I have carefully compared with scripture, I trust before God, the system now pressed upon many as the desirable Christian condition of liberty and holiness. I have done it in His fear, not willing to lose any profit or advantage which faith in divine power could give me. However happy, I am too poor and weak not to be glad to have everything I can of Christ and of His Spirit. I admit that mere knowledge is far from being all, even when correct in the things of God. Power by the operation of the Spirit is needed, and the evangelical world is very unbelieving as to this. Still we are sanctified through the truth, and hence the question is—Is this system the truth, the truth of God? It seems to me to fail entirely, if examined by scripture as to the true standing of God’s children—their real place in peace before Him; it has not learned this place, nor the character, extent, and means of holiness. It comes wholly short of the state of conscience produced by the Holy Ghost consequent on redemption, and as a necessary consequence lowers the character of holiness, and eclipses the place Christ should hold in the heart. There is more than one thing, I think, true in it, and important to Christians in these days; and it is because these are obscured by false teaching, and souls are thus misled, that I take notice of it. I desire to speak soberly, not slighting what is true, but guarding the soul of my reader, if God graciously permit and deign so to use it, against what obscures the truth. I shall first state what I do not oppose, that I may give no handle to those who might reject the presence and operation of the Spirit of God, and give all due credit to those who look for it.
In Mr. R. P. Smith’s last work, “Walking in the Light,” there are counsels which are useful, such as, when temptation is there, to look at once to Christ, One who has overcome. I have no doubt that, when we do, the enemy will flee, so to speak, as a frightened bird. It is not simply as if we were better, but the thing is gone. We may have sometimes to wait where there has been any giving way, but if we resist the devil, he flees from us. And this is important for assailed saints; there is positive strength in Christ and grace sufficient for us. I repeat, it is not merely an improvement or change; the assailing evil is gone.
Doubtless there may be other just and useful remarks; but my object is not this book but the system, and I have met many who hold it. I go on with what I admit and fully receive. I fully receive that sealing by the gift of the Spirit, founded on the precious blood of Christ, which sets at liberty, by which the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts and we cry, “Abba, Father” in the consciousness of being sons, know we are in Christ and Christ in us, loved as Jesus was loved—a wonderful place in which rest of heart is found. This I not only admit, but have pressed it some fifty years. Indeed it has distinguished characteristically the labours of those with whom I am associated. Not only so, but a multitude of souls in receiving it have found the power and presence of God more sensibly than at their conversion. I recognize fully that “there is no necessity and no excuse for sinning.” Christ’s grace is sufficient for us, and “God is faithful not to suffer us to be tempted above that we are able.” Mr. Varley’s tract shewed evidently that it was this deliverance and conviction that he had never had before and now received; and that was all. It is because this state of bondage is so common that the deliverance taught in this system is attractive. The normal state of the Christian is to live in the unclouded and conscious favour of God, and, if he lives in the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit. In fact, in many things we all offend.
That God often heals the sick in answer to prayer is clearly taught both in James and John: in the former according to ecclesiastical order, though by the prayer of faith; in the latter as an individual matter, and I have seen and assisted at the clearest examples of this both in England and on the continent. In two cases, at the request of the parties, prayer was accompanied by anointing.
There is danger of the mind being turned to, and stopping at, what after all is only a testimony, though a blessed one. The professing church has lost the sense of that which characterizes Christianity—the present living power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. It is not the end; for He leads us to the Father and the Son, and is the present power of our condition.
But it is of all importance not to separate the Spirit from the word of God, as it is not to separate the word from the present power of the Holy Ghost. The word is the sword of the Spirit, and what it reveals is spiritually discerned. The pretension to use it by the power of the human mind, or judge it by conscience, is really rationalism, or, to speak plainly, infidelity. And taking the power of the Spirit apart from the word lays men open to take every wild imagination of man and even an evil spirit for the Holy Ghost, as the word plainly shews us. Those who know the early history of Friends know the excesses to which some ran. It will be said, you cannot attribute this to the body or to those who were esteemed leaders among them. I admit it; but I do attribute it to the principle adopted by them: that the Spirit in them was superior to the word, a name which indeed they would not give to the scriptures, and this has been openly avowed to myself now by those who looked to the present special operation of the Spirit and its power.
It will be again said, this is not countenanced by those active in the movement. I do not deny this, but the way they leave aside the word and look to present power and experience as adequate testimony has led to it. I do say that this is the tree that fruit has grown on, and avowedly so; and this is very serious.
I admit further the difference between conversion, the power of the Holy Ghost in life consequent on the resurrection, and the coming down of the Holy Ghost from heaven, now known in the sealing and anointing of believers. The last two cannot be separated now that the Holy Ghost is come. Of this Romans 8 is a plain proof. They may be considered apart, but in fact they are one. The same Spirit that is life bears witness with our spirit that we are sons. The Holy Ghost when given distributes to every man severally as He will. He may be looked at as power, as in 1 Corinthians 12, power which is regulated in its use by the word there and in chapter 14, and here there is no promise of continuance; or these gifts may be looked at as given by Christ who is Lord in the administration of them in 1 Corinthians 12, and in this case only what is needed for the work of grace is spoken of (Ephesians 4, compare 2:20), and there is promise of continuance. It is Christ’s care of His body in gathering and nourishing it. In this aspect the apostles could confer the Holy Ghost, but there was also the general promise of Acts 2:38. I do not go farther into this, interesting as the subject is. I do not resist faith in present operation and power of the Holy Ghost, provided scripture has its place, and the present condition of the church in the last days be borne in mind.
Further, I recognize that Jesus the Lord and Saviour can and does manifest Himself to us, as He has promised, when we walk obediently, so that what shall be our everlasting joy in heaven fills our souls here. It may be according to the weakness of the vessel, but still truly. This John 14 clearly tells us. Scripture sanctions such experience, though the passage may go farther than this. The love of God withal is shed abroad in our hearts. The Father and the Son make their abode with us. It is a blessed and unspeakable privilege. This, as the chapter cited clearly shews, is connected with our obedient walk—keeping Christ’s words. The whole of this part of John is not sovereign grace to sinners, but the Father’s dealing with His children as responsible as such.
My objection to the whole system is, that it subverts the true liberty and perfectness of conscience of the child of God; and, perpetually recurring to this point as if the perfectness was lost and incomplete, it applies to clearing the conscience in view of this what in the word is a question of communion and holiness, lowering and falsifying this last also.
It will have many supporters in this, because unbelief as to it is the prevailing state; but it is sorrowful when the pretension to a higher life is the support of unbelief.
The ground they go upon is the common ground of unbelief in the offering of Christ—the doctrine of continually cleansing and recleansing in Christ’s blood. This is wholly unscriptural, and subversive of true Christian standing according to the word—that the worshippers once purged should have no more conscience of sins. Nothing can be clearer or more positive than the teaching of Hebrews 9 and 10 on this subject, where it is elaborately argued, in contrast with the repetition of Jewish sacrifices, and as giving us boldness to enter into the holiest. The question raised is of a perfect conscience; and a perpetually unchangeably perfect conscience is elaborately taught, with a declaration that otherwise Christ must often have suffered, but that His work has done this once for all. He was once offered to bear the sins of many, and appears a second time without sin to salvation; a repeated cleansing of the conscience by blood is herein formally negatived. Christianity is contrasted with Judaism on this particular point. It is the offering, the blood-shedding, which clears the conscience, and that could be only once, and so that the worshippers once purged should have no more conscience of sins; and hence, while the Jewish priests were always standing, because their work was never done, Christ, having offered one sacrifice for sins, is sitting constantly at the right hand of God, having no more to do as to the worshippers’ conscience, because by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified— by one offering, note, and thus we have no more conscience of sins. And this word “for ever” is here eis to dienekes, not eis ton aiona, that which is continuous and uninterrupted, as Christ now sits at the right hand of God, constantly, till His enemies be made His footstool. And remark that it is not merely the putting away of sins efficaciously, true as of course that is (see Heb. 1:3), but the perfecting of the conscience; Hebrews 9:9; chap. 10:1, 2, 12, 14; and see 12, 19. The Epistle to the Hebrews teaches clearly, unequivocally, insisting on it as characteristic of Christianity, a conscience constantly perfect, as sure as Christ is ever sitting on the right hand of God; perfect, not by repeated application of His blood, which is being imperfect, and cleansed again and again, but no more conscience of sins, perfected for ever, and that by one single thing in contrast with repeated cleansings. This blessed truth and state is ignored and denied by the system I am commenting on. The whole place is lost for the soul—the very truth God is pressing on His saints for their deliverance.
This error is founded on an entirely false application of 1 John 1 to which I will turn just now. But another point must first engage our attention—sin in us. This Mr. Smith is now obliged to take notice of. Scripture is plain as to it. I admit that the existence of sin in the flesh does not rest on the conscience. It is the allowance of its acting for which our hearts condemn us. But here all is confusion through the ignorance of “no more conscience of sins.” We are told “that which brings a sense of condemnation or impurity.” Condemnation and impurity are very distinct things. Is it here condemnation on the part of God? This can never be the case with the believer. If it be self-condemnation, although free communion be not restored, yet a holy judgment is; I condemn what I had allowed. The whole operation of God in restoring the soul is lost by confounding the state of the soul, and a perfect conscience. This system brings back into imputable evil, needing blood-shedding or cleansing by blood, what is a question of holiness, of state, of water-cleansing; and the perfectness of standing, and holy dealing with the state, are both lost.
But I turn to what scripture states as to sin in the flesh. That of which I have already spoken refers to the fruits of the old nature, and the perfecting the conscience as to them by Christ’s one offering of Himself. He has borne our sins in His own body on the tree, all of them. If all are not for ever put away, they never can be; He cannot die over again. Were this the case, as it is said in Hebrews, He must suffer often, bear the sins, drink the cup; but this is done once for all, and through faith in His work the conscience is perfected; if He did not bear all my sins, nothing is done; if He did, I am clear for ever.
But this is not all. The first part of Romans, to the end of chapter 5:11, treats this question. But there is more. Not only are the sins of the old man all put away for the Christian, but he is in Christ. There is a positive acceptance in Him. He is in a new place according to the value of all Christ has done for God’s glory. There is no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus. Now this is directly connected with the power of a new life, the possession of which, founded as it is on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, sets us free from the law of sin and death. There is no captivity under the law of sin, no necessity of ever sinning. But this, again, is based on the condemnation of the old man in the death of Christ. 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, condemned sin in the flesh. It is not forgiven as sins are. The only remedy against it is its death; it has been condemned when Christ died, so that there is none for me. But in His death I died, being crucified with Him; that is, as there is no condemnation, so I have died for faith in Christ’s death. In that He died, He died (not here for sins) unto sin once; in that He liveth, He liveth unto God: so reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God, in Jesus Christ our Lord. God accounts the believer dead (Col. 3); faith counts us dead, crucified with Christ (Rom. 6; Gal. 2); and (2 Cor. 4) it is practically carried out by always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.
But this is the Christian standing and position. “Ye are dead,” “ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you; and if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Mr. Smith’s notion of getting back into Romans 7 is all false. That would be ceasing to be a Christian. There it is said, “when we were in the flesh”; in chapter 8, “ye are not in the flesh.” It is the state and standing redemption has put us in. “Ye are not in the flesh.” This is God’s estimate of the believer; he is in Christ, and Christ in him; and such is faith’s estimate. “Reckon yourselves dead.” If Christ be in you, “the body is dead because of sin.” It is a new state of existence, though yet in an earthen vessel. Realizing it in practice is of all-importance, but I must be in it to realize it. But this Mr. Smith has absolutely nothing of. His perpetual cleansing of the conscience with blood denies it. He is with thousands, alas! on Jewish ground. Our being dead to sin is for faith reckoning ourselves so because Christ has died to sin once, and the sin in my flesh has been condemned then once for all already, and if I yield myself to God, it is not that I may have this or that, as they would teach us, but as one that is “alive from the dead.” It is the Christian state, the basis of yielding myself to God. The sins are borne, and before God I have no more conscience of sins, and have perfect divine favour, as in Christ before God; sin in the flesh is condemned, but for faith dead, because Christ died, when and wherein it was condemned. “I am crucified with Christ.” This is known by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” He may be on the way, but he is not in the Christian state.
I turn to 1 John 1. The whole use of it is false. The case of actual sinning is in chapter 2. The first chapter is entirely abstract. Fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ is the joy and privilege of the Christian; but this must be according to the nature of God, who is light. Mr. S. speaks of bringing everything to God without evasion. Now this is most right and important. I would press it, not weaken it in anywise; but there is not a word of it in this chapter. “Walking in darkness,” and “walking in light,” are contrasted, as in Paul’s mission to the Gentiles, “To open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified, by faith that is in me.” So in chapter 2, the darkness is passing away, and the true light now shineth. God is light, and walking in the light is walking in the true knowledge of God; the new man is “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Light came into the world in Christ. He who follows Him has the light of life. And note here, what is spoken of is “walking in the light as God is in the light.” It is not according to the light, but in it. There is no darkness at all in God. This is the revelation afforded, the message heard.
The question is not raised if we walk according to it or not. We are in the full revelation of God without a veil, or in darkness, having no knowledge of God. It is not the question how far we live up to it. But the Christian is really walking there. If it was my consistency, how could I say, walk in the light as He is in it, and then speak of cleansing from sin? There would be no need of it. It is upon the face of the passage the true Christian position, in contrast with ignorance of God. It is as much as to say, if you are a Christian—have been turned from darkness to light. But it is no partial light, but as God Himself is in it—the unveiled light of God’s nature, as revealed through redemption in Christ. If this be so, two other things accompany it; it is not mine and thine, but communion in full blessedness in God revealed.
Further, to be there we need to be as “white as snow,” and have “a perfect conscience”; for if the conscience is evil, the heart is never free. And this Christ’s blood gives. It is its intrinsic value; as if I should say, That medicine cures the ague; it is not, goes on by repeated applications relieving details, but cures it.
Failure, I repeat, comes in in chapter 2:1. Chapter 1:5-10 takes up the details of any possible self-deception in the matter, as to sin and sins, and where we are as to them; but verse 7 is the abstract, absolute, statement as to Christian standing: in the light as God is, fellowship with one another, and under the efficacy of that blood which cleanses from sin. If it be our consistency, walking in the light as God is, then speaking of cleansing is absurd. Of bringing our state to God there is not a word. It is absolute and abstract.
But it is alleged that “cleanseth” is going on cleansing. It is not “has cleansed,” nor “will.” If people will take a continuous present, for which there is no ground, it must be continuous, not repeated, as “I am writing.” But this has no sense. Particular failure, as I have said, is in chapter 2:1, where we have no application of blood, but the contrary. It is perpetual righteousness in Christ, and propitiation which was once for all. But a continuous cleansing is absurd and unchristian; it is self-contradictory.
Of repeated application of blood scripture knows nothing. I must be redeemed over and over again, justified over and over again! And let us see what it comes to in this system. Mr. Smith tells us that “trusting Christ for cleansing is only through the constant supply of blood from the heart, and guidance from the head. Lessen the current of blood, the corrupt matter from the flesh is imperfectly carried off, and disease ensues” (Preface, p. 7).
Now, I appeal to every Christian, to every one really taught of God, whether scripture ever so speaks of the efficacy of Christ’s blood as cleansing the sinner. It would not be cleansing, but preserving in health. But the idea is wholly foreign to scripture.
“If we walk in the light,” is walking in the true knowledge of God, fully revealed as He is in His holy nature without a veil, as contrasted with ignorance of God. Christianity is in contrast with a God who could give commandments but was hidden behind a veil. This brought fellowship in common joys, and we can stand in the light; for that which revealed it, the cross, the blow which rent the veil, put away every sin, every stain, and I am in the light, as white as snow. All is the present condition of the Christian as such. It is not that it will cleanse us if we fly to it, or if we bring everything to God without evasion. It is “if we walk in the light,” not even according to our capacity in realising it (all these details are foreign to the verse, and come after), but if we walk in it as God is in it. The very expression “all sin,” or every sin, shews us the same thing; it is not a question of details, but its universal and absolute value.
Then comes what the truth in us makes us know, and what we have to do if we fail, and the ways and government of God, and what Christ does if we fail. The righteousness and propitiation being ever there, our failure awakens the advocacy of Christ. But here there is no reference to the cleansing of Christ’s blood. A repetition of blood-sprinkling, or blood-cleansing, is a thing unknown to scripture. The worshippers once purged have no more conscience of sins; Heb. 10.
But there is a cleansing which may be repeated, and which this system everywhere ignores, and of which we have a precise account in scripture—washing with water. “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word.” “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth”; so indeed we are born of water, and begotten by the word of truth. The water came out of His side, as did the blood. When the Lord spoke of their having a part with Him now going on high, because He could no longer have a part with them, it is of this water-cleansing He speaks. Nor, as to the substance of it, can this be repeated. He that is washed (leloumenos), his body bathed, as the priests were in their consecration, needeth not save to wash his feet (nipsasthai, wash hands or feet, etc.), but is clean every whit, and ye are clean, but not all, for Judas was there. When sanctified and renewed by the word with the truth Christ’s death and heavenly relation give to us, still we pick up dirt in our walk, and the Spirit (Christ being our Advocate) applies the word to the conscience. We are humbled, confess, are cleansed as to the state of our souls, morally, purified in thought and heart, and communion is restored.
We have the same in the ordinance of the red heifer in Numbers 19, the book which gives us the journey through the wilderness,, to which this kind of cleansing applied, and not in Leviticus, where the sacrifices in their proper value are described. Nor in the case of the red heifer is there any cleansing by blood: this was always by blood-shedding, no remission without it; and that has been done once for all. The ashes in the running water were the testimony that the sin had been all consumed in Christ when the offering was made; but communion was interrupted, and the sense of what sin was, according to the death of Christ, brought home to the soul.
Thus this all applies to the state of the soul, to holiness, and to our judgment of sin. All this instructive and heart-searching truth is not only left out, but denied, in the system which, in these cases, applies the blood, not the water. And this is not merely a mistake in the terms, but denies the efficacy of the blood as that which perfects the conscience once for all, and the repetition of which is unknown to scripture. And so entirely is the use of water set aside that, in speaking of the consecration of the priests, Mr. Smith says, “first the blood, then the oil,”124 whereas the first thing was washing with water, and by this he was consecrated to God, though the blood and the oil were absolutely necessary to perfect him in his place. Mr. Smith adds, “God’s order is the blood for pardon, the Spirit to enlighten; the blood for cleansing, the Spirit to fill the purified temple.” Now the blood was never repeated with the priest, nor indeed the oil; but he washed his feet and hands on every service he rendered, to which I doubt not John 13 makes allusion: only now it is only the feet.
Let me add here, that so far from the present tense in verse 7, on which so much is insisted, being repeated cleansing, when he comes to details and forgiveness in the present ways and government of God, in verse 9 he leaves the present tense, and says nothing of blood-cleansing. My anxiety has been to shew what the system deprives us of. Of the system itself I need not speak. Mr. Smith has avowedly brought it down to what I estimated it at the beginning; that it is simply deliverance from legal bondage, which is captivity to sin. He says (p. 107), “The better life we seek to portray differs from the former Christian fife, as the sixth and eighth of the Romans differs from the seventh.”
Now this deliverance is of great moment, and it is a distinct thing from forgiveness. On this I have so largely insisted elsewhere, and for so long a time, that I say nothing more of it here. I quite trust that Mr. Smith’s and others’ insisting on this will be useful.
To the end of Romans 5:11 we hear of forgiveness; from thence to the end of chapter 8 of deliverance; in one, of the sins of the old man being put away; in the other, of our not being in the flesh, but in Christ and free.
Only one thing Mr. Smith has not noted, that one not in Romans 8 is not recognized as in the Christian state. “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” Now “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 fife because of righteousness.” The final result is quickening this mortal body. Before having the Spirit, they may be on the way but are not in the Christian state, any more than Israel were out of Egypt till they crossed the Red Sea, though the blood was on the doorposts. There God had the character of a judge; at the Red Sea, of a deliverer. Mr. Smith makes it a difference of degree, “erased blots on an early page, in a book scribbled on every page.” Scripture makes it the difference of having the Holy Ghost or not, of being in the flesh or out of it, of being of Christ or not. I do not suppose Mr. Smith would deny this; but not knowing the true ground on which it rests in scripture, he obscures it all, lowering it down to experience. Yet he speaks of cleansing from all sin, that deep evil of our nature which is antecedent to sins.
Now what is cleansing from a nature, and that by blood? Cleansing from a nature by blood is unknown to the word. Sin in the flesh is condemned, and any cleansing there is is by our having for faith died to sin. Cleansing is from some actual defilement. From a nature we are delivered by death. All this cleansing from the evil of our nature is unscriptural, and arises from an attempt to reconcile an unscriptural system with what cannot now but be recognized as the truth of the word. Elsewhere Mr. Smith uses these very words for cleansing from actual defilement.
I must refer to another practical point in connection with the substitution of the blood of Christ for the washing of water, for repeated cleansing. They hold that, where we have failed, instantly recurring to the blood cleansing us, we are as happy as ever. All is right in a flash, rest of soul at once restored; and this I have found current among those professing to have attained this state in various instances, and in one very striking case published by an English clergyman.
Now in cleansing with blood this is so, because it is pardon and forgiveness of an act committed, or say even of a thought. It is gone, I am forgiven, and the joy of God’s goodness in it is in my soul. I confess my fault, and, as to forgiveness, there is no question remaining between me and God, and the sense of His goodness is deepened in my soul, because it is a question between me and God, and is perfectly settled by the precious blood of Christ. Mr. Smith puts the case of impatience with a workman, and confession to him.
But when my state and God’s glory are referred to, it is another case. Mr. S.’s conduct was most Christian and right, and the blessing which followed easy to be believed. But supposing Christ’s name had been dishonoured before the world by some act or word of mine, where no confession to an individual had anything to do with it, I have no idea of anything being imputed to me; actual present forgiveness my soul may find; but am I to take it quite coolly that I have dishonoured the name of that blessed One before the world? Let every Christian’s heart answer it.
Nor is this all. This wretched doctrine of repeated cleansing by blood hinders all self-knowledge and true growth by it. It is not a question of pardon: this is settled; nor doubting divine love: the Father loves us as He loved Jesus. But when the Lord looked on Peter, he went out and wept bitterly. Was he wrong? But more, when the Lord restores his soul, He never speaks a word of reproach as to his denying Him, nor refers to it. It was put away by the death of Jesus, but He does say, “Lovest thou Me more than these?” He goes to the root of it in the heart of Peter—self-confidence. “If all deny thee, I will not.” That is, there is no hint of remaining guilt, but there is a probing to the root of the evil, of which the actual failure was only a fruit. Now this cool return to rest and ease of heart looses all this. There is no searching of the spring of evil, unsuspected perhaps in the soul, for growth in true spiritual life; and the soul is never thoroughly restored and blessed till this is done.
A man may be taken in a fault, but a fall is never the beginning of evil. Take Mr. Smith’s case; he was impatient, and spoke so to the workman; he owned it; all well, but how came he to be so? Neglect of prayer, of keeping in the sense of God’s presence, with the seriousness and self-restraint it gives, too much setting of heart on the arrangements which were spoiled, a spirit too much engrossed with them, a tendency to impatience not adequately subdued by the habitual sense of God’s presence. Here it is not a question of forgiveness, but of holiness of heart, of its depths, of the state of my heart. All this is lost on the system of cleansing anew by blood. It is a superficial system; it takes a low standard of what should occupy a Christian’s heart; it makes a question of mere pardon of what should be a question of holiness; it denies the perfectness of conscience belonging to a Christian; and by raising this question in an unscriptural way, contenting the spirit with ease and rest through pardon, blinds it to the further exercise of soul, which seeks holiness and judges everything that hinders it as well as actual failure. It is not a doctrine promotive of holiness. There is levity in it. Individuals may escape the effect; or in the first fervour and tide of deliverance the soul may be above the shoals and banks; but in the long-run it leaves the soul in a superficial state.
There is only one more point which I feel called upon to notice—temptation, so called, not being sin. I have heard those under the influence of this system talk of suggestions, and slur over what has passed in their hearts. Mr. Smith (p. 105) says, “Let us beware of one special snare of Satan—that of trying to persuade us that temptation, or mere infirmity, is sin. Christ was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. His temptations were actual and real pressures to evil. He yielded not, and was without sin. Neither is the unwelcomed, unindulged, rejected temptation sin to us.” This is very bad. Mr. Smith must forgive me for speaking plainly. He has fallen into the snare of Satan. Mr. S. is so exceedingly loose in his statements, that one has to make all sorts of necessary distinctions before there can be any answer.
Temptations and infirmities are not the same thing. Paul gloried in his infirmities, certainly not in sins, and if we do put them together, the sense of temptation is at once defined. Infirmities in this sense are the persecutions, and difficulties, and reproaches a Christian has to go through, if he will be faithful and devoted, and which would tend to hinder him in holding fast his faithful course. (See 2 Cor. 12:9, 10.)
Mr. Smith might see that the “yet” in the passage he quotes [from Heb. 9] is in the Authorized Version in italics; that is, it is not in the original. Hence we can say that any such application to Christ as is involved in Mr. Smith’s statement, is carefully guarded against. He was tempted according to [the] likeness [He took], that is, as a man, as we are in this world, sin excepted. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities; He was, and is still, for us, sensible to all that human nature can feel from outrage, reproach, desertion, unrighteousness, isolation, and the want of sympathy. The word of God discerns the thoughts and intents of our hearts, judging their true character in us according to His holy presence. In all our trials and difficulties we have Christ’s full and tender sympathy. What does Mr. Smith mean by actual and real pressures to evil? From within or from without? Were they (the Lord forgive the word!) lusts in that blessed One, suggestions of His own sin in the flesh! Was there anything in Him which was not to be indulged because it was evil? Let Mr. Smith explain himself. What did He not yield to? When Satan succeeds in “touching” us, he awakens the thought of evil, even if we do not yield to it. Did he succeed in doing this with Christ? “The thought of foolishness is sin,” says the word. Was this in Christ? In His temptation He was hungry. This was no sin; it was a human need, and He felt it, and Satan sought to lead Him to do His own will as to it. But He lived by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. All the glory of the world from without was offered, but it awakened indignation, not any question. God’s word was His motive for acting, as well as His rule. He was led of the Spirit to be tempted. We are tempted when we are led away of our own lusts.
All this flows from the damnable doctrine that lust is not sin. What is it? Is it holiness or righteousness? Where does it come from? It is the fruit of the sinful nature; “sin taking occasion by the commandment wrought in me all manner of lust.” Those who rest on fruits in James—and I do not call it a strawy epistle—find no sin till it has conceived and brought forth. Those who go to the root with the word of God know that there is sin in the flesh. If Satan were to suggest to eat a handful of mud and dirt, would any one be inclined to do it? If he succeeds in touching us, it is because there is a desire in the sinful nature to which he adapts himself. If we are full of Christ, he will not succeed; but if the suggestion is awakened in our hearts, sin is awakened into the activity of desire, though we may rightly resist it; and if we look to Christ, we shall be victorious. Was any such suggestion awakened in the blessed One? All this loose insinuation as to Christ, to excuse and cover sin in ourselves, is very bad indeed. Was anything within in Christ which He had to resist? It must not be covered over with loose words, as “temptation or infirmity,” which words have professedly in scripture a double meaning. (See James 1.)
The word judges thoughts and intents, the priesthood takes notice of difficulties and trials. Was the pressure of evil in Christ from within or without? From without He was spared nothing, but it only brought out a sweet savour. Within there was nothing but what gave the sweet savour in life and in death. I know of nothing more horrible than thus sacrificing the holiness of Christ to excuse and allow “suggestions,” suggestions of sin in us. Instead of taking Him as the living standard of holiness, holiness is lowered in us, so as to allow of evil suggestions, and Christ is brought down to this level, that sin in us may be passed over. I do not rest on the word peccable, applied to Christ by some of those in these views; evil and unholy, I should say, unintelligent as the thought is, because it is not the real question.
Mr. Smith speaks of “that deep evil of our nature which is antecedent of sins or sinning.” Was there anything of this in Christ? Mr. Smith would surely answer No. It was not an innocent thing which was born of the virgin Mary, but a “holy thing.” Could Satan introduce anything of it in Him? He takes the love of money in Judas with subtle wile to betray the Lord. It was a suggestion, a temptation from without, but met that which was within, awoke it, and then there was a suggestion, in which the thought of the heart had a part— even if judged and resisted. There may be suggestions of blasphemy or despair, which are fiery darts of the enemy, when there is no lust. But there were never even such as these in Christ; if forsaken, He could say, “My God,” and “Thou continuest holy.” Did the enemy succeed in arousing evil thoughts in Christ which He resisted. I ask of any honest Christian are not these suggestions, thoughts in his heart? If they are not evil, why does he resist them? It will not do to talk of pressures of evil. From without? Yes. Did these pressures awaken in Christ’s heart suggestions which He resisted as evil? If so, He ceased to be absolutely “that holy thing” —really never had been. He was a holy man, not an innocent man, and ever maintained His holiness—met Satan by obedience and dependence on God by the word. The wicked one did not touch Him. There were no suggestions; there are, or may be, in us, because the flesh, sin in the flesh, is there. Others, under the influence of these doctrines, I have heard say, He was imperfect, alleging His growth in wisdom and stature. He was a true real man, and, as a child, He was perfect as a child; the vessel grew as ours does. But this shews the way this doctrine works. Was He ever anything but perfectly holy? That is the question. If there were evil suggestions in His heart which He had to resist, He was not.
I seek, then, a fuller, more assured, unchanging ground and state of acceptance, and divine favour, than this system gives me. Here it fails and goes back to the common evangelical ground, which God is leading us beyond. I look for a deeper character of holiness, of which the false doctrine on the other point deprives us; and I see it depriving Christ of His holy glory, and me of a Christ who can be the treasure and food and light of my soul, and fixing the attention on self instead of on Christ.
I admit fully the work of deliverance distinct from forgiveness; the Epistle to the Romans elaborately teaches the two. And I believe all this stir as to a higher life has done good, in awakening souls to the need of something better than current Christianity, and I bless God for it.
I trust there is nothing which has the form of attack in what I have written. I not only disclaim any such thought, if such there be, but regret and recall anything which may seem to have this character, save what concerns the holy nature and Person of Christ; on that there can be no compromise. This dragging of Christ down in doctrine to excuse the evil suggestions of our hearts, as if there were no sin in them, is intolerable to every godly heart. The perfection was found to be imperfect, and Christ lowered to make it pass as no sin. This is intolerable.
I only add, it is not looking back to past experience that is our strength, though it may occasionally have place, but living on Christ now in the path of God’s will. I deny Paul’s talking about himself and his experiences, save where he says he is a fool in doing it—they had compelled him. “I say again, let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.” (See 2 Cor. 11.) He does personify great Christian truths in his own person, as at the end of Galatians 2, as I have done a hundred times myself without suspicion of any particular reference to self. “I am crucified with Christ” is the only true state of every Christian; and he is pressing it as such in rebuking Peter.
124 This is not exact, but it is of no consequence here.