« הקודםהמשך »
phrases, St. Peter expresses in that one, il Pet. iv. 1, 2,) " He that hath suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sin,—that he no longer should live to the desires of men, but to the will of God.” For this ceasing from sin, it it be interpreted in the lowest sense, as regarding only the outward behaviour, must denote the ceasing from the outward act, from any outward transgression of the law.
5. But most express are the well-known words of St. John, in the third chapter of his First Episile, ver. 8, &c.: "He that committeth sin is of the Devil; for the Devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil. Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” And those in the fifth : (ver. 18:) “ We know that whosoever is born of God, sinneth not; but he thai is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not."
6. Indeed it is said, this means only, He sinneth not wilfully; or he doth not commit sin habitually; or, not as other men do; or, not as he did before. But by whom is this said ? By St. Jolin? Vo: There is no such word in the text; nor in the whole chapter ; nor in all this Epistle; nor in any part of his writings whatsoever. Why then, the best way to answer a bold assertion is, simply to deny it. And if any man can prove it from the word of God, let him bring forth his strong reasons.
7. And a sort of reason there is, which has been frequently brought to support these strange assertions, drawn from the examples recorded in the word of God: “Wbat!' say they,
did not Abraham himself commit sin, prevaricating, and denying his wife ? Did not Moses commit sin, when he proyoked God at the Waters of Strife? Nay, to produce one for all, did not even David, “the man after God's own heart," commit sin, in the matter of Uriah the Hittite ; even murder and adultery?' It is most sure he did. All this is true. But what is it you wonld infer from hence? It may be granted, first, that David, in the general course of his life, was one of the holiest men among the Jews; and, secondly, that the holiest men among the Jews did sometimes commit sin. But if you would hence infer, that all Christians do and must commit sin, as long as they live; this consequence we utterly deny: It will never follow from those premises.
8. Those who argue thus, scem never to have considered that declaration of our Lord : latt. si. 11:) “ Verily, I say
unto you, Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist : notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." I fear, indeed, there are some who have imagined “the kingdom of heaven,” here, to mean the kingdom of glory; as if the Son of God had just discovered to us, that the least glorified saint in heaven is greater than any man upon earth! To mention this is sufficiently to refute it. There can, therefore, no doubt be made, but “the kingdom of heaven” here, (as in the following verse, where it is said to be taken by force,) or, “ the kingdom of God," as St. Luke expresses it,-is that kingdom of God on earth, whereunto all true believers in Christ, all real Christians, belong. In these words, then, our Lord declares two things : First, that before his coming in the flesh, among all the children of men, there had not been one greater than John the Baptist ; whence it evidently follows, that neither Abraham, David, nor any Jew, was greater than John. Our Lord, secondly, declares, that he which is least in the kingdom of God, (in that kingdom which he came to set up on earth, and which the violent now begán to take by force,) is greater than he: -Not a greater Prophet, as some have interpreted the word; for this is palpably false in fact; but greater in the grace of God, and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we cannot measure the privileges of real Christians, by those formerly given to the Jews. Their “ ministration,” (or dispensation,) we allow, “ was glorious ;” but ours “ exceeds in glory.” So that whosoever would bring down the Christian dispensation to the Jewish standard, whosoever gleans up the examples of weakness, recorded in the Law and the Prophets, and thence infers, that they who have “put on Christ are endued with no greater strength, doth greatly err, neither “knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.”
9. “But are there not assertions in Scripture, which prove the same thing, if it cannot be inferred from those examples ? Does not the Scripture say expressly, “Even a just man sinneth seven times a day?”' I answer, No: The Scripture says no such thing. There is no such text in all the Bible. That which seems to be intended is the sixteenth verse of the twenty-fourth chapter of the Proverbs ; the words of which are these : “ A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” But this is quite another thing. For, first, the words “ a day," are not in the text. So that if a just man falls seven times in his life, it is as much as is affirmed here. Secondly, here is no mention of falling into sin at all; what is here mentioned is, falling into temporal affliction. This plainly appears from the verse before, the words of which are these : “ Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous ; spoil not his resting-place." It follows, “ For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” As if he had said, “God will deliver him out of his trouble; but when thou fallest, there shall be none to deliver thee.'
10. “But however, in other places,' continue the objectors, Solomon does assert plainly, “ There is no man that sinneth not;” (1 Kings viii. 46; 2 Chron. vi. 36 ;) yea, “ there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.”' (Eccles. vii. 20.) I answer, Without doubt, thus it was in the days of Solomon. Yea, thus it was from Adam to Moses, from Moses to Solomon, and from Solomon to Christ. There was then no man that sinned not. Even from the day that sin entered into the world, there was not a just man upon earth that did good and sinned not, until the Son of God was manifested to take away our sins. It is unquestionably true, that “ the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant.” And that even so they call the holy men of old, who were under the Jewish dispensation) were, during that infant-state of the Church, “ in bondage under the elements of the world.” “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons ;”-that they might receive that “grace which is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ; who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Tim. i. 10.) Now, therefore, they “ are no more servants, but sons.” So that whatsoever was the case of those under the Law, we may safely affirm with St. John, that since the Gospel was given, “ He that is born of God sinneth not.”
ll. It is of great importance to observe, and that more carefully than is commonly done, the wide difference that is between the Jewish and the Christian dispensation ; and that ground of it, which the same Apostle assigns in the seventh chapter of bis Gospel. (Ver. 38, &c.) After he had there related those words of our blessed Lord, “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," he immediately subjoins, “ This spake he of the Spirit, ant the
after each, ano
OU ELLER Nov quBeveiv OI TISEUOVTES EIS autov,—which they who should believe on him, were afterwards to receive. For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” Now the Apostle cannot mean here, (as some bave taught,) that the miracle-working power of the Holy Ghost was not yet given. For this was given; our Lord had given it to all his Apostles, when he first sent them forth to preach the Gospel. He then gave them power over unclean spirits to cast them out; power to heal the sick; yea, to raise the dead. But the Holy Ghost was not yet given in his sanctifying graces, as he was after Jesus was glorified. It was then when “he ascended up on high, and led captivity captive," that he "received [those) gifts for men, yea, even for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, then first it was, that they who “ waited for the promise of the Father" were made more than conquerors over sin by the Holy Ghost given unto them.
12. That this great salvation from sin was not given till Jesus was glorified, St. Peter also plainly testifies; where, speaking of his brethren in the flesh, as now “receiving the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls,” he adds, (1 Pet. i. 9, 10, &c.,) “ Of which salvation the Prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace [i.e. the gracious dispensation) that should come unto' you : searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory [the glorious salvation] that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven ;” viz. at the day of Pentecost, and so unto all generations, into the hearts of all true believers. On this ground, even," the grace which was brought unto them by the revelation of Jesus Christ," the Apostlé might well build that strong exhortation, “Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, as he which hath called you is boly, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”
13. Those who have duly considered these things must allow, that the privileges of Christians are in nowise to be measured by what the Old Testament records concerning those who were under the Jewish dispensation ; seeing the fulness of time is now come; the Holy Ghost is now given ; the great salvation of God is brought unto men, by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven is now set up on earth; concerning which the Spirit of God declared of old, (so far is David from being the pattern or standard of Christian Perfection,) “He that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David ; and the house of David shall be as God, as the Angel of the Lord before them.” (Zech. xji. 8.)
14. If, therefore, you would prove that the Apostle's words, “ He that is born of God sinneth not,” are not to be understood according to their plain, natural, obvious meaning, it is from the New Testament you are to bring your proofs ; else you will fight as one that beateth the air. And the first of these which is usually brought, is taken from the examples recorded in the New Testament. “The Apostles themselves,' it is said, “committed sin; nay, the greatest of them, Peter and Paul: St. Paul, by his sharp contention with Barnabas; and St. Peter, by his dissimulation at Antioch. Well: suppose both Peter and Paul did then commit sin; what is it you would infer from hence? That all the other Apostles committed sin sometimes ? There is no shadow of proof 'in this. Or would you thence infer, that all the other Christians of the Apostolic age committed sin ? Worse and worse: this is such an inference as, one would imagine, a man in his senses could never have thought of. Or will you argue thus : ' If two of the Apostles did once commit sin, then all other Christians, in all ages, do and will commit sin as long as they live ? Alas, my brother! a child of common understanding would be ashamed of such reasoning as this. Least of all can you with any colour of argument infer, That any man must commit sin at all. No; God forbid we should thus speak! No necessity of sinning was laid upon them. The grace of God was surely sufficient for them. Aud it is sufficient for us at this day. With the temptation which fell on them, there was a way to escape; as there is to every soul of man in every temptation. So that whosoever is tempted to any sin, need not yield; for no man is tempted above that he is able to bear.
15. “But St. Paul besought the Lord thrice, and yet he could not escape from bis temptation.' Let us consider his own words literally translated, “ There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, an angel (or messenger) of Satan to buffet me. Touching this, I besought the Lord thrice, that it (or he] might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee. For my strength is made persect in weak