect Christians had children, how could they be born in sin, since there was none in the parents? Answer: It is a possible, but not a probable, case; I doubt whether it ever was, or ever will be. But, waiving this, I answer, Sin is entailed upon me, not by immediate generation, but by my first parent.
We have a remarkable illustration of this in gardening: grafts on a crab-stock bear excellent fruit; but sow the kernels of this fruit, and what will be the event? They produce as mere crabs as ever were eaten. Question: But what does the perfect one do more than the others?
Answer: Perhaps nothing; so may the providence of God have hedged him in by outward circumstances. Perhaps not so much; though he desires and longs to spend and be spent for God—at least, not externally; he neither speaks so many words, nor does so many works; as neither did our Lord Himself speak so many words, or do so many, no, nor so great works, as some of His apostles John xiv.
But what then? This is no proof that he has not more grace; and by this God measures the outward work. Verily, this poor man, with his few broken words, hath spoken more than they all. Verily, this poor woman, that hath given a cup or cold water [Mark ], hath done more than they all.
Question: But is not this a proof against him,—I feel no power either in his words or prayer? Answer: It is not; for perhaps that is your own fault. You are not likely to feel any power therein, if any of these hindrances lie in the way—. If any of these is the case, what wonder is it that you feel no power in anything he says? But do not others feel it? If they do, your argument falls to the ground.
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And if they do not, do none of these hindrances lie in their way too? You must be certain of this before you can build any argument thereon; and even then your argument will prove no more than that grace and gifts do not always go together.
For your idea may go beyond, or at least beside, the scriptural account. It may include more than the Bible includes therein; or, however, something which that does not include. Scripture perfection is pure love, filling the heart, and governing all the words and actions. If your idea includes anything more or anything else, it is not scriptural; and then, no wonder that a scripturally perfect Christian does not come up to it.
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I fear many stumble on this stumbling-block. They include as many ingredients as they please, not according to Scripture, but their own imagination, in their idea of one that is perfect; and then readily deny any one to be such who does not answer that imaginary idea. The more care should we take to keep the simple scriptural account continually in our eye. Pure love reigning alone in the heart and life, this is the whole of scriptural perfection. Question: When may a person judge himself to have attained this?
Several have experienced this for a time before their souls were fully renewed. None therefore ought to believe that the work is done, till there is the added testimony of the Spirit witnessing his entire sanctification as clearly as his justification. Question: But whence is it that some imagine they are thus sanctified, when in reality they are not? Answer: It is hence: they do not judge by all the preceding marks, but either by part of them, or by others that are ambiguous. But I know no instance of a person attending to them all, and yet deceived in this matter. I believe there can be none in the world.
If a man be deeply and fully convinced, after justification, of inbred sin; if he then experience a gradual mortification of sin, and afterwards an entire renewal in the image of God; if to this change, immensely greater than that wrought when he was justified, be added a clear direct witness of the renewal, I judge it as impossible this man should be deceived herein, as that God should lie. And if one whom I know to be a man of veracity testify these things to me, I ought not, without some sufficient reason, to reject his testimony.
Question: Is this death to sin, and renewal in love, gradual or instantaneous? Answer: A man may be dying for some time; yet he does not, properly speaking, die till the instant the soul is separated from the body; and in that instant he lives the life of eternity. In like manner, he may be dying to sin for some time; yet he is not dead to sin till sin is separated from his soul; and in that instant he lives the full life of love.
And as the change undergone when the body dies is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any we had known before before, yea, such as till then it is impossible to conceive; so the change wrought when a soul dies to sin is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any before, and than any can conceive till he experiences it. Yet he still grows in grace, in the knowledge of Christ, in the love and image of God; and will do so, not only till death, but to all eternity. Question: How are we to wait for this change?
Answer: Not in careless indifference, or indolent inactivity; but in vigorous, universal obedience, in a zealous keeping of all the commandments, in watchfulness and painfulness, in denying ourselves, and taking up our cross daily; as well as in earnest prayer and fasting, and a close attendance on all the ordinances of God. And if any man dream of attaining it any other way yea, or of keeping it when it is attained, when he has received it even in the largest measure , he deceiveth his own soul. It is true, we receive it by simple faith; but God does not, will not, give that faith unless we seek it with all diligence, in the way which He hath ordained.
This consideration may satisfy those who inquire, why so few have received the blessing.
Inquire how many are seeking it in this way; and you have a sufficient answer. Prayer especially is wanting. Who continues instant therein? Who wrestles with God for this very thing? Before you die! Will that content you? Nay, but ask that it may be done now, today, while it is called today. Make haste, man, make haste. Thy soul breaks out in strong desire The perfect bliss to prove; Thy longing heart be all on fire To be dissolved in love. Question: But may we not continue in peace and joy till we are perfected in love?
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And yet we may be sensibly pained at the sinful nature that still remains in us. It is good for us to have a piercing sense of this, and a vehement desire to be delivered from it. And when the sense of our sin most abounds, the sense of His love should much more abound.