Editor's Note 19
Allow me to say a few words on a very simple principle, connected with the exercise of men’s hearts before the Lord, and with questions which are now occupying the thoughts and anxieties of a body of persons, who must at present be the object of the deepest interest to any real Christian, even if not within the reach of those kindly affections by which so many are united to them. It does not appear to me that, in the agitation which the introduction of long neglected truths has produced among them, any body of Christians has presented an adequate or satisfactory exhibition of Christian truth and practice; nor has anything more struck me as to the extreme defectiveness of the views of the most noted Christian teachers at present before the world, than this manifest failure.
I am not about to enter into diffuse reasonings, but present a few considerations for their thoughts and consciences.
The first in importance is the light in every man.
A little simple attention to Scripture I think will make this very plain. It has been confused, it seems to me, by systems of doctrine current previously in the mind. As to mere argumentative refutation, Wardlaw has, with the ability of mind with which God has endowed him, plainly shewn the inconsistency of their doctrines in their most favourable point of view, and, I think, however courteous and polite in his statements, plainly shewn Joseph John Gurney to be by far the most inconsistent of all. For in Mr. Gurney’s system, while he holds justification in an evangelical point of view, he still makes the mediation of Christ to be the procuring cause of that light from which accountability springs—that is, that the mediation of Christ created the guilt which it put away; and, consequently, that there was no guilt in man previous to the mediation of Christ. This is clearly an untenable position, and I cannot help feeling that the position held by Mr. Gurney is the most inconsistent and unsatisfactory of any engaged in the anxieties which press upon Friends.
But, while Dr. Wardlaw has refuted very ably in many respects the views he opposes, it does not appear to me that he has given anything on the other hand, upon which a sincerely anxious soul could rest; and it also appears to me, that his view of “Christ in us”—“Christ’s dwelling in our hearts” is as objectionable as that of the Friends itself; and that in his anxiety to avoid mysticism, he has destroyed in statement the living power of Christianity itself as a present thing. His view of the law written in the heart, his substitute for this inward light, I believe to be most unsatisfactory, almost as unsatisfactory as the inward light itself. For if the law (of which he, with many others, speaks) be so written, it is not merely a knowledge of the divine will without, but that which in some instances at least (for of such the apostle is writing) produces the effects of the law done; and moreover, it is spoken of (I take their use of the sentence) not as a law known externally, which is their ground of defence, but written in the very language, we may say, of the power of the new covenant. It appears to me, then, I confess, that this law written on the heart of unbelieving Gentiles, is, at the least, as objectionable, if not more so, than the inward light of Friends, and as untenable from Scripture.
As regards the passage in John 1:9, I cannot but think that a calm attention to its statements, and inquiry into its import, will shew to any mind taught of God that, while the divine perfectness was there as the Light, our Lord is spoken of as a Person coming into the world, One to whom John the Baptist bore witness. This was surely Jesus Christ come in flesh— the expected Messiah of the Jews, of whom there is this double testimony—that “he was in the world” (for the testimony was not confined to the Jews, nor was He merely their Messiah, but an universal object of faith—“he was in the world)”; and, further, that He surely was Jesus, the Messiah, “come to his own [the Jews], and his own received him not.” How could it be said that any inward light came to His own and His own received Him not, and that, as distinct from, and additional to, His being in the world, and the world not knowing Him? If this were the inward light, would it not prove that this light was in the world, and men completely unconscious of it? which would refute itself. Both are simply and plainly true, and the whole passage most intelligible and to the purpose, as relating to the incarnate Son of God, who was intrinsically light, and as living, as a man, a light to man, and was both in the world and made the world, and the world knew Him not, and came specially to the Jews, and the Jews received Him not; though to as many as did receive Him He gave authority to be sons of God, not servants as they were (even though godly) under the law; and to whom John bare witness, as sent before Him. As the Lord Himself elsewhere designates Himself, “While ye have the light, walk in the light. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Further, as to the law written upon the heart, perhaps I shall startle some in saying that the scripture never speaks of “a law written on the heart.” God puts His laws into the heart in the new covenant, but this is another and a distinct thing. Nor is sin ever said to be “the transgression of the law,” but the contrary. I am aware that expressions in the English scriptures may carry such a force; but it has no such force in the original scripture.
The passage on which accountability is made to rest on a law know, which is after all inward light, is I John 3:4: “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Then it is argued further, “Where no law is, there is no transgression”; still, “until the law, sin was in the world”: therefore, as there was no outward law, there must have been an inward law, as elsewhere, “These, having not the law, are a law unto themselves, and shew the work of the law written upon their hearts.” To follow this reasoning in Scripture—
First: “Sin is the transgression of the law.”
The law is not mentioned in the passage. It is a reciprocal proposition. Sin is lawlessness. Sin is equivalent to the spirit of selfwill and unrestrainedness. This may be, and was, whether there was a law asserting restraint on this will or not. When there was, its acts were actual transgressions; but without this, sin was there, though there were no such actual transgressions till “law entered.” And sin was not imputed where law was not. Not that God will not judge the secrets of men’s hearts in that day, according to the gospel; but that the times of this ignorance God winked at, passed by, in His dealings of retributive justice, not having a law by Him revealed to their consciences, on which He could deal with their conscience. On the contrary. He gave them up to a reprobate mind. They did not discern to retain Him in their knowledge, but set idol-creature gods (all the argument is of the world after the flood); and therefore God gave them up to an undiscerning mind, as to that which related to lower things of good and evil in themselves, and towards others. It is astonishing, in the face of this positive testimony, to hear the abstract reasonings of men.
On the other hand, as to this imputation of offences, we have the prophet’s witness: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities,” Amos 3:2.
Now He calls all persons everywhere to repent, seeing “He hath appointed a day in which he will judge this habitable earth in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead,” Acts 17.
In the day when God judges the secrets of men’s hearts, they that have sinned without law, shall perish without law: and they that have sinned under the law, shall be judged by the law; Romans 2.
This general review of the passages may clear the point as to the fact of the first text quoted not being the transgression of the law. I insert the Greek: “he hamartia estin he anomia” Sin and lawlessness may be reciprocally affirmed one of another. Next, I state that the law is not said to be written on men’s hearts. Were it so, I do not see that we are a step removed from the inward light, save downwards—that is, we have the law written upon the heart instead of Christ there. But as to the fact, there is no such sentence as “the law written in the heart.”
The apostle states, that in these particular instances, in which the Gentiles did the things contained in the law, they shew the work of the law written in their hearts. The law is not said to be written there, but that particular act which the law required was shewn to be upon their conscience. For when the Gentiles who have not law (it is not the law at all) do by nature20 the things of the law, these, not having law, are a law to themselves, which shew the work of the law written in their hearts. Written agreeing with work, not with law at all. These are the only words in which the law is said to be written on the heart, an expression which ought in itself to have awakened suspicion in one acquainted with the truth. The expression, “law written on the heart by nature,” is surely one which should startle anyone who knew the truth of God. Dr. Wardlaw gets out of this difficulty by saying nature does not exclude grace, and that the law could be known responsibly without any subjection or conformity to it. It is a laborious effort for which the statement gives no occasion. The force of the sentence is, that there was something written proved by the deed done.
Next, as to the assertion of the contrary. It is stated, Where no law is, no transgression is: but the apostle is there shewing that sin and transgression of law are different things, but that there was no present imputation of it where there was not the latter.
Between Adam and Moses death reigned over those who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression; for Adam was disobedient to an express and positive command, and there was present imputation and punishment, besides the effect upon his soul. Sin was in the world, and death reigned by sin until the law, thus expressly distinguishing sin from the law and transgression; sin being there when the law was not, and when consequently transgression was not, and giving afterwards the respective consequences of sin when there was and was not law. Sin is anomia but it is not transgression of law, although that is the character of sin when the law comes in, and it becomes then an imputable transgression.
Where then is the universal accountability of man which Christ met as light and life, and the way of peace by atonement in contrast with their state?
It is most strange to me how the students of the scripture should have passed over this plain and all-important statement, to look for confused and reasoned notions of a law in the heart, or a light in the heart, which amounts to pretty much the same thing.
“The man (the Adam, the race man) is become as one of us, knowing good and evil.” This is God’s account of fallen man. Satan never deceives by a mere abstract lie; he tells much attractive truth, but never leads to obedience by it. What he gave as a promise to man, God pronounced to be true, but he had it by disobedience. He knew evil in guilt, he knew it in disobedience, he knew it in the admitted power of sin over his soul, he knew it as a creature over whom it had power, he knew it by and with a bad conscience. God knows good and evil, but He knows it by the infinite and intrinsic possession of good, and Himself being good, and therefore knows evil as that which is infinitely repudiated by Him; and in this, therefore, His holiness is infinitely seen. A creature knows not so, as a mere creature, for he is not supreme. Evil known to a mere creature is known in conscience; he is subject to judgment in the knowledge of it, and hates the judgment and the Judge; because selfishness cannot like its own condemnation, nor can it like to be subject to any, and cannot therefore please God. This knowledge of good and evil may be darkened in its judgment, because a false rule or guide may be introduced; God may give up to a reprobate mind, or Satan introduce a law of darkness, having power to deceive and blind, which is not God’s, and which may be made its estimate of right; but the knowledge of good and evil is inherent in fallen human nature. Man unfallen was not, properly speaking, holy:21 he was innocent, he knew not evil, but only beneficent good. Fallen man knows evil, with a conscience subject to judgment, and hating God. Here then is the revealed accountability and condition of man as man. There may be a false standard. The law of God is the true one, evil having come in. Paul thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and the time was to come when those that killed the disciples would think they did God service. However wretchedly and inexcusably false the standard assumed from men, there was the sense of good and evil, and of obligation thereupon. It was still lawlessness to God, and sin. Subjection to God is now shewn in obedience to Christ, and honouring Him in everything.
The law of God given, which surely is perfect for its purpose, could not have been the law to Adam; for it is conversant about evil, and implies the knowledge of it. Adam had a law, which he broke, which implied no knowledge of evil—“Thou shalt not eat of such a tree”—a command which He who knew all things gave him. Adam fell with the knowledge of good and evil, for he got it in disobedience; but he had that knowledge then, to which the law, when it came in, applied the standard and prohibitory restraints, though it gave no new life so that righteousness could be by it. In the meanwhile, sin reigned by death, with the knowledge of good and evil and a guilty conscience, however Satan and man’s lusts might darken and debase it. But none of these things gave life, nor was it their object; the fall certainly did not, yet in this came the knowledge of good and evil, conscience, so as that God said, “The man is become as one of us,” i.e. as to this. Yet death came in with this. The law, which gave a standard of actual accountability to this, did not give life, nor pretend to it; on the contrary, wrought wrath, entered that the offence might abound, was a ministration of death, of condemnation, and the strength of sin; not through any fault of the law, but the contrary, being just, and true, and good; if it did not give life, sin by it only became exceeding sinful.
But under all and any of these circumstances, God, who is the author of life, could and did give life; and Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Eli, and Samuel, and David, and Hezekiah, and Anna, and Simeon, and others whom we cannot number, but who are written before and live unto God as from Him, all in various circumstances are witnesses to His quickening and justifying power. They have “obtained a good report through faith.” I do not enter here into the power of darkness, which is most important in connection with this subject, and the active instrumentality of him who rules the darkness of this world, because I desire to confine myself to the points under consideration; but in any general view of the state of man it is most important, all-important, to be taken into the account: indeed without it our general estimate must be false: just as three sums, however correct, will not make a right result if there be a fourth left out. From the beginning, till peace and glory be brought in, this the power and deceit of the adversary has been, as still is the case, the leading source of evil and alienation from God, however man’s estate may help him and his efforts to dishonour the Lord.
I would present then this sentence, “The man is become as one of us, to know good and evil,” as a very simple and easy solution of many difficulties most elaborately constructed by man’s wit and reasoning, and draw attention to what the law really is, as presented to us in Scripture in the passages referred to, and its connection with the accountability of man. It never gave life—God alone could do that: and I do entreat those who teach, who have the knowledge of the original, to weigh the force of the passages on which they rest so large and important a system. I would also urge upon them the difference of sin and sins—two things never, I believe, confounded in the Holy Scriptures.
As to the rule of faith, primary and secondary, the Spirit and the Scriptures, this question has really also been raised, though under different apparent circumstances, by the Roman Catholics; and it has appeared to me always in that controversy, that there was a sophism scarcely ever noticed, which was at the root of all the difficulty; and that is, confounding a rule, or standard, with the means of communicating, or power that communicates, anything to our minds: the tacit assumption that one was equivalent to another. All Milner’s “End of Controversy” hangs upon a statement concealing this false assumption. “The rule of faith, or means of communicating Christ’s religion,” he says, “must be such, or such”; which he then shews Scripture not to be, having identified these two ideas. Admit their identity, and no one can answer him; separate them, and his argument comes simply to nothing.
The Friends, it appears to me, have made the same mistake. The Scriptures are the only rule or standard of faith and practice; but the power that applies them to our minds is the Spirit, and the instruments may be many. To make a rule, or standard, we must have the whole thing fully out and expressed. A parent, a teacher, a friend, may communicate truth, but none are a standard.
My use of the standard may be ignorant or imperfect; still it is a perfect standard in itself. I, as a teacher, may have stated perfect truth, but it is no standard. The whole truth having been communicated:, no fresh revelation to an individual soul of part of the same truth is a standard. The Bible may be the means of communicating truth; but its great value is, that it is the standard as well as the depository of all truth. A truth may be most perfectly communicated to me, as a measure of corn may be most accurately weighed; for the ascertainment that it is so, a standard is required. The Spirit of God may enable me to use the standard of the word, but this does not make the Spirit of God the standard, any more than the perfect skill of the weighmaster or measurer makes his hand or mind the standard.
I may have spiritually learned truth, and may, as far as known, use this known truth as a test to all presented to me, and so far the intelligence of the Spirit may be a guide. But a standard must be a standard of everything, and for this it must be the whole record of truth, and the perfect record of truth. Moreover, there are principles of universal application implanted in every regenerate mind: God is righteous; holiness is the thing which characterizes God and the saint in communion. But what righteousness is, how sinful man is placed and led in it practically, and what is holy in conduct, is another thing. And if this be not in the mind of man naturally, it must be revealed; and if revealed to be a standard, it must be revealed with authority for all, or it is not a rule or standard which every one must be responsible to; and individual responsibility, and mutual sense of righteousness, is destroyed, and manifest fruits of righteousness cease to be of avail as a test of conduct and fellowship, because there is no standard, or common subject of reference, to which they are to be brought. For to be a standard by which man can act before God, it must be perfect, common to all, perfect with God’s perfectness; the necessary consequence otherwise will be the destruction of individual responsibility, and the setting up of authority without any perfect rule.
I have spoken of these things merely to illustrate the difference between a rule or standard, and the power which perceives, uses, or may have learned or appropriated part, but which part, though useful to communicate, cannot be a standard to another; or authority abstractedly is set up, and we lean upon man as infallible at once. No man, or any but God, is infallible—no apostle, no prophet: he may be absolutely right at any given time, but not infallible, for that is the impossibility of being wrong. To receive what a man says without a standard must be to suppose him incapable of being wrong. And the question therefore really is, whether there is a standard at all, not what it is. Because a standard is a complete communication of divine truth, by which everything can be tried; and therefore every and all truth necessary for the guidance of those to whom it is proposed as a standard must be there, or it could not be such a standard.
Any subsequent communication of divine truth has nothing to do with being a standard, as is evident, however certain the perception of it in the Spirit; and though truths may be impressed upon the soul of any man, and as an instrument at any given time for the communication of them, this has nothing to do with being a standard.
If it be contended that the Spirit in each man is the rule or standard on every particular occasion, and consequently must perpetually communicate the way of truth and the truth itself, then it is an assertion that everybody is infallible, and that there is no standard at all—that men are not responsible, but automatons. If I am told that the Spirit always does suggest, and is always right (and this would apply to practice alone, for truth must be expressed to be a standard), but that men do not always listen to it, then I say, How is this to be known? Where is the ground of judgment? What is the rule or standard of this? Or, is each man the warrant of all possible conduct? or, are others the irresponsible judges of him? The question still evidently is, Is there a standard, a perfect revelation of God’s will at all—in a word, a complete revelation? If there be, let us humbly admit, that the Spirit, in its active divine operations, takes any scope you please, our judgment of which must be subject to this same word of revelation; but we have to acknowledge that it has given us a perfect rule by which we judge of the pretensions to its operations, and any alleged truth in, or proposed by, any. If there be any such revealed authenticated standard, it is manifest that the written word of God is that standard.
I would make a few remarks as to the communication of it. How was it to be judged of, or how was the communication of it authenticated, if any operation of the divine Spirit in an individual be not such standard? It will be still remarked that this is a question whether there be any standard at all. But I say, in reply, that God having been pleased to communicate any revelation authentically, as the communication of Moses as having His authority, whatever should afterwards be revealed is always triable by consistency with this. It might be revealed with equal authority, and would be necessarily, as from God, consistent therewith; no apparent authentication would be sufficient to excuse the reception of anything inconsistent with the original revelation. Though God might afford and did afford some superior authentication, as in the case of our blessed Lord, He always took care to validate a previous revelation by that, and appeal to it, as Christ, though perfectly competent to reveal, ever appealed to the word (so the apostles), and thus there was mutual authentication. Nor would a prophet have been to be received, had he spoken anything contrary to the law and the testimony; he acted in solemn warnings as to present conduct, but always applied to conduct upon the ground of the existing law and testimony. Then Messiah coming, authenticated and sealed the authority of predictions, by sealing the prophecy, whether all the particulars were fulfilled or not; and with the words of the apostles22 and companions of the Lord, the Church was left to the written testimony as the law and standard. In a word, faith recognizes that the Lord has provided in His great mercy a perfect and common standard of His mind and will in the revelation of His word. And there cannot be a greater or more signal mercy, nor one more worthy of a beneficent God; an imperfect one would be but a mockery, and throwing them into the hands of designing men, and necessarily destroy responsibility to it or any standard at all, or make it an unholy and blind responsibility to man.
The communication, the apprehension, the application of truth—of all contained in the word of this whole of truth—is by the constant living operation of the Spirit of God. It appears to me there is a vast difference between the revealing operations of the Spirit of God and the communicative operations—that the one are to conscience when they are more than external testimony; the other, not. A revelation may be by an ungodly unconverted man; and when by a saint, as usually, though by his understanding, they are not to his conscience, there is nothing personal in them; he may afterwards, as we read in Peter, search and inquire into their application, and who is interested in them, like any other person, and find it not to himself at all. This is not the case in any internal operations of the divine Spirit for our good and personal guidance; immediate responsibility arises therefrom. On the other hand, when the Spirit of God is pleased to use us as a means of communicating truth, it does not necessarily act on our conscience at all; it may not be applicable to my conscience in its present state at all; nay I might preach to others all truth, and be a castaway; I might say, “I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh.” “How goodly are thy tabernacles, O Israel!” And this shews a distinctive difference in the operation even when the Spirit does operate. When a revelation, it is not as such a communication or operation on the conscience or will of the instrument at all. There is an operation of the Spirit by truth on both, which may be of the same truths as have been long revealed, and are no proper subject therefore of revelation at all, though they may be new to him in whom the Spirit works. I put no limit then to the Spirit’s operations. But I say He has Himself given a standard, a rule, by which we can judge all pretensions to them, being ourselves spiritual.
There is a point yet unnoticed, in which Dr. Wardlaw’s statements seem to me most ruinous of the real living power of Christianity. He states that Christ in us is equivalent to Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith—that is, having Christ as the object of our heart’s affections, as the apostle says, “Inasmuch as ye are in my heart,” etc. I confess this seems to me most pernicious, and that the Church has lost the indwelling of the Spirit, as a truth, most sadly.
The life which we have of and from Christ is a life of union with Him. “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.” Faith is the mean or instrument whereby these things are wrought, because it is by the word He begets us; but there is a life: “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” as much and as truly as “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” And to assert that Christ by the Spirit dwells really in no man, is quite as great an error as to assert that He dwells in every man; and the word of truth refutes both. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his”; and “if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, and the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” To see how the word of God teaches us in this, that we are born, quickened of God by the Spirit, is recognized by all, we may say, who hold the truth: but I fear confusedly by some, being looked at as a mere operation on the understanding and will, and not the communication of divine life, born really of God. As we have seen, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, the seed of the divine life which thereon abideth in the soul. While this is of the operation of the Holy Ghost and is of God, it is not the Holy Ghost nor God, as needs scarcely be said. It enjoys, apprehends, is cognizant of, has a taste for, divine things, as being of God; but it knows and has the revelation of these things only by a superior power, which guides into truth, shews things to come, and takes of the things of Christ and shews them to us. Besides this there is a partaking of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost cannot dwell in a defiled uncleaned place. He could dwell with Jesus, speaking of Him as an anointed Man, because He was intrinsically pure, perfect, and spotless.23 How then with us? The scripture says, “we are quickened together with Christ”—that is, as out His grave, “wherein also ye are risen together with him, through faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Christ, having borne our sins, met Satan, and undergone death, His resurrection is a power of life, clear from, and paramount to, beyond, and having left behind all these— beyond the reach of all these. But we are risen with Him: that is, the life which we have of God, as quickened of the Holy Ghost, is as the life of Christ after the sins are completely put away. It is communicated to us consequent upon His having borne and put away the sins, yea, is the witness of His having put them all away (as he says, therefore, “hath quickened us together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses”); for His resurrection is the witness that they are gone. Now, the blood being the life, which He gave for them, and shed, having given His natural life in the energy and perfectness of the divine life in obedience, the shedding of the blood is the characteristic term and expression of this; and we, as washed in His blood, are cleansed from all sin. Our quickening, then, by the Holy Ghost being then our quickening together with Him, implies our absolute justification thereby—that is, by what He has wrought. Hence the Holy Ghost not only quickens, but can take up His abode in and with us, because He views us according to His value of the blood of Jesus (that is, infinite or perfect cleansing). Thus the high priest was anointed without a sacrifice, the sons of Aaron after and upon the blood of the sacrifices, typifying the same truth.
The Holy Ghost, then, consequent upon faith wrought in our souls by His divine and quickening operation, dwells in us, as consequent upon, and witness of, the blood-shedding of Jesus; by virtue of whose resurrection, as having borne our sins, we are quickened. And here and hence is assurance; nor is it till we thus see clearly the power of the resurrection that we have this assurance. The resurrection is the triumph over all the results of sin, and him who had the power of it.
Thus, consequently, the Scriptures speak of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost: “Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, which we have of God?” “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption; in whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.”
And that we might not think this to be merely what are called miraculous gifts, we are told how “He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, is God; who also hath sealed and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts”; and therefore we are told that “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs” (for it is “the earnest of our inheritance”), and afterwards “helps also our infirmities,” as in trial here, “making intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
So in Galatians 3. “Ye are all the children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus”; and then in chapter 4, “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father,” etc.
How the Holy Ghost manifests itself, whether in connection with the life of Christ, as risen, or with the ascension of Christ as glorified, is another thing very important and valuable, but not my subject here, but the actual presence of that other “Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you”; and He was to “abide for ever.” I now speak of it as connected with the Hfe of Christ, as belonging to the sons, the earnest of the inheritance, a well of water in us springing up into everlasting life. He who weakens this, weakens, I believe, the great stay and blessing of the gospel. If I dwell in love, God dwelleth in me, and I in God. If I confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in me, and I in God. And if it be disconnected with the sacrifice of Christ, and faith in Him, in those quickened by His Spirit, it is but an ignis fatuus, leading into misery and confusion. To deprive those of it who have been given this living faith, is to deprive them of the living power and blessing of both the sufferings of Christ and the glory that is to follow. The possession of the Holy Ghost is the distinguishing characteristic of the believer, of the Church of the living God. The love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him. Nor do I know anything which has reduced and degraded the Church into the world, or given occasion and opportunity to delusion and spiritual pretensions, so much as the neglect of the plain scriptural truth given us on these subjects. If a man did not believe in the truth of the Holy Ghost’s dwelling in him, as an additional privilege and blessing to being born again, and his, because he was so connected with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Scriptures are so full of passages speaking of it, that he might easily be thrown into the hands of designing or misguided men, who could use all these passages which had no force in his mind to mislead or bewilder.
The uniform effort of those who make pretensions to gifts now, for example, is to deny the power of the child of God as individually having the Spirit to judge of and understand the word of God, and know its force, and so judge them. So precisely does a Roman Catholic priest; so would any carnal man.
Let us then thankfully receive the word of God as an infallible standard by which to judge, and know that the power and capacity by which we can do it is the Spirit of God dwelling in us, revealing these things to our new man, so as to act on our conscience, and guide our feet into the way of peace, and to reveal to us the glory of that fulness which makes us abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Let us know that the knowledge of good and evil is our ruin, taken by itself: for we are guilty, and must dread therein and dislike our Judge. Then the law cannot help us, because it does not give life, and therefore only further works wrath.
But being quickened, we are quickened with Him who, as rising from the grave, hath put for ever away all our sins—if not all, none; and are made partakers therefore of the Spirit, a witness to us of the efficacy of this work, and earnest of the inheritance before us, a revealer too of it to our souls, taking of the things of Christ (even all the Father’s things, for He is heir of all things as Son), and shewing them to us, and guiding us in the way, guiding our hearts and feet; for as many as are led of the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
And let us adore Him who hath done these great things for us, and be thankful and humble under such great and exceeding mercies, in which our God is glorified. To Him be the glory, by Christ Jesus our Lord, for ever. Amen.
The full doctrine of the Holy Spirit, though the principle of it has been stated, has by no means been entered upon here. If the Lord permit, I may go into it more fully when He gives occasion.
To avoid ambiguity, I would say, that the graces of the Spirit seem connected with Christ risen (His life in us, as the fulness and headship, being in Him); and the gifts bestowed, in whatever measure or way they may be manifested, with Christ ascended and glorified.
19 These remarks have chiefly reference to Dr. Wardlaw’s Friendly Letters to the Society of Friends.
20 Nature is opposed to law and dispensation simply, abstract from all question as to grace or power.
21 Holiness is separation from that which is evil; but from what could Adam separate, where all was very good?
22 The apostles were the authorised orderers of the Church: and in the Gospels we have the Lord’s own ways, if they be admitted to be authentic. And my controversy is not here with infidels, or those who question the genuineness and authenticity of the New Testament. If men wish to do this, let them avow it, and it may be reasoned on its own grounds.
23 The difference of the Holy Ghost in fulness in His nature, and the anointing, was typified in the pure flour mingled with oil, and the unleavened wafer anointed with oil, in the meat offering, which was the type of the human nature and faculties of Christ the Lord.