My dear Brother,—
I do not question the sincerity or devotedness of the writer of the book which has been before us; but it has only led me to reject wholly its statements as incorrect, and I must add mischievous, and the rather because it is a perversion of what I believe to be one of the most imperious necessities of the church of God—“the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” You know that I reject the thought (I have done so for five and forty years) of the experience of Romans 7 being a Christian state. It is the state of a regenerate soul under law, under the “first husband “of the chapter; not the delivered soul under the second husband, that is, Christ risen. But this is confounded by the writer with a state of purity on, I judge, a low scale compared with the statements of scripture: and there is consequently such vagueness, want of knowledge of scriptural truth, and contradiction in the book, that it is hard to deal with.
I confess, too, the effort does not attract me. That a man must realise this liberty, must possess it, before he can press its blessedness on others, is quite true; but it is not therefore necessary that one should always speak of such realisation in one’s self. It makes a subtle self dominant, which lowers the spiritual state. I never saw any one make his experience the object of his mind, or that with which his mind was occupied, that it did not make self a great object to self. Whether the experience was ordinary evangelical experience, Romans 7, Galatians 5:17, or that of the perfectionist, self holds a large place in the mind’s eye; and it cannot be otherwise. And I think this book is a clear example of it. The blessedness and beauty of Christ Himself nowhere appear in it. He tells us that this doctrine makes more of Christ, and ourselves humble; but if you examine it, it is what Christ effects and produces in us, not what Christ is. And this makes all the difference. What distinguishes, according to John, “the fathers in Christ” is “ye have known Him that is from the beginning.” It is all John has to say of them, but it is much and blessed.
I believe in deliverance. I believe in the unclouded enjoyment of that favour which is better than life, living in the consciousness that we are loved as Jesus was loved, knowing the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. I would insist on it. It is a chief grief for me as regards the church of God that they are as persons outside, at best hoping; not inside, entered through the rent veil, abiding in the light of God’s countenance and looking at Christ and His cross in its own divine perfectness with the eye that the Holy Ghost gives. This I repeat is my daily (might I not say hourly?) grief.
But I say that, where the soul is thus in free and blessed fellowship with the Father’s love and Jesus, it is occupied with them—with the unsearchable fulness of Christ; and that, when it has to be occupied with itself, it has to judge itself. That happens, though there be no excuse for it. But this will be self-judgment, not a reflective sense of one’s own perfectness; that is never right. But this is the contents of, and what is urged in, Holiness through Faith.
Christ is the power to make us perfect and holy: not the all-blessing object of a holy soul that does not think of itself but of Himself. And the difference is very real and all-important, and scripture is quite clear on the subject. No attained state can possibly have the perfectness which is in Christ, nor even any perfecting influence, as thinking of Him has. I am thinking of self. It is because it falsifies and perverts the truth of deliverance that I object to this book, not because there is not the deliverance revealed to us in the scriptures. Hence I do not the least deny, nor do I desire to deny, the instances he gives of deliverance; but I wholly deny his interpretation and spiritual estimate of them; and (though surely deliverance is by faith, as every good thing is, and souls may have been delivered; and though experiences may vary according to the state of the soul, the wisdom of God who deigns to think of each particular case, and the knowledge of grace and truth), yet none ever get out of Romans 7 who had not been in it. There must be self-knowledge, which is what is found in Romans 7, and is always really found under law, and, as Mr. Smith admits, deliverance is found when a man despairs of self. But this is experience.
Divine grace sets us free when we know we are bound and have no power. But we do not know liberty when we have not found this out. Deliverance there is, which many deny, but deliverance from what is experimentally known and felt as bondage to be delivered from. And if Mr. Smith were to speak of this holy state of deliverance from sin to a man who had gone through this lesson, he would speak to the wind or delude the one he spoke to. In the instances given, those at least which are not too vague to build on, this lesson had been learnt, and I dare say the deliverance was very real. But Mr. Smith’s conclusions from them are false. He confounds deliverance and purity and holiness as one thing, and, though not nominally on Wesleyan grounds and admitting the existence of flesh or sin in us,117 yet he makes confusion of the whole subject by not taking scriptural statements as to it, or by misrepresenting scripture, which he largely does; and, by not looking at a glorified Christ as that on which the eye of faith is fixed, he lowers the whole Christian condition. This last point probes the whole statement, and shews not that deliverance is false, but that his view of it and confusion of it with purity as the same thought is false. There are after all a great many remains of Wesleyan error.
Another thing that has misled Mr. Smith is that he has made the common experience of undelivered souls his only standard of comparison, so as to set up the state he pleads for— not scripture and Christ as his standard of comparison and judgment. This leaves all really in the dark. He can easily shew that the state of most Christians is not all that scripture gives; but another question arises: Is his state, and what he pleads for, what scripture gives? I affirm it is not; and his book, however well intended, is mischievous, because it puts what is greatly to be desired on false and unscriptural ground.
My part, then, is to compare his views with scripture. On deliverance from Romans 7 I should insist earnestly. I turn to the examination of his book. He begins by an appeal to the experience of those not set free, and asks if their expectations at conversion have been practically realised. My answer is: Infinitely and beyond all comparison more than realised. But, it may be remarked, nothing is spoken of but our own estimate of our own state; and moreover the appeal is to shame as to it before others, not the sense of sin. He then presses that the man loves sin still. Now this is not even Romans 7. There the person hated evil; his grief was that, though he really hated it, it still got power over him. Mr. Smith’s way of putting it is false altogether; nor are flesh and the new man distinguished. This is seen really all through the book. “His affections shew the central powers of his being.” Now this is totally false, and contradicts Romans 7, the idea of being born of God, and all the teaching of scripture.
One born of God surely hates sin at the bottom of his heart, however he may lack power or deliverance. It is because he hates sin that it makes him miserable; and justly too. “Sweet water and bitter” is a false use of James, who is speaking of what comes out of the person as “cursing man and blessing God,” and denounces it, but has nothing to do with the inward experience of a soul. The man in James may be a fully delivered soul if he has got careless.
As regards what is said in page 3, no doubt victory over sin is desired; but what does this mean? It is very difficult to know in this book what the writer means—he so contradicts himself and neglects scripture. Is it sin which is there over which victory is sought, or is it deliverance from it so that it is not there? Indeed on pages 71, 72 this is all carefully thrown into confusion, to the hiding of scriptural truth in a way to deceive souls sadly. But the passage itself (p. 3) gives the wishes and motives of a tried soul as the measure of what we are to have, not scripture. It is trying, too, how (as p. 9) he continually quotes Peter— “dead to sins”; and once, perhaps, refers to being “dead to sin,” which is the real question. Nor is “dead “the same word in the original, in the two cases. In Peter it is apogenomenoi, a very different word from that in Romans 6, as indeed the whole thought is. But Romans 6 is the doctrine of deliverance from Romans 7. Now it is just on this point, though differing from them as to flesh and a new nature, he gets on to Wesleyan ground; that is, while the definition of sin is left vague (pp. 71-72), that sins and sin in the flesh may be huddled into one thought; that is, Wesley’s definition of sin—a voluntary, or, according to R.P.S., a conscious transgression of a known law—and the evil nature which gives birth to lust, of which Paul speaks. Now the confounding of these mitigates the idea of sin, and the real point of the teachings in Romans 6-8 is wholly lost, and a great deal more with it. Paul will have death to sin, not merely being done with sins, however completely. Nor is deliverance otherwise taught. Such a system leaves the evil unreached, as we shall see it does the result and object too.
Next I find on page 12: “That we might be holy and pure, and conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.” Now, first of all, we see here the importance of the confusion between victory and purity, and the vagueness of Mr. Smith’s statement. Had Christ to gain victory or be victorious over sin in the flesh? The thought were blasphemy! Victory, and holy and pure, are different things. “Holy and pure “means that there is no sin to have victory over, and that was Christ’s state: victory over sin was not His portion. We are never called to be what Christ was consequently; for there was no sin in Him. We are to walk as He walked; for if sin be in me, if the flesh be still there, there is no reason why I should walk after it; no, nor think after it. This I fully hold. It never should be the source of a thought in me. I should walk in the Spirit.
In the Philippians, where Christian experience is found as exhibited in the apostle, the word sin does not occur. Yet Paul had a thorn in the flesh to buffet him, and needed it. Did Christ? The thorn hindered the action of Paul’s flesh, a great and sovereign mercy. The existence of sin in the flesh does not give a bad conscience; the allowance of it does, and consequently hinders the fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ; for then coming into the light makes conscience active to judge—thank God it does—instead of filling the heart with joy because we are with God. A person who prayed to be conformed to Jesus Christ (not if he prayed to walk as He walked, and even have His mind), that is, to be what He was, would prove his ignorance of himself as to the flesh, and of Christ too.
But, further, the passage alluded to is wholly misapplied. Conformity to the image of God’s Son is in glory, and there is for the Christian no perfection at all but that. The view then scripture gives of conformity to Christ is far different from that which this book so carelessly gives. We are to bear the image of the heavenly as we have borne the image of the earthly. The standard of conformity to Christ is quite different from that of this book, and this is evidently of all importance on the subject we are upon, and the consequences will be immediately seen. “Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is; and he that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself as He is pure.”
It is not leaping by an act of faith into a positive purity and supposed conformity to Christ as He was here; but a perception of what He is, knowledge that we shall be conformed to Him when He appears, and hence purifying ourselves according to this standard. So in 2 Corinthians: “Beholding with unveiled face the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Hence Paul’s desire was to win Christ, and he counted not himself to have attained, but pressed forward towards the mark of his calling above in Christ Jesus. This is unattainable here, while it acts continually on us here. But we purify ourselves, and do not speak of a positive purity and holiness. The whole scheme of scripture is different from that of Mr. Smith; not that he denies progress, nor indeed do the Wesleyans; but it is (p. 84) “a blessed positive attainment or gift.” Now purifying ourselves as Christ is pure, knowing that we shall be like Him, is quite another thing from this, and from what follows in the part I am discussing (p. 13), “Awake to righteousness, and sin not,” speaks of actually sinning where saints had been going on badly at Corinth.
“Perfecting holiness in the fear of God “is not a leaping at once into a positive gift attained by faith, like justification. It does not become our author to talk of “intellectual tricks,” but to compare his own statements more carefully with scripture before he sets about to teach others by “professing “his own attainments and to make his own experience the rule for others. When in Romans 6, of which I will speak more fully, the apostle speaks of being dead, he refers to living in sin, he speaks of walking in newness of life. He says: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof; for sin shall not have dominion over you.” That is, he speaks of the law or power of sin, not of its absence, of having fruit unto holiness. He speaks in a totally different manner from the writer.
I add that Mr. Smith’s whole doctrine on this point is false. He says (p. 15), “When destroyed? Plainly previously to our not serving sin. When was the old man crucified with Christ? Evidently previously to the destruction of the body of sin.” Now this is made a sort of distinct act in me. There are three such, one after another. The apostle is teaching what the Christian state and condition is as figures in baptism itself, what his Christian profession is contrasted with continuing in sin, because One Man’s obedience, not our own, made us righteous. We enter into Christ’s death to have this righteousness: how then live in sin if we have died? But the time we were crucified was the cross. We were crucified with Christ to destroy the body of sin, so that we should not serve it. How this is realised I will speak of; but making it a threefold distinct process in us is destroying the whole force of the apostle’s argument. Whoever has been baptized to Christ is, by his very profession, dead to sin; for he has been baptized to His death, and was to reckon himself dead, as crucified with Him.
The doctrine of the apostle is that every Christian has been crucified with Christ, and is to reckon himself dead; dead to sin, not sins. How this is realised, and what hinders, we will see hereafter. But if the Spirit of God dwells in a man, he is not in the flesh: if he has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. If Christ be in him, the body is dead. All important it is to realise this. How it is done chapter 7 shews. I will speak of it at the close. It is too important to notice merely in passing. But they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof.
How “temptation comes more fiercely than ever “the writer does not explain. It is just as true that the Christian, as such, keeps himself, and that wicked one touches him not, as that, as such, he cannot sin. Temptation is used in two senses in scripture. We are tempted when we are drawn away of our own lusts and enticed, and we are tempted from without by the enemy. The latter the Lord underwent, the former of course never. All this is confounded by Mr. S. He says temptation is not sin. In the sense used by James, it is sin. In the other sense of testing or trying, it is not. It is rather now “from without than from his own heart” (pp. 19, 20). All this is mischievously vague, betrays the consciousness that his own heart after all has something to say to it, yet excuses it as the Lord was tempted. Mr. Smith could not say of and in himself, “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me “; Christ could. If we held ourselves always absolutely dead, Satan would not touch us; he has nothing for the new man. But all this is vague and mischievous, as confounding inward temptation and lust with outward, and tending to the abominable doctrine that lust is not sin if we do not listen to it. Does it come from the life and Spirit of Christ in us?
But Mr. S., in a passage already referred to, seeks to swamp the existence of flesh in consciousness; and so making self-judgment and self-purifying by grace lose its place. Thus (p. 21) we receive by faith inward purity of soul. Where is that in scripture? Where do you find in scripture, “receiving redemption from all iniquity “? It is never said to be received, nor received now. And be assured scripture speaks more surely, more wisely, more exactly and truly, than we do. Besides, if it means that the flesh does not exist or that it ceases to exist, it is false. Mr. S. loses all this, which is expressly in scripture, loving to deal with consciousness. He cannot say whether the body of sin is destroyed, if so, it may be revived. It depends on the “definition of sin” (p. 71). “It is not in the range of consciousness to determine.” What a setting aside of scripture is here!
Now entire liberty from the power of sin, fellowship with God, and joy unclouded in His favour without anything on the conscience as the only normal Christian state, I do not merely admit but would press. But the setting aside conformity to Christ in glory as the only result before the Christian because he has that Christ already as his life, and the existence of sin in the flesh which in its nature lusts against the Spirit and required a thorn, a messenger of Satan to hinder it in Paul, destroys (and it is Mr. Smith’s system) the true character of self-judgment and purifying, and lowers grievously the Christian standard, and blinds to Christian truth, so as to interest the soul with itself, instead of, in the ungrieved power of the Spirit, fixing it on Christ. Mr. S.’s book is the strongest possible proof of this. There is the painful proof to the reader of being in the “range of his consciousness,” and the absence of Christ as the object of the soul. That he is delivered I do not call in question, nor that he rightly judges the existing state of Christendom. It is because this is needed—and I am satisfied that he does it wrongly—that I notice his book. His system is a kind of mixture of views held by so-called Plymouth Brethren and Wesleyans, which the latter would not own, though he is not aware of it.
I only draw the attention of the reader (p. 26) to the way in which the low state of Christians is the measure he compares with. “If sinning be the inevitable constant condition of the Christian,” then indeed are we in a poor case; but many would not accept this, and the question is, Is Mr. Smith’s the scriptural way out of it? for he has a way, and seeks to point it out. Only I note that overcoming is not purity. Overcoming can have no place in another state of existence; purity will. In a certain sense overcoming denies positive purity given. It is this vagueness and immaturity, this contradiction morally, from not having weighed scripture and so known himself, but comparing himself with the language of other Christians, which makes his book disagreeable to read.
On page 28 I find more formally, “that through Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection life in the soul, God has provided a power capable of conforming the children of the kingdom to the image of its head, few will venture to deny.” Now I venture to deny it altogether. In glory we shall be conformed to the image of the heavenly, of God’s Son. In this world He was absolutely without sin; if I say I am, I deceive myself. It is never said the love of God is perfected in our souls;118and the latter words just give a false idea of the matter—that it is our love, not God’s. That comes in when it is said “we love Him because He first loved us.” But “herein is love, not that we loved Him.” All this is very mischievous, and conformity to Christ denies our state or Christ’s. Here again (p. 30) I find mere victory over sin identified with conformity to Christ.
I add, that the shewing that Christ met a felt need when there was guilt leaves the question untouched. Is the felt need one that scripture recognises? If it is sin not having dominion over us, clearly it is. But that is the question. What Mr. S. calls the need of the soul is not one produced by the Holy Ghost. He tells us (p. 31) that “whatever the Holy Spirit makes us yearn for, Christ came to give.” Then if he means here (and this is what he does mean), I must never yearn for heaven, never yearn for seeing Christ as He is, never for His coming, never for the redemption of the body, nor think of being saved in hope, and, hoping for that I see not, wait for it with patience. A heavenly-minded Christian is unknown to, set aside by, our writer. Paul’s desire to win Christ, to obtain “the resurrection from among the dead,” the “one thing” he was doing, was all a mistake!
And this is my objection to Mr. Smith’s system. His hopes and yearnings are too low. All he has to teach from is a comparison “of the current of our inward life “with his present state, comparing himself with himself, which is not wise. It is the range of his own consciousness, neither of which I accept as a rule or measure of what I am to expect from Christ.
It seems to me unhappy to be constantly using scripture for his own purpose in a sense it does not mean (p. 34). “Laying aside every weight” is for race, and not for what Mr. S. quotes it. “Frustrating the grace of God” has nothing to do with it either, and scripture never tells us to “know Christ formed in us”; quite the contrary, it presses our looking out to where He is perfect, and that we may live by faith and be changed into His image. Faith never looks at itself or at its effect in us, but at Christ in Himself. We are freed from the law of sin that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us. Mr. S. says it is strange that we should have ever doubted that love to God is included in this. Is it not rather strange in that case that, when the apostle speaks of this point, which he does more than once, he never speaks of the first table? Not only so, he declares that the whole law is fulfilled in loving one’s neighbour as one’s self. See Romans 13:8, 9; Galatians 5:14. That is, when the precise point is before him, he carefully avoids what Mr. S. insists on, and in fact contradicts him, calling the whole law love to our neighbour. We may be assured that scripture is wiser than we are. I think I could say I love God with all my heart, I should not dare to say with all my mind and all my strength. But this is only the imperfect estimate we make of our own state.
Again I find (p. 42) that it is constantly held that sinning is the inevitable condition of God’s own saved saints. And note, “sinning” not “sin in us.” I do not say more on this, but only here mark how uniformly this is the standard of comparison. Next I find “he, the Christian who puts on the Lord Jesus Christ, simply is placed where he by faith receives from God the power to act day by day up to the given measure of light upon his duty.” Few, I apprehend, would deny this, though they might say, with James, as to the fact, “In many things we all offend,” never we must.
But further, “It is the power of overcoming all discerned evil that is bestowed.” Now I do soberly and seriously ask, Is this conformity to Christ? Is the discerned evil Mr. Smith speaks of not there? What is overcome? That a holy soul will judge evil in the root before God so that he does not dishonour Christ before men, that he learns evil, humble in himself with God, and not careless with Satan, is most true; but evil is there, and this is not purity or conformity to Christ. All this looseness of statement misleads instead of teaching; it hinders souls from bowing to the doctrine of the deliverance to which they ought to submit. Overcoming evil is not purity and holiness. The common use of “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” is a mere abuse of the text. The apostle is shewing that, if a person eats of what would be clean for stronger faith, it is sin to him who has not this faith, his conscience is defiled.
I then come to a doctrine (p. 47) common among the Wesleyans, which is utterly false: “God’s Spirit is the Spirit of holiness; it cannot dwell with sin, or even with the love of this world.” Then it leaves us on every evil thought, and must, if at all, come again; and I have no power to overcome, I do not know I am a child. I cannot grieve the Holy Ghost by which I am sealed to the day of redemption, if it cannot be where sin is! Did the Holy Ghost leave Peter when he was guilty of dissimulation, and come back again to make him anew an apostle? It is, in every sense, an unscriptural doctrine. We grieve the Spirit which does dwell in us, and by which we are sealed for the day of redemption. All the rest of the chapter is false doctrine. “The Spirit must fill the soul that is emptied of self.” What has emptied it? How am I emptied of all else in order to receive the Spirit? Humbled by powerlessness, yes; but I must be filled with Christ to be emptied of self, though not to have learned its evil and be cast on Christ. There is never such a vacuum in the soul. If the Spirit does not fill it, the flesh lusts. It is really the false principle of the honest monk. I have tried it; I doubt if Mr. S. has. At any rate, it is mere delusion that the soul is emptied of self so as to be a vacuum in order to receive the Spirit. I will, the Lord helping, say a word on this before I close.
The review of the chapter which treats of the atonement is, I confess, painful. It lowers so dreadfully the Christian normal state, so muddles vital truths, so really allows of evil in Christians, that it grieves one’s spirit. The washing by water is ignored, the existence of evil affirmed and denied, and the real efficacy of the atonement set aside, while the Epistle to the Hebrews is completely travestied. I do not speak with any bitterness of feeling. I do not doubt for a moment that the author is a child of God. But he must forgive me for saying he has gone beyond his depth, and has given ample proof of the evil of his views, and of the confusion into which they throw the sincere. The chapter is so full of confusion, one hardly knows where to begin.
Though we are told to follow after holiness, neither the inward sanctification of the Spirit nor the operation of the Spirit is spoken of in the Hebrews. “Sanctified” is by the will of God through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. It is a sanctification of the people by blood, by Christ’s suffering outside the gate, as the bodies of the beasts in the chief offerings for sin were burned without the camp. The point of the Hebrews is access to God in the holiest, where Christ is gone. The inward state of the individual is not its subject, but a rent veil, an offering once made by which the believer is perfected for ever—has no more conscience of sins— so that, if he leaves it, there is no more offering. So that Christ must have suffered often if cleansing was not perfected for ever; for without shedding of blood was no remission. It is not sprinkling, no recurrence to it is thought of, repetition of it impossible: it was Jewish. This is the essence of the argument. When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; not standing as the Jewish priests did, because their work is never done. He is expecting till His enemies are made His footstool; for, as to them who are sanctified, He has by one offering perfected them for ever. It is impossible to conceive reasoning more precisely opposed to Mr. S.’s statements than those of the apostle. That the epistle desires that the Jewish Christian should be perfect in every good work to do His will is all quite true, but has nothing to do with the matter. It is blood that sanctifies the people here. Departure from it is fatal perdition, and finally so.
But I turn to details. “Now cleanseth” is not in scripture. And adding to God’s word is a dangerous thing. I have not a moment’s doubt that it is used abstractedly; as I say, that medicine cures the ague. The Christian has the three parts of his true standing—walking in the light as God is in it (it is not said Jesus); mutual fellowship one with another (to apply met allelon to us and God is as irreverent as I am satisfied it is false); and thirdly, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. It is its efficacy to make us fit for the light as God is in it. But, I beg leave to add, there is no repetition of sprinkling of blood in scripture. It never loses its value in God’s sight. It is an efficacious sealing of the covenant, efficacious cleansing of the leper, and consecration of the priest once for all. Washing of the feet there is, but this is with water; sprinkling with the ashes of the red heifer, but this is with running water, the blood having been sprinkled seven times at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. It is the washing with water Mr. S. ignores. This is what scripture applies to any daily failure, not re-sprinkling with blood. A man is converted, bathed in the water of the word (“Ye are clean through the word spoken unto you”); this is never repeated; but, if we do pick up evil on our feet in our walk, through Christ’s advocacy (1 John 2), of which the righteousness and the propitiation are the abiding ground, our feet are washed, and communion is restored. Imputation of guilt never recurred, for Christ had borne the sin on the cross. So the value of the great day of atonement remained, the blood sprinkled seven times remained in all its efficacy, the sin had been consumed in Christ’s death, and the Spirit brings back the remembrance of that, and communion is restored. But there is no re-sprinkling with blood no fresh recurrence to it, if we sin.
But what is “stumbling in the way of holiness, not out of it?” What does stumbling mean? If anything, it means failing in walk, sinning. Do Christians sin in the way of holiness? That they do not lose the consciousness of their place and relationship, or come under law again, I admit. But stumbling in the way of holiness, I fear, tends to make light of sin. And it is owned to be a sad event, a transgression; yet does the believing heart not doubt even then its sanctification. What does this mean if inward purity and holiness is the sanctification? If it means a setting apart of the person by blood once and for ever, I should understand it, though I fear such a use of it would make a believer easy when he had failed, and harden his conscience.
But what means “hearing the command, What God hath cleansed, that call thou not common”? That we have not thereby ceased to be His, I believe; but defiling, by the vile sin which made Christ suffer, what God has cleansed, is a dreadful thing; and this is the meaning of putting the heifer’s ashes in the running water. The passage in the Acts has nothing to do with the matter. It refers to not holding the Gentiles for unclean. But that is a little matter here. If this passage means anything, it means that I am to take the defiling God’s temple very easy. I have not lost my sanctification. Yet in another place we are told that the Spirit of God cannot dwell where sin is, so that I am no longer a temple, nor is the sanctification of the Spirit there. The passage is so strange, that the only way I can account for it is, that conscience told Mr. S. that he did transgress, and yet he did not like the idea that he had thereby got out of the place he supposed he had got into. And it is one of the evils of fancied perfection that the person’s pride does not like admitting that he has lost it; his conscience becomes dull too, or makes light of transgression.
I can have no word to say against being dead to sins, nor, as I will soon shew, reckoning ourselves dead to sin, nor being redeemed from all iniquity; but I object wholly to adding “inwardly” to cleansing from sin: the scripture does not.
When the apostle speaks of “cleansing from all unrighteousness,” he is speaking of confessing sins; when he speaks of iniquity (anomia) as equivalent to sin, he is speaking of practising it. Anomia or iniquity, as that from which we are redeemed, is not sin in the flesh here; “for if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”; and we shall see that Mr. Smith admits this, though he has a remedy of which scripture knows nothing, and which really leaves us where we were. Cleansing is cleansing from stains when we confess our sins: so at least the apostle says. It is not merely cancelling a record, but making us white as snow; but that is when sins were as scarlet. Scripture never speaks of cleansing the fountain, the very source of evil thoughts. It speaks of purifying the Gentile hearts by faith, in a practical sense, putting no difference between Jews and others; but never of cleansing the very source, as Mr. Smith does. The flesh lusts against the Spirit. A messenger of Satan had to keep Paul’s flesh down. There is no such thought as cleansing the source of evil in us, nor applying blood to it. All this is false.
To reckon ourselves dead, dead with Christ, and the flesh crucified with Him, because it is always bad—of this scripture always speaks, as the way of power, that only Christ’s life may be shewn, but never of applying blood to cleanse the flesh, or source of evil. We do not come to “Jesus the light,” nor walk in Jesus. All these thoughts are foreign to scripture.
But mark further the unintelligible contradictions we find here. We are “to receive the blood as cleansing the fountain— the very source of evil thoughts” (p. 55); “to wash inwardly the sin itself away, not merely the stains, but the sin itself” (p. 58); “that remedy is applied in the very source of the spring itself” (it was poisoned in its very source, he says); “it makes the waters pure and sweet, the waters that flow out therefrom” (from the source, p. 56). As the remedy is applied not only to the waters, but to the very source of the spring, one would have supposed that the source had become pure. Far from it. “If he then walks in the light, or in Jesus, it shines through and through him, revealing hourly the things that are contrary to God and to holiness.” What kind of purity and holiness and cleansing the very source of the spring is that? Only as they are revealed by the light they are cleansed by the blood! The source of the spring then is not purified at all. “The moment that remedy is stayed, that very moment the poisonous waters flow out as foul as ever” (p. 59). From what purified source did they come?
My answer moreover is this, iniquity (anomia) is not used in scripture for the source and spring of evil, the flesh; and scripture never speaks of applying the blood to the source to cleanse it. Cleansing from all sin does not mean any change in the spring or source of evil; for the flesh is not changed, nor does scripture ever speak of its being changed or cleansed. What scripture does speak of is far clearer and more effectual. First, as to conscience, it is perfected: the worshippers once purged have no more conscience of sins. Christ is in the presence of God, as is all the value of His precious blood; and by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified through the offering of His body once for all. If I look up to God, Christ and His blood are there before God, and imputation of sin is impossible. As regards the flesh, it is for ever condemned. There is no application of blood to it; but God declares me dead because Christ has died who is now my life, and I reckon myself dead and am called to bear about the dying of Christ, that nothing but His life should be manifested in me. If through carelessness (which I never can excuse, for sin has no longer dominion over me), I have defiled even my thoughts or my feet, Christ’s advocacy comes in, and my feet through grace are washed. But, if walking in the power of the Spirit, sin does not arise in my mind, Christ dwells there by faith, and I constantly know, and consciously, that I am loved as Jesus was loved; I have fellowship (that is, common joys, thoughts, feelings) with the Father and the Son; for, whatever a poor feeble vessel I may be, the Holy Ghost cannot give different ones. Here, of course, there may be degrees and progress.
But to speak of conformity to Jesus, and then tell us that the light shines through us, revealing hourly the things that are contrary to God and holiness, is really mocking us with vain words. And to tell me that the very source of the spring is cleansed, but that the very moment the remedy is not actually applied to what would come from it (or things contrary to God and holiness hourly there), the poisonous waters flow as before— from the cleansed spring—is to bewilder, not to teach.119
How is it, I ask, if things are hourly brought to light contrary to God and holiness, that (p. 66) he is not ever conscious of inward impurity? must he not ever find within him an active fountain? The truth is, the deliverance urged by Mr. S. is a very imperfect one—far short of what scripture gives; it is a constant application of the blood to what is welling up, like repeated Jewish sacrifices, not the sentence of death by faith upon the nature, or the old man. He asks, as Wesleyans do, “Is death alone to be my deliverer?” I answer, Clearly so. He that is dead is freed (justified) from sin. But the believer who has understood the truth reckons himself dead, has the sentence of death in himself. This is a remedy applied to the source. It is only by faith, of course, till actual death come. But death by faith, or actually, is the only scriptural remedy for sin in us. It is not applied over and over again, of which scripture knows nothing, and which leaves the poisoned source there; but it is death for faith or in fact. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” “In that he died, he died unto sin once, but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God: so likewise reckon ye also yourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is not a constant re-application and cleansing of what is never cleansed, but the constant normal state of the Christian. He has been crucified with Christ; he has died, and his life is hid with Christ in God; and even as to details, he mortifies —puts to death—the evil. It is power by the Holy Ghost. Scripture never speaks of cleansing the old man: the Christian, if he knows his standing, has put it off. What is the meaning of “Christ reigning in resurrection-life over sin”? (p. 67). Christ reigning over sin supposes it there, and is an ugly expression. Christ dwells in my heart by faith, and the body is dead because I reckon myself dead. Death, and death only, is deliverance. But I repeat, by faith we reckon ourselves dead. But death to sin is the only cleansing recognized in scripture, where the question is of inward cleanness and the flesh. The water, as the blood, came out of the side of a dead Christ. The water Mr. S. ignores; the blood he applies continually as if it was never finished. The blood must be shed, and Christ suffer, for that part of the work; and sin in the flesh was condemned when Christ was on the cross, and I died with Him. But of this more hereafter (p. 69). There was no cleansing, but condemnation and death in a sacrifice. Atonement (p. 69) is never the expression of the Father’s love. Love was expressed in the Father sending the Son to do it; but the propitiation met God’s righteous requirement. Drinking the cup was not the Father’s love. Nor did Christ seek if possible to learn His Father’s love. The real import of the atonement is lost sight of here. It is a mistake to say that the relationships of the Christian are entered into at conversion (p. 70); but this will come in when I treat of the scriptural view.
I have already spoken of pages 71, 72; but it is a striking example how there is no inquiry after scriptural truth. We have different definitions of sins and holiness. Does God give them? Does the word? Sin in the flesh is not looked at, sin and sins confounded, and “the truth” —the truth of God— not looked after, but all left vague in different definitions, and consciousness which cannot be trusted. This is very sad. And we are told the scripture plan is not to analyse, which is wholly false. It is fully and divinely analysed in Romans 7 and 8. The case put (pp. 74, 75) says absolutely nothing. There is no doubt that faith overcomes the world.
I have not much more to note. Scarce one passage, if one, is used as the Holy Spirit uses it in scripture: sin and sins mixed up as one thing; the existence of the flesh not fairly looked in the face; and the heavenly calling wholly ignored. In these points it is on Wesleyan ground. But other things are held which cannot be reconciled with this, as the reception of a new life in Christ. All is inextricable confusion.
I beg my reader to remember that I am not denying deliverance from the power of sin, but Mr. Smith’s explanation of it, which I believe to be unscriptural and mischievous. He tells us that he does not give us the soul’s secret to be discussed, but a life to be enjoyed. My answer is, his book is a discussion on the false principles of what is no secret to many. He says he believes we are humbly and devoutly waiting to open our heart and understanding to it; that is, we have received his teaching as true, and are only waiting to receive it into our hearts. But there is a preliminary question. Is his teaching true? This I am to take for granted, and only to hope to realise it. But I oppose, not deliverance, but his teaching about it as not true. A Christ only leading me to think of my own state is not a result which I desire, and that is the result of his book. “Paul,” we are told, “confessed a Christ living in him, and triumphed.” That he knew Christ was in him, and was his life, is true; but that was not his triumph, nor the character of his life.
I shall now state what scripture does set forth as to deliverance. Every one can judge how far scripture does state it as I am about to do. The Holy Ghost alone can give us the power of it. The first great truth as regards the believer’s relationship to God is that on the one hand the Lord imputes no sin, and on the other he who is sanctified to God by the precious work of Christ is perfected for ever, has no more consciousness of sins, and boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Christ, by the new and living way He has consecrated for him. The apostle enlarges on this (Heb. 9 and 10), insists on its being done once for all, as an eternal redemption; that if this fitness for God, as to sins and acceptance, was not complete and eternal by Christ’s one offering, Christ must have suffered often. There is no veil between us and God—it is rent; no remembrance of sins, no more conscience of sins; we are perfected eis to dienekes, not merely eternally, but without any interruption or break in it, as Christ is therefore sitting because all is done for us, expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. There is no repetition of the offering, no more conscience of sins. Christ appears in the presence of God for us, the uninterrupted testimony that there is no sin on us. And this, remark, looks at the believer as on earth, as all the epistle to the Hebrews does, and Christ in heaven for us;
If we look at our higher privileges, then, I say, by the Holy Ghost I know I am in Christ, and He in me; I am sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. If any man be in Christ, it is a new creation. But Romans enters into it more fully, and analyses every point of a sinner’s standing with God through forgiveness and deliverance; and the apostle in no way confounds the two. God’s righteousness is revealed, because the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Every mouth is stopped, and all the world is guilty. All have sinned; and Christ’s blood (chap. 3) and Christ’s resurrection, as sealing His work on God’s part (chap. 4), is the answer of grace; so that peace and present favour are enjoyed, and the glory of God in hope. The Holy Spirit being given, we glory in tribulations, and lastly in God Himself, through Christ, by whom we have received the reconciliation with God. This goes down to Romans 5:11. From the 12th verse quite another subject is taken up; not our sins which we do, but our sin—what we are in the flesh. Here it is by one man’s disobedience the many connected with him are made sinners. By one Man’s obedience many shall be made righteous. It is our alienation from God, and the principle of sin in us. The remedy also is different, though still Christ’s death; not that He was delivered for our offences, but that we have died in and with Him. We are not called to die, but to understand that we have died. So scripture uniformly speaks. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” Gal. 2:20. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him,” Rom. 6:6. “Ye are dead,” Col. 3:3.
We are never called to die; our Christian profession by baptism was to His death. The Christian not only knows that Christ has died and is risen, and that he is redeemed out of flesh into a standing in Christ, but that he also has died as a child of Adam. What God pronounces in Colossians 3 faith is taught to take up in Romans 6. Reckon yourselves dead as a child of Adam, but alive to God in Christ. “Lie not one to another, seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” Now this is the scriptural way of deliverance, a subject treated quite apart from sins, propitiation, and blood-shedding.
Further, this is directly connected with experience, and legal experience in a renewed man. The main truth is that we are dead to sin, according to God, if Christ be in us. But the law has power over a man as long as he lives. But I am delivered from the law, having died in that in which I was held. We are become dead to the law by the body of Christ that we should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead. But this deliverance is a distinct thing, as I have said, from forgiveness. If Christ has borne my sins, and I, through grace, have been brought to believe in the efficacy of His death, I find forgiveness and peace. In itself this is a question of simple facts, if I believe in the efficacy of Christ’s work and God’s word concerning it to me. The work is entirely outside, accomplished on the cross, accepted of God when He raised Christ from the dead, and believing in it through grace, I have peace. Grace makes me a believer; but what I believe in is a thing wholly outside me, and perfectly accomplished once for all. This is not attainment of something I am which my experience may contradict, but outside myself a simple object of faith perfectly accomplished. But when told I am dead, dead to sin, it is about myself, and my experience contradicts it; I find sin working in me, and I say I am not dead to sin: my experience contradicts what is told me.
I am told I am forgiven; it is only a question whether I believe what is said. I quite admit it is God’s Spirit and grace which makes me believe it; but I have to go out of all experience and believe in a work done for me and outside of me. But if the word says you are dead, my experience says I am not. Well, I am to reckon myself dead: how is this arrived at? Not but by another kind of experience—hopelessness as to the power of sin in myself; and this is really experience under law, requirement from me of what I ought to or would be. And hence the apostle treats it rather on the ground of pure law, and describes the state of a renewed soul under the first husband; law, requiring righteousness, which, weak through the flesh, it cannot succeed in having; for the flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. But the renewed and quickened man is (as to his ground of standing with God) in the flesh, while under the law; it is still for him the question what he ought to be for God. The question here, then, is not how to be forgiven, but how to get out of the flesh, how to be dead as regards its power. Now God does not take us out of it till He has made us feel what it is to be in it. The work which delivers us is done; but we always hope to do better, and are all but despairing till we have learned ourselves, and, knowing we cannot get on, are hopeless as to ourselves, till we know what the flesh is as a distinct thing in us till we look to a Deliverer (not to victory as we are), and then learn that the cross has settled it for ever.
I first learn that in me, that is, in my flesh, there is no good thing; next, as I now hate the evil, though I do it, it is not I (for I hate it), but sin that dwells in me. These are all-important lessons; still humbling and needed self-knowledge is not complete. I find that the sin I hate is too strong for the “I” that hates it. There is no possibility of my mending my case. I need a Deliverer (not pardon), another to do it. But God’s work is now wrought. I have got to know what flesh is, what I, as in flesh, am—the lesson God would experimentally teach me; and then find it was all done when Christ died, and I thank God and reckon myself dead. Faith applies itself to what was done on the cross. It is its reference to what was done there that gives liberty.
The soul has gone experimentally through the process of its discovering its own incapacity to set itself free, and, being entirely humbled and at the end of itself, finds that, what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, that is, a sacrifice for sin (peri amartias), condemned sin in the flesh. But where sin in the flesh was condemned, death was perfected; and I, crucified with Christ, know that He took the condemnation and that I am dead to sin. It has nothing to do with forgiveness. Sin in the flesh is condemned, not forgiven; but condemned in Christ made sin and in death which delivers me from it. Nor does a soul pass into this liberty by faith without the knowledge of self (it is not God’s intention it should), nor does he attain it by victory; but, when he finds he cannot, he gets deliverance through the knowledge of its condemnation in the cross, and that we have died there to it. Hence the uniform statements of scripture, that the Christian has died, has been crucified, never that he has to die. Christ has died; and he has to reckon himself dead and alive to God, not in Adam, but in Christ.
I have no doubt, when a soul has been exercised and humbled according to what is described in Romans 7, Mr. Smith’s being able to say there is deliverance, as there surely is, may be blest to a soul; but his teaching on it is all wrong. It is in vain to say we are not to analyse it. We are to take scriptural teaching on it; and, in fact, scripture does analyse it, and very exactly, and shews that, while the deliverance is by faith in what was done on the cross, where we have been crucified with Christ, it is preceded, and the desire of deliverance is produced, by a deep experimental process, in which what the flesh is, and law is, is learned as described in Romans 7; while the doctrine as to what faith receives is in chapter 6; what the law is, even when Christ is known, is in chapter 7; and the deliverance is fully analysed in chapter 8, or even to the resurrection of the body. Mr. Smith would substitute for God’s teachings on it the range of his consciousness. I prefer the word of God.
I do not think that talking of the Spirit rushing in when there is a vacuum is worthy of the exercises of a soul before God, nor of the ways of God in grace, of the seriousness that befits the question of the salvation of a sinful soul; but I should have taken no notice of it, had it not been an unsound thought. Neither is there any vacuum, nor anything to form it, nor any rushing in of the Spirit. The work of the Spirit in leading to deliverance is the opposite of a vacuum. It fills the soul with the honest and upright, but deep and bitter, sense of the power of sin in us, and our incapacity for gaining the victory over it. The law—and in this case we are practically under law—gives no life, no power, no object. It requires very rightly that lust should not be there; and lust is there and leads me captive, and I find I cannot get rid of it.
The soul is full of sin, though hating it, and of bitterness as it never was before, and is broken down in the sense of its wretchedness; but this in itself is not power—any more than the thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, was power; but through grace it makes us find out we have none, and casts us on Another— “who shall deliver me?” —and then, as has been said, we find through divine teaching that God sees us as having died in Christ. The abiding power of deliverance and liberty—true heavenly liberty—is the law (that is, the abidingly active power) of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus; but though it may be possible that in some instances God may grant the faith of it in reply to the earnest cry of the oppressed soul (often dangerous, as leading the soul to think of what passes in itself120), the scripture account of deliverance is not redemption which takes place in our own souls then, but the divinely given understanding that God condemned sin in the flesh when Christ was a sacrifice for sin. We, as men in the flesh, were crucified with Him then.
Thus sin in the flesh was condemned, so that the believer is free. This is what faith lays hold of. This is the unvarying testimony of scripture, and it occupies us with Christ and not with ourselves. It is not that I expect every one to be able to explain what has passed in his soul, nor recall the passages which explain it. But though the first effect may be merely the joy of liberty and peace perhaps of heart, if really taught of God, he will recognise that it is in the death of Christ he has died; that it is not a death which is then actually wrought in him, but faith in the death of Christ, as having died with Him on the cross.
But Mr. S. has largely explained it, and explained it wrongly. It is impossible but there must be experience. Something passes even in the natural man; but when the Spirit of God works, the deepest and most varied exercises of heart take place in this encounter of divine light and love with the darkness of the human heart. That is not the evil. The evil of the Methodist and Calvinistic experience system is that, instead of applying Christ as God’s answer to their experiences, they apply another experience perhaps to it, and go back to what has passed in their own minds; that is, they are occupied with self, nourishing self, instead of substituting Christ for it. The evil is not the having the experience, but the making it the object of reflection. This is never faith, for faith looks outside itself. I know that Mr. S. says Christ is “all in all” (not really what is said, though commonly so cited; it is “all and in all”—all as an object of the soul, and in all as life); but for him that is a state of the soul, not really Christ Himself.
I have seen another book of Mr. Smith’s, on which I will spend a few words. I repeat what I have said: I believe in deliverance from the dominion of sin, nor do I doubt—however little I except his unscriptural statements about it—Mr. S.’s enjoyment of it; but, with a confusion which makes his statement difficult to deal with (as we must divine from our own experimental knowledge the real force of contradictory statements), his doctrine is really unsound and unscriptural; his explanations of scripture false, and founded on additions of his own not in the text. It is in vain to say he is looking for freeing souls, not controversy. I know what that freedom is, I think better than Mr. S.; but he makes large statements as to scripture, and his statements on the subject before us are anti-scriptural. Sinning and sin are again confounded, subjects carefully distinguished in Romans: one, as we have seen, guilt and its remedy, being treated of to chapter 5:11; the other from verse 12 of that chapter, our state by Adam’s fall and its remedy, being spoken of. And it is, whatever Mr. Smith may wish, fully analysed. But of sin in the flesh he avoids the examination. He tells us we must be crucified hourly, and then that death is accomplished, but it is over.
But what is more serious, in his effort to avoid the abiding of sin in the flesh, a nature which lusts against the Spirit, he tells us we may be still tempted; but temptation is not sin; our Lord was tempted. No doubt He was; but this unhappy allusion ignores a difference clearly stated in scripture. Christ was tempted in all points like as we are (not, as in English, “yet” [which is in italics] “without sin,” but sin apart, choris atnartias), in every possible way, which might tend to hinder the perseverance and obedience of a servant of God. Such temptations only drew out perfections and not sin. But there is another thing, called temptation. Every one is tempted, says James, when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. Mr. S. says the avenues are still open. The avenues and motions—it is not said, I suppose by some misprint, motions of what. Motions being open in any case is obscure, wrong too. But avenues are open to what? Is there any principle of sinful flesh which remains? Lusts and motions of sin there were none in Christ: that is certain; and comparing us to Christ tempted, and talking of avenues open, to say it in the mildest way, culpably avoids the question. Does sin in the flesh still exist in the man dehvered from its power? There is a thing which lusts against the Spirit, the two things are contrary one to the other. It is a most serious question for the Christian—Does the evil nature still subsist in the believer? And to speak of avenues open, if it does, is to deceive the Christian as to a traitorous enemy within, which he has to watch against. And if, as Mr. S. says, the Christian has to keep it in the place of death, what does he keep there?
But there are fundamental principles in question in this book which I must notice. “Death unto Life” is its title. One cannot have this life till we are dead. As expressed in the other book, when there is a vacuum, the Spirit pours in. Now allow me to ask, Is complete death to all sin, sin wholly losing its life in us, a vacuum if it is, produced in the soul without our having spiritual life at all? A negative process, producing this vacuum no one knows by what; the man remaining spiritually dead all the time, not having life and yet becoming dead to sin! It is as absurd as it is unscriptural. And do not let Mr. S. come and object to the metaphysics of sin, or say he does not write for controversy; he teaches utterly false doctrines; he may call it metaphysics or what he pleases, but a sober mind will hold fast by scripture, and reject his teachings. Romans 6 speaks of Christians alive in Christ, in telling us to reckon ourselves dead to sin.
I may add that the very question put by Mr. S. came up thirty or forty years ago with Irvingism, and was fully discussed, and by those as free from sin as Mr. Smith; and his doctrine, on searching scripture, proved to be false. There is in scripture the very important truth of being dead to sin, and sin having no dominion over us, we being set free, so that we have no consciousness of its working, but not of finding death to it that we might have life. Scripture goes farther even than having life in order to our being dead to sin. “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, and the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” It is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus which makes us free from the law of sin and death.
And this leads me to another capital point. Romans 6 has nothing to do with experience, but states the ground on which every Christian stands. Deliverance, which Mr. S. makes no matter of effort of, but jumping into holiness by faith, is the result of the painful and humbling but most profitable discovery that we cannot gain victory over sin in the flesh, even when born again. There is deliverance, not pardon, from its power and dominion, when knowledge of self is experimentally gained. Romans 6 calls upon us to reckon ourselves dead, but does not teach us that we die by any present experience. This scripture never teaches, but that the Christian was crucified with Christ; it is the judicial state of every Christian, of everyone baptized unto (not into) Christ. There is no union by faith, or experience, or anything else in the chapter, but doctrine and exhortation. The Christ we have been baptized unto is One who having died, we are accounted by baptism to take part in His death; it is that to which we come by profession in being a Christian; and the ground of the reasoning shews the absurdity of Mr. S.’s view of the chapter, as do its contents. If one Man’s obedience made me righteous, I may live on in sin, say the flesh and the world. But, says the apostle, you have a part in that by having a part in death with Christ; consequently, it is the opposite to living on in sin.
The doctrine of the chapter is perfectly plain. Whoever has been baptized to Christ has been baptized to His death. It is the force of the Christian profession, “Knowing this, that our old man is [has been] crucified with Him that the body of sin might be destroyed”; that was the object, so that henceforth we should not serve sin. The apostle carefully avoids, or rather repudiates, speaking of sin not existing in us; one would have thought the destruction of the whole body of sin in its entirety would have induced its non-existence in us. Not so; it is a practical conclusion he draws, that henceforth we should not serve it. So we are exhorted to walk in newness of life. Mr. S. will insist on this being realized by experience. Be it so: I cordially accept it; but it is no experience of some work wrought in us at a given moment by which and when we were crucified. There is a work wrought in us; but it is the teaching us to know that the old man was crucified with Christ, not that it has happened at a given moment by a work in us. We are called to reckon ourselves dead, because we were crucified with Christ, and this makes practically all the difference; the mind is not occupied with a petty exaggerated work in us, but with the absoluteness of Christ’s cross, and in Another, which hinders our being occupied with self, as is invariably the case in Mr. S.’s system. I do not charge him in particular; it is the invariable and necessary consequence of the system.
Mr. S. may tell me it is Christ he is occupied with. My reply is, Read his books: they are the answer. The standard is thus fearfully lowered. Scripture never speaks of our having to die to sin—never; but of our having died, and of our reckoning ourselves dead. We are set free, and then called to yield ourselves to God wholly and without reserve, a living sacrifice. “Ye are dead “; reckon yourselves dead, and in practice always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus—not our dying, note. I do not know that I need add more.
I repeat, Romans 6 is not experience, but doctrine and exhortation; and the difference is of all importance. Mr. S. would have found, had he consulted the original, that “freed” from sin is justified from sin, which I only note as shewing the difference between sin and sins. Death does not justify a man from his sins; but it is impossible to charge a dead man with evil lusts and a perverse will. I judge then that the liberty from the power of sin and the necessity of sinning, and no present consciousness of sinning, on which Mr. Smith insists, is true, and I would plead for it as earnestly as he could wish; but he has gone on to teach and interpret, he has grievously lowered the standard and misled souls as to scriptural truth concerning it, and greatly, though I am sure unintentionally, put Christ out of view. To his desires for Christians I cordially adhere. His teachings and account of the matter, for Christ’s sake and souls’ sake, for the truth’s sake by which we are sanctified, I utterly and wholly reject; and the rather because he gives occasion to theologians to reject the deliverance by shewing the false doctrine and confusion by which it is accompanied.
The kind of changes in scripture Mr. S. allows himself are these:— “In the same way in which under and in the first Adam sin reigned in the soul unto death without limit or reservation, even so under and in the new Adam is grace to reign in our souls through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ.” Now the addition of “in our souls “(not given as a quotation) is a false representation of the passage. There is not a word about grace reigning in our souls in the passage. Mr. Smith further changes “as” into “the same way,” which the passage does not say; and, I may add, “without limit or reserve “either ignores the existence of sin in the flesh, or blinds people by leaving it out. At any rate it is not said “in the same way,” nor is it said “in our souls.” It is a false representation of the contents of the passage.
The use of 2 Corinthians 5:21 (on page 8) is utterly inadmissible. “May we always remember that our adorable Lord became sin, which He was not, neither could be in Himself, that we might become, even now, that righteousness which we were not, neither could be in ourselves.” This is very bad. It is not said “became sin,” but that God made Him sin for us, a totally different thing; and our being God’s righteousness in Him is not that righteousness, nor a state we are in. The passage is changed to “becoming sin “as to Christ, in order to our becoming righteousness now. To be of any avail to Mr. Smith, it must be a practical state in us which we could not be naturally; but the passage says, God’s “righteousness in Him.” The last words are carefully left out, and the statement as to Christ grievously altered. And if becoming sin is not a practical state (which I suppose Mr. S. would surely not say, ambiguous as are his words), his reasoning is of no force whatever; for our becoming God’s righteousness in Him has then a wholly different sense from what it is Mr. S.’s purpose to give it. The perversion of this passage, I confess, shocks me. I do not quote any more passages: these two will suffice to shew how he habitually uses scripture.
I have also read Mr. Smith’s tract on Romans 7. I certainly recognise that it is not Christian experience; it is the experience under law of a renewed soul, before it has found deliverance. It is also true that, when forgiveness has been known by faith, souls come under law before they know deliverance. But, for all that, I believe Mr. S.’s explanation of the passage is all wrong. As to the mere law, Paul outwardly was blameless. He discusses its effect when known to be spiritual, but reasons on it purely as law. The knowledge of forgiveness modifies the experience, but does not alter the doctrine. The question is between connection with law and a risen Christ. But I do not think this little book calls for a detailed review. Mr. Smith has got as far as Luther on Galatians; but in his system a man may be in Romans 7 again every week!
117 Yet he denies it too, and talks of its reviving; and he is in inextricable confusion in his statements, covering them by saying we ought not to analyse.
118 It is said (1 John 2:5; ch. 4:12) “perfected in us”; but this is God’s love shed abroad in our hearts, but still God’s love.
119 The application of a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness to our hearts or to Christ’s blood is really without foundation. A fountain of blood to cleanse is no scripture thought, of water it is. And it is said of Jerusalem in the last days. But there is no application of it to our hearts.
120 It is not experience which is dangerous, but thinking of it instead of Christ. It is really thinking of self: self is of importance to self. I never saw it otherwise. Here Calvinists and Arminians meet.